And #6, via the Monkey. Probably tried too much for the 500-word limit :)
We found it under the apple tree in Jake Wilson’s yard. The apple tree is maggot-grey, twisted white whorls in it looking like veins, a piece of winter in the middle of a summer day.
"Huh?" Charlie looks over from it warily. "You sound surprised. You never do that."
"I'm a magician. We're not allowed." I step back, considering the tree. "What do you see?"
"A tree. No apples, but it is an apple tree. It smells wrong. Not rotten, but wrong. Does that make sense?"
Charlie has a god inside her, which is why Jake Wilson trusted her. Anyone who eats a monster in a closet is trustworthy to a little boy it seems, so he told her about the weird apple tree and asked her to eat it. She didn't have it in her to say she couldn't so waited until I got up and dragged me to the Wilson's house.
That the tree had hidden itself until I touched it was impressive: someone had cared about it until their passion twisted inward into something else. I kneel and brush my hands over the crab grass surrounding it, memories seeping up out of the earth like forgotten sins. A boy praying for his mother, burying a box of pirate treasure under the apple tree. Somewhere in his head pirates became tooth fairies you gave money to and they fixed things. Only they didn't, or at least not this time.
He found the box after his mom died, cut through roots with a shovel and pulled it out. That the cardboard had survived weeks under the earth was lost to him: he threw it all in a fire and left a dead dream to fester under the earth, a shame so deep it hid itself even to a magician's eyes.
"His prayers were not enough." My voice isn't quite steady as I stand. I can't do anything for the past, and no ghosts stand tethered by grief to the tree. A small mercy. I look over at the house, where Jake is staring wide-eyed from a bedroom window. Like Charlie, he knows it is wrong without knowing why.
I reach inside and pull up a memory of my sister and I: our first time eating out anywhere fancy, us being all confused when mom said we didn't have to take our dishes to any sink. I press the memory into the tree, feel it become a shadow of a shadow inside me, pull the hurt from under the tree out. It is colourless but feels like dead jello in my hands. I whisper a binding and shove it into a pocket to dispose of.
"It should bloom next year." I leave it to Charlie to explain things to Jake and walk away, fingering the shape in my pocket and wondering what kind of dream I'll need to kill with it some day.