It was some kind of pink orb, dripping. It was fragrant and very sweet. Robin turned it over in his hand and bit into it.
The man working in the garden sort of turned around. Robin wasn’t certain that he had been spotted.
Something felt different in him. Deep in his heart and soul. In his mind’s eye, Robin saw a very pretty young girl. In a flash he knew who she was.
She was Robin.
The fruit was changing him. He spat it out, but the change had already happened.
“I thought I heard someone,” the man in the garden was standing behind him. Robin whirled. The man was bareheaded, nondescript. Just another human who labored in the dirt. He looked a bit worried.
“Did you eat any of that?” he asked.
“Nooo,” Robin’s voice didn’t sound right to him.
The man shook his head. “I really need a covenant with you people,” he mumbled. Then, before Robin could ask what a covenant is, the man nodded toward a thick hedge dotted with bright green berries.
“Your grandparents nibbled on these,” said the man. “It’s the shame that really ruined them. I found them squatting in the bushes, wrapping fig leaves around themselves.”
Robin looked at the hedge. “Yep, it’s the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” he heard the man say.
“What’s this pink one?” Robin asked, his voice quivering.
“It’s new,” the man answered. “I call it the tree of knowledge of masculine and feminine. You are both now, Robin.”
Robin looked down at his hands. They weren’t small enough to be a woman’s. But they didn’t look like a man’s any more.
“Is there a cure for this?”
“A cure?” The man in the garden thought it over.
Robin could hear his heart pounding. It didn’t even feel like his heart any more.
“Only cure is, don’t eat the fruit in the first place,” the man said with a shrug. “But I warned you people. Your grandma said she wanted to be like God. Now I suppose I could take that as a compliment. She didn’t have to do every single thing I told her to do. I wanted her to be free. But you all could have had a bit more respect for my property.”
Robin wondered if it would do any good to get down on his knees, and decided it would not.
“The plan was, your grandparents were supposed to find the tree of life. On their own, without my help. And become immortal. But they never did. They went right for the forbidden tree, and now you all have the knowledge of good and evil in your hearts. So instead of a race of beautiful, innocent immortals, you have become liars, thieves and killers, who eventually fall over dead. Which is pretty damn messed up — but you, Robin, you are a special case.”
Robin wondered if it would do any good to remain standing. Then he dropped to his knees.
“Robin, you and your offspring will not be men, and you will not be women. You will be both, at the same instant. Some of your children will not be able to bear this existence. They will curse their fate, and they will curse you. But Robin, I need you.”
“Please, whoever you are, whatever you are, take this away.” Robin glared into the man’s eyes, knowing he was not a man, knowing he shared an image with men, but he was not a man. “I know you have the power to cure this thing, and make me like other people again. Please, for the sake of my children, and their children, won’t you cure me?”
“No I will not. Don’t behave like this, Robin. You are the one who found your way in past my guards. You are the one who picked the pink fruit from the tree. You are the one who ate it.”
He reached out and helped Robin to his feet. “I gave you the freedom to do all those things. That freedom is a gift.”
His face darkened. “Don’t ask me to take your freedom away. Don’t ask me to turn your life into a marionette show.”
Robin looked toward the rising sun. “The shame nearly killed Adam, and Eve as well.”
“But it did not kill them, and your shame will not kill you.”
Robin grabbed his hand. “Promise me!”
The garden was silent. “I will not let it kill you,” the man promised. “And now it is time for you to return to the world.”
Dawn crept up and lit the sky. Robin was staring into the eyes of his wife.
“What happened?” she asked. “What is wrong?”
He looked away, looked down at his fingers. They looked more slender than before, but somehow not slender enough.