Eve enjoyed her life very much. Certainly, she couldn’t claim that she didn’t enjoy it. The sun was always overhead and shining down its warmth. There were always fruits and nuts in abundance. She could always bathe in the clear brook or gambol with the deer in the forest or even walk down the road to the village where someone was always having a party or a picnic. It was all most enjoyable.
But sometimes Eve got a feeling that was hard to identify - a restless feeling like having a bird trapped inside her and flitting around in a panic. It usually came upon her when her belly was full and her skin was warm and she felt that, if she had to attend another picnic or party ever again, she would begin to scream and never cease.
And it was when she was feeling just such a feeling - after a particularly successful picnic - that the sun began to sink! It hovered lower and lower in the sky until it touched the ground. The villagers ran about screaming and gathering water, terrified that the earth would catch flame - but no such thing happened.
What did happen was far worse, for the sun didn’t just sink to the ground; it went right on falling! It entered the earth and passed into some dark cavern below - at least, this was the eldest villager’s fervent speculation. And, as it went, so did the light.
Eve didn’t want to be caught in the village in the darkness for some reason. She was afraid that she would cry and scream and make an embarrassment of herself, but this wasn’t the only reason. It was also as if the bird that lived inside her was pulling her along, back to her house.
By the time she got back home, Eve was growing more and more afraid of the creeping darkness which was now ready to consume the world. She had never imagined not being able to see her own yard, her own home, her own hands before her face. Terror made her nearly senseless.
But Eve didn’t have to endure the full darkness, as it turned out. For, just as she was stepping over her threshold, she saw someone running toward the yard. He held a box of light in his hands - not anything as grand or penetrating as the sun, to be sure, but a flame nonetheless.
Eve, amazed and fearful of the darkness, turned and called to the stranger as he ran toward her: “You with the light! Will you come into my home so that I won’t be afraid of the darkness? Will you tell me how it is that your fire doesn’t burn you? Do you know what’s happened to the sun?”
The youth - for Eve could now see that he was just about her own age - stopped for a moment and then began to jog toward the house. He adjusted something on his shoulder - a satchel with a strap. He looked very different than anyone she’d seen before, for his hair was nearly as blonde as sunbeams and his eyes were a gentle green; she’d never known that eyes or hair could be anything but brown or dark, as hers were. The young man’s light shifted as he moved, and Eve had to close her eyes against the flitting darknesses that moved around his form.
But the youth wasn’t afraid. He tentatively touched Eve’s hand and said, reassuringly, “You have no reason to be afraid of those moving darknesses, for they are only shadows.”
“Yes. Like the shade on a hot day. The darknesses that follow a light. But they look bigger at night.”
Eve opened her eyes. She enjoyed the shade; shadows couldn’t be that bad if they were only the shade that small lights made. But the youth had used another word she’d never heard. “What is ‘night’?” she asked.
“It’s this time of day. It’s when the sun goes down and darkness comes.”
Eve frowned, thinking. “Do you mean that the sun will come back?” She felt, suddenly, very hopeful, and her bird seemed to flap its wings so that air rushed through her throat. “The sun isn’t gone forever?”
The young man shook his head and laughed. A tinkling laugh like dandelion fluff in the wind. “No, the sun will come back.” Then his laugh turned bitter. “It will come back because it will disappear every day, as you and your people first saw this night. And that is my fault.”
“What do you mean?” Eve asked.
“I went on a quest to the great mountain,” the blond-haired youth explained. “I wanted something for humankind. Something special. Animals have all sorts of splendid ways to survive. Claws, sharp teeth, skin that blends into the landscape, poison, so many things! But humans have nothing. We’re born naked and soft and conspicuous into the world, and it hardly seems fair! I pleaded with the gods of the mountain to give me something for humans, so that we have the same chances as the beasts, but they would give me nothing!” As the youth spoke, the bird seemed to rise higher and higher in Eve’s chest until she found that she could barely breathe and that the sensation, far from what her intuition told her, was exciting and almost pleasant. “So I stole from them,” the youth said bitterly. “I took this light in a box, but that is no consolation. For, as soon as the gods of the mountain discovered what I had done, they sent the very sun to pursue me. And I heard them crying out in a voice that could be heard for many miles away, telling me that the sun would ever run its course as punishment!” The young man now sunk against the stone wall of Eve’s home, weeping, not even noticing that he was scraping his back and arms until they bled.
“Was this the only thing you took from the mountain?” Eve whispered, glancing at the stranger’s bag as she lowered herself to sit beside him.
“No, and I hope the other things I’ve taken may be worth the punishment I have brought to the earth. Look here!”
Eve thought the youth was going to open the satchel, but he reached into his pocket instead. And he pulled out a seed. It was brown, but it shone with its own tiny light - one that the darkness revealed when it was held away from the lantern.
“I don’t know what it will grow,” said the youth, “but I hope it will be something useful. I also stole these.” And now the youth did place his satchel between the two of them on the ground and open it. Inside were three jars filled with tiny glowing lights like fireflies. There were all colors of light: red and white and green and even black all whirling away beneath wax seals, stuck in their own little worlds. “I don’t know what they do, either,” said the young man, “but I heard one of the great ones saying that these jars hold a great hope.”
But Eve wasn’t looking at the jars anymore, fascinating as they were. She was looking into the emerald eyes of the visitor. They seemed the purest and best light of all. Without quite knowing what she was saying or doing, she fluttered, “Won’t you come inside? Don’t you think you’d be safe here? Won’t you keep me safe? Will you…” Dared she ask it? “Won’t you give me your name? Mine’s Eve.” She moved closer to him and nervously laid her hand on his forearm. It was covered with tiny golden hairs that felt as soft as goose down. A spark passed into her hand as she touched them.
“I’m… I’m Genaios. I—“ But Eve stopped his mouth with a kiss.
Eve awoke the next morning with a sigh of pleasure. At first, it came from her memories of the night she’d shared with Genaios. Then it turned into an expression of deep satisfaction as she beheld the sun making its way out of its great cave and rising, for the first time, over the world below. It cast pink and yellow shadows as it moved over her home.
Then Eve gasped. She shot up and rushed from room to room - the kitchen, the bathing chamber, the library, the courtyard, the sitting room, then back again to the bedroom. The youth with the golden hair was gone. Had he ever been there to begin with? She began to hope he hadn’t, regretting her foolish desire to be held in the darkness of the first night, regretting the night they’d spent despite its beauty and wonder and sweetness.
But he had been real. The proof sat on the floor beside her bed. A satchel containing three jars lay there and - tucked into the folds of the dress she’d worn the night before - a small brown seed.
The seed’s glow couldn’t be seen by daylight, but the glow of the jars was even more pronounced than before - and they glowed with a blackness that seemed to annul all other light, even sunbeams.
Eve felt compelled to plant the seed - so compelled that she did this before she bathed or ate breakfast or even dressed properly. She silently asked the beams of the sun to bless whatever grew from it and make it a gift worthy of the youth that she had, though sadly and briefly, loved.
At just about midday, a flock of birds flew by. But they did not excite the bird that sometimes seemed to dwell inside Eve. They were ugly, and they smelled of carrion. She suddenly thought of Genaios and trembled. Would he ever find her again? Would the gods of the mountain find him? How would they punish him if they did?
Eve decided a walk to the village would calm her nerves, but the villagers were all in a horribly upset state. They ran about like unruly chickens, some panicked and others excitedly curious. No one talked of anything but the new cycles of night and day, sunset and sunrise, midday and midnight, and Eve found it easy not to mention what she had done the previous night. But she soon tired of the excitement and, besides, wanted to retire to her home before the sun set again.
When Eve got home, however, her nerves received another shock. For there was now a great tree growing in her yard - a tree that bore apples of gold.