The Lilac Tower

📅 Published on June 8, 2020

“The Lilac Tower”

Written by Jaci Selby
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 9.86/10. From 7 votes.
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Sometimes, you may see people on the news, or reality shows, or even social media, and think, “How the hell does someone live like that? How can they believe that?”

As someone who grew up deep in the hornet’s nest, I can tell you. We are conceived in hatred. The force that pulled my father to my mother was not love for another. It was hate for others. It was a sense of superiority over anyone with more melanin than he had.

He used her to breed me to be a soldier in his war. Just like he bred my brothers before me. But unlike my brothers, I was born a girl. Good for nothing but making more soldiers in the war to protect white blood.

I have memories of being a small child and being in the house they built to raise their white army in.

From the foundation up, that house was formed in righteousness. In the absolute cement and stone certainty that the white race was in danger and it was our job to not only keep our bloodlines pure, but to prepare for the Great War that was coming.

My father and his “brothers” would recruit new “family” and my father would build another addition to the house. Every room came with a hidden weapons cache and an escape route to the bunker that ran south down the hill in the basement.

When I was six, my parents were building an extension over the garage. It was intended for our new “brother” Gary and his wife, “sister” Marilyn. I was sharing a room with my twin nieces who were only two years younger than me and I felt crowded.

I would climb into that construction area and look down at the property my father owned. It extended down the hill to the man-made lake we had built as a freshwater source. There was a planned window on the south side that was my favorite place in the world.

My favorite landmark on the whole property was right outside that window: a tall lilac bush that smelled like absolute heaven. The wind would blow that lilac breeze into the window and I could float away on those great big purple clouds.

A garden and accompanying shed were at the top of the hill with the main house, along with a playground, also handmade by the men in my family. The trees to make the wood in the garden boxes were cut by white hands. The lumber was only handled by white hands. White businesses only.

It was at this time that my oldest brother had a falling out with our father. Always headstrong, Charles had always taken the brunt of the beatings. Even would smart off to our father while I was getting whipped so that Father would turn his wrath on him instead. Charles was the smartest, and that fact was the thread that unraveled the wool that was over my eyes my entire life.

Charles said that whites were not superior in every way. Charles was the smartest person I knew, and that caused my first true internal conflict, even at an early age.

Once, Charles stood at his spot at the dinner table and recited the names of famous scientists, authors and athletes, none of them white. Charles had lit up charismatically as he animatedly told the tale of Jim Thorpe, an Indian who beat a bunch of white men in the Olympics.

Charles wasn’t just smart. He was charming and strong, the type of boy all the girls fancied and all the boys wanted to be like. Mama once told me that when Charles was very young, most of our family saw him as a chosen leader of the white army. Hand-picked by god and given to us to defend us from the black man when he rioted and rose up against us.

But Charles wasn’t a brutal and cold war mastermind. He was everything I found Christ to be in the Bible and in the shows we were allowed to watch on the television. Charles was kind to me and always making sure I was included, that I wasn’t overlooked as the sole and unwanted daughter.

That’s why I was so gutted when he and Father clashed. When Father would quote the Bible until the vein in his neck pulsed blue and throbbing. Charles would calmly but firmly disagree and quote from science journals and historic texts. Father would eventually break a plate or dish, or strike Charles. This would end the argument and Charles would lose a privilege such as his time on the family computer. Eventually, Charles wasn’t allowed to leave Father’s sight unless on errands.

Once, Charles was caught sneaking to the library when he was supposed to be on errands on his bike. Father made Charles take his own bike apart, piece by piece, and throw the pieces in the fire pit.

I knew it was a matter of time before Charles left for good. Sure enough, one morning I woke up and he wasn’t at the table. He wasn’t in the room he shared with Caleb, nor the backyard with Mama. I went to my perch in the almost finished extension and looked out the window hole of the far wall and down the property. The lilac blew heavy perfumed wind at me but had grown so tall, my view was blocked.

With a growing lump in my throat, I ran to the room where our homeschooling was done, only to find the younger children. I found Mama out back at the laundry line and rushed to tell her.

“Mama. Charles isn’t anywhere. He’s gone!”

I remember crying and pulling on her dress. Mama had stopped what she was doing to lean over and pick me up. She never said he was probably just out on errands, she didn’t say he would be home soon, she knew what I knew.

Charles had not only left our home and family, but he left everything our father had taught us as a pile of lies in the dust.

Thank God he had. Thank God he lit that fire in me. To question what Father and the men said about the Jews running everything and the Mexicans waiting in the woods to rape and kidnap me. To push back against the rhetoric, but only inside. To never let Father see that I doubted his holy right. Only once in a while did I grow too big for my britches and I would get a punch across the face. He always ended with a smile, too.

Charles’ running away also wedged my father’s grip on my mother ever so slightly. Slightly, but enough to begin the decade spent chipping away at his hold on us.

To overcompensate for driving my darling brother off, a newly “sober” Father had given me the new room addition. I was ecstatic, I won’t lie. I even named it the Lilac Tower. I even got new wallpaper. White with black trees.

I was happy, but never for one second did I forget that my Father had run off the pure and good in my life. Little did he know that instead of enforcing my loyalty, he had insured my resistance.

At sixteen, Mama and I ran away. Over the course of three weeks, she and I began to sneak and stock food. We took a sock from the laundry pile here, an extra shirt there. Mama had even bravely taken a gun from the panel beneath her floor while Father drunkenly slept.

The night we left, Mama didn’t even cry. She met me in the kitchen and the second our feet touched the wet grass, we ran. We ran down the slippery hill, around the lake and never looked back until the main house was far, far off in the distance. Mama used tools to cut the fence and we ran out through the woods. The woods I had been told were full of Mexicans and black men. That the evilest people were waiting for me and my white blood specifically. At sixteen, in those same woods, I never felt safer.

Taking a page from Charles’ book, Mama had gone to the library once it opened and found the number for a women’s shelter. We dialed a number from the librarian’s desk as she sympathetically looked over our dirty and handmade clothes. Mama said we had to wait for a call back and the librarian told her to sit down and wait.

While we waited, I looked around me at the absolutely overwhelming influx of information, art, narrative and imagination. We only had a handful of children’s books at the house and they had all been approved by Father. The only books in my room at home were the Bible and a worn bird guide.

I got lost in the small children’s area alone. I held “Where the Wild Things Are” in my hands when Mama got the call back. We had to wait for a red car at the gas station at 9:30. Mama was frightened that the others would know we were missing by now and would come looking for us. The librarian had overheard and offered to drive us to the gas station.

I’ll never forget this gesture, or that night when Mama and I crawled into our shared bed at the shelter, when I opened my bag and found “Where the Wild Things Are” tucked into my things.

When I was still sixteen, I petitioned for my father to surrender parental rights. Mama and I had been helped by a victim’s advocates group and they helped Mama file for divorce and even find a job.

After my testimony about abuse and brainwashing at the hands of my father, the FBI had raided our former home in the early morning. Two agents waited in our kitchen and told us that Caleb had called them days ago with information. I remember Mama’s face lighting up at the name of her son.

There had been a twelve-hour standoff where Father had taken my nieces hostage. Several of the “brothers” had attempted to defend the house with weapons, but to the surprise of everyone involved the weapons stores had been emptied. Mama and I running away had stirred a resistance in the other women and children. Caleb had slipped them the keys to all the caches except for Father’s. Three of the “brothers” died using their sole firearms against the FBI team.

At the last moments of the stand-off, Father had held one gun to his own head and another to the head of my niece April. April’s twin Alice was on her knees with her hands behind her head. The FBI, tipped off by Caleb, had run up the secret bunker tunnels to the house and overcame my father. He didn’t survive but thankfully April and Alice did.

Six months after the stand-off, the news people had all left, leaving Mama with some money they had given her for telling them her story. Caleb had also given Mama money from the White Army when the judge granted him the house and Father’s estate. He and his wife Michelle moved right across the street from our new house and my nieces and I are going to attend high school together in the fall.

We will all be freshmen, even though other girls my age are juniors. The school district people told Mama that they were impressed with my fast learning and reading comprehension but socially it would be best to be with those a little younger.

Six months to the day. That’s when the FBI men came to talk to Mama one day. This wasn’t uncommon as they came a lot, these two men. Agent Wiltshire was the first black person I had ever met in real life. Years drilled into my head about how angry and brutish the black men were, stood no chance against the warm and gregarious nature of Agent Wiltshire. He and his partner, Agent Stevens, were sitting at the kitchen table when their voices dropped low. Mama asked me to go across the street and wait for me at Caleb’s house.

Even across both front yards, across two lanes of our wide street, I still heard Mama’s scream. It wasn’t like when Father would hit her, or even like when she could scream in her sleep at the shelter. It was the most horrible sound I ever heard in my life. Caleb tried to keep me from going, but I ran across the street and into my home as fast as I could. Mama was on the floor, in a heap.

The ambulance men said she was in shock and would be just fine. They said they gave her medicine to sleep. Caleb promised me he would take me to the hospital but first, he said, we had to talk.

I couldn’t understand why Caleb was so upset, if Mama had just fainted. I felt a panic in my chest as he led me to the bedroom and closed the door behind us.

“Maggie,” he said in a tone I had never heard.

“Maggie,” he began again, but his voice broke. I had never seen Caleb cry before. I felt the panic begin to crawl in all directions all over my body.

“What? What is it, Caleb?!” I had asked, my voice screeching.

“Maggie. When they searched the house. They searched your room. The lilac tower. There was a weapon’s cache with a gun in it,” he said, shaking as he spoke.

I waited for the pieces to fall into place but they didn’t. Every room had a panel with a weapons compartment. When Father built what would become my room, of course there was a hidden panel somewhere.

Ten years and I had never thought about it. Ten years of hiding up in that room, with its windows and its lilac smell. Ten years of growing out of the dirt and into the light. Ten years of keeping my Father’s poison at bay. Of laying awake at night and dreaming I had run away like Charles.

“I thought you cleared the house of the weapons before the raid. The FBI said you were the one who fed them information from the inside. Why didn’t you take that one too?” I asked.

“I didn’t know there was one,” Caleb said, sitting on the bed next to me, his body sinking further down than I thought it would.

“Father told me that in the event of the war, that I was to get to and protect you first, because there was no weapon in your room. He said when he built it, he was so distracted by Charles’ disappearance that he never built a secret compartment.”

I felt the rage build up and spill out my mouth in a scream,

“He never gave a damn about Charles! He was happy when he ran away!” I screamed, standing over Caleb and sobbing. Caleb stood up and put his hands on my shoulders.

“Magpie.” He whispered my nickname in such a soft tone, I went silent. “Maggie. He lied. He lied to me. He lied to all of us. Magpie, look at me.”

I did. Part of me wishes I hadn’t. That I never heard what I heard next.

“Maggie. The night Charles went away… Father took him to the bunker. He. He shot him. He killed Charles.” Caleb crumpled into sobs and I momentarily wanted to hit him for not stopping it, for not saving Charles, for telling me.

Caleb took a deep breath and there was a soft knock on the door. Agent Stevens stood in the doorway and saw Caleb in a sobbing mess. He took me to the kitchen, sat me at the table and looked me in the eye.

“Some people may not want you to know this. That maybe you’ve been through too much. But I know your story and I think you can handle pretty much anything, Maggie.”

He slid an envelope across the table at me. Inside were photographs. I recognized the floor. It was my room. There were small yellow tags with numbers on the fourth panel of wood past my bed. It was the compartment.

The next photo showed a handgun inside the compartment. It also had yellow squares with numbers next to it.

“Maggie, I need you to brace yourself. That gun killed your brother. You slept next to it for ten years. That can be a lot to hear.”

I lifted the picture and started to pick up the next when Caleb ran in.

“No,” he said, and ripped the envelope and photos from my hand.

“She needs to know,” Agent Stevens said, as he stood up.

“No!” Caleb screamed and went to grab Agent Stevens. I had never seen Caleb angry before.

But in his anger, Caleb had dropped the photographs and one had slid across the floor. It was my wallpaper. Small trees with tire swings in a repeated pattern.

It was a square ripped away, dark rotting drywall and house innards. Several yellow tags in an oval inside the dark rectangle. And inside the dark rectangle was the corpse of my brother Charles.

I don’t remember screaming, but they tell me I did. Mama and I spent that night in the hospital, in a shared room, with Caleb sleeping in a chair between us.

The night he murdered him, my father had sealed my brother’s body in the wall in my room. One last and lasting grip on my life from beyond the grave – my father had tortured and terrified me one last time. He knew my beloved brother, the good and the pure, had been rotting away in my walls all those years.

Any time I had gotten too smart with him, he’d given me a knowing smirk after my beating. Only then, with that photograph in my hand, did I know what that smirk meant.

We buried Charles, of course. I visited the grave this morning and left him some lilacs. Mama is very healthy, but sad. I hear her cry at night sometimes and I go in and lie with her like those nights at the shelter. I turn on the light in her room and I read “Where the Wild Things Are” to her until she falls asleep again. Most nights, I look across the street and see the light on in Caleb’s room, too.

Rating: 9.86/10. From 7 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Jaci Selby
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Jaci Selby

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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3 years ago

reminds me of there in the walls

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