You’ve never seen such a verdant shade of green as the leafy tops of the trees that now form a focal point up ahead, peaking over the high and solid concrete walls which surround Eden. The colour makes you uneasy, so you focus on the grey of the wall instead. Intellectually, you’re well aware that the leaves look like leaves are supposed to, unpoisoned, but it feels like you’re hallucinating after watching a particularly pristine old movie disc.
Set into the middle of the wall is an enormous metal door, polished and gleaming in the sunlight. The door sits adjacent to the termination of the dirt path leading up to itself, a symbol of Eden’s rejection of the outside world.
Your stomach is queasy with nerves as you come closer and closer to the door. You’ve never heard of anyone who’s successfully gotten into Eden from the outside world, or come out of Eden. You’ve never even heard of someone who’s tried and failed. Your eyes dart around the imposing surface of the wall, searching for turrets.
Though your steps grow ever shorter as you approach, you soon find yourself within knocking distance of the great metal door. You wrap a rag around your hand so as not to touch its hot surface and wrap your knuckles against the door three times.
Before you’ve even completed your final knock, a voice booms down from on-high. “ONLY THOSE MAY ENTER WHO POSSESS THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL.”
You chuckle inwardly at the irony. “I have this knowledge,” you shout back to the voice.
“LET THE ONE WHO HAS THE KNOWLEDGE REPEAT THE PASSPHRASE FROM WHICH THE KNOWLEDGE DERIVES.”
You consider for a moment. “apple”
“INCORRECT. THREE ATTEMPTS REMAINING.”
“INCORRECT. TWO ATTEMPTS REMAINING.”
“INCORRECT. ONE ATTEMPT REMAINING.”
Okay, it’s probably not going to be that easy.
“AND ON THE FOURTH FAILED ATTEMPT, THE TREE OF LIFE WAS REMOVED FROM THE UNWISE ONE.”
Right, better not waste that one. You survey your surroundings, in search of anything that might help you figure out the password. There’s not very much around that could possibly help you, but just as you’re about to give up hope, you see a very conspicuous red-coloured rock lying on the ground just next to the enormous door. A grimy slip of white juts out from underneath the rock.
You lift the rock and discover a folded piece of paper. Unfolding it, you discover a set of cryptic lines, written in small, neat handwriting.
The letters “MM” are written on the bottom-right corner of
“CORRECT. YOU MAY ENTER THE GARDEN OF EDEN.”
And with that, the giant metal door begins to slowly creak open. You stand before it, wide-eyed and relieved that you didn’t waste your last attempt on “4pp134”.
The door gets stuck before it’s opened wider than a slim crack. You stand and wait for it to start moving again for a good five minutes, but it doesn’t budge.
Looking to the side of the open door, you discover that it’s opened just wide enough for you to squeeze through. You judge that this is just the latest manifestation of how much Eden hates the outside world and edge through the gap, trying not to think about what might happen if the door closed a little early.
Luckily for your possessions and body parts, the door only slams shut once you’re fully through.
The green leaves you saw from down the road were enough to make you uneasy, but all the green around you now that you’re actually in Eden is enough to make you sick. And yet, there’s also a feeling of wonder and joy. You lower the protective bandanna from your mouth and take a deep breath of the clean, pure air.
Once your eyes get used to the healthy green of the vegetation that surrounds you, you start to see the artificial parts of Eden. Neat, well-maintained brick houses with unbroken windows and non-peeling paint are organised in neat rows, with paved pathways between them.
All of a sudden, you hear a woman scream. A man’s angry shouts soon follow, and the placid scene in front of you explodes with people. Clean people with groomed hair and clothes out of faded billboard advertisements come out of the houses and stare at you. There is much shrieking and yelling. A mob of perfect plastic people marches towards you, like the dead people of the old world returning from the grave.
“ALL HALT!” The loud voice from the door booms behind you, and your assailants freeze. You turn around to face the voice, and see a portly little man in a bowler hat and bow-tie, holding a shiny metal cone in front of his mouth. “DO NOT FEAR. THE OUTSIDER HAS PASSED OUR TEST.”
You feel the violent energy in the air dissipate. The murderous glares of the people of Eden are reduced to looks of slight trepidation, mingled with disdainful and disgusted glances in your direction. Only a week ago, you were really proud of how few scratches your new goggles had, and the sturdiness of your rucksack, but now you feel every crack, frayed thread and spot of dirt on your body.
The little man lowers his cone and approaches you.
“Come with me,” he says. You notice that his voice is a lot higher and less
imposing without the cone.