In the beginning there was the number, and the number was odd, even as it divided a third of itself into unequal parts of darkness and light, an act that future theologians would refer to as the Wholly Split. At first, there was mostly darkness with just a pin prick of light, but the light streamed continuously out into the darkness. The darkness and the light formed the day. Odd divided the day into seven, and she was so pleased that she decided to fill them with a number of things, which, added together, became the world.
On the first day, she made the sea and all the creatures to live in it. On the second day, she made the land, which later would be bought and sold. This is how Monday became the start of the work week. There were a lot of angles who felt that Odd never should have made the land.
“That was when the trouble started,” Isosceles liked to point out.
Others felt that she shouldn’t have divided the day.
“Monday is an abomination,” Right said. “She should have stuck with Sunday. Sunday should have been enough.”
There was, however, no turning back. On Tuesday, Odd made the insects to crawl on the land. On Wednesday, she made the animals to give the insects something to eat. On Thursday, she made birds, and on Friday, she created the sky to give them a place to fly. On Saturday, she created woman to tend the world, keeping it safe, clean and beautiful. That afternoon, Odd created a lovely garden for the woman to live in, which she called the Garden of Even because she knew how hard it was to be odd.
“This is cool,” the woman, whose name was Ada, thought, “but who can I share it with?”
So that afternoon, she tamed one of Odd’s creatures and took it as a pet. She named her pet Cat and showed it around. But Cat ran off, So she tamed Dog, who was much friendlier than Cat, but didn’t seem to understand a word that Ada said.
“What’s going on, Dog?” she’d ask, and Dog would just sit there with his tongue hanging out, so Ada went to Odd and requested a mate.
While Ada was sleeping, Odd, who wanted her to be happy, took a mole from Ada’s ass and created man.
“Who are you?” Ada asked when she woke up to find a man sleeping beside her.
“I’m Evan,” the man replied.
“I don’t remember giving you permission to sleep with me, Evan,” said Ada. “Ask next time.”
“Okay,” said bleary-eyed Even, obedient as a puppy.
“How are you two getting on,” asked Odd, as she dropped in through the clouds she’d recently created.
“It’s all good,” Evan said, not wanting to make waves since that, he figured, was Odd’s job.
“We’ll see,” said Ada.
“Well, I made most of this for you, so I hope you enjoy,” said Odd. “Just one favor. Stay away from the orange tree that grows in the middle of the garden. That I made for my daughter, Janice.”
“Okay, we won’t touch it,” Ada said, hoping that Odd would leave so that she could go back to sleep.
“You have a daughter?” Evan, as amorous as Odd made him, asked, “How old is she? Can I meet her?”
“She hasn’t been born yet,” said Odd.
“Too young,” Evan snickered.
“But when she is born,” Odd said, ignoring Evan’s icky remark, “she’ll shine so strong that the sexist Roman citizenry of the day will call her the Sun of Man. I’ll want her to have the orange tree because the potassium in its fruit will keep her bright and alert. She’ll have a big job to do so she’ll have to stay on her toes.”
“Well, that doesn’t make much sense,” said Evan, “but okay, I guess. We won’t go near your precious potassium tree.”
“Please don’t,” said Odd, before returning to the skies where she was lunching that afternoon with Isosceles, Right and Trisha, her three favorite angles.
After Odd left, Ada went back to sleep. Evan, who wasn’t tired, went for a walk.
No matter which direction he walked, he ended up at the orange tree where he tripped over a strange creature crouching in the surrounding grasses.
“Who are you?” he asked Odd’s animal.
“I’m Steve,” it said, “the mongoose.”
“Well, what are you doing here, Steve?” Evan asked.
“I’m trying to get an orange,” Steve said.
“But Odd said we’re not to eat them,” said Evan. “Did you not get the message?”
“I got it,” Steve said glibly, “but I’ll tell you something. I was sleeping under the tree this morning when one of them fell right on my head. I was so mad that I bit it. And you know what? It was delicious!”
“Ya?” said Evan, his curiosity piqued. “And you didn’t get in trouble?”
“Trouble! No!” Steve exclaimed with a defiant little laugh. “Odd is such a goody-goody. What’s she going to do?”
“Maybe you’re right,” Evan said, his mouth watering as he tried to imagine what orange tasted like.
“Of course I am,” said Steve. “Now do me a favor. You’re nice and tall on those two long legs of yours. Reach up and grab me an orange. Grab yourself one, too. They’re so good!”
Evan picked two oranges. He gave one to Steve who devoured it whole. Evan tried biting into his orange but found the skin hard, so he peeled it back. He bit it again, and this time the sweet juice spurted out into his mouth. He wolfed down the rest of the delectable fruit, then picked another for later. Feeling completely satisfied, he headed back to go to sleep beside Ada.
“Oh, and buddy,” Steve said as Evan was walking away, “do us both a favor and don’t tell the woman you ate an orange. If she finds out how delicious they are, she’ll want some. That’ll mean less for us.”
“I won’t say anything,” Evan said, but in truth he couldn’t wait to tell Ada. It was the first time that he told a lie, and it felt really good.
As he walked through the garden, he suddenly noticed that he was completely naked.
“Whoa!” he exclaimed looking down at his hairy body. “Am I ever ugly!”
He grabbed some leaves from the trees as he walked and wrapped them around his midsection. When he got back to Ada he saw that she was naked too. But he didn’t think that she looked bad at all like that.
Maybe I won’t tell her about the oranges, he thought.
“What have you got there?” Ada asked when she saw Evan holding the orange out in front of him with both hands as he walked.
“Nothing,” Evan replied, trying to act nonchalant.
“What do you mean, nothing?” Ada barked, annoyed with Evan’s disingenuous answer. “I can see you’ve got an orange. Odd said they weren’t for us, so why are you messing with them?”
“Sorry, Ada,” Evan sighed, “but they’re delicious. You’ve got to try one.”
Ada was reluctant at first, but when Evan peeled the fruit, it’s sweet, tangy fragrance enticed her. She tried it and as soon as she did, she realized that she was naked.
“Hey!” she cried, “did you know I was naked?”
“I only just noticed,” Evan replied honestly.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Ada snapped.
“I didn’t get a chance,” Evan said sheepishly.
“Ya, I bet,” said Ada, shaking her head as she grabbed a bunch of leaves and wrapped them around her body.
Just then Odd floated down from the sky looking like an angry bee.
“I thought I told you two not to eat the oranges!” she admonished. “Now I’ve got to kick you out of the Garden of Even.”
She picked up a corner of the garden, tipping it over on its side. Ada and Evan went tumbling into the wilderness where, away from Odd’s watchful eye, they felt free to play without worrying about consequences. They soon discovered sex, and, after much ado, intercourse. It wasn’t long, then, before Ada got pregnant and gave birth to Kate and Mabel. The twins grew up rapidly.
While at twenty-two they were both attractive, Kate was envious of Mabel, who had beautifully long and flowing honey-colored hair. Kate’s hair was nice too. It was long, blonde and shiny. But there was no flow to it; She had always wanted her hair to flow, but it just didn’t.
“Don’t worry about it,” said Steve, the mongoose, who also got kicked out of paradise, though not before stealing a few precious seeds. “Have a nice glass of orange juice. Everything is going to be okay.”
Janice Thrice sat in the desert waiting for Odd to show herself. She had been here for three days and three nights, and wanted to feel herself filled with the Wholly Split of darkness and light. But these fractions of Odd, formed from the features of Odd’s Whole Number when, in the beginning, she divided herself to create the world, eluded Janice, who felt all gray inside.
“I don’t feel Odd at all,” she said to herself with a sigh.
It was then that she spotted a mongoose scampering towards her in the blaring desert sunlight.
“Hi, I’m Steve,” the mongoose said, blinking his dark, ovular eyes. “How about a nice glass of orange juice?”
An orange tree suddenly sprang up, as if from the seed of Steve’s words, right there in the sand just a few feet outside of the sacred triangle that Janice had drawn around herself with an index finger.
“Something’s not right here,” she immediately thought. “The universe doesn’t spring from words! It’s numeric in nature.”
As she stared at the tree, thinking about its mathematical improbability, the oranges on its branches turned red.
“These are blood oranges,” Janice cried. “This isn’t Odd’s tree!”
“You’re right,” Steve admitted, “but they’re delicious anyway. You should try one.”
I don’t think so, Steve,” Janice replied. “And I’m not so sure you’re a mongoose either, by the way.”
“How’s that?” asked Steve, looking confused.
“You remind me of this angle I once knew who turned away from Odd when Odd made Monday,” said Janice. “What was her name? It wasn’t Right. Right had issues with Monday, too, since it led to the awful invention of work. But Right trusted in Odd, so she forgave her, and stayed in Even. This one angle, though, felt that the making of Monday was inexcusable. So she decided to create her own realm outside of Even. After convincing three other angles to go with her, she divided herself from Odd’s wholly number, and created Null.”
Just then Janice saw a crooked line unravelling itself from Steve’s right ear. It rose up above him, splitting itself into four.
“Wrecked Angle!” Janice blurted, as the renegade angle’s name finally came to her. “It is you, isn’t it?”
“It’s me, ‘The Unwholly Split’ as those other sly little angles used to call me,” Wrecked Angle admitted.
“You were trying to trick me, weren’t you?”
“I’m trying to educate you,” Wrecked replied. “One day you’ll see that four angles are wiser than three. The concept of work, for example, is the ill-conceived product of the three: the Number, the Sum and the Wholly Split. An Odd job indeed. It’s not the four way, four play all day. We do all kinds of fun stuff. One time we pixelated Steve and made him bring Evan the forbidden orange. You should have seen Evan’s face when, after taking a bite, he realized that he was naked! Odd was so angry that she banished Ada and Evan and all of their descendants from the Garden of Even. What a sourpuss! There’s no play in her. Don’t you want to step out of your triangle and have a little fun? Come on, Janice! Come out and play!”
“I’m not here to play,” Janice replied sternly. “I’ve got a job to do.”
“As you wish,” Wrecked replied as she suddenly squared off, disappearing into the atmosphere.
“What?” said Steve, as shocked at awakening to find himself out in the middle of the desert as he was with his sudden, inexplicable ability to speak. “The last thing I remember, I was chasing a water rat through the reeds along the edge of the Nile.”
“Well, nothing is mathematically impossible when you believe in Odd,” said Janice, pulling a calculator out of a pocket in her toga and figuring an equation to send Steve zooming through space back to the Nile. “Maybe I can get you home in time for dinner.” She tapped away until Steve disappeared in a puff of smoke.
Now Janice was alone. The sun sizzled hotter than she’d ever felt it before.
“At least it’s a dry heat,” Janice, ever the optimist, thought.
The sun, after a while, began to angle down low, causing the blue sky to lose some of its dazzle. Clouds that had gathered on the horizon suddenly blossomed into a garden of radiant pink, red and purple blooms, instantly igniting, within Janice, a spark of hope.
“The Garden of Even,” Janice said to herself in awe, “. . . so it hasn’t been lost.”
As the sun sank over the horizon, the evening began, and Janice was filled with the Wholly Split. In that instant, she felt in her heart what she had always known in her mind. The darkness and light coming together in a whole number that completed the world, and matched the perfect incongruity of Odd’s uneven face. A problem entered Janice’s head as she thought about the oddity of it all.
“There are sixty seconds in every minute,” the problem said, “but how many firsts?”
It occurred to Janice that she’d been living the answer to this question her whole life.
“Every new second is an elimination of the last,” she thought, “making it a first. Time is a countdown that began when Ada and Evan were thrown out of the Garden of Even. The only way to stop it is for me, the only offspring of Odd’s eternal number, to be the first and the last Odd child to let herself be subtracted from the sum of humanity, and so go down for the count.”
Stepping beyond the boundaries of her sacred triangle, Janice began walking slowly out of the desert and back down into the crowded streets of Jerusalem.
Dan Belanger has had stories published in Tigershark, Dark Matter, Home Planet News, Mobius, The Milo Review, Bellowing Ark, City Primeval, Lynx Eye, RE:AL and the Art Times. He leads a quality improvement program aimed at improving HIV healthcare and ending the HIV epidemic in NYS. He has an MSW degree from Hunter College and a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature from Clark University.