5 Apricot Summers in the City of Makanad

a fantasy contest story about summer

~

Before the last mammoth went extinct, a mango tree that spread across a thousand acres bloomed with a passion for enthusiastic life. Grandiose and gorgeous, the tree too had thin green stems enwrapped about its trunk bearing flowers and the small bodies of nearly born human beings. In the beginning, animals would pluck them off the tree and raise the humans as their own, but as time progressed the adult humans would pluck the embryos off themselves and raise them until they could think and exist. No one was named until they reached adulthood, so they could choose a name for themselves; in the meantime, all the children were called with claps and clucks that were unique to each parent and easily differentiated by the children. Since sleep was not part of their routine, the men cared for the children at night, and the woman cared for them during the day, with each of them contributing to the city during their breaks from parenthood. The city of Makanad grew slowly over time, due to the evolution of this process, and the ripening of such a rich culture slowly honeyed the people and their eternally sun-drenched skin. The people built their town around the mango tree so that it stood as rigid and wonderful as ever in the very center of everything. The mangoes that had existed since their conception were forbidden to be eaten, so instead they worshiped the fertility of apricots. Fifty years before the yellow flower meadow was burned to black lilies, a few months before the arrival of the traveler, the most beautiful being in all of Makanad that had been plucked from the mango tree had reached adulthood. Each year on her day of birth, the sky would rain like liquid crystals, glittering and sparkling, running down the world and into the streets and onto the mango tree and into everyone’s hearts. Her seventeenth was even more extravagant, as a piece of the twinkling shape in the sky had come down to earth one day of infinite summer and set fire to all the sinners. The girl decided to name herself after the stars. 

~

“Hi, dad. Well–look at that, it’s funny you mention it. This is about [redacted]. But how are you doing? Well, I was calling because I wanted to see–Yes, dad I’m doing fine. I was wondering if [redacted] could stay with you for a few months before school starts again. I know you’re always saying how the city and the technology are bad influences, and I should have taken your word for it! He’s been acting so strange lately. He dresses up funny and doesn’t do his work, and he gets all upset when I call him [redacted]. And, Jesus, he stopped painting! You know, art… art is his thing, and he just does nothing in this house all day now. And I–yeah, yeah, I understand. Well, it’s hard doing it on my own, you know? I’m doing fine, dad….you would have thought he was depressed the way he mopes around here. You’ll hardly recognize him, but I think getting away might help. Do you think you could take him for the summer? I’d be happy to drop off some groceries on the way there. I know three months might be a burden…”

~

Caught up in the cobwebs of a June ill-spent, a lonely adolescent with nowhere to go and no one to be decided to wander through a meadow of tall yellow flowers. The flowers were so tall, in fact, that their thick stems stretched taller than the teen, who only stood five inches over five feet. Boredom and ridicule and shame and self-pity kept them walking forward as the sun’s heat formed a glaze over top their brown skin.

June in the rural town of Somewhere, Indiana was as unceasingly sweaty and aggravating as the grandfather the adolescent was locked up with all of summer break. The old man was uptight and no nonsense, like the adolescent’s mother (which was the grandfather’s eldest and only daughter), and they both insisted with that same annoying persistence that the eighteen year-old focus on their oh so profitable passion of painting rather than “do nothing.” But sadly, ever since the first and last breakup of the teen’s life, as well as their parent’s separation, they had lost all reason to pick up a brush, and that was why it would be more meaningful, they decided, to frolic in some giant weeds. 

So engraved in the rancor of their mentality, so obfuscated by the hodgepodge of feelings of hatred over their current situations and all the failures it had taken to get here, it took over five minutes for the city of Makanad to settle with azure in their gaze. When they did see it, and after their eyes enlarged and breath hitched, a mango was stuck in their face and they were commanded to eat it. 

~

“You bite into the forbidden fruit?” A man, dressed in spectacular garments that reminded the teen of Hawaii, spoke with such force that they had to blink a few times to understand. 

“What? No, I’m allergic to mangoes.”

A giant circle of people were surrounding the two now, and the mango man cricked his neck so that the corners of his eyes could be seen with intense pink passion.

“Will not do?” His broken English resounded with so much confidence that the teen just had to laugh. 

“Ha, no, man, I won’t do. I’ll get a rash and pass out.”

Everyone in the circle began to nod their heads in unison, and the teen realized there were a thousand of them, all of them dressed in such a way that the now-tourist felt ashamed in their shorts and sleeveless tank. The magic of Makanad didn’t even make them question where they were, but rather what all the teen could do. The people of Makanad approved of the way they looked and their opposition to consuming their holy fruit, so they decided to show them their mango tree and the woman named after the stars that sat upon it. However, they did realize that all too modernized human stench that the people born from mango trees never had, despite rarely bathing. It was a stench that one could find from people who were inside buildings and surrounded by artificial things all day. Nevertheless, they accepted the company of the nameless stranger, and they never regretted it. 

When all 1,002 of them arrived at the tree, and after the tourist examined the sloping hills and mountain peaks and long rivers and streams and lush grasses and intense, but pleasant heat and simple homes, and after they counted all 6,987 mangoes on the tree in just under four hours, the sky had been coated with ash and so was the steaming land before them.

Just as night took it’s full form and the moon (which illuminated just as brightly as the sun) fixed in the sky, a beam of ivory was cast upon the young woman sitting in a throne at the very top of the tree. She descended, first just a speck, and then as she came closer, the adolescent saw her dark silky curls hair under her headpiece flowing behind her, her gleaming silver eyes fixed on them, her brown skin shimmering to a minty green, and then the speck was right before them, the most beautiful person they had ever seen. She had a diamond pressed into the top of her forehead with thin fabrics concealing the edges of her face like a veil, and her outfit was draped with loose, translucent sleeves that hung off her body and blew with the most delicate of breezes. 

She handed them an apricot, and the adolescent took it without taking their eyes off of her. Then she spoke:

“Amare et amari.” She touched the teen’s hand with her warm, glowing green ones, and the heat that persisted even in the night seemed to wrap the two up in their own bubble, her eyes fixed on them with purity and cautious intrigue. She wrapped one of her fingers around the hard part of their knuckles. “Welcome to Makanad. You may call me Starmonious Anagrave Cardillo Rempilo, or Star if that’s too much trouble. Do you speak the language of dead men, resistor?”

Without even knowing what the green princess was saying, the teen nodded. “Yep. Yes, I do.” They took a bite of the apricot, and suddenly it was day again. 

~

Seasons were as nonexistent as shift jobs in Makanad, the teen had discovered. There was no such thing as summer because summer was all they had. Heat, sunshine, heat, and sun. The teen had tanned four shades darker in only a week. The inhabitants of the city all had skin dark enough to be protected by the almost brutal waves of heat that struck their skin, and at night when the moon shone like headlights at midnight on an open road, their skin shimmered green. It was wonderful, and the teen envied their beauty.

They had not realized it, but the adolescent spent five years in the town of Makanad. They contributed by helping build homes and plant gardens and water the mango tree, but the best parts of their time were spent at night, the only time the princess could be seen. Star and the resistor, as she called him, would sit upon the edge of a cliff, laying against the grasses, heads resting upon a small, two hundred foot tall oak tree, and the pair would gaze at the silver town below them. 

“Amare et amari,” Star would repeat to herself under her slow breath, dangling the jewels on her wrist as she said it. 

“Love and be loved,” the adolescent said to her. They were mesmerized by Star’s way of focusing so lovingly yet so intensely on a fixed point and her ability to get so deep into her thoughts even with the disturbance of a thousand people surrounding her. 

She handed the boy an apricot and bit into one herself. “You found out? Good. I’m versed in many languages, but it’s okay you only know one. After all, you are a resistor, so how bad could you be? Amare et amari, can you say it for me?”

The subtle hammering from the construction miles below them and the slight whistle of birds that still looked a bit like dinosaurs filled the warm atmosphere before a few seconds of glorious, nostalgic silence. The traveler repeated back to her in a voice almost too deep to be heard, “Amare et amari.”

Star smiled, green skin glowing harder now, and she bit into her apricot to hide her blush. But the adolescent could still see it. They tucked the thin veil behind her ears and ran a hand through the settled curls. The teen had done this once before, and she had smacked them like how a mother disciplines her child. This time she did no such thing.

“Wait a moment,” she whispered. “When must you leave?”

The question stunned the teen, and they took back their hand. “Never?”

Star shook her head. “If you stay, you have to burn down that meadow. We mustn’t risk anymore travelers coming in here, for you are the exception. You came lost and burdened, with not a drop of malice against this town, and I believe we have healed you. Would you like to kiss me?”

“Yes.”

“If you do, you’ll be sent home.”

“Come with me.”

“I cannot. A person of Makanad can only leave as a mango or a corpse.”

That perpetual warmth that encased them once more in a bubble existed up until the very moment Star pulled her lips away from the adolescent, and then they found themself in their now freezing bed of the grandfather’s cabin in the winter of Indiana.

~

Fifty years later, when the adolescent became an older adult, they returned to their late grandfather’s cabin and saw to it that the meadow was burned to black lilies, right after they returned to the city to pick a few mangoes. They had asked for Star, but the people only lowered their heads sadly and pointed to the top of the mango tree; a glowing orange orb of unmatched intensity took up their entire vision, and the old traveller stumbled back from its brilliant, blinding power.

Once they returned home after setting fire to the meadow, they pulled out a canvas and painted what had just been seen. And it was titled “Amare et Amari in Makanad,” and the adult hung it with the thousands of other paintings they had made over the last five decades in the art gallery of their mansion. (Their most famous painting, entitled “Summer’s Star,” was what put them on the map.) 

The adult’s mother had died in peace a year before, grateful that their child had found passion again, and the grandfather died in peace because he knew his daughter was happy, and Star died in peace because she knew the adolescent resistor would be the only one to step foot in Makanad ever again.

~

Thank you for reading my magical realism story! This was inspired by the book 100 Years of Solitude, and if you haven’t read it I would suggest checking it out. I despised the book at first because of it’s disturbing content, but now that I’m nearly done with it I’ve come to really appreciate it as an intelligent, introspective work. If you’d like to check out my work, Accursed Red, go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble! Hello and hello, and thank you again for reading 🙂

~Sammicakes

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