This the story of an apple which hung from the branch of a tree that grew, according to some, in the center of a garden. A well-kept garden, tended by a man and a woman. The man had a notch at the bottom of his ribcage on his right side. Historians and theologians would later declare the fruit in question a pomegranate or grape, but the apple was there and this is the apple’s story.
Swaddled in green, the apple ripened to a rosy blush until the day the woman, coerced by a snake, or a dragon, or a thing with hooves, horns, and tail depending on the teller, plucked it from the branch and took a bite with small, strong teeth. She gave the apple to the man who did the same, gouging out a chunk of the succulent white flesh. Afterwards, their hands sticky with juice, he and the woman went in search of fig leaves. Being a secondary character, historians rarely debate the fig’s role in this scene.
The apple did not rot. A fruit of a tree of the garden, it could not. It lay in the undergrowth until the floods; it bobbed. And the waters receded; it rolled in the muck. In the aftermath, it settled in a low valley at the base of the throat of a black crag maw. This is where the familiar found the apple, scooped it into a handy gullet pouch, and delivered it muck and all to the Queen.
What a mess! The apple, not the Queen. Not yet; that would come later. She accepted the offering from the simpering sprite, hissing under her breath at the bite marks, but as she rubbed a bit of peel clean and saw the color, her mood improved. The satisfaction did not stop her from stuffing the sprite back in its mirror prison, being that Queen.
She rinsed the apple in a bowl of red wine and cardamom, and dried it with black silk. Whispering soot and ash words, the Queen polished the apple until its reflection shone like a guileless twin. She plucked the reflection from the mirror and smoothed it over the bite marks, restoring the semblance of wholesomeness necessary for her purposes. The apple, being an apple, had little to say on the matter.
By all popular accounts, the Queen disguised herself as a hag to offer the apple to the unsuspecting maid and suffered an ignoble death. Popularity is rarely effective. Rather than risk being discovered, the Queen actually presented the apple to the huntsman’s eldest son who had befriended the maid in her forest sanctuary defended by seven stone hunchbacks. Determined to restore his family’s good name and perhaps curry some touch of personal favor with the Queen, the son added the apple to a basket of cheese and pastries. This he delivered to the maid, swearing on his father’s grave that he pinched the lot of it from the castle kitchens. The maid smiled, kissed him on the cheek, and burst into song.
One bite of the apple, that was all. The huntsman’s son kicked dried leaves over the maid’s face before taking off after the hunchbacks to bring their diamond hearts to the Queen.
And the apple? It lay in the grass just out of reach of the maid’s limp and cooling fingers. There it stayed as the maid grew stiff. Neither the hunchbacks nor the huntsman’s son ever returned.
Early one morning, a farmer let out his pigs to fatten-up on acorns. A sow with black ears and kinked tail followed her nose to a tangle of honeysuckle atop a low rise. Rooting through the snarl of vines and undergrowth, she uncovered the apple and made short work of it in three slobbering bites. The next day, the farmer mixed her dung, seeds and all, into the compost.
Two months later the sow birthed a litter of three resourceful piglets. This is not their story.
Conquerors came and went and came. Civilizations took root, as did a seed that grew into a tree that grew, according to some, in the center of an orchard. A well-kept orchard, tended by gardeners. There is no record of the gardeners’ gender. Barring accident, it is likely each had a full count of ribs. As with all matters of historical note, the nature of this event is subject to the interpretation of those not present. The truth remains irrefutable.
Late one afternoon a gentleman of learning and means wandered the orchard rows, given over to theories and suppositions most at home in the minds of those with keen intellects such as his. Weary, not caring to return to the manor house and the nattering of servants, he availed himself of the shade of an apple tree. As he made himself comfortable, the nudge to the trunk shook the tree and an apple fell on his head. The gentleman picked up the offensive fruit to toss it aside and paused to consider a thought or perhaps the apple’s color. He took a bite, gazed at the branch, and chewed on thoughts of action and reaction.
To date, botanists have catalogued over 7,000 varieties of apple. Johnny Appleseed is a popular figure in Western folklore. Organized religions are growing nervous.
Sandra M. Odell is a happily married, 43-year-old mother of two teenage boys, an avid reader, compulsive writer, and rabid chocoholic. Her writing credits include publication in Jim Baen’s UNIVERSE, Ideomancer, Horror Bound Magazine Publications’ trade paperback anthology “Fear of the Dark”, and audio production on Pseudopod. She is a Clarion West 2010 graduate, and associate member of the SFWA.