13: The Devil Made Him Hungry?

Cyrano had a drink to fortify himself back in episode 6 but otherwise has had nothing to eat since he left Quebec. He was splattered with a restorative apple on his crash landing in episode 7, but the effects appear to have worn off. Does hunger affect Cyrano’s judgment? Or have miracles done all they can do?

On the way I asked Elijah to finish the stories of the assumptions that he had begun. I said he had left off, as I recalled, at the one about St. John the Evangelist.

“Well,” said Elijah, “since you don’t have the patience to wait for the apple of knowledge, which can fill you in on all these things better than I, I’ll be glad to tell you. The first thing you have to know is that God...”

I don’t know how it happened, but at that word the Devil got into the act, and I couldn’t keep from interrupting with a joke: “I remember,” I said. “One day God realized that the evangelist’s soul was so loose that he was hanging on to it by the skin of his teeth. And it was almost the time he was scheduled to be brought to this place. Since there was no time left to have him make a machine, God was obliged to bring him here instantaneously, without going to the trouble of having him make the trip.”

As I said this, Elijah gave me a look that could have killed me on the spot if I hadn’t already been dying of hunger. “You are abominable!” he said, recoiling from me. “You have the impudence to make fun of holy things. At least it would be a punishment if the All-Wise wanted to hold you up to the nations as a famous example of his mercy. Take your impiety and get out of here. Go tell this little world and the other — you are predestined to return to it — that God holds an irreconcilable hatred for atheists.”

As he ended his imprecations he grabbed me and manhandled me toward the exit. We came to a large tree with branches so loaded with fruit that they bent almost to the ground. Elijah said, “This is the Tree of Knowledge. You could have drawn inconceivable knowledge from it if it hadn’t been for your irreligion.”

Before he even finished speaking I pretended to faint from weakness and fell against a branch of the tree. I adroitly stole an apple. I was still several yards away from stepping outside of this delightful park. But I was so terribly hungry that I forgot I was in the hands of an enraged prophet. I took out one of the apples that my pocket was bulging with. I meant to take one that Enoch had given me, but my hand fell on the apple I had picked from the Tree of Knowledge. Unfortunately, I had not yet peeled it.

Hardly had I tasted it than thick darkness fell over my mind. I no longer saw my apple, nor Elijah near me, and my eyes perceived in the entire hemisphere no trace of the Garden of Eden. And yet I remembered all that had happened to me in it. When I thought about this miracle afterwards, I figured that the apple skin had not made me completely dumb because my teeth had bitten through it and come into contact with the juice inside, and its energy had dissipated the malignity of the peel.

I was very surprised to find myself all alone and surrounded by a landscape I did not recognize. I looked around and about and across the countryside, but no creature consoled my gaze. Finally, I made up my mind to walk until Fortune brought me into the company of some animal or else to death.

Fortune granted my wish: after a bit more than a quarter of a mile I encountered two big, strong animals. One of them stood in front of me while the other returned swiftly home. At least I assumed it did, because a little while later I saw it return with more than seven or eight hundred of its kind, and they surrounded me. When I was able to look at them more closely, I saw their height, shape and faces were like ours. This observation reminded me of the stories I used to hear from my governess as a child, about sirens, fauns and satyrs. Every so often they raised such a loud clamour, caused no doubt by their surprise at seeing me, that I thought I had almost become a monster.

Cyrano’s sudden hunger pangs might have gained realism from some foreshadowing, but the reader can surely empathize: having asked Elijah to continue, Cyrano belatedly realizes he’s not up to listening to another long-winded episode until he’s had something to eat.

Not only is Cyrano uncharacteristically rude to interrupt Elijah, even to cut a long story short, he is also bitingly sarcastic: he implies that God was so absent-minded that the Deity forgot to have the Evangelist build himself a spaceship.

Cyrano’s skepticism is warranted if only because Elijah’s accounts have been noticeably inconsistent at times. It’s understandable if Cyrano is implying that Elijah has been spinning yarns and making up his stories as he goes along. That, as much as anything, could account for Elijah’s reaction.

Science fiction has frequently used the theme of space travelers’ perceptions being confused by mind-altering flora on alien planets. Has Cyrano been drugged? If so, he seems to have taken an antidote at the same time. He implies that taking a big bite out of an “apple of knowledge” makes one human. So what difference does it make to eat an “apple” from the Tree of Knowledge, provided one avoids the peelings of ignorance?

Meanwhile, “Elijah” has alluded to “this little world.” Will its strange and yet somehow familiar-looking people tell Cyrano new and different stories? We shall see...