The forest fire was so hot at her back she was sure it was going to eat her alive. She tried to ignore it, as usual, but even the sound of it was distracting, let alone the heat. She knelt down in the knee-high grass and wondered why it was still damp. It seemed like any moisture should have evaporated by now.
The shepherd was there and he crouched down so she could see his face more clearly. “Why is the fire still burning?” she asked, exhausted from running; tired of trying to believe it would one day finally burn out.
“It burns because it started many, many years ago, child,” he answered as he reached forward and stroked her sweaty hair. His hand was pale and wrinkled, his beard grey and course. His eyes were a thousand years old. But his voice sounded like he was a young man and full of strength.
Grace sat up on her bed and turned to let her legs hang over the edge. She looked at the clock. 3am. Her feet hung just above the floor, and it made her feel like a little girl sometimes. She slid down and planted them on the thick carpet, and then walked pensively over to the window. The blinds were open and she she could see the white moon above the houses in the distance.
She sensed the shepherd come close and lean against the wall beside her. She couldn’t see him, but she could feel his presence. His reassurance. He seemed younger. Perhaps he had come in his younger form tonight.
“Why is it that my husband can tell me I am beautiful a hundred times, but one time say the wrong thing or look the wrong way, and it’s undone?” she asked, still staring out at the moon.
“Because of the forest fire in your dream, love,” he answered. He stayed quiet then and let her think about the dream and what it could mean.
“I do feel like it’s a forest fire in my heart,” she said. “I feel like it’s this raging inferno and that, whenever he says, ‘I love you,’ or ‘You’re beautiful,’ it’s like he’s throwing small buckets of water at the thing.”
He moved closer and she could feel his hand touching the side of her neck, holding the back of her head. “Yes, that’s exactly what it must feel like,” he said softly.
“I don’t get it,” she said. “I thought the truth was more powerful than the lie. Why then does it seem like we believe the lie so easily—like one lie is so much more powerful?”
He paused a moment and she closed her eyes to listen to his response.
“Because this fire is not just about you, and it wasn’t lit in your lifetime,” he said. She opened her eyes and looked out at the night sky again, without really seeing it all. Orange flames danced in her mind’s eye. “It was lit thousands of years ago,” he continued. In a beautiful place, a garden we called Eden.”
Grace turned and leaned her back against the wall. The time of night was pulling at her consciousness. She knew she’d have a hard time getting up in the morning.
“Is there any hope at all then?” she asked, tired of this fight. Tired of trying to understand. Tired.
“Of course,” he said and she could almost feel him smiling. She slid down the wall and sat with her arms resting on her knees. Her forehead soon followed.
“How did it start?” she asked, “And why is it so important? Why is it still burning?”
“There are a million lies and a thousand fires that burn in the hearts of my people,” he said. “This fire, though, is the one that has crippled you from the beginning. And it is not easily put out. Not at all.”
“What is this fire?” she asked. “And are you saying it has crippled all of us? All of mankind from the beginning?”
“Not all of mankind, love,” he answered. “Only the daughters of Eve.”
She turned her head on her forearms so she could look into the space where she was sure he sat beside her.
“The fire is fuelled by a lie. And the lie was told by the enemy, but not through the mouth of the snake.” He paused. “The lie was told through the mouth of Adam.”
Her eyes filled with tears, but she wasn’t sure why. She waited for him to continue.
“When we came looking for them in the garden, and found that they had eaten from the tree, he abandoned her. He uncovered her. He stepped aside and was willing for her to pay the price.”
“What was the lie?” Grace asked, though she thought she knew what the answer would be.
“The lie was that she was not worth fighting for, my love.”