350 earth time years after the act was perpetrated,150 years after the publication of the story, The means of the criminal execution: The poisoned apple was found***
The For-Sale sign was posted in the garden of the Snow White cottage on a Monday morning. That evening, the estate agent was approached with an offer of the asking price. He phoned Mac, the owner’s nephew, who accepted the offer. When he asked the estate agent who bought it he was told that it was two sisters who wanted to be close to City College. They were moving up from Carmen, which was a small hamlet in the Southlands.
Delighted with the fast response, it was a short while later when he realized that he hadn’t cleared it with Elio, his uncle, who owned the property. Shortly afterwards he phoned him to confirm the sale agreed and get his recommendation for a furniture removal company, and then, he suggested they meet on Saturday for an early-bird celebratory dinner.
The contents were being sent for auction. While not considered valuable they were well-known; after all it was the Snow White Cottage, where she had found sanctuary with the dwarfs while escaping from her wicked stepmother. The world knew her story. She was as famous as Diana, the Princess of People’s Hearts. The cottage had been built by one of Elio’s ancestors and Mac lived in a similar one on the same bridle path.
The following day the removal company packed up the contents and later their office phoned to confirm that they had been delivered to the auction rooms and the receptionist asked if she might send someone in to clean as she still had the keys. Mac agreed and asked her to settle up the cleaning bill and add it to the final tally, and finally if she would instruct the cleaner to post the keys through the letterbox he would appreciate it. She phoned back later to say that she had organized a girl to go in on Saturday afternoon. With the fine details sorted Mac booked a table at Flores restaurant for 6.30PM on Saturday evening.
Flores Restaurant looked directly onto the lake; the dining alcoves which wrapped around the exterior had viewing stages from where customers could eat while watching the sunset colours spill out onto the water. The men had just made themselves comfortable when Mac’s phone pinged.
“There’s a coincidence, Elio." he said, “The cleaner found an apple."
“Did she say where she found it?" Elio asked.
He shook his head as he made space for the waitress to put out the water jugs and tumblers and as she left he replied,
“No, she just texted to say she posted the keys through the door, I think she added it as an afterthought. I wonder why she didn’t just dump it. I’ll text her back now."
Shane MacFinley (known as Mac) was 38 years old, unattached, and recently retired. He had spent 15 years developing software and had sold his company to a large corporation for an eight-figure sum. He was unemployable as far as he was concerned. He’d been his own boss for too long to ever work for or with anyone else and he was in the process of paying his tax bill. When Elio asked him about his plans he’d say that he was negotiating terms with the local exchequer who would not be used to dealing with such large sums from an individual. Elio enjoyed hearing it so much that he had him repeat it at least once a week. Mac was no fool when it came to his money. He’d seen both days.
When the phone pinged again the men had just finished dessert. Over coffee Mac read out her reply: “It was in the alcove by the fireplace!"
“What was?" Elio asked.
“The apple. Elio, are you with me? It was in the alcove by the fireplace."
Elio was remembering the layout, not just the current one for there had been others over the years, but that alcove had contained a big old oak bookcase. Heavy, awkward, but beautifully carved, his own father had kept his collection of books there, no one would have wanted to shift it and in his time, as far as he knew it hadn’t been moved. It had cut its perfect form into the space.
“So, it must have been under the bookcase. There’s only one alcove, the other is level with the chimney." His uncle said. “Well, that’s a big lump of furniture, no one was going to dust under it."
“She left it in the garbage disposal," Mac replied, “It’s disconnected, which is why it wasn’t dumped. Do you want to swing by on the way home? She only texted because she doesn’t want to be seen to be careless."
Elio, thought for a minute, “If it’s been there that long it can wait until morning." They both smiled.
The next morning the wind was whistling through the trees in the back garden as Mac entered the cottage through the kitchen door.. First on the scene ,he was just about ready to lift the apple when Elio arrived, saw him and called, “Leave it!" and then continuing in a softer voice he said, “If it’s the real thing, it’s a conductor and that means that it has special properties: Powers of repetition. It will continue to repeat a task until it has completed its instruction or it is deactivated: It will have been injected with destructive intentions, and it will source the energy it needs to complete the circle. Look how beautifully healthy it still appears to be. Even here, its shape and construction should have changed after all this time, if this is the original article it’s over 300 years old, but even here the air ages all. It’s best to phone the castle, phone it in." He said.
“What are you on about, man?" Mac replied.
“Okay to sum up: An apple found in a dusty alcove in the old dwarf’s cottage needs a bit of careful handling! And look at those teeth marks." Elio said. “Come on Mac, if they were made yesterday they would have discoloured by now!"
Elio Beggs, was a direct descendant of the family who built the cottage, they were an old mining family who had invested wisely in the gem and gold mining sector, and they had built a number of small houses for their workers. The dwarfs were the second set of tenants to have lived there. As a child, Elio had asked his grandmother about the story and she made a connection to a ring, rather than an apple, and when he asked her about it, she said it referred to the seasons and how their goodness honored the earth. The way in which they completed the cycle year in, year out. He’d been nine at the time, now in his seventies, he was older than she was then. He still wondered what she was talking about, if it was metaphor or if there was a real ring hidden somewhere. Though now with the property sold on, he doubted if he would ever know the outcome to that one.
The men waited in the conservatory; it overlooked the orchard and garden. The cottage sat on about 5 acres in total. It had three bedrooms, two and a half baths, a large kitchen with a dining room and a conservatory, which was a recent addition. Elio was recounting the story of the good morning tune: How he remembered his father soldering pipes to lay in the stream that ran through the copse and then cutting bamboo and angling it through the branches of the trees to catch the wind, all the work done to ring a tune out of the air on a windy day. "Who knew that the young trees would learn to hum Clair de Lune," Elio exclaimed.
Mac was laughing at the idea, while wondering if the saplings back at his own cottage might be tuned into something similar, through maybe a Sunday afternoon jazz session might be better suited to his style. And then the hour was gone. And when a short while later the 'Vacuum Truck’ pulled up at the kerb a nice, smart sports car pulled up behind it and a woman got out. About 5’8’ pretty with long dark hair and a slim figure, she was dressed in a red shirt that was belted under a pair of blue jeans that fell down over a pair of work boots. She was smiling as she walked towards the house and saw the door open.
From his vantage point at the window Mac recognized Annie Smith and hurried out to greet her.
“Last time we met was at the school reunion, must be 5 years ago." He said smiling, standing back to let her walk through.
Extending her hand as she approached him, “It’s good to see you. I just happened to be in when the call came through. What a coincidence it is. The cottage location and a possible spite-apple. You know there are a few on display in museums. Can I see it please?"
Just then Elio joined them at the door, “Annie, meet my uncle, he has a connection to the old story!" and as they shook hands he said to his uncle. “Annie, short for Annabelle," he continued as he introduced them, “She and I shared a few classes in secondary school--not today or yesterday."
“There yar. Annie! Is it! Ye knew each other then. Lovely to meet you, but my connection now is very far out." He said as he shook her hand, “You are with the environmental agency?"
“Yes I am, and you!" She exclaimed, “You recognized a danger?"
“Well, from the old tales and I am not sure. Such a long time has passed, it’s a bit of a mad assumption. But it’s better to be careful with this one. I suppose it was the family I grew up in, when tales were told around the fireside. But it’s a beautiful rosy red color, and the teeth marks still appear fresh; the pulp still pure; there’s no discoloration."
“So then Elio! you think it’s the real thing?"
“Well take a look for yourself," he replied as he led the way into the kitchen. “If it had been dropped in the last few days it would have discolored."
The apple was viewable from the door.
“How near can I get?"
“Well I nearly picked it up and the cleaner handled it, though she might have been wearing gloves, and so far we appear to be okay." Mac replied.
Annie walked towards the sink, and as she did the apple pulsed and a piece of the pulp broke away. “Did you see that?" She asked, “Elio, can you call Robert please and tell him to bring in one of the small steel boxes and prongs, we need a control environment to take a look at this specimen. Will you ask him to place the 'Vacuum Team’ on standby so they can move in as soon as we leave. Did you see it move, Elio?" She turned but he had gone outside.
“Mac walk up and stand beside me, please, if you wouldn’t mind?" she said.
As Mac walked up to join her, there was no response from the apple, it was just what it looked like: A big rosy-red half bitten fruit just sitting on the top of the drainer.
“It might just have been old acid settling down, maybe reacting to the light." Annie said. But when she moved forward again the apple pulsed again and on another step it did so again, yet when Mac moved to join her there was no response.
Robert arrived at the kitchen carrying a small steel box and prongs. He was masked and gloved. His protective suit resembled that of a beekeeper. Placing the box on the table, he carefully moved towards the sink and catching the apple with the prongs he swiveled with it and dropped it in the box. He closed the top. Annie walked across to the table, and as soon as she got near the box a sound emanated from the inside that suggested that the apple was knocking against the side. She unclipped a small key from a chain around her neck and locked it down.
“That’s so weird, there appears to be some kind of a chemical reaction when I get near it. Let’s get the team in, and get out: This type of investigation is so unreliable, anything can happen."
And as the three guys and Annabelle watched from the gate the 'Vacuum Team’ went in to fumigate the property.
The city council offices were based in rooms in the castle. With Mac driving, the men followed the recovery team in. Annie sent them through to her office where her secretary seated them in the private reception and took orders for coffee and biscuits.
Ten minutes later Annie brought the tray through and sat it on the desk.
“Have you exchanged contracts for the sale yet, Elio?" She enquired.
“No, we’re due to next week." He replied.
“Well let’s see if we can tidy this up fast." She said.
“Gentlemen have you heard anything about our Memory Room?"
“Your what?" Mac said.
“I just heard rumors! Really Annie. Is there such a thing?" Elio replied.
“Well, there is, how are your diaries? let’s see if I can book it," She opened her computer screen and checked the time slots. “It’s free for the afternoon." She said.
Mac looked at Elio and nodded, and he answered for both.
“Well we’re free too," Elio laughed. “There’s nothing that can knock this one off the page."
Making small talk along the way, they followed Annie up two flights of stairs and across the battlements. They stopped for a minute on the viewing platform on the high tower, to look out across the landscape, as far as the eye could see there were acres of forests and parkland surrounding cobbled pathways that bordered busy traffic-laden streets that were lined with colourful old style architecture. Beside the viewing point there was an elevator, which they boarded. The men, a little star-struck by the pace and with the beautiful vista still fresh in their energy were rendered speechless by the 'James Bond’ private entrance that was hidden behind a fall of lush green ivy and when they stepped out into the chamber a few minutes later they were in a cozy room that had a blackboard on one wall. Annie went over to the board, took a chalk and wrote out five words and then motioning for them to take a seat she said:
“ Let’s get on with a short explanation as to how we work here. Let me try and keep this brief and simple. Guys my job here is to access the timeline and attempt to re-ignite old energy. So in order to do that I have to collect personal information to include in the social mix. With the help of a few of our staff here I have created a formula which I hope will allow us access. This one is simple for we have a storyline, not every family has a storyline due to war and natural disasters most can only trace their relations back through a couple of generations."
The men sat back into their chairs to give her their full attention.
Annie continued: "We have five keys that make up that formula: Language; DNA; Calendar; Latitude and Longitude Coordinates; Maps So let’s take them one by one please bear with me while I run through a few ideas."
Annie wrote LANGUAGE on the board and continued
“How are our worlds constructed? I’m sure you have a fair knowledge of this already, but one area leads into another and from there if we get lucky, we can measure an effect, which is why I want to make a few assumptions. Let’s assume that the verb To Be has two functions that are driven by different engines. The first one would determine one’s permanent state, the state that one can’t lose a connection to like: Name; Place of Birth; Family. And the second would determine temporary truths: The feelings that are affected by the emotions. Would you agree that how we feel determines how we interact with our environment and with the people who are part of our world. If you agree I think it’s fair to say that emotions are the gas in the engine. But who’s filling the engine?" Annie looked at the men and continued. “Words have an effect, guys, we all know that; they are our thoughts speaking, they reverberate and have a consequence. But speech is only a form of sound, a form of communication, a way to project our feelings. Words are generated by feelings which are identified by emotions. Words have a sound attached and when one attaches an emotion it might generate a whole other form. A word is just a squiggle on a page, an utterance by a small child, until a feeling produces a perception that build a thought form and as any good advertisers will tell you, a thought is nothing more than a feeling that has been manipulated." Elio was nodding in agreement; Mac’s expression was inscrutable.
“But who is in charge of I Am? Are language and soul connected or is language separate? Are we silent witnesses to the happening in our own lives, or are we responsible for all that happens to us? Does the proper noun that holds the body in check control the verb or is it just a holder of information, a container that houses a voice; a form of identity that ties one to a family timeline. Can you step aside and look in on yourself! And when you are in-body whereabouts are you? Are you in your head or are you living in your emotions or in some quiet spot that no one knows about, or are you being of use in the world? If I step into your energy field, where will I find you, or even will I be able to find you, if I want to.?" She got a laugh with that one.
The guys were sitting forward in their chairs listening carefully, she had their attention as she moved on writing DNA/Cells on the board.
“Does our DNA determine our destiny? For example, are we making assumptions here because we know the Elio is a direct descendent and we have an old story? If we have an opportunity should we not investigate to see if the story is true? We know that we can map our health using DNA but what if it’s stirred into a larger internal mix. Can we do what police do when they use spoor samples to help trace criminals. Every time we move we leave a spoor that can be traced. What if the DNA in this case is a false lead? How can we check memory results in real time?"
“I have no idea, Annie," Mac interjected.
“It’s a difficult one." She replied, “but we’ll give it a shot. Let’s continue. I’m nearly finished." and she wrote CALENDAR.
“Our piece de resistance was developed by Pope Gregory XIII and without it our trace experiments are obsolete and just become useful tools. The way timelines are measured out to hold our histories ensures that the date stamps are tight, and we can step through in the knowledge that events will be found where they were set down. Our calendar gentlemen is a modern day miracle. The only order we have is what we bring to our days. If our ancestors hadn’t formatted a regular timeline we’d have no form or shape on a day or season." And last two up are
LATITUDE AND LONGITUDE CO-ORDINATES: “Lining up the co-ordinates. We know that the cottage stood on this site 350 years ago. and with our co-ordinates we can pin the location to a definite place, and yes this is it." and MAPS, “We have the full inventory uploaded into our data stream. And that’s it, we know these apples were primed to attack one person or a particular group of people, and we know that they target in on either an emotional, mental, or physical plane. They were programmed for one hit and once that was done the energy was depleted and they rotted away."
With the introduction done, Annie cleaned the board, produced swabs and asked the men if they would mind giving her a DNA sample. Even more curious now they swabbed their saliva, put the sticks in a solution that sat on a tray that had their names inked into the plastic. Annie then pushed a button and a code was immediately generated, she printed off a reading for the men.
Elio threw an eye at Mac as he read his and mouthed. “Very efficient." Mac smiled and Annie picked up the inference, “I have a good PA guy, not much gets past him. We just needed to be sure we keep it separate, if you hadn’t agreed to this there was no loss on our side."
Put back in his box Elio sat down only to stand straight back up, as Annie pressed a button on her phone and the chalk board opened out into a portal that surrounded a large metal door with a blinking eye centered in a cork surround. Annie allowed it to read her iris and the door opened out to a small cinema.
“This is it. Gentlemen, welcome to the Memory Room."
“Holy smoke!" Mac exclaimed, “A mancave." He continued as he looked around.
The back wall held a stage, there was a pulpit off to one side, similar to the ones found in old churches, it held a slim reading stand but under it there was an electronic control panel with the name, “Trawler," inscribed on its side.
Behind it, a screen fell from a recessed case that sat just under the ceiling and the room had about 50 seats; a mix of armchair and sofa styles. Comfort was paramount to someone.
Once more Annie released the clip that held the key on the chain around her neck and held it in her hand.
“How are you holding up there Elio?" she called to the older man.
“I’m impressed with the logic so far," he replied, “but will it hold?"
“Do you want to take five in order to digest the relevance of keys before we take the next step?" She held up a small gold key, again.
“Let’s brainstorm," Mac suggested.
“On what? “Elio asked.
“Let’s brainstorm the co-ordinates …"
“We don’t have to," Annie said, “I have the original story here. It’s not the first spite apple that’s been found: We think it was seeded. So, by default all of our council offices keep the story on file. Back in the day it was a weapon that was used by bullies." She paused to allow the information to sink in and continued “And I have the location on here too."
“And have you a timeline?"
“Yes. It’s attached to it, our historians gave it a line edit, they clocked each event as it occurred, this is not the first time the memory has been searched for interested parties."
“Okay," Mac replied looking towards Elio, “Why don’t we leave it to Annie."
Elio nodded, folded his arms, and sat back.
“Okay, just to confirm for the tape, I have the key that opens the coordinate Trawler port and I have the documents and any relevant material organized to go and I am going to upload them now." Annie said, opening her hand to show the key.
“Just before we start" Elio interjected, “why are we doing this if you have seen it a few times and have had your experts view it?"
“It’s POV Elio. You might have an interpretation that we missed, the story might open differently through your lenses. The camera will pick up nuance from the DNA that is being projected into your energy. It never lies. So it’s your family’s reading and circumstances that’s showing up here."
“Okay!" He replied.
“Well let’s not waste any more time, let’s search for the wicked witch of the big screen." she said and she dimmed the lights and inserted the key into the control box. The screen lit up as she sat down beside the men.
She was as she had been depicted by the illustrators, Mac thought, as he looked at the screen he was remembering lines from the story. “Her eyes protruded, her nose hooked, her lips curved down to illustrate her frown."
She was in a bed/sitting room. They watched her take an apple from a dish on a dresser. She placed it on her bed before opening her incantation book, drawing the shape of the rhombus in the air, mumbling a curse. Then as they watched, she opened the dresser, took out a bone from a drawer and scraped some of its marrow onto a saucer, then opening a small cut in the apple peel she shook the dusting in and closed it off with some type of liquid glue. Then standing in front of a gold leaf framed mirror she called in a sing song voice:
" Mirror Mirror on the Wall, who is the fairest of all?" to which it replied
"My Queen, you are the fairest here so true.
But Snow White beyond the mountains at the Seven Dwarfs
is a thousand times more lovely,
fair and beautiful than you."
The guys were glued and Annie whispered loudly: “We got the timeline right!"
It was like a speech bubble was raised, to burst onto the screen when the witchy queen screeched and all three sat straighter.
"Who’s there! Is there someone here? Where are you, show yourself?" Mac put his fingers to his lips for shush.
"Is it the dead mother? Are you here!!" She screeched lifting the bone out of the drawer again.
Lit up with rage she danced in circles croaking as she did:
"Your mother, dead mother/both you and your mother/will soon be together/both dead in a gutter."
Annie pressed the pause button,
“Charming lady, and her DNA is buried in the apple." Elio said. “We have a piece of the old dear here with us."
“But have we, Elio?" Annie questioned, “Is it one of the apples? Whose marrow did she place under the skin. Are we making assumptions, are they Snow White’s teeth marks?"
“Of course," Mac said, “Maybe we have all been nib-trapped."
“Great expression!!" Annie said. “Nib-trapped indeed, even nib-captured!"
“Ha. Paper never refuses ink." Elio said.
“Okay, now you are reminding me of mum, Elio. That is one of her favorite sayings, but let’s take it a step further." Annie said.
“What do you mean?" Elio asked.
“I can move the timeline down to where the old hag knocks on the door of the cottage."
“Are you just following the script, then, the old story?"
“I use the story as a guide for the timeline. I can place the queen at the door, but I don’t know what will happen from there."
“Go for it," Mac said.
Annie reprogrammed the Trawler and sat back down.
The camera zoomed in on an old gypsy hag, she carried a basket of fruit and flowers as she opened the gate and hobbled up the cobblestone path that was lined with summer beds.
She was about to knock on the door when it opened in, and a beautiful young woman stepped out. For a moment they stood toe-to-toe, until the hag backed away.
“Will you help an old lady, dear?" she asked. “Will you buy some fruit so I can get money to feed my family" she continued, as she held out a rosy, red apple? she continued pressing forward, “Isn’t this lovely, so sweet and wholesome," And then she took a bite, and reaching into her basket she handed another to Snow White who was backing into the house as she moved forward.
Then she stopped, and took the apple out of her hand and beckoned to the old hag to follow her into the living room. She fetched money from a jar on the sideboard, and she was about to taste the apple when the old dear collapsed.
Snow White fell to her knees, she checked her pulse, saw it was still pumping. and then taken a cushion from the chair put it under her head. Running into the yard she found Sleepy, (one of the dwarfs) relaxing in a hammock and shaking him awake she sent him to fetch the doctor.
They were back within minutes and the doc., checked the hag’s pulse and heartbeat and then her airwaves:
“Her breathing appears labored," he said, so lifting her from behind he forced her diaphragm inwards and suddenly a piece of apple flew out of her mouth.
“Done," he continued and said to Snow White, “give her a drink and she will be as good as new in a little while."
When the men left, Snow White, made a drink for herself and the old woman who was sitting at the table gathering up her strength around her.
Snow White sat down across from her.
The lady looked Snow White in the eye and said:
"I had harm on my mind
when I came here today,
I am your stepmother
and I had planned to make you pay."
Snow White looked confused, remembering the dwarf’s warnings.
" Who! did you say?" she asked.
"I am your queen,
your nemesis of old, and it’s through
the magic mirror that I have kept score."
And in front of Snow White, she took on her own image, one of a good-looking middle-aged woman, Reaching for her stepdaughter’s hand she said.
"From here on in, I accept my fate
and you my dear must take your place:
You are the most beautiful lady in the land,
and I am now your biggest fan,
to show my thanks, I bequeath you, my ring."
And she handed Snow White, a red gold ring that was encircled with amethyst and ruby stones.
For Snow White, it was the perfect end to the story and a little later she and her step mum strolled arm and arm down to the gate and there with a wave of her hand the queen called her carriage through to take her back to the castle.
Annie paused the film. No one said anything for a minute.
Then Mac said, “I suppose non-fiction was never going to be a big seller or even memory catcher." And they all laughed.
“I suppose, but the apple! What about the apple?" Elio replied.
“It wasn’t the only one in existence, but from this POV it has to be the queen's," Annie continued, “there were a few sorcerers plying their trade around that time. It pulsed when I approached it because I had a small sliver of DNA from one of the others in my pocket. Like an antenna. It picked up the signal."
“So you knew coming to the cottage that there might be a connection?"
“Like you Elio, I grew up with the fireside stories and came prepared. We get a few call-outs to unusual activity and we are prepared for most events, everyone knows the cottage so I popped into the store room and picked up a small sample before I left here this morning."
“So, the next question is." Mac paused for effect. “Is the cottage the Snow-White’ cottage?"
He looked at Elio: “Have you a ring?“
“I don’t but you have!"
“Yes, I think I just might have." and the guys stood.
“You might join us for dinner next time Annie." Elio said as they shook hands and waited to follow her out.
“Over at Flores?" She asked.
“Yep our favourite spot." Mac said.
“I’d love to, you’ll phone me."
“Will you remember to phone her, Mac?" Elio laughed, looking at the good-looking young woman.
“Oh just before I finish up guys, do ye want to see a memory of the Ball where she meets the prince?"
Elio looked at Macha and together they just said “No."
As Annie showed the men out they were discussing the house sale.
A good story has legs." Elio said as the elevator door closed. “Could we ask for a price increase?"
“You’d be lucky. Man! Anyway, we’re good for our word, it’s sale agreed."
“I’m not sure about that apple, Mac, where did it go? and what about that ñmemory room."
“Oh suspicious minds!!" Mac replied and laughed.
ART: Speaking Swan, (PS) Mari, 2016