A strange little story, dorky as fuck and probably not the best thing I have ever written. I do quite like it though, it's cute. It's the story of two dead women and an apple tree. From 2010.
I had a mission. Before today I really had no idea about it, but apparently there was ways to get fresh food down here. You didn’t just have to re-slaughter the dead pigs that for some reason lived close to our camp. There was a woman, an apple-picking lady. Somewhere in this godforsaken grey dessert, made of dust and the ashes of those long dead, there grew an apple tree. A fully healthy one, I might add. One that was not wittering or bleeding like the others. When I was told this I instantly wondered why we had not gone there before. After all, I had been here for over a year, and we had never eaten anything but rotten pork. They told me it was the Apple Lady’s fault. She was a tricky kind, my group said. Would not let you take any of her precious apples unless she got along with you, and you helped her pick them. My group did apparently not get along too fabulously with her, but they wondered if I might so they sent me on a search for the Apple Lady.
I had been walking under the milk coloured sky for a long time, not being able to distinguish anything at the horizon but miles and miles of the grey dust, before I saw her. For a place with so many creatures in it, the Underworld sure was lonely and it was far between the camps. She was sitting under the apple tree, not bothered by the freezing weather and the chilly winds, wrapped in a warm blanket and drinking a bowl of apple soup. A big casserole filled with the soup was cooking over a gas stove and beside it laid piles and piles of apples so vibrantly green that they looked almost radioactive in this environment. There were also some sacks made of sackcloth and sticks with something attached to them at the end lying around on the ground. The Apple Lady herself was a stunning beauty. She looked like something from the Victorian days, clad in a black dress with details in white Venice lace. She could not have been more than 20 years old when she died. She had alabaster skin, a face like one of the movie stars in the 1940’s and curly hair so white it almost looked like snow. I felt like I was of inferior beauty with my messy brown hair and ordinary stone washed jeans.
As I approached her I quietly wondered how long she had been down here. It must have been centuries. I pondered on what an extraordinary fate this was, dying in such young an age and then ending up as perhaps the only apple picker of the Underworld.
“Good day, missy!”
I heard her soft voice tears through the cold silence like a warming breeze. She sure sounded perkier than I had imagined.
“Urm… Good day!”
“What brings you here, precious?”
“I wonder if… I could get some of your apples.”
She examined me from top to toe with a slightly irritated look on her face, but then she seemed to soften and got up from the blanket she was sitting on.
“Sure you can, dear, if you help me catch them!”
Catch them? I giggled.
“One sure can tell you’re a fine lady!” I said. “One does not catch apples, one picks them! They are fruit, not foxes!”
The Apple Lady snorted irritably, then picked up one of the sticks that were lying around on the ground. It seemed it was some sort of apple picking device. At its end there was a little sack attached, and a lot of big hooks that would snare the apples. The Lady directed it at the tree and the second she did so, the whole tree started twitching. The Lady made a quick tug with the device and a few apples fell down in it.
“See!” she said. “You do have to catch them, they twitch. That is because of how full of life they are. You see, this is not a dead tree. It came from a seed I brought with me from the Overworld when I died. I had it in my bag. I always carried it with me, as a memory of a girl I used to know.”
“Oh!” I gasped in amazement.
The Apple Lady searched through the apples and found one that looked especially pretty, and then offered it to me. I made a tiny bow and she giggled. When I put my teeth in the apple I felt my mouth water for the first time since I died. The taste was heavenly, so sweet and sour at the same time.
“You liked it?” the lady asked.
I nodded. She reached me another one of the apple picking devices and then we both started to pick the apples. It went rather slow for me in the beginning, but after a while I learned how to do it. I mostly got good apples, but after a while I found one that had been eaten by worms. This puzzled me at first, but then I decided that there had to be worms in the Underworld too. After all, worms die.
“What should I do with the bad apples?” I asked.
“Put them in one of the sacks over there”, the Lady answered.
I did so and then I asked, hoping that she did not find me too inquisitive, what happened to the sacks with the bad apples.
“I give them to the death gods”, she said. “They do not much care about what they eat and as long as I give them food they do not give me any trouble. Usually it is not kindly looked upon to bring living things into the Underworld, but I have made a deal with them.”
She smiled at me and I smiled back.
“How many apples are there?” I asked. “They never seem to run out!”
“I do not think there is any end to them”, she said with a mischievous smile. “You could pick as many as you want. That’s the beauty of gardening in the underworld.”
We picked apples quietly side by side for what seemed like hours, sometimes bumping into eachothers and giggling. When we had enough apples to fill several sacks, we decided to stop picking. She offered me a bowl of hot apple soup that I greedily drank and then we sat down on her blanket and talked.
“How where you killed?” she asked. “I hope that is not too personal a question. I just thought, considering that you are so young and such…”
“It is not”, I answered. “I was hit by a car. Massive internal bleeding. I died during surgery.”
“Oh, that is so sad! I am not very familiar with cars, they where still being invented when I lived, but I have heard of them. It must have been awful!”
“It was, but there is not really much I can do about it. At least I don’t look as disfigured as some other people in here. One guy at my camp was decapitated during the French revolution. I feel kind of sorry for him, he always has to keep track on where his head is. But how about you? What happened to you? You don’t look particularly disfigured.”
“I was murdered” the Apple Lady murmured.
I was dumbstruck.
“Do you want to tell me about it?” I asked carefully.
“Why not?” the Lady sighed. “It happened very long ago anyway.”
She took my hand and started to tell her story.
“When I was alive I was a young british noblewoman. I lived a quiet life in a mansion together with my parents and my sister. As a child I would always play with the servants’ children instead of the children of other noblemen that my parents invited to the house. This much worried my family. My sister was happily married to a rich lord at age eighteen, and my parents wanted the same for me. I can not blame them for that. But I was helplessly in love with the kitchenmaid. She was the daughter of the cook and we grew up together. When we were thirteen or so, we decided to practise kissing with eachothers because my big sister had started to kiss boys and would always brag about it. We wanted to know what kissing was like. The second our lips touched we both knew we had to be together forever. We realised that none of us would ever let the other kiss someone else. We were happy like that, and every afternoon we would meet in the kitchen. I would help her bake apple pies and when we were finished we would run off and sit in the bushes outside and kiss. It continued like this until we turned seventeen. My parents realised what was up and decided to fire the cook and his daughter and send me to town to find a husband like my sister had done. I was heartbroken, but there was not much to do about it. I moved into the city and lived with my sister and her husband for three years. A lot of men asked me to marry them, but I could never forget about my true love. When I turned twenty I attended a party where I, as an attempt to escape a man who was particularly eager to marry me, hid in the kitchen. And there she was. My true love. Working as a cook. She recognised me immediately, took my hand and led me into the pantry. We closed the door and started kissing passionately, more passionately than we ever kissed before. When the man who was particularly eager to marry me found us, we were both naked and clutched tightly to eachothers. The man was absolutely furious. Screaming ‘So this is why you do not want me, you whore!’ he grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed us both repeatedly. So I died. Quite the tragic fate.”
The Apple Lady’s story left me blown away. My fate was nothing compared to hers. Passion. Love. Betrayal. I had never felt it during my life.
“But… but… Now? Can’t you find her now? She must be dead by now.” I stuttered.
“She is”, the Lady said. “I found her. She survived the attack with some moderate injury, and the man was sent to the gallows. He was apparently convicted not only for killing me, but also for trying to rape us both. That is how our lack of clothes was explained. But my sweet little kitchenmaid, she lived on. She was unhappy for a very long time, but eventually she found another woman whom she could truly love. She does not want to leave her for me. They still want to spend eternity together, even in the afterlife. That, I must say, is true love.”
“You must be heartbroken”, I whispered.
We collected the apples I was to bring to camp in quiet. When I was about to leave I looked at the beautiful Apple Lady, who now had a completely new dimension of sadness to her, and sighed. Then I made up my mind. I leaned forth to her and gave her a quick, light kiss on the lips. They where warm and soft but yet doing this sent a chill down my spine. The lady did not move. Then she reached me my bag of apples and said:
“You’ll come back tomorrow, will you not?” with a scared little voice.
I looked quietly at her.
“For more apples?” she asked.
I nodded and smiled.
Then she dropped the sack of apples on the ground and grabbed a hold of me by the waist, kissing me so passionately we both nearly tipped over. I felt her silky little tongue against my lips so I opened them, touching her tongue with mine. She threw her arms around my neck and we stayed like that for a while.
When she loosened her grip and I had picked up all the dropped apples, whilst promising to visit again tomorrow, I headed back to camp through the grey dessert, ashes blowing in my face, with a little smile on my lips. For the first time since I died, I felt hope.