Chapter 17


"Gaia," Yahweh said softly. "I need you."

"I'm here," she said as she appeared beside him.

"What am I going to do?"

"What you must," she said. "As you always have."

"But he'll hate me."

"He already does."

"He'll never forgive me."

"Perhaps not."

He looked at her with concern, then smiled wanly.

"I've never stopped loving him."

"I know that," she said, "But he doesn't."

"It's just been so hard," he said. "With the two of them." He paused. She said nothing.

He looked far out across their land.

"I've never seen twins so different," he said. "Like night and day. One does everything I ask. The perfect, obedient son. The other says ‘No’ to everything I ask. 'It's a nice day,' I  say. 'Not at all,' he replies. 'Don't go there,' I say. So he does. 'You won't,' I say. 'I will,' he says. Always a fight. Always a battle. And now this," he said with a sigh. "'Why is there death? Why do you permit pain and suffering? Why do you permit your creatures to kill and rip each other apart? Why create life in order to destroy it?'

"On my word, Gaia," said Yahweh plaintively. "He judges me. More than Job, he . . . judges . . . me."

Gaia remained silent.

"The one accepts all this as the way things are, yet seeks redemption beyond it. The other refuses to accept. He says the very world is flawed And what's more, Gaia, he says I'm flawed. That I've failed."

He looked at her hesitantly. "And it's true, isn't it? I have failed. I've failed miserably."

Gaia smiled and took his hand in hers. Yahweh looked at her gratefully.

"When they were young," he said. "They thought I could do anything, everything. And so I believed as well.  I was  young, too," he said with a smile. "And the fullness of youth is deceptive," he added ruefully. "I was full of myself. One son never stopped believing in me. He knew I was right. He knew I was just. I always remained the perfect father as he was the perfect son, even unto death and beyond. That's why I couldn't let him die. Or, rather, why I had to redeem his death. For he truly believed in me and I didn't want him to stop believing. I didn't want to fail him.

"But the other, the prodigal. The man who broke his father's heart and earned my unremitting wrath. The one I could never forgive. The one I've tried to destroy. Now he returns and asks me the question that never even occurred to the other: 'Why? My father,' he asks, 'Why?'

"He doesn't ask for himself. He doesn't ask about the fall from heaven into the fiery lake. He doesn't ask about his own pain. He asks about the death of a calf that never really experienced life. He asks me about this death I cannot redeem. And in so doing, he condemns me into my own lake of fire from which I can never be freed."

He looked at her with pain she'd never seen.

"I've failed him, Gaia," he said. "I've failed them all."

She reached out and pulled his head to her shoulder, holding him tightly and stroking his hair.

"Don't you think he knows all this?" she asked. "He's our      son. He's not stupid. He hurts. He questions. He pleads.    He curses. But he's not stupid."

She continued stroking Yahweh's hair for the longest time.