This story is by Koa Zan and was part of our 2022 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
After many sleepless nights, a couple arrived at the stairs of a stone tower despite their aching muscles.
“Finally, we’re here!” Alouette said. Her hair, which was mostly blonde at the start of the trip, was now completely silver and shined with sweat.
Tamsin double-checked on her map to see if this was the right place. It was. “You okay? I’ll help you up.”
“No need,” Alouette said between breaths. “You’re better at talking to people than me anyways.”
“You sure you’re gonna be okay down here?”
“Yeah. I’ll just wait for you. Is that fine?”
Tamsin nodded and made her way up to the tower’s entrance. She pushed the door open.
“You… you murderer—ow!” She recoiled her shriveling arms from the impact.
Rei blinked, their eyebags as dark as the color of their cloak. They put down the hourglass and paper they were holding on a desk. “Tamsin?”
“Why did you lie to us? About helping us? About the Destiny Tree? We trusted you!”
“Close the door first would you?” Rei said as they pointed to the door. With a wave of their finger, the door was shut tight. “That deal was a year ago. If you want a refund, I’m afraid it’s too late—”
“My wife and I never agreed for you to take our youth and immortality away!”
“Really now?” Rei opened their left hand and summoned a book. It glowed purple as they flipped through its pages. “I still have your contract… here!”
Rei moved the book so that it floated in the air in front of Tamsin.
“See your signatures? You two agreed for me to use whatever means possible to bring fortune into your relationship and ensure your happiness. So you two took my advice of going to the Destiny Tree—that gigantic red tree— and eating the apples from it every day.”
“You have no right to decide our fate—”
“You two were meant for each other. You stayed patient with Alouette as she relearned how to walk again. Alouette cheered you up on those days your bakery wasn’t doing well. I’ve seen it all. And I decided that this would be best for you—
“You’re killing us!”
“Us humans were never meant to be born immortal. It’s a curse. Time destroys everything, even love. Happily ever after’s don’t exist. Do you understand?”
“You’re taking your fortune for granted. You are still together despite everything. A healthy relationship like that… Is that, alone, not enough?”
Tamsin stared at Rei. “How… how could you…”
“Besides, the effects are irreversible.” Rei took out two hourglasses, approached Tamsin, and held them close to her eyes. “See here?”
The top half of the hourglasses were nearly empty. They reflected tears falling down Tamsin’s cheek.
“You’re running out of time. Go.” Rei opened the door with their finger. “You need each other more than ever.”
Tamsin wiped her tears with her arms and left the building.
When she reached the bottom of the staircase, Alouette hugged her. “What did they say?”
Alouette’s eyes glistened under the sun. Tamsin held her breath. The silence made the daylight ever so brighter. “There’s a cure,” she finally replied.
“So there is one!”
“Just need to eat a bit more apples from the Destiny Tree than we do now.”
“That’s it,” Tamsin smiled. “Without the apples, we would’ve been goners by now. We’ll get better. With more blessings. I promise.”
Alouette held Tamsin’s hands tighter. Both of their hands were coarse and wrinkly to the touch.
Tamsin kissed Alouette on the lips. “Come on. I know you’re still worried, but let’s go. Then we’ll make apple pies when we get home.”
They began walking down the path they came from.
Alouette beamed. “Never gonna get tired of apple pies, huh?”
Tamsin laughed. “Yep. Apple pie, like always.”