“You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not worship the creations of man,” said the creation of man—as told by the man who had created him.
And many who sat listening to the storyteller believed him. And the storyteller was pleasantly surprised.
His audience wanted to hear more. They demanded more. This worried the storyteller, as he had already told the three stories he had thought up the night before. To buy time, as was his custom, he feigned fatigue. When they persisted, he asked that they bring him food so that he would have the energy to continue. As the tent emptied, he pondered whether to craft a different story altogether, or to make up a sequel or a prequel to the story about the man who heard the thunderous voice on the mountain, and the lightning that wrote commands on a rock. But the storyteller was fresh out of ideas.
The first to return to the tent was the young boy, one of the most gullible of his audience. The boy came humbly, bearing a basket of overripe fruit. As the storyteller picked through the offering, he leapt to his feet in fright—his hand had brushed a moving thing in the bottom of the basket. Perhaps the snake had been intending to enjoy the fruit for its own dinner—though the storyteller had only seen snakes eat other animals. He walloped the boy on the head for not being more careful, sending the boy crying from the tent.
Watching the snake’s tail slither away beneath the tent’s edge, the storyteller had found his inspiration. To spice up the tale, he would introduce some nudity. His prettiest young listener, always in the front row, would always blush and protest whenever he mentioned nudity or sex, but he noticed that she kept coming back. He would set his story in a garden of beautiful flowers and harmless animals. The girls always liked beautiful flowers and harmless animals. If he told his story well enough, she might be convinced to stay afterwards for a private story or two.
He smiled as the audience returned. The girl had brought him a leg of roasted pheasant. Finishing it in several bites, he sucked what was left off the bone and, nodding his approval, wiped the grease off his mouth with his finger. She looked pleased.
“This story is also true,” he began while they settled back into their places, having laid a small feast before him. “This is the Truth as the Truth has always been, the Truth as it has been passed down through a hundred generations of the wisest men, the Truth as it was passed down to me by the oldest and wisest priest of the tribe that held me captive before I escaped and crossed the desert.”
The girl had leaned forward, eyes wide and trusting, ready to believe.
“In the beginning,” he said, “God created the heavens and the earth.” His hands moved through the air, shaping the story. “And the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. . . .”
As he told the tale, he selected a piece of fruit from the basket and offered it to her, his fingers casually brushing hers as she took it. He watched her take the first bite, white teeth piercing velvet skin, rupturing the flesh. The juice trickled from the corner of her mouth and down to collect in a drop beneath the curve of her chin. The drop glimmered and grew, flickering with the firelight’s flames. When it was heavy and ripe, it fell, landing on the slope of her half-exposed breast, where it clung like a tear, rising and falling with her breathing. The flames were in her eyes, too, consuming his words, hungering for more.
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“First Bite” is one of many acclaimed short stories, poems, and short plays for stage and screen gathered in the My Kingdom collection, now available in paperback and Kindle editions ~
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Copyright 2016, Quent Cordair. All rights reserved.