's 2019 Horror Write-off:


Submitted by Shakara



“Grandmother?” Little Bernice asked, sitting in the grass, picking daisies.

“Yes, dear?” The kindly old lady tended to the garden, her long apron stretching down over her feet.

“Where’d I come from?” She asked, puffing a dandelion. “I mean, where do babies come from?” She watched the thistledown float away like snow.

“Oh.” Grandmother set down her watering-can, brushing grass-stains off her dress.

She stood thinking, the roses swaying in the summer breeze. “Hm. How do I say this…”

She gestured for Bernice to come forward.

“Look here. You see the apple tree at the furthest end of the garden?” She began to walk forward and Bernice followed. The girl looked at the shiny red hanging from the boughs, glittering in the sunlight.

Grandmother reached up and picked one, fresh and ripe. Using a pocketknife, she cut it in twain.

“See the apple seeds? Each woman has a sort of seed inside them. And whenever they want to be a mother…” She picked the seeds out with a fingernail, placing them in the soft earth. She covered them in the loam.

“Then they have their seeds be watered. The man helps to water the seeds…” She poured her watering can over the site, crystalline and clear drops soaking into the ground.

“With the combination of life-giving water and sunshine, the tree grows, and so do the apples! You, Bernice, were grown like an apple. Mother was the apple seed, and father gave the water. And nine months of sun and rain, the apple had ripened…" She sighed. 

"Such a shame they can’t see you. But nature can be cruel. God rest their souls.”

“Aye. Momma and poppa…” The girl looked to the ground for a bit, blinking away tears. She didn't even know their faces, so young she had been.

After a silent minute, Bernice stared back at the apples, confused.

“So… does that, uh... make me half-tree?”

Grandmother laughed heartily.

“Oh, dear child, tis only a metaphor! You’re not truly a plant, I was only symbolising!”

Bernice found the joke and giggled alongside her, her cheeks red like the apples.

She patted the girl on the back. “Now run along inside for lunch. I’ll make lentil soup.”
“Can I have butter on my bread-roll?”

“All you like!”

Bernice happily strolled back inside.

"Thanks, grandmother!"


Grandmother turned back to the apple tree, its boughs creaking with the plentiful pomes.

“I’m half right. But, alas, I can’t tell you all of it.”

Behind the tree was a thick hedgerow. So thick, it covered the moss-coated door. Hoking through her apron pocket, she took out the old iron key. Entering the hidden alcove, a second tree grew. A taller one. Ragged. With sharper branches. Bordered on all sides by thick iron gating, covered with ivy and creepers. Not that anybody knew of this hidden place.

"Ah, I planted it in my youth. A mere distraction. Something to soothe my heart after the doctor told me I was barren... I knew not how it happened, but it changed. It is no ordinary tree." She spoke to nobody but herself, nobody to hear her but the twisted tree.

A pump sat idly beside the tree. With bones creaking, Grandmother pushed down and a stream of water splashed over the roots of the dark tree. It was dark and rusty.

"Water and sun, water and sun. Let the fertile work be done." she hummed. Always, she tended to the dark tree, in hopes its bounty would bless her.

She looked up to the fruits, some pink, some white and one black. It was smaller, shrivelling.

“Dear, oh, dear. A rotten one.”

She plucked it off and she felt its dark skin squish into her fingers like melting snow.

“Such a shame. But not every harvest is healthy. Still, a shame.”

She peeled the rotten skin away, revealing the shrivelled body of a foetus.

“I will have to compost this one.” Nature could be cruel. She knew that well. 

She looked back to the others, analysing their shiny skins. One was particularly large. The light pink flushing to a bright, rubescent red, small hands poking at the skin. 

“It seems that Bernice may soon have a little sister or brother…”