Edissa joined the crowd, her eyes glazed and sunken.
It was then that Memucan stood and the crowd were able to look upon his face, for his intolerable beauty had been corrupted by hatred.
“It is a sacrifice the tree requires,” he said. “We have made use of the tree for generations and now the tree needs something in return. It is little girls who are made of sugar and spice and all things nice, and it is a little girl the tree requires. Who better to sacrifice than the girl who poisoned the tree herself, the girl who has brought us all to ruin.”
Memucan pointed to Edissa, focussing the fear, greed and confusion of the crowd. They turned on her. She didn’t feel them, she didn’t hear them as they clamoured for her death. All she saw was Memucan, and her anguish turned to rage. She struggled to break free from the crowd as they carried her to the tree. She called his name, all her love and hatred fusing in a guttural cry as they pulled down the fence and threw her into the gaping wound. The little boy, shocked at the outcome of his machinations, scrambled towards her, but was trodden on by the crowd, drowned in the toxic river that flowed from the tree. Edissa grasped at the tree trunk, but was pulled into the fetid depths, disappearing into the bubbling liquid. The wound closed up, and all became silent.
“The tree will heal itself,” declared Memucan. “We must wait, and we will see, the tree will be born anew.”
The crowd waited. The tree was still; no longer oozing, no longer dropping its branches amongst the dried-up icing on the path. The crowd waited. The moon came up and they fell into slumber on the path, huddling for warmth and comfort, their fading thoughts on cake and gold, the sacrifice of the young girl forgotten.
Forgotten, and returned in meat and blood and bone, insides that squidge and moan. When they awoke the tree had blossomed; dark red rivulets dribbling down the trunk, dripping from the branches. The children rushed forward, heads tilted back, tongues lolling. The adults reached out in horror, too late. The little tongues caught the blood, splish-splosh, splish-splosh; swallowed and poisoned they shivered and fell at the foot of the tree, grey corpses in moments. All moved back in panic, all stared. They were captivated by the snaking arterial veins spurting forth blood, connecting along branches that now sprouted half-rotten hearts, spleens, kidneys, and lungs. Twisting guts pulsed and writhed, spattering waste across the crowd.
In horror, fascination, and desire, Memucan reached up and stroked the pulsing, quivering organs. Blood slithered between his fingers and over his hand, burning away his skin.
The tree opened up. What had so recently been a fatal wound became a yawning mouth. A tongue flickered forth, rolling itself around the corpses splayed amongst its roots. It pulled them in, one by one. Then it was silent; fattened and content. The cake tree glistened in the gloaming light, awaiting kings and princes bearing useless gold and jewels.
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