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His Apple Tree There once was a young man who loved an apple tree. He watered it, and talked to it, and took his book to read under it when it wasn’t raining. And when the little children came climbing over the fence to steal its apples, he’d bring out his father’s old walking stick and chase them away. And then one day, the apple tree died. The man was devastated. He found the last withered apple, eaten to the core by some passing birds, and fashioned it into a head for his cane. And then he started tracking down all the apples that had ever been stolen from his tree. He found one in a bog, preserved to perfection by the peat. He found one in the stores of a cider house. He found one in the stomach of a dead zebra. He found one buried beneath an unnamed gravestone. He found a half-eaten one in the hands of a little girl who had been oil-painting it for two months. He took them all home, lined them up in a row and said a little prayer. Then he looked at them. And they looked back at him. And for the first time in his life, he felt like he had something to do.

chapter one:

the apple of genesis

...all right, try not to faint with excitement, but this... is it!

don’t touch the apple!

You come in, touch nothing, clean up - then leave. Got that?

I’m senior, of course, so I’m allowed to touch. I bet you don’t even know what this is. What I’m holding? This, my dear, is the famous Forbidden Fruit from the Garden of Eden.

What’s a quince? Rubbish! Read the plaque - it’s engraved. Not printed, not written - engraved. Now that has to be true, doesn’t it? THE APPLE OF KNOWLEDGE. STOLEN BY ADAM AND EVE FROM THE GARDEN OF EDEN

4004 B.C.

But I thought the Forbidden Fruit was a quince?

Adam and Eve?

But… Adam and Eve? Are they even real? How can this be That Apple? All that must have been hundreds of years ago.

Did He know Adam and Eve?

Haven’t you been paying any attention? Look – it’s been bitten twice – but the fruit’s so big, you’d hardly notice the human sized teeth-marks. You are simple, aren’t you? Didn’t you just read the date on that thing? 4004 B.C. Does that sound like only hundreds to you? He keeps them all perfectly preserved. You dolt – does He look six thousand years old?

But He’s got the Apple. So He bought it off someone who was six thousand years old.

actually, it has been a family heirloom for the last 1000 years.

The Sky Titan They told me I should go see the Titan who held up the sky. If a mountain held up the sky, stands to reason, it would be the tallest mountain on Earth. In the ancient world that used to be Atlas - but today it’s Everest. So I packed my climbing gear and scaled the tallest peak. When I got there, the apple trees were in bloom. It was very difficult to breathe, but the trees were doing it just fine. The sky was so near - it seemed I could reach out and touch the stars, flat five-pointed painted things, dried gold dust glinting off the edges. But I couldn’t really touch them because the man who held the sky up was too tall - taller than four of those apple trees standing on top of each other - while he was kneeling down. It was easy enough getting his attention - because his face was pointed towards the ground - it couldn’t have been any other way with that huge blue mass weighing down on his back. I said hello. He said if I’d come for the apples again I could just bugger off. I think he’d have nodded hello before he said that just to be polite, if it wasn’t for the sky on his neck. I said Atlas, it’s okay - I don’t think I could have carried the apples back anyway. He said his name wasn’t Atlas. I asked him if there was another Titan in Africa holding up the sky. He said, Of course - do you think the sky can be held up by only one point on the earth’s surface? I apologized for my ignorance. He said it didn’t matter - but if I could oblige him - could I possibly tell him what his name was supposed to be? Everest, isn’t it, I asked. The thing is, he said, that’s what the first guy told me. But then somebody else said it was Sagarmatha. And then someone else climbed up and told me something that was altogether different. So I don’t know anymore. I said, You can have many names, can’t you?

He said it was difficult remembering them with the universe pressing into the back of his brain. I asked him if all the Titan’s were named after their mountains. He said he didn’t know if the Titans were named after the mountains - or if the mountains were named after the Titans. Or if the Titans were the mountains - or the mountains the Titans. Namesakes got confusing after hundreds of years. And all the Titans didn’t have mountains, anyway. Just the seven. But what was I there for, anyway? So I told him. And he said, yes. I asked him to wait till I’d climbed back down so that I could warn everybody first. He asked me how long that would take. I said as long as it takes my phone to find some network. So here I am. To tell you that I’ve convinced the Titan to shrug. No, really. They’re all going to throw the sky off - which means it’ll come crashing down right about... well, soon, anyway. Depending on where you live - because they’re continents apart, so they can’t exactly co-ordinate So stay inside - and don’t go out. When it’s all over - and the sky’s a mess of rubble on your roofs and roads and seas and forests - then you’ll be able to see what’s really out there. Not the sky - but perhaps, the Sky.

Precious things, Apples, and we wouldn’t want to lose any heads.

Shhh. I know. Just don’t clean up the memories. They are difficult to distinguish from the dust; I hope, for your sakes, that you are acquainted with the difference.

Oh, I beg your pardon, Mr. Atlas, we were just cleaning up here. Lokkhi, Sir. I’m from Bengal.

Oh Sir, Yes, Sir. Dull grey is dust – and dull rust is memory. I was just showing Lokkhi here the ropes.

Did you say Loki?

Hmm, if you’re sure. An area singularly devoid of apple cultivation, if I recall correctly. Of no particular interest to a Collector like myself.

I beg your pardon, Mr. Atlas, Sir, but I’ve always wanted to ask. These three apples here. The plaque says Golden Apples from the Garden of the Hesperides. Stolen by Hercules, the Great Greek Hero and Atlas, the Mighty Titan.

Apple Thieves Trial One  

The first 12 pages of the novel.