by M. T. DeSantis
The poison passed to my tree-mother when she was but a sapling.
I remember in the way an unborn babe recalls a mother’s sickness. Two men fought. Whether for land or wealth or a woman’s love, it was not clear. But thus they fought until one was slain and collapsed upon the ground above my tree-mother’s roots, lifeblood pouring from his body in a crimson rush, staining the dirt, poisoning the first living creature it found.
Not to kill, but to join. The poison spread through our life-sap, weighing our leaves and reddening our fruit. And all the while a whisper came on the breeze—murder passes the curse.
We waited, tainted. Many came. They plucked our ripe, juicy fruits.
They stood beneath us and ate. We watched, hopes lifted to the sun, but none perished. The poison remained in us.
Centuries passed. The collective of my tree-mother released me. I grew into my own precious fruit. Red and fresh, I waited. The season turned. They came. They ate, but none touched our tree.
None but one. She hobbled like some broken creature, muttering in the rasping drone of a crone far past her time of this world. Gnarled hands pressed to my tree-mother’s trunk. Silence, and then the most joyous, most triumphant laugh escaped her cracked lips. Without ceremony, I was plucked from my branch and carried away.
Through the wood, past my tree-mother’s sisters, over a river, and to a cottage I was brought. My barer knocked and was admitted.
“For wishing,” she said to the beauty, as fresh and pale as winter’s snow, before her.
The girl, for womanhood was not yet upon her, laced her long, delicate fingers through her midnight tresses. “All my dreams…will come true?”
“All of them.” The hag held me forth. “One bite is all it takes.”
And so I was passed. I was bitten. I fell as the beauty released me and crumpled to the ground, life ebbing from her slowing heart.
The hag cackled. I lay, forgotten, in one corner, blinded by sudden light. It filled me and then, just as quickly, fled back along the line of my memory to my tree-mother. The light flooded her sap, ran to the tip of every branch and leaf. Spread to completion, it shuddered and vanished, taking the poison.
For the first time in lifetimes, my tree-mother glowed with vitality. I carried her health across time and space.
And somewhere distant to me, though in the very room I still lay, a hag, in the voice of a much younger woman, proclaimed herself fairest in the land.
* * *
What do you think is the attraction of the fantasy genre?
The answer is in the genre’s name: fantasy, fantastic. Fantasy allows for the impossible to be possible. It takes the everyday and makes it the extraordinary. A character can be anywhere, anywhen and do anything. The author’s mind is the limit, and the mind is a vast place, indeed.