Harriet didn’t understand why she wasn’t allowed to eat the cheese.
Harriet could smell the cheese. It was nearby. So close . . . maybe just around this corner?
Well, she’d obviously taken a wrong turn. No matter—she was used to that. Harriet tried to retrace her steps, but every turn she took looked exactly the same. When all the walls were white and all the corners identical, how was she ever supposed to know which way she’d come from, or which way she was going?
How was she ever supposed to find the cheese? She’d have to rely on her nose. The smell of the cheese saturated her senses, tempting her, taunting her, beckoning her not to give up. Sweet, decadent, delicious cheese . . . it would all be worth it soon.
God had given Harriet the irrepressible desire to eat cheese. It was instinct. It was more than instinct—it was destiny! It would be the height of cruelty for God to give Harriet the desire for cheese, let her smell the cheese . . . and then keep the cheese from her. So the cheese must be her destiny.
Cheese was just about the only thing her people ever talked about.
Harriet rounded another featureless white corner, and lo! There, at the end of the corridor, sat a hunk of gorgeous cheese! It was a perfect square—its sides smooth as silk, its color a rich creamy white, its proportions more perfectly proportioned than the walls and corners that made up Harriet’s world, if only because they were infused with more meaning. Harriet could almost feel the cheese in her paws, could almost taste it filling her mouth. She scurried forward.
“Harriet!” the voice of God boomed from overhead. “Harriet, don’t eat the cheese.”
Harriet paused, then continued toward the cheese. Eating cheese was in her DNA, after all. Why would God tell her not to do it? Harriet had arrived at the pedestal that held the cheese. She reached up . . .
“Harriet!” God said, a little more insistent now. “Harriet, don’t eat the cheese.”
Harriet paused, her paws in the air in a pose that resembled begging or supplication. “Why not, God?”
“Because eating cheese is a sin.”
“A sin? But . . . that doesn’t make any sense. I have to eat to survive, right?”
“Yes, you do.”
“And I want to eat cheese more than anything . . .”
“I’m aware of that, Harriet.”
“So why is it a sin for me to eat the cheese?”
“Because, Harriet. I just told you. Eating cheese is immoral.”
Harriet didn’t want to be immoral. But she really wanted the cheese. And she was hungry. She didn’t see what the problem was.
Maybe God was playing a trick. Harriet reached for the cheese again.
“Harriet,” said God, sounding a little annoyed now. “If you eat that cheese, it means you don’t respect yourself, and you don’t love me.”
“But God! I do love you! I do respect myself! I just . . . I feel like I was made to eat cheese.”
“You were. I made you with the desire to eat cheese, which will actually be a very nourishing food for you if you eat the right kind and don’t binge on it or anything, but now I’m telling you not to eat it.”
“So let me make sure I understand, God . . . if I follow the instincts and desires you instilled in me, I’m being unholy?”
“Harriet, I don’t know why this is so hard for you to understand. I want you to prove that you love me. So I gave you a very deep irresistible desire for cheese, and now I want you to ignore it. If you can deny everything you are and everything you desire because I tell you to, that proves you love me. See?”
“. . . No, not really.”
God sighed. Clearly, there was something Harriet was not understanding. “I don’t know how long it’ll take you to get this, but I’ve got this teeny-tiny cattle prod here, and if you eat that cheese, I’ll use it. I don’t want you to behave according to the way I made you. I want you to just obey me.”
“Eeep!” That tiny cattle prod looked nasty.
“Indulging in the sins of the cheese takes you away from my holy light, Harriet. Remember Walter?”
Harriet did remember Walter. He had also managed to find the cheese. He was never heard from again. Harriet had assumed that Walter ascended into some brilliant cheddar heaven, and had transcended this featureless life of unfulfilled desires.
“Walter ate the cheese, Harriet.”
“Did you punish him? With the cattle prod?”
“Me? No. But I did give him to people who like to set him on fire all the time.”
With that, the giant hand of God lowered into Harriet’s world and showed her a picture of Walter with his white fur and whiskers singed off. His once brilliant reddish eyes were stricken with pain and confusion.
“Oh my god, Walter! WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOU?!”
“Harriet. Let Walter serve as a PSA for you. No cheese.”
Poor Walter! Harriet wanted to avoid such a fate at all costs! “Could you remove my burning desire for cheese, then?”
“That would defeat the purpose of ordering you to deny your burning desire. Then how would I know you love me?”
Harriet turned back around, tears in her eyes, and began wandering the boring white walls, turning corners that led nowhere, pretending she couldn’t smell the cheese behind her, and hoping she would forget where it was.