Satan and the snake had watched each other for a long time before either spoke. It was mid-morning €”it was always mid-morning €”and the breeze was pleasant and warm in the thick tangles of shining dark leaves. The snake, a long purple shadow, was hanging in negligent coils from a branch of the tree hanging with blue-spotted white flowers and dark red fruit. Her large head rested on her casually muscled form and she watched Satan, who was sitting on a rock in a dusty clearing, rubbing his shoulders where his large black wings sprung, grimacing from time to time and keeping a close eye on the snake.
It was Satan who spoke first, after his grimaces and rubbing had finished. €œYou are very beautiful, € he said.
The snake stirred, blinking. €œHow can you know what beauty is? € she asked. Her voice was low, and modulated. €œOnly the gods know that. €
Satan shrugged. €œI don’t know how I know, snake. I only know that I know €”and you are very beautiful. €
€œAre you a god, then? € Her voice was cool and musical, like a brook, and she regarded Satan with cool eyes.
He laughed, leaning back into his wings and grabbing his knees. €œDo I look like a god to you? €
€œYou look like half a bat, € said the snake as she eased down from the tree. €œThe other half might be monkey, might be man. You have more hair than the other two-legs in this part of the tree-place. €
€œNot a god though. That’s a relief, € said Satan. He leaned forward slightly and studied her as she moved from under the shadows of the trees. €œYou are beautiful €”look at you in the sunlight. You’re like a living bruise. €
€œWhat part of creation is a bruise? € asked the snake.
€œA very beautiful part. € Satan’s mouth twitched into a smile.
€œOnly the gods know beauty, € repeated the snake. €œWhen this tree-place was created, the gods called it Beauty, but no creature may know what that means. Beauty is a mystery of the gods. €
€œIt’s a mystery, I will grant you that, € said Satan. €œTo be honest, I’m trying to figure it out myself. It’s one of the reasons I dropped down here €”I thought it might give me some ideas. €
The snake regarded Satan with deep interest. €œDo you know beauty? Can you see it? €
Satan’s smile was long and white. €œEverywhere, no-legs. This is a beautiful garden. €
€œI see you are playing a game with words, then, because this tree-place is Beauty €”and therefore beautiful. € The snake twisted herself back upon her mighty loops to rise to Satan’s seated height. €œAnd I am part of Beauty, and therefore beautiful €”this is what you mean? €
Satan laughed. €œI did not expect you to coil me in my own words. But here, I’ve given you a compliment and I expect it repaid €”do you think I’m beautiful? €
The snake shook her head. €œI don’t know beauty. It is a mystery of the gods. I do know you are made well €”as the gods made you €”and therefore you must be beautiful. €
€œA true compliment. Yet I can’t imagine that anything €”least of all myself could be more beautiful than you are, € said Satan.
The snake blinked. €œThis is a new thing you have said. € She thought for a moment. €œHow can something be more beautiful than something else? Both things are made by the gods. €
Satan shrugged. €œPersonal preference, I suppose. I’m sure the gods think everything is as beautiful as everything else. I just find you more beautiful than €”say, that rock over there. € Satan pointed to a rock jutting from the muddy earth, crumbling and charred-looking as a burned stick. €œIt looks as if it tumbled from Heaven, doesn’t it? €
€œI don’t feel more beautiful than the rock, € said the snake.
€œThat is because you are a woman, € said Satan, €œand €”innocent or not €”some things breed true. €
The snake blinked at him.
€œDon’t worry, € said Satan. €œIt’s just a joke. And not a very good one, either. €
€œBlood-Red Fruit € can be read in its entirely as part of Plain and Precious Parts of the Fob Bible (http://b10mediaworx.com/peculiarpages/fobbible/pppfobbible.htm#blood) or through the complete Fob Bible (http://b10mediaworx.com/b10mwx/peculiar-pages/the-fob-bible/). The story was written by Danny Nelson and Eric W Jepson.