To satisfy my flash fiction needs, I have procured a new batch of opening sentences from the excellent people I know. For this one, I went with I came to with the policeman’s hoof pressed squarely against my chest, which came from Kalle Kaivola.
I came to with the policeman’s hoof pressed squarely against my chest. I didn’t have the air to talk. All I could manage was small gasps, my ribs creaking under the pressure. The relentless force pushing me down made my mind blank. I was lost in time and memories. I heard guns. They sounded wrong.
I tried to claw at the cop. My fingers caught a kneepad. He glanced down, his expression unreadable behind the faceplate; then he shifted his balance, and what little breath I had exploded from my lungs. My heart lurched. I dropped my hands in surrender, but he didn’t let up. I gurgled something that I hoped sounded submissive enough. Finally, he eased off, let me draw a breath. Not a big one, but a breath.
With oxygen came clarity.
Of course. The demonstration.
I twisted my head, looked around. The remains of the coffee tent. Bloody and broken people on the ground. Some moving, some too still. The line of cops had mowed me down, moved past. But they weren’t done yet. I heard the screams.
We’d been there for fifteen days, camped out on the lawn in front of the National Insurance Company’s headquarters. We were there to stay, five hundred of us. We had set up supply lines. Somebody showed up in a truck and brought in three chemical toilets. The Facebook group told people what we needed. Strangers walked up with food and water and potions, hand sanitizer and fairy dust. The air itself shimmered with chants.
I was there to help out. To get us heard. To make up for old sins, maybe. I don’t know. I had nothing to lose.
They took me in, sat me down. Told me this was a nonviolent protest. Peaceful. No matter what.
Yeah, I said. Yes ma’am, yes sir. I get that. And I meant it.
They needed help with the coffee, so that’s what I did. I brewed pot after pot, kept the urn filled up. Reported to somebody when we were running low on something, paper cups or creamer or sugar, and they’d find more somewhere. I slept in a sleeping bag, more at home than at the apartment. No ghosts that smelled of desert sands. No visits from the dead.
The cops watched us the whole time, and we almost got used to it, the stares from a distance. Heavy armor, hidden faces. They’d occasionally stomp their feet and snort, but that’s cops for you. They hadn’t tried to stop us. People were starting to think they wouldn’t. We got good coverage. Anything they’d do, it’d be public. They wouldn’t risk it. I knew better even then, but I went along.
And then something shifted. Hands went up to earpieces. Orders came through. I was throwing out some coffee grounds when I saw it. They lifted their heads, sniffed the wind. They picked up their riot shields. They drew their truncheons.
I saw it coming. We all did, then. Did their skin tingle like mine? Not with fear. Anticipation.
We saw it coming, but it didn’t help. We’d let our guard down. Like it would’ve made a difference if we hadn’t. They were cops. We were unarmed. Civilians. All we had was a couple of cantrips.
Most of us.
They hit us fast and hard. Shock and Awe. “Stop resisting,” somebody shouted into a bullhorn as they came. “Surrender peacefully and you won’t be harmed.” What a joke. I knew that tone. I’d used it. I saw our front lines go down, bloody clubs rising and falling. People with their hands up, trying to back away. Everybody screaming. They had us surrounded. A total rout, but we had nowhere to run.
Then they opened fire. I saw a teenager go down next to me, a bean bag plastering her nose across her face. She was trampled in the panic. She’d talked to me earlier. She called me “Sarge,” as a joke. Not funny, but from her, I took it. She had a nice laugh. I never caught her name.
I retreated into the coffee tent, fighting my instincts, but it was collapsing on me, people stumbling against the sides. And then the cop was there. The riot shield came up, smacked me down.
Things went black then.
But now I sucked in another breath.
The girl was on the ground nearby, her face a ruin. She stared back at me with unseeing eyes. Her gaze unlocked something in me.
They trained me. They couldn’t untrain me.
The policeman standing on me ignored me. I heard the tinny chatter of his radio.
“Copy,” he said. Bored.
I bit my tongue hard, gagged on the warm rush that filled my mouth; reached up, spat blood on my hand.
I dug my fingers into the ground, past the grass. I whispered the names I knew by heart, the click of my bloody teeth loud in my ears. I made my proposal. Laughter from down deep shook the ground. Then, the question.
“Yes,” I replied, the sibilant pure pain in the wound that was my mouth.
The pact was sealed. Color bleached from the world. The screams Doppler shifted. I made a fist, squeezed the earth. Power from it flowed into me and out of me.
The cop’s faceplate cracked, and he took a surprised step back. He fumbled the helmet off. Yellow eyes stared down at me stupidly.
“Freeze,” he said. He went for his gun.
“Fuck you,” I replied, and kicked out. The kneepad crumbled with a crack; so did the cartilage. The cop toppled forward, falling on top of me. I caught the gun, caught hold of his throat.
“You want to terrify people?” I asked.
He worked his mouth. No words came out. His eyes were pure fear.
“I’ll show you fucking terror.”
I crushed his larynx. I got to my feet, full of power and hatred. It had been a nonviolent demonstration.
But now it was a war.
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