Abandoned Eden | Teen Ink

Abandoned Eden

July 8, 2020
By JSUSVUS, Shanghai, Other
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JSUSVUS, Shanghai, Other
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Author's note:

For the themes of this work, I want to illustrate the idea of "high tech, low life" with a post-apocalypse story. I try to draw similarities between human beings' mania for exploring the New Land and their fantacism towards technology development. These two mental states have the potential to create both a promised land and a wasterland. In addition, I am quite excited about my bold experiments in structuring the stories. The story does not progress linearly, but circuitously, which I hope can help add dynamics and better build up tension in story.  

Held up by a clergyman in a black robe, Easton, red-eyed and disheveled, was struggling to break free. At the gate of the church, his father, who lost his right arm during his last expedition, was being dragged into Baptistery. Two priests standing on the other side would bring him to pray for “Purification.”


“You are shaming your family and us in front of God, Easton!” said the clergyman in a sepulchral voice. 


“No, no! No!” Easton screamed as if tearing his lungs apart. There was nothing else he could do.


At the center of the cathedral, the icon of God the Father trembled now and then in occasional earthquakes. 


The clergyman casted Easton down to the stone ground and announced, “You should have known why he left us for his Kingdom of Heaven, Eden. Our imperfections, disabilities, birth defects, crimes, and violence agitated him. We are the Abandoned. Only by purifying all these deficiencies will God again favor us.”


The two priests returned, with shadowy expressionless faces. 


“The ‘Purification’ rite was over.” His body went flaccid with such realization in his mind. Moments later, Easton steadied himself to his feet and limped away from the church. His fists clenched and teeth gnawed tightly on his lower lip. 



Dunwich was one of the last few surviving poleis underground. Stone pillars with torches on the tops were placed sparsely along the streets in the polis. There was no sun, no moon, no stars above, only a desperately solid wall of quartzite. 


Darkness and earthquakes had dominated the underground world ever since the beginning of the time. There was only one instance of exception. A leak was once created during an extremely destructive earthquake 578 years ago, letting threads of light to pass through the stone ceiling. The light later faded away in another tide of earthquakes. 


The traditional method for time measurement became meaningless a long time ago. At some point, the church ordered to discard the old time system and instead set the daytime as the time period during which earthquakes surge madly and the night as the period tremors subside. 



Easton stared blankly at the back window in his house, scratching his neck back and forth with the nails unshaved, as if he wanted to pull out a slice of flesh out of it. Awakened, he walked to the clutter at the front door and rummaged out a palm-sized notebook with a rough yellow cover, a diary his father used to keep when adventuring. Not long ago that day, his father, with blood-stained bandage all over his body, appeared at the gate as the earthquake was just to arrive, signifying the transition to the daytime. He threw this notebook into the house and rushed away. The next thing Easton heard was that his father was arrested by the priests for “Purification” of his physical disability. Powerlessly, he witnessed in person how his father was executed for the sake of God’s will. 


Easton could clearly perceive his inner fidgeting, accompanied by the deep pain of bitterness. The notebook, the last thing his father left to him, now seemed to weigh much heavier in his hands, pressuring all the other thoughts in his mind aside. Only one restless voice stood out as a consequence: He felt aggrieved and insulted to be forced to accept the unbreakable tranny of the Church. Easton believed this diary book had its meaning and he himself, as the son of an honorable explorer in Dunwich, was tasked to inherit its legacy. 


“It is my tacit promise made with my father in his last seconds. It is my fate.” 


Drawing a wavering breath, he opened the diary to the first page:


“April 8th

The church assigned Miss. Eunice as my fiancé! Christ, I even haven’t met her before. They said it was for the reason of population control in a society with limited resources. They always said this! No, I am going to reject such an enforced arrangement. I will pack up and leave this polis immediately, escaping from the sphere of influence of the church.”


“April 10th

I have to say Miss. Eunice really looks beautiful.”


“April 11th

Oh! Her personality, her temperament, and her tenderness accord with me perfectly well. I am now expecting my marriage with her.”


Easton closed the book, frowning, feeling his thoughts impeded by his father’s blatant brazenness. He opened the diary again seconds later. This time, he started reading from the middle. 


“November 28th”

Finally, after so many years of training, I became a member of the expedition team this morning — the only time in my life I have been envied by so many people. It was something to brag about with my five-year-old son. 


My duty will switch to explore the Great Tree at the center of our polis. It has such a robust and enormous tree trunk that extends high into the stone ceiling. No one sees its top. It is left for us to explore it.


The church called it God’s last charity before abandoning us. A thick layer of soil covered its bark. Vines wrapped around the Great Tree, on which sustain the flowers that bear fruit, the only food source in Dunwich.        


At the top of the Great tree is his Kingdom of Heaven, where God lives and light permeates. Oracle will come to dispel the curse on us if one of us reach there and assert allegiance right in front of him. This is what the Church always preached. 


I seriously doubt it. The church made up everything. The Great Tree isn’t a bit like a tree since we never see its bark but a cylindrical trunk-like pillar, covered by soil. 


A tree that leads to Eden? Nonsense. They pertain everything to God, but so pitiful that they pray only for self-entertaining since God has never at one time responded to them!  


Fine. Fine. We are the abandoned people. But then for what reason they are still promoting that stinking Purification? The crippled prisoners huddling in the bloodstained stone cage, infants with birth defects crying inside stone pots, people with broken arms or legs dragged by grappling hooks — all of them are going to be executed by those holy f**koly priests, saying those damn words ‘God abhors people with physical disabilities.’ 


When I was nine years old, they brought my father away. Five years later, my mother. The last time, Eunice. They left me with nothing, but my son Easton. For what? For someday he will see I die in front of him? 


Great, at least I still have something to LOSE. 


At that time I had already made up my mind that the church was a devilish thing and I was going to make sense out of these atrocities myself for my family and for Easton. Now, I join the expedition team and have a chance to explore the world beyond the stone ceiling. To see where the hell his Eden really is.


I need an answer for all this bulls**t.”


Easton’s past memory, fuzzy and rusty, got stirred. 


“This notebook doesn’t resemble much to the one I peeked to see in my father’s study,” Easton murmured to himself. 


Flattening the book on the table, Easton started scrutinizing the notebook page by page. Moments later, he felt two pages with unusual roughness and corrugation. It suggested the existence of a hidden layer. He grabbed a finger-sized blade, cut the page into two pieces from the spine, unfolded it. It was a map of explored paths beyond the quartzite wall. A map of new land.


Late that night, he got the pickaxes, bottles of lamp oil, and food for weeks packed up in his bag.  

The next day, Easton, as regular, waited with a crowd at the bottom of the tree trunk. Easton was one of these three hundred people who received a special rite that initiated them into manhood three months ago. Given the everyday duty to pick fruits from the trunk of the Great Tree, he was responsible for maintaining the daily food supply of the polis.


A priest stepped towards him.


“I have heard about your father.” 


Easton could feel his own pounding heart.




He tried not to put on a face of grievance. 


“We all know that your father is an honorable explorer. Our polis needs his legacy. Be mindful of things he left behind. They may be treasurable enough to help us reach God.”


I have his diary with me now, but I will never give to you, you church stooge. Easton had a quick secret thought of the situation and responded, “That would be my pleasure.”


“The clergymen will be in your house tonight, after the earthquake appeases. You need to be honest when they have questions for you.”


I will have already disappeared from Dunwich at that time, Easton thought over this command secretly. He decided just to muddle through this conversation.


“This is my duty.”


“Under his eyes,” prayed the priest faithfully, pressing his right palm to the left chest.

“Under his eyes,” Easton responded, doing the same gesture as the priest, but more passionately. 




The tree trunk was shaking from time to time, but fortunately, there weren’t any signs of an overly destructive earthquake that day. Easton managed to cling to vines while simultaneously picking up blue-black fruits from large oval leaves, twisting his waist and rooting his left leg deep in the soil for balancing. He had been trained to do so at a very young age. 


He had climbed up to a height he had never reached before, far higher than all the other fruit pickers. A little bit higher, his figure would become invisible in others’ eyes. His disappearance wouldn’t be noticed any time soon, given so many fruit pickers were working on the trunk at the same time. Two years ago, one man accidentally fell from the Great Tree, but this wasn’t discovered until someone screamed to find out an unrecognizable human body, entirely crushed apart from head to toe, scattering around on the house roof.


Getting rid of the nauseating imagery in mind, Easton tugged himself up a little further with the aid of pickaxe, climbing to the height where the Great Tree merged into the stone ceiling. 



“January 28th

This was my first adventure as a full member of the expedition team. I was almost about to freak out, but it turned out to be just fine. World beyond was only a little bit darker. 


We were still climbing the Great Tree. There are solid stone walls surrounding the trunk beyond the ceiling.  Surprisingly, they seemed to be smooth and polished; centuries of earthquakes have left little impact on them. No crevices. Not rugged. 


The captain told me it was all God’s work. Since it is the path to his Kingdom, so he probably used his power to keep it intact. I would accept this explanation. 


He also said that there is a limit of the height we can reach. Food and water would always run out first before they were able to glimpse the Great Tree’s top. It was a test on climbers’ faith, so God purposely made it difficult. Explorers’ main duty now is to explore the caves scattered along the surrounding walls. They believe that God left his sacred inspiration for pilgrims deep inside those caves.”


“February 5th

We broke into threes exploring different caves. Most of cave my team went in didn’t extend long, but some others entailed a labyrinthic network of paths. More preparation would be needed in its future exploration so we marked them down on the map.


On the final assembling day, one group went missing. We waited for another two days at the entrance of cave that they were  supposed to explore, but no one came out. As the food almost ran out, the captain led the team back, assuming they were stuck somewhere inside the cave in a recent earthquake. I have to say it is a reasonable deduction. Such a thing occurs sometimes. I asked the captain whether we would check that cave again in the next expedition to recover their bodies when climbing down.


‘That would be a ninety-nine percent of a waste of time and food resource’, he responded without even paying a glance at me. A rational decision, I have to say.


I felt stupid of myself asking that question, but I still marked the cave on my map during the next break. This helps to soothe my guilt.” 



Following the routes on the map, Easton reached the marked cave, where a group of explorers went missing almost a decade ago, as indicated in his father’s diary. Easton’s family lineage motivated him to be here. He felt an urge, conscious or unconscious, to find answers to myths his father’s generation failed to explain definitely. 


But really, where to start? Easton wondered. 


Walking for two occurrences of earthquakes, he captured a sight of bodies lying down one the far end of his oil lamp’s light. They were withered torsos, he discovered. A sudden unusual sense of dizziness flooded Easton’s mind as he stayed for a closer observation. 


“They were a total of three of them. They died…together, but their exposed bones showed no trace of injuries. How? Lack of food or water?” Easton murmured. 


Unable to sustain another inexplicable surge of nausea, Easton instinctively rushed out of the cave and regained control over his brain afterward. 


“Myth still not solved.” Easton marked this down on the map, “I need to explore it more carefully in the future, if I still own a future.” He chuckled at this joke, which didn’t sound funny.  

“May 15th

This cave is about one thousand and fifty meters above the underground polis. When we entered it this morning, I could distinctly feel the heightened tension within our expedition team. Utter silence prevailed except some group members’ gasping. There wasn’t any sign of danger. The caves weren’t collapsing because of the earthquakes, so why were they in such an alert state?  They seemed to know some unspoken secrets about this cave.


As I was pondering how to initiate a question about this, I stumbled over an unknown object. At a moment, all the other members turned to my side, staring at me, as if looking at a quirky monster. A sense of uneasiness went through my body. 


As I was about to lower my oil lamp to see what tripped me. The Captain ordered me to freeze, in a cold commanding voice. 


‘You don’t want me to look at it?’ I believe my whole face of confusion perfectly conveyed this question to the Captain. 


‘What you don’t know won’t hurt you. Keep moving, Guys.’


I obeyed what he said. As we went deeper, I stumbled several more times over the objects of similar shapes. I could roughly tell that they are solid, in big shapes, and curled up a little bit. Still, I managed to quench my desire to take a close look every time it happened.”



On the map, Easton noticed some unidentified drawings along the cave he was going to explore. Those drawings were like small caterpillars, bending, with cocoons. He knew they referred to those unknown objects that once stumbled his father, described on a diary page he read before. 


As the surrounding started shaking again, Easton realized it was the fifth day morning. He was not in good physical condition. At first, it was insomnia he suffered at nighttime. Nausea and vomiting inflicted him sporadically, accompanied by mild nasal bleeding. He thought he could still hold on a little bit longer so that he could have a greater chance to discover the significance of his father’s diary. 

He stepped inside the cave that was marked up with caterpillar-like drawings. The passage was clear of hindrances until Easton walked for seven occurrences of earthquakes. He felt his leg impeded by a hard rock. He drew a half breath and leaned down to examine the unknown object with his oil lamp.


A tremor flashed through his spine. It was a human being. Used to be. The grey limps and countenance are hardly indistinguishable. The whole body huddled up like a baby in the mother’s womb. The arms stretched out in its last seconds, as if running, but to where? Burned, suffocated, petrified in magma. This was how it died. 


Easton covered his mouth to prevent himself from throwing up here. He walked deeper into the cave, at a disorderly pace. He saw tens of human bodies. Then hundreds. Thousands. All petrified. All burned and suffocated to death. 

“february     11 th

I cannot not describe what just happened

We saw murals 

all over this cave 


These murals are not supposed to be here

Some group members went STARk crazy after seeing them They stabbed each

OTHERS indiscrimi nately


Hit their heads hard     against the Murals of God

       The Captain dead.


Blood    splashed       EVERYwhere


Although I had long doubted myths of him I still    

thought I was his believer. 


But because I did restrain my URge to stab myself through the eyes the moment 

seeing the murals  I realized I truly had no FaiTH in him. 



I my right arm Lost

I don’t want to die here



These murals should have never been drawn out.”



Easton grabbed the rear of pickaxe; with a mighty leap he landed on the ground level at the entrance of the cave. It was the final one he planned to explore in this expedition. He lost track of time after he fainted in the last cave he explored. How he managed to get out of it, passing through all those petrified human beings, he could not remember. He didn’t want to. 


“My father lost his right arm there in his last expedition,” he gazed into the dark cave, “he might already become crazy when writing the last page of his diary. Some ultimate secrets about God will probably be revealed in the murals mentioned by him, but the problem is, this knowledge may eat me up.” 


His health condition went worse in those days. Severer nasal bleeding. Severer sense of dizziness. His five senses had already become dull, but this was somewhat useful in helping him to block his horrifying conjectures about the content of murals; otherwise, he would have the guts to step into the cave. 


After ten occurrences of earthquakes, Easton, with his back leaning against the wall, stood trembling under the stone ceiling where the murals were painted.  


They narrated the story of a lost civilization that once thrived in caves around the Great Tree hundreds of years before Dunwich was built. They had their own creation story, about God, about the origin of the world:


“God had never abandoned us.”


Easton almost felt a blow in his head.  


“When the apocalypse came, God chose to bear most of the sins. For us.   


Benevolent God! We are never cursed, but blessed. If it wasn’t God who helped to endure the suffering for us, human civilization would have died long ago. Not even able to survive underground. 


As a result of the sins he sustained, he was crucified upside down on the cross hanged on the center tree in his Kingdom of Heaven. The legs were harshly distorted to one side, the eyes without balls, the whole body skinned and through holes on the stomach.


Yet he never dies. He was, is, and will always be bleeding. For us!”



Easton had a sudden impulse to tear off a piece of scalp from his head under the murals depicting God being crucified, skinned and perforated. He started to run, running to nowhere. He lost direction then, but the only voice in his mind still kept his legs working. He wanted to stay away from the murals, as far as possible. 


At one point, he slumped to the ground. His surroundings started shaking violently, causing him to regain consciousness. He discovered himself in a small space enclosed on three sides. 


“An Earthquake? The appeasing period lasts abnormally short this time.”


Two panels extended out from two sides of the room’s only exit and closed in on each other. Easton felt being uplifted, but his feet did not leave the ground. Then, he knew the whole enclosed room was going up with him. 


An asexual human voice from above entered his ears:


“30 kilometers underground, rising at 3 meters per second.”


Easton was terrified by this monotonic voice. Lifting his oil lamp up, he saw nothing on the ceiling but stone. 


“The oracle from God? But there is nothing sacred or divine about the voice. I don’t feel like humbling myself when hearing the words.”


“28 kilometers underground, rising at 25 meters per second, ” the voice came again. 


“People in Dunwich have prayed for thousands of years, but never God responded to them, but now I am hearing his voice? Because I saw those blasphemous murals? This room is probably going to send me to the hell to get me punished. Wait, I am now going up…”


“At the top of the Great Tree lies his Kingdom of Heaven…, I am now on the way to Eden!”


Astonished by this guess, Easton fidgeted uncomfortably, fearing, excited, and disbelieving. 


“5 kilometers underground, rising at 30 meters per second, decelerating”


“1 kilometer…”


“The earth’s surface reached.”


An exit appeared. Easton stepped out of it, finding himself standing among a heap of ruins. Ruins of metals, though rusted, could still be identified as a precious resource in Dunwich. A ray of sunlight thrusted out through the clouds, landing on his body. It was too provocative for a person who has lived underground since his birth. He felt an urge to kneel under the glory of God, but he didn’t. Some outrageous perception inconsistencies prevented him to do so.


He was told by the Church that a variety of plants and animals would flourish in Eden; it would be a world of Green, a world of life. It wasn’t true. For he only saw a land covered by remains of high towers and patches of yellowish grass, some saturated by stinky river water. A wasteland. 


He felt like retching again.


He was told that at the center of Eden is the Great Tree, towering over the land, fruiting. It wasn’t true either. The highest thing he could see was a broken arm, holding high a torch, painted green, on the top of another enormous heap of stones and columns on the other side of water. 


 “Where is God? Did the apocalypse really come, as depicted in the murals? And both God and his kingdom were destroyed? I can tell it used to be a fair land. At least it owns light. A kingdom can be constructed here. Could be.”


The ground started shaking. It was the earthquake coming back, taking control over the whole land, as if the wrath of God befalling. Easton went east to avoid being buried by the unstable heaps of ruins. He knew he was in very weak physical condition now; waves of nausea again swept over him, accompanied by an inside burning feeling of disbelief and confusion. After a while, he managed to reach a wide-open clearing that caved in at the heart. Easton climbed down to get a full view of it. 


It was a deep well.


He threw a stone into it, waited, and never heard it hit the bottom. 


His teeth started chattering against each other. Easton closed his eyes, turning his head away as if unwillingly. He recognized the well. Vines and vegetation covered Its external layer. Bottomless. Of huge radius. 


It was the Great Tree, but hollow and metallic inside. 


There was, obviously, no God hanged, or living on the Great Tree. 

In addition to shock, unreasoning anger and grief, Easton wondered the origins of the myths either preached by the Church, or on the murals.


He felt treading on something rough as he was just about to lose balance and fall backward. Some fragments of paper were dug out. He recognized the letters printed on them. They were derived from a very ancient language, which Easton got a chance to learn because his father used to be one of the elite explorers. Several big letters became recognizable first as he tried to piece them together, “WYORKTIME”. Next a crumbling image of people, distressed and ragged, burdened by bags and baskets, heading for the underground. 


“People in God’s Kingdom of Heaven voluntarily deserted here and migrated underground. Why? Because God died in the apocalypse?” Easton could not think any deeper about this. 


A moment later, he recovered the most part of the paper. Though there were some words he could not understand, he still managed to read on:


“One hundred years ago, a desperate lunatic came up with a crazy construction plan that I believe every being on earth knows: He wanted to create a tunnel, starting from our country, right passing through the earth’s core, towards the other side of the planet. A 12000 km long tunnel. Absolutely crazy.


At first, no one paid attention to this plan, but with rounds of successful small subterranean nuclear tests, with the emergence of new solid materials that are both able to sustain high temperature and high pressure, and with math formulas that proved the feasibility, this plan stepped onto the international stage. 


Its frantic supporters helped to attract investors worldwide. They rationalized such an idea with arguments like that the tunnel would provide human beings with the most convenient type of transportation, reducing the travel cost to zero: One jumps into it, and one will be on the other side of the earth. In Forty minutes. From today’s point of view, the fundamental reason for this construction project to be executed is attributed to the public’s rekindled mania for exploiting the New Land and their unreasonable idolatry for technological development. The feeling of conquering Nature entailed made this idea even more enticing for those tech-fanatics. There was a renaissance of steampunk spirit one hundred years ago. 


As it became a construction plan on national level, the military started throwing nuclear bombs at one spot every day to dig deeper and at the same time constructed tunnels using new solid materials, layer by layer. Accidents took place now and then. Thirty years ago, a miscalculated nuclear bombing led to unexpected magna upwelling, burning over three thousand underground engineers to death before they were able to reach the high-speed escalators. Such an accident was only an epitome of the whole constructing process. According to an official study conducted five years since the construction began, underground engineers had an average life expectancy 30 years less than that of normal people. There are sites contaminated by nuclear bombs everywhere underground.


The governments at that time tried their best to cover these downsides up. We can see how opinionated and foolish humans can be when they have the chance to realize something unprecedented in history. Yes, they indeed did something unprecedented:


The onset of the collapse of our civilization happened three years ago, on February 11th in 2102: An on time 1 p.m. nuclear explosion at a depth of 160 miles underground triggered unexpected chain reactions of seismic zones that day. A surge of devastating earthquakes arrived immediately, “neatly” wiping out all five thousand underground engineers. Minutes later, the apocalypse fell on ground-living people. 


The first cities perished were those at the borders of seismic zones. 1: 40 p.m. the whole Tokyo was torn up by the earthquake, sinking into the Pacific Ocean. It disappeared from the earth surface, forever. Three minutes later, Los Angeles was engulfed by a tsunami. We haven’t named that tsunami yet. Same thing happened to Chile. The earthquake eased then, temporarily. After an hour, it went on bringing away east Asia and western America. Entirely. It never eased again. For a straight five years.
So far, the earthquake has sunk ninety percent of land on the earth’s surface. Thousands of millions of refugees survived are now here, waiting for, what they called, the Great Migration. The earth's surface will sooner or later be no longer livable. We don’t know how long it is going to take for the earthquake to sink the rest of the land. We don’t have time to wait to know about it. We decided to move underground. In consideration for future supplies, the remaining bio-engineers transplant vegetations have transplanted vegetations to the outside layer of the tunnel, which is ironic enough to be the only thing intact in these years. We don’t know how many of us will survive. We don’t know how much of our civilization will be preserved.


What we only know is that it is us that skinned the earth and made it a riddled world.” 


Easton dropped down the fragments of paper. They seemed out of his focus. He felt his body like an arrow at the end of its flight. 


He took out his father’s notebook from his back and buried it in the soil in front of him. Grabbing a slate, he engraved his father’s name on it. 


“Edward Walsh”


With the promised land Eden under his feet, he wrote on.


“The man that proved God is dead.”


Taking a step back, he gazed at the carved name for a while. He added his own name on it, “Easton Walsh,” and changed “a” in “man” to “e” on the epitaph. 


He stopped thinking then, dying, after he was exposed to intense radiation for five days.

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