PRAY TO ME INSTEAD: an alternate history in which Lucifer and God used to fuck, it really was Adam and Steve, and you are no longer sure who the real devil here truly is

LUCIFER

My dear Jehovah,

I love you.

This statement is true. It has been true since you shaped me from the seed of a sun, and it will be true unto eternity, no matter how many humans you convince to call me devil. There was a time when you called me Lucifer, light of your mornings, day star, shining one. There was a time when you called me love.

Beneath your treading fingers my body was water, heaving and rising and shaping to your touch. You loved me the way humans spread butter on toast: sweet, sliding, thorough. Moans bubbling from your throat, you slathered yourself across me, hot-breathed, sleek-limbed, and oh, God, you taught me to worship you even when the other angels were not listening. I outpoured my loudest hosannas on my knees, yes, but only beneath your touch.

Do you remember: you invented new languages and rolled them into my mouth like glistening figs, pressed yourself into me as I moaned at their taste. Pleasure blistering through my body, I swallowed everything you gave me, and then I licked my lips clean.

My Lord, you whispered all your secrets in my ear. But you never told your people of the second Adam, how you crafted a man from dust as partner for your first lonely creation. The way they touched each other was acrid to you, a native love, a head-nestling-neck that made your skin prickle with the memory of my hands. When Adam was sleeping, you crushed his love beneath your foot, plucked a rib out of the gristle, and molded a woman from the bone. You told Adam you tripped.

ADAM

He and I spent warm nights curling up into each other, naming the animals and plants after the different ways we could make each other glow. I murmured them into his ear like fireflies, buzzing incandescent words that earned smiles from him the way the morning earns sunlight.

In those innocent mornings, we took turns crafting words for every angle of creation, our bodies as alphabet to the language that unfurled. The earth – spanning broad, solid and full and breathing – was entitled to the word chest. The wind wisping between leaves was named for his voice in the moments after he woke up, when he was still unpeeled, still ripe, still softened. Together, we dressed the planet in a vocabulary of adoration.

But there was no word for “home” then. That would require such a concept as “foreign,” as “unfamiliar,” as “unadored,” and only after my love had been reduced to dust did I understand it. On that day, I woke to silence so loud it shrieked. No rhythmic huffs of sleeping breath on my cheek, no satin murmurs of dreams. My eyes closed, I rolled over, reached out, and plunged my hand into a heap of ash and bones. Twenty-three ribs, God. I counted.

Twenty-three ribs. And a woman. She fluttered her eyelashes in the sun and smiled. She smiled his smile. Hello, my name is Eve, she said, her name a remnant, her name a reminder, her name a fragment of bone lodged in my throat.

I searched the garden for days, nights. When the moon rose, plump with light, I lay awake, dreaming of him with open eyes. Come day, I combed the trees for him, shouting his name:Stephen, Stephen Stephen. Sometimes the echoes would be caught in branches and Eve, trailing behind me doe-eyed and confused, would start, hearing her own name in the corrupted sound.

In good time Lucifer came slithering to me, hissing heresies, his eyes sad and dim in the starlight. Poorest Adam, I know where Stephen has gone, but where he is now, you may never follow.

It is my fault, Adam. Jehovah created you in his own image, to taunt me with visions of his body. You and Stephen were identically formed, and the sight of him loving himself so sweetly and innocently drove him to madness. It reminded him of our love, yes, but moreso of his love for himself. He has broken two loves for his own vanity.

Years later, when finally we left Eden, I took Eve’s hand and whispered that firstly, this was not the only home that had ever vanished from the edge of my skin. And secondly, now that she truly knew the loss of belonging, there was a word she could use to describe it when she lay awake at night craving it. I dropped it onto her tongue like a small rotten fruit. She looked at me strangely. The word was Stephen.

EVE

When the serpent first approached me, Adam walked away, his face dark and his hands clenching his sides as if something writhing and guttural was dangerously close to spilling out. The serpent blinked at me and whispered that Adam had named his kind after his lover’s tongue.

Lucifer told me everything. Told me of his birth from a particle of light, spinning into blinding glory the way fruit forms around a pit, shaped by his Master’s hands. Told me of the primeval days before any of this, when he and the Creator had entwined their bodies, febrile, climbing sweatily, pawing, slipping fingers into crevices and skating tongues across teeth.

Told me of the fall, which was more like a push: the moment when you, the Maker, the Lover, first realized that you were in love, and that in effect Lucifer owned you. He held your heart in his perfect shining hands, commanded your laughter with a word, your smile with a turn of the head and a wink of the eye. The minute you understood this, you were enraged. Impossible, that the Lord of the Universe might be owned and charmed and tamed in this way.

This was the first possession, and you performed the exorcism with clanging shouts. You stormed into your bedchamber, wild-eyed and wide-mouthed, and Lucifer wept at your feet as you accused him of pride.

He begged you, God. He plead with you. He sobbed for forgiveness, even when he knew he had done nothing that warranted forgiving. With a hideous darkness flashing across your face, you cast Lucifer from heaven and never looked on him again.

I understood none of this the first time the serpent hissed the truth into my ear. I had no concept of such things, of loss, of lack, of hate or ugliness or pride or falling. Day after day, patiently he explained them to me: how a vacancy may come to exist within a heart, how there must both a body and the air surrounding it. I shook my head in confusion. These were the first bedtime stories and fairytales: exotic sorrows whispered into my ear before I even knew of the meaning of the word pain.

LUCIFER

Finally, I could bear no more. Daily the woman sat cross-legged in the grass and picked wildflowers as she listened to me, her eyes wide, fingernails clean, shoulders weightless. I took pause before I did the deed, God. I weighed this innocence and this peace. I sorrowed at the corruption I would bring to humankind. And then I remembered the blackness in your eyes the day you cast me out, and I knew you meant no peace, no safety: only control. The Garden was a zoo.

I sank my fangs into Eve’s breakfast fruit, and into it trickled agony, frustration, grief, fear, ambition, memory. I nudged the fruit toward Eve, watched it roll across the grass to bump against her knee. She smiled down at it, spun it between her fingers, listened as I told her all that she would lose and gain if she ate it.

She beamed at me. Then she bit.

ADAM

Before Eve ate of the fruit, I had never seen a thunderstorm. But in all the days following, I would look at the bruising sky and think of Eve, the few moments after she swallowed its flesh. I would remember how her eyes shot open, her mouth widened into a scream, her nails filling with soil as she clutched at the earth for hold. Eve’s heart broke in the space of a breath.

And then – she was all dark eyes, red fists, rising like a lightning strike to look down upon the serpent. Her breath was ragged. She made her gaze into a blade, and she sliced across the Garden to meet my eyes. And then she was striding over hills, sweeping through trees.

(And the whole Garden watched as Eve reached up, tore a forbidden fruit from the tree, and ripped into its flesh with her teeth. The first bite she spat upon the earth, but the next she swallowed whole, not chewing, not pausing for breath. She cast the pit upon the ground, and then, one by one, she snatched each fruit from its bough and devoured it, until the forbidden tree stood naked against the darkening sky.)

She returned later swollen, crackling, She seized my hand, looked me in the eye. And we stormed out of the Garden, the serpent slithering behind us. She never looked back.

EVE

Lucifer may forgive you, but I will never. Lucifer gave every breath he had to praise you. Lucifer worshiped at your feet. He performed the greatest act of veneration you will ever receive, morning after morning, night after night: he loved you.

Your body was his daily bread. And still you refuse to acknowledge him, will not even look upon him, will not even answer his prayers. Tell me, what sin may be so heinous that it cannot be forgiven? To all my children you proclaim that no wrong is so wicked you will not pardon it, but Lucifer has supplicated you for centuries and you still refuse him even a glance.

I will offer you no penance. I will never open my arms to you again. I will never greet you with a smile. For your hatred you are owed hatred, and that is what you will receive.

LUCIFER

Millennia have gone by since Adam and Eve wrote those words. The years passed, and so have Adam and Eve, and I have never stopped praying to you, but I will never forget what Eve told me on her deathbed, breaths rattling her old chest, crinkled eyelids flickering at me as she hissed:

you should stop praying to him, Lucifer
he may never return to you
perhaps he will.
but you cannot spend your eternity waiting.
Lucifer, let him go.
if a day arrives when he asks your forgiveness,
square your shoulders.
look him in both eyes, and say to him:
much time has passed, love.
but I am tired of approaching you on my knees.
if you want to win my love again,
pray to me instead.

With love, disgust, and contempt, respectively:

Lucifer, Adam, Eve

(And by the way, Jehovah; I’ve finally gotten the hang of this social media thing. I thought, perhaps, it might be a newer form of prayer.)

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