Illustration by Carla T. GamalindaWIND-SWEPT leaves crunched with Martin’s every step as he approached the old mango tree standing high on top of a hill overlooking the city. The tree cracks of this tree were exhausts of aged breath as it struggled to stand against the strong winds that dared to blow it away. The branches swayed effortlessly, enticing strangers to take refuge under it.

Martin stared at the old tree, remembering how young and strong it appeared when he was an adolescent. He used to climb the tree to pick its mangoes when they were ripe, savoring them in his mouth. Everyday, he would swing from branch to branch, helping him develop muscles that he would soon sell for fair price as desired flesh.

Now, he could only look at its seemingly weakened arms holding a handful of leaves, as if they were hair atop a wrinkled face trying to stay presentable. He pondered on his secret life, of how he stitched his mouth with lies and how he would pretend to enjoy the passion when there was only pain.

He would often have those cold nights on rugged streets transformed into a sizzling place for carnivores that would devour people like him just to satisfy their sexual appetite.

Along the alleyways, dirty old men and women worship his flesh that called out to him as if preaching a gospel of lust. Here and there, a herd of voluptuous sheep cry for their wolf waiting to be made into carcass.

No one wondered what he really dreamed of or asked if this was what he really wanted. It would not matter anyway, as long as he satisfied them and they give him a living. He endured what he exchanged his own life with until he was incapable of dreaming.

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Resigned to his fate, he moved around the tree and delved in his past with zest for life fading with every step.

He was falling into a trance, around and around, when he found a mango on the ground. It was slightly wrinkled with large black spots that visualized an overripe fruit.

Wanting to savor that juicy taste once again, he peeled its skin and bit the mango. An unpleasant taste scoured his tongue and he immediately spat the pulp out of his mouth. His face twisted in repugnance as he looked at the mango in his hand.

It was filled with worms.

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