Before the Ark

I know how we are painted, long etched lines, pinpricks of impressionism. The artistic renditions present a world without, one where we didn’t have electricity or modern medicine. That is not the truth, though it became so. Before the flood, we had everything. As I crush berries with my palms to make paint, I remember my childhood acrylics. My hand runs against our stone walls, and I reminisce about air conditioning and how we destroyed it all.

           There was humidity to the day, thick choking smog. My grandfather, Noah, took my arm as I performed dramatics. I used one hand to pantomime, losing air. Noah smiled. I was a rambunctious thing, wispy hair, and the kind of stern sense of justice no one likes in a girl. I never accepted the world as it was. My grandfather told me it could be better.

            “There was a time when the air was clean.” He propped me on his knee and spoke of clear oceans.

            The thought warmed my cheeks, and I vowed to go back. When I was seven, I knocked a plastic straw out of my classmate’s hand. 

            “You’re killing the world,” I yelled and got a time out. 

            Back then, my words were of a zealous do-gooder. Now, they mean so much less. When I was sixteen, my grandfather received his first vision from God. 

            “It’s all going to end.” His eyes went wide as he spoke to my father. 

            “What’s going to end?” I piped up, pulling at my denim overalls.

            His head jutted towards mine as he remembered my presence. I watched him open his mouth to lie but do the calculations in his head before the words could come out. 

            “There’s going to be a flood across the entire Earth,” he spoke in hesitations, long-drawn-out sentences. “I have to build an ark, whoever isn’t on it will die.”

            I balled up my fist, determined to get every single person on the ark. While my grandfather spent his days measuring wood, I went out to let them know. When my grandfather explained the ship and begged the people to understand, I stood by his side. The more we spoke of the Lord, the more I realized they hated him.  My grandfather called it disbelief, but I saw the satisfaction on their faces as they bullied him. Disbelief doesn’t cause such a reaction. 

            We tried to be logical, bringing researchers in to show the correlation between what my grandfather was saying and the atmosphere. Since they hated religion, we brought in science but soon realized they had no affinity for numbers.

            “I should not be speaking,” I yelled at the steps of our president’s house. “Someone else should be helping. Why is no one helping?” I felt my throat crack like the ground soon beneath us. My eyes swelled as I pled the people to care. 

            Some did, but their belief was hidden behind their parent’s volitions. Hands pulled in the wrong direction. When the first spot of rain pattered the usual dry ground, some overcame their anger for sensibility. Others denied the rain. Yet, their denials did not stop the downpour. 

            We kept the doors open as the water piled on, holding our arms out for the other people. But they said it was a hoax. They retaliated with falsehoods.

            “It’s a fake rain,” was one excuse.

            “They want us to be scared.”

            “It will stop soon.”

            It didn’t. 

            I held onto the side of the ark and watched as all the progress melted under politics. The water splashed against my cheeks. I collected the rainwater and watched the others drown without malice. I assumed if I held contempt, it would be easier to move on, but I couldn't hate them, because those who refused were also drowning children, who believed but had no authority, and adults who were not allowed to learn. 

            I trace pictures onto the stone, paint my wishes into existence, a place where progress isn’t shattered by progress. The red from the berries outline a girl like me, who should not have to be the one to speak. I close my palms, hoping one day authority will act on clemency.

 

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Katherine DeGilio is a writer, literary agent intern, and optimist. Her work can be found in Third Wednesday and Fifty Word Stories, among others. She loves connecting with her readers and encourages them to reach out on Twitter: @katiedegilio.