2nd Prize Winner
It was dying.
It was always going to die. She knew that.
“Magic doesn’t bring goodness,” her mother told her. She knew that, too. Still…
She remembered the day when the tree had grown in the courtyard, where the entire village gathered to watch. The magic had chosen them, of all people. It was just a small village, with a few cobblestone streets and a number of humble, merry people, the most unassuming place for the greatest gift to be bequeathed. Maybe that’s why they’d been chosen.
The tree was a blessing. Many said that it was the best thing that had ever happened to the village. Just days after sprouting, the tree had bloomed, and flowers of rich crimson grandly unfurled. From the blossoms drifted tendrils of brilliant light that reached through the village like vines, healing the sick, growing the crops, and mending the buildings. The village hummed with magic.
The girl’s father had a bakery, and when one of the tendrils reached through the open window, it multiplied the loaves of bread in the oven by three. Every one of the loaves, unusually soft and golden-brown on the crust, sold.
When the girl’s brother fell and scraped his knee, a thread of light brushed the wound and healed it in an instant.
Life was, it seemed, perfect.
But the tree had only survived for one year before the village changed. People began to argue with one another. Fights broke out at night, and husbands would come home drunk and angry. The village was unrecognizably grand–the streets were broader, the houses bigger, and the food better and more plentiful–and yet, it was lesser than it had ever been.
And then, the tree began to die. One by one, the crimson flowers dropped from the tree and withered. Everyone knew that the magic wouldn’t last forever. It never stayed, drifting mysteriously from one place to the next. They just wished that it wouldn’t be gone so soon.
At last, the villagers gathered around to watch as the tree’s final blossom succumbed to the stiff breeze and tore itself from the tree. At once, the tender, green leaves turned brown and brittle, falling from the branches in a rattle. A desolate silence fell over the town, and the sunlight falling over the houses seemed weak, overpowered by the shadows from the tall buildings. The magic was dead.
Quietly, the crowd dissolved. People went back to their homes and their jobs, feeling strangely empty without the glowing tendrils spreading through the village.
Yet, by the next year, the village was peaceful as it had always been. There was no trace of the grandness the tree had brought them, save for a few remaining buildings–until one day, the girl noticed a pale pink flower growing in the dirt between two worn cobblestones. She could have sworn that she saw the faintest of lights gently emanating from the flower. She smiled.
The magic was alive.
It was always going to live.