Roanoke: Alan Summers and Men vs. Gods

Long ago, Man was nothing more than a companion for the Gods. We were a form of entertainment, and little else. They watched from afar as we danced to appeal to them to make the skies rain as they laughed, spraying us with the pittance of water we’d requested. When we didn’t dance well, the Gods would drown us in great floods. The Gods toyed with us, keeping us simple people; the people who wanted food, shelter, water and love far away.

Many years ago, there was a Man named Israel. He snuck away from the other simple men and saw the Gods dining on roasted meat while they ignored the Men. This intrigued Israel, and as he stared, the fire popped ember arcing across the skies. One ember landed in front of him in a clump of grass, catching it fire. Israel touched it and nearly screamed, alerting the Gods. He grabbed a stick and picked it up, slowly carrying the fire away.

When he arrived in the village, the Men were afraid of Israel, thinking he may have been a test of the other Gods. He lit a fire and roasted corn for the other Men, and they began to worship him like a God.

The Gods did not like this, and so, they punished the Men, causing a great illness. Israel died immediately, and men slowly got sick, sneezing for the first time as a flu pandemic swept through the thousands that lived. Those that survived it pledged their loyalty to the Gods and the Gods rewarded them with fire. The Men used it carefully from then on, strictly to roast animals.

As time wore on, Men became as smart as Gods. One Man figured out how to make a spear fire out of a tube with such force that animals died almost instantly. The Gods cursed man to know forever that they were simply animals as well, as other Men hunted other Men in an act called War, named after the God, War.

Men grew smarter and less fearful of the Gods. The Gods rained fire, and Men covered themselves in rock. The Gods created mountain falls, and famine and pestillence, and Man moved away from mountains, grew different crops and covered crops to prevent bugs.

And so, Gods created something more powerful. They allowed man to gain all knowledge he possibly could in his lifetime, and the moment they did, Man prospered. They figured out how to take hard rocks and place them into fire, and with that fire, to create objects much more valuable as well as more deadly. They figured out that cold could be cured by removing the skins of animals and wearing them. Man figured out how to farm cotton, and still beer.

But, there was a price.

For everything Man found, The Gods gave an obstacle. When the transformation of rock was first discovered, millions of Men died in what was called a Plague. As they found they could wear animal skins, Men went mad, some craving the power of Gods until they were murdered. With cotton came scorpions and snakes and with beer came the disease wherein skin fell off in clumps until Men bled to death, alone and shunned.

The worst however, came when man figured out how to soar amongst the clouds. The air, once the kingdom of the Gods and the Gods alone, brought with it something worse than death, something more heinous than skin falling off and bleeding to death as a leper. With flight, came the disease where your age increased, though your memory did not. At an age not able to be determined by Men, other Men simply forgot what they’d known their entire lives — faces of family, those they loved, how to speak and eat and enjoy life as a Man — simply because they dared cross the threshold and become much more of a God.

Alan Summers sat watching the entertainment box, in which Men paid for with the Crippling Disease, thanks to the Gods. He could barely remember his granddaughter, thinking of her as his wife on some days. He barely remembered his name, where he’d come from, where he was going and how he’d get there, but, he remembered where he needed to go.

Roanoke was calling, and he’d needed them all to go along to say goodbye.

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Roanoke — A Glimpse.

She never thought she would be in love on her terms, so completely, so wonderfully, so totally head-over-heels in love. She’d always expected that it would be on terms greatly compromised from her own, or, even more, terms that she didn’t agree with, and yet she couldn’t not listen to her heart just to figure out on her own that she was wrong.

Lilac Flower Summers pictured her life as a lot of things. She would be a part-time rock star, a part-time actress with a movie and successful sitcom-slash-drama and her own clothing line that girls shaped like her wouldn’t feel like idiots to wear. She wasn’t fat, but, she was a bit pear shaped, her small top not fitting well with her medium-but-really-almost-large bottom side. She was never embarassed about it, despite the taunts about her “ghetto booty”. She simply shrugged, never letting anyone destroy her image, no matter how much it hurt, no matter how hard it was.

And yet, there she stood at the end of the driveway at 4166 Cherry, her heart breaking at the sight of Brett, her love, her first and only, her reason for breathing, her supernova with his hand in another girl’s hand. She’d come to surprise him and got her own surprise immediately. She couldn’t speak, and thought she was going to puke. Lilac Summers, the straight and narrow, Ms. Can Do, simply can’t do. She watched in horror as he bent down and kissed this girl that wasn’t her, feeling her heart tug in two then four directions, before the rip echoed through her chest, out through her mouth and manifested into a scream.

Brett looked up, and turned pale, his dark hair almost whitening ten shades at the sound coming from Lilac. The girl turned in shock as well, almost joining the scream in a cacophony of “what the fuck”, that only women can produce, each pitch tearing at the ears of any male ear within fifty yards.

Lilac’s heart ripped further, until it was torn in two then four then eight sixteen thirty two sixty-four and one hundred and twenty eight. She turned and walked away in a fog She thought she’d heard Brett say something, but, the world was swimming by, liquifying in front of her in torture. She knew at that moment, despite being thirteen years old, she would never love again.

Brett did follow her for about a mile, before turning around and giving up. He’d even caught up to her, and grabbed her.

“Lilac, wait,” he said, reassuringly. He was charming, and his brown eyes were beautiful, flecked with gold around the edges of the pupil, before fanning out into an almost crystalline structure. They were breathtaking and would lead him to many girls’ hearts and beds and backseats. All but Lilac, no matter how hard he tried. “I’m sorry. It’s just that you weren’t… I needed…”

The words blended together in her ears that Brett had kissed for the first time a week ago. “I’m sorrneedjust… I wanteneedtobe…” She looked briefly, her eyes turning him into a monster through her tears. She pushed him to the side and walked the mile back home, rushing into the house.

“What’s wrong, Girly?” her grandfather, Alan Summers asked as Lilac rushed into his strong arms. And there, a mile away from where her heart fell to pieces, the other man who loved her made everything seem okay to break down.

***

Lilac had been Alan’s only grandchild, though not for lack of trying. Doreen and Scott Summers (Scott being his son, Doreen his seemingly reluctant daughter-in-law) had tried for three years before Lilac was born to bear a child. Being natural people, they didn’t believe in the hokum and magic of a fertility specialist, and decided to let the Goddess decide when it was time for them to be with a child.

Alan had lucked into a great deal of property in southern Wisconsin, near the Iowa border, and farmed the property through a world war, a police action or two and a few droughts. Scott, born in at the end of fifty-nine had taken over day-to-day operations of the farms at eighteen after graduating at fifteen, and married Doreen Doerkier, the daughter of Frank and Gertrude Doerkier, the proprietors of sixteen Mar-Ket groceries in southern and central Wisconsin in seventy-nine, both at the young age of twenty. Both were only children, and they’d been crushed to find that they couldn’t for the life of them have something to show for what was the only activity each had in common with the other, being a daughter or a son.

When Lilac was born at the end of eighty-three, there’d been a great deal of apprehension. After four miscarriages, Doreen was sentenced to bed rest for eight months. Scott would help the Doerkier’s with the markets and Alan took over on the farm. Scott never minded. Money, it seemed, to be his only driving force when he wasn’t with Doreen, and despite the two being polar opposites, they loved each other wholly, completely.

In August of eighty-three, Doreen sat-up in bed after her third nap, fueled by chocolate cake and Doritos to her nightgown wet, smelling awfully like a smell she’d never wanted to smell before. She looked down and saw the clear yet somewhat pinkish fluid seemed to be coming from her holiest of holies, and gasped. She stood and waddle-raced to the phone, calling Scott with no answer, first. She opened the back door, and screamed for Alan, who couldn’t hear her no matter how loud her lungs could get. The tractor was too loud, and he was too into Tommy Dorsey.

So, Doreen did what a good, strong woman of the sixties would and should do: She grabbed the keys to the Dart, grabbed her suitcase and drove herself to the hospital.

Her stomach pains hurt magificently, each tightening worse than the last. The first almost forced the car through the Winston’s fence, but Doreen maintained her hands on the wheel, and straightened it out with her breathing techniques she’d learned from the book she’d read. Whatever it was called. She wanted this child, this parasite who would live nine months — actually two hundred and sixty-eight days by Doreen’s calculations — inside of her and then another eighteen years depending on her and Scott, and then the rest of Doreen’s life calling her names like “Mom”, “Mother”, and “Doreen” out of her body, and quite frankly; out of her life as well. She’d never told Scott about the birth control, and it was only when she’d caught a cold last November and needed antibiotics did she get pregnant, and regret it.

The second pain was almost karma for the thought of hating the child before she’d even seen his or her face, and sent the car careening through a field, and very nearly into a house she’d never seen before. She stopped the car in the driveway and doubled over in pain, exiting through the door. The owner of the house, a man she’d never met before, emerged carrying a shotgun, ready to shoot whoever’d driven through his soybeans.

Doreen dragged herself into the shade of a purple flowered overgrown shrub she figured to be a lilac tree, and hunkered down. This place would be where she would get this child out of her and go about her life again. The man threw the shotgun to the side, and rushed over to her.

“You okay, miss?” he asked, knowing she clearly was not okay.

“Preg…” she started, before another contraction hit, as she screamed to the heavens and all the stars.

The man bent down and looked, turning toward the house. “Maude!” he shouted. “Get my tools and ring an ambulance! I’ve got one giving birth in front of the house!”

Doreen was immediately at ease, knowing that this man was a doctor. “Oh, you’re a doctor. Call me an amblulance! Please!”

“Yes, ma’am. I am a doctor. A veternarian,” he said, reaching under Doreen’s dress and up into the place something would soon be coming out of. She gasped at the intrusion and looked at the vet with fire in her eyes. She wanted to scold him, but, the contraction came too soon, and she swore for only the second time in her entire life outside of a bedroom of backseat, screaming the word fuck louder than she’d done so within a bedroom. The vet put a hand to her shoulder and shouted to the house again.

Tears formed in Doreen’s eyes, and flowed copiously from them immediately after. This was not how she pictured things happening. There was a room at Wisconsin Memorial Hospital for her, waiting with perfumed petals and water baths and a midwife she’d spoken to for weeks about the process of what was going to happen and how. And how, there was a Vet with an entire hand inside of her it seemed, and she was bleeding out onto the grass below a Lilac tree. And there were animals — she counted six dogs, a sheep and a rooster seemingly watching her give birth.

And where was Scott? She’d not called him again to let him know she’d left for the hospital, like she’d done the last six weeks. No, now she’d cried wolf one too many times, and Scott would never find her since she had no idea where she was.

No, this couldn’t be how it would happen. She would make it to the hospital, and everything would be fine. She knew it. She had to. She started to stand, her breathing cycling like it was supposed to, thanks to Doctor Lemans, or whatever his name was. The vet pushed her down almost forcefully.

“I am going to the hospital,” she screamed into his face.

“Ma’am, what’s your name?” he asked, his voice calm and soothing. Doreen almost felt badly for yelling at him, though he somehow deserved it. Maude had emerged with gloves, a wash basin and other tools.

“Doreen,” she spat at him and again felt terrible for it. This child-parasite within her was truly the demon she’d known it to be, and the vet had brought the evil out of her.

“Doreen. My daugher’s name is Doreen. I’m Doctor Hansen, and you may not believe this, but I delivered all Maude’s babies”

“Fourteen of them.” Maude said with a smile, interrupting.

“All fourteen of them,” Dr. Hansen said with a smile, patting Maude on the shoulder. “So, I’m sorry, but that baby is coming out in the next contraction, and you need to get ready. Do you want this baby out?” His voice belied a calmness, experience. Doreen imagined him patting a horse somewhere on the haunches to let it know that everything was okay. Doreen, however, was not a horse, and made sure he knew that, screaming into his face those very words.

Dr. Hansen smiled. “Got a fightin’ spirit. Maude? Get those towels below her. This’d get messy.”

Doreen doesn’t remember much of what happened next, though she thinks it happened in this order: She screamed as something the size of the earth emerged from her. Another scream, much quieter filled the air followed by twin “Awww”, and the weight that had come from inside of her was placed on her chest.

Doreen looked down at the slits closed before her, the open mouth screaming below her and for a split second, she didn’t regret any of it. The nine months of bedrest, the lack of “alone” time with Scott, how nice she’d been to Alan, had all been worth it.

“It’s a girl,” Maude said pointing to the screaming, pink child in her arms, wrapped in a towel. Doreen nodded through the pain, as the wail of a siren approached from some direction she’d forgotten long ago. She put her head back, and looked at the purple flowers.

The Lilac Flowers. She looked down at her child, who lay in her arms, finally calming down as the siren grew nearer.

Her Lilac Flowers.

The vet stood to wave down the ambulance down the driveway as Maude stood to clean up and make Doreen presentable down below. Doreen nodded toward Maude, the two women bonding immediately.

Doreen couldn’t take her eyes off Lilac. She loved her completely, totally, wholly. Her heart swelled as the paramedics rushed over to her. The next few hours were a blur until Scott rushed through the door at five-fifteen, Alan behind him. The two had tears in their eyes as they rushed over to Doreen, Alan stopping short of his grandchild. His first grand child and unbeknownst to him, his only grandchild. His hand touched her tiny hand for the first time, and he wept, loudly.

Scott stayed with Doreen, only giving a passing glance to the child he’d helped create, and Doreen, too preoccupied with building sympathy with Scott to care. Alan sat in a rocking chair and there he held this perfect child, this amazing little girl in his arms, rocking her and telling her about everything. He’d not even asked his name, but, he’d had one in his hehad forever; the name he and Ethel would have named their daughter.

Lilac.

***

She cried in his arms for the hundredth time, probably that year, probably the thousandth time in her life. Her heart was broken, torn up and lay crumpled on the streets of southern Wisconsin, leading a trail from Brett’s to her front porch, and pooling under her as she cried.

Alan, for his part, said nothing and only thought about that moment he’d held her like this the first time. His eyes teared up, too — he hated to see his girl upset, but, more so because for a split second, he couldn’t remember who she was coming through the door. And when he remembered that this was his granddaughter, he couldn’t remember why she was coming into his home, until he remembered they lived there, too. His daughter and son-in-law. No, his son and daughter-in-law. Scott and Lilac.

No, Lilac was the girl in his arms. Doreen was the daughter-in-law. Yes. That’s right.

He looked down, and waited for her to look at him. She didn’t.

“Brett,” she said with a sigh and a sob.

“Who?” he asked, almost seriously. Lilac hugged him tighter.

“Exactly, Grandpa. Exactly.”

They stood there together for a few minutes, each one not wanting to let go. Lilac’s heart was mending slowly, the bits and pieces torn from her chest had started climbing back together knowing that she’d never compromise again, never fall in love without it being on her terms ever again.

Alan as her heart mended, felt his mind slowly begin to drift away. He knew that it was only a matter of time before it was time to head to Roanoke, where his family came from, and where his family ended up.

Eventually.

Heels.

Using the oneword.com prompt heels.

He was hot on my heels, his breath nearly beating down on my neck in angry puffs of warmth. I’d not a moment to ask why he was so angry. He pointed at me, fire in his eyes and chased after me a second later. I shrieked and ran away, trying to head toward my back yard, just two driveways away.

I made it within inches before his hand wrapped around my arm, pulling me to the ground. I could see his fist in the air, eclipsing the sun for a split second before everything went dark.