Thievery: The Cake Tree
On Thursdays, I invite my favourite writers to share the inspirations behind their stories. Here’s one from the mysterious Ever Dundas.
‘The Cake Tree’ was published in Duality 6: Home.
The cake tree had seen many generations come and go, had seen the city grow, as the tree itself had grown. The tree stood, imperious and beautiful, icing sugar dripping from glistening branches.
The cake tree belonged to itself, but was sold by East City Council as spectacle. Machines churned up the earth, the roots were covered with concrete. The Council placed lights in the ground at four points, showcasing its best features. A fence was erected, boxing it in. Many came to see the tree, to marvel and to eat. Sugared stars sparkled on the highest branches, guiding travellers to the East City, beckoning kings and princes rich in gold and jewels; currency to be spent within the East City gates. The cake tree belonged to itself, but was sold as spectacle.
‘The Cake Tree’ is the story of Edissa, a rebellious girl who lives in a city that values money over community and freedom. She has climbed the Cake Tree since she was a child, but the city Council fence off the tree, seeing it as a means to bring more money in by attracting rich visitors to the city.
Edissa disregards the Council and continues to go to the Cake Tree, where she meets her boyfriend, Memucan. One of the local boys is jealous of their relationship and poisons the tree before manipulating them into hating each other, leading to a grisly end.
The idea for ‘The Cake Tree’ came from a photograph I took for my daily photo journal. I’m interested in defamiliarisation and pursued a photo project where familiar items or landscapes were altered and made to be surprising in some way. For one of the photo entries I placed some brightly coloured cakes in a tree and the seed of a story formed. I had also been reading Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber collection at the time, and I considered writing my own fairytale with a strong female protagonist.
The presence of the city Council in the story was influenced by a negative experience with my local council when our neighbourhood tried to save trees that were going to be cut down as a part of a redevelopment. We were unable to stop this from happening, resulting in feelings of anger and disillusionment. There was the increasing realisation that where we lived was only valued in terms of economic gain.
‘The Cake Tree’ has a critique of valuing money over community running through it, but it can also simply be read as a gruesome tale of love and betrayal. The Bible and Shakespeare influenced the point in the story where the boy manipulates Edissa and Memucan, resulting in the downfall of the whole city. Edissa and Memucan are names from a bible story steeped in manipulation and betrayal, and the Bible is a fascinating source I often return to. Another inspiration is horror films; Cronenberg’s body horror and one of my favourite films, Re-animator, played a part in the story’s denouement.
Read ‘The Cake Tree’ in Duality 6: Home.