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PROTEST

With hands squished over his ears, to block out the screams, and shoulders hunched against the cobblestone court yard, to keep himself as close to the ground as possible, John counted one endless second after another.

He felt a sudden wave of heat as a body toppled down next to him. Cowardly, he glanced at the fallen shape barely feet away, face smashed into the ground. John tried not to look. He forced his eyes to peer into the numbers of terrified students scattering toward the gates of the courtyard, the soles of their shoes tracking blood on the shiny, brown, stones. He shut his eyes.


I shouldn’t be here, he thought, I shouldn’t be in this courtyard, with these people. I should be somewhere else. He had gone back, a choice he was now regretting. He had sprinted back to his rundown apartment across campus to get a forgotten textbook, and had tried to take a shortcut back through the courtyard, restricted because of construction, and found many people angrily ignoring the restriction.


Digging through his bag, for the textbook that told him how to think, in that window-less room, John realized it was missing. Hoping he could get back into class before the professor began, he had slipped out the door, to sprint to his apartment. The textbook sat on his desk, ready to be read, annotated, and studied, till his hands were shaking from strain. After grabbing the book he had decided to take the shortcut through the gated courtyard, where he expected to happen upon no one. Instead, after scaling the chain link fence and sliding around the big, brick columns, he had happened upon a revolution.
Thousands of students stood in the cobblestone courtyard, surrounded by dirt, construction plastic, big orange cones, and about five hundred army clad National Guardsmen. The students shouted and waved sighs as a boy on a bar stool, leading the rally, egged them on. The was the only thing in between the mass of protestors and the rifle wielding guards.
The protestors didn’t notice John slip through the crowds without a sign or raised fist. To them, he was just another student who disagreed, another adversary for the Guardsmen. The protestors continued to scream angry slurs at the guards in front of them as John moved toward the front of the mass, hoping he could climb back over the gate. Shuffling along through the crowd, he realized they were slowly moving closer to the line of stern faced guards. John was suddenly standing next to the boy on the bar stool who had climbed down, and was fearlessly standing barely inches away from one of the menacing line looking guardsmen. The movement was so fast, John barely saw it happen. The kid leaned back, and then spit right into the guard’s face.
The textbook hit the ground as the first shots rang out into the mass of now screaming students. John fell onto the cobblestone, his hands over his ears, trying to block out the noise. The bar-stool boy was lying next to him. Was he dead? John felt his heart pound as looked at the back at the kid’s head, which was leaking blood into the cracks between the stones. John reached his hand out, and slowly began to push the boy over to see his face, to see if he was dead. The shots and echoing screams suddenly sounded mute and hollow as John turned the kid over, and fell back in shock.











He stood on a bar-stool, borrowed from the nearby café, in front of the crowd of screaming students, shaking both fists. He made sure his back was always to the rigid guards, to show the ralliers that he wasn’t scared of the National Guardsmen. He wasn’t scared of them, or their nightsticks, or their bullet loaded guns. They should be the scared ones. It didn’t matter that the protestors didn’t have guns, or teargas, or body armor, they had something better. T-shirts, signs and anger. They were more powerful that way. More influential when they had nothing but their unarmed selves. With decisive eyes, they searched his words for some sort of direction. They knew what they wanted just not how to put it into words. That’s where he came in. As he screamed out another phrase that mirrored what the protestors were thinking, they responded to his words with an indignant shout. They screamed and cheered as he threw his fist into the air. This was it. The ralliers echoed his last valet cry, as he stepped from the stool to face the numerous guards behind him. This is my world, he thought, as the students hoisted their signs higher, and made their voice louder. This is where I belong. They began chanting his earlier words as he stepped into the unoccupied few meters of space in between the students and the guardsmen. So much energy, so much anger, so much excitement that seemed to hang in the air making the courtyard seem heavy and thick. He had to do something. Something to make all the speeches and tension worth it. Something that would make the crowds behind him, remember this day, remember this moment remember……him. He picked the most terrified looking National Guardsmen. With a few steps he was staring the sweating kid right in the eye. The pathetic guard, barely his age stared back, fear leaking into his eyes. As the rookie attempted to hide his terror with a sterner expression, the protestor gathered up a flood of spit behind his tongue, tightened his lips then spat right into the guards face.


John stumbled back against the cobblestone, in shock as the body of the boy rolled over. He knew that face.It wasn’t just a face of familiarity it was the one he saw every morning before he went to class, it was the face reflected in the stain glass windows of a trashy bus he road every day to get to his job, where he worked his ass off for pennies, it was the face he saw in the library windows when he did pointless homework, that taught him how to think. The boy on the ground had his face. It was slightly broken and bloodily, but it was his face nonetheless. John slowly rose to his feet; the only one standing among the sea of crouched down students. The guards had stopped firing, and were now cowering back against the opposite end of the courtyard, looking at the protestors, fear in their eyes. The students, who had not fallen to the rounds of bullets, began to stand with him, terror no longer making them press their foreheads against the ground, with their arms wrapped around themselves.
He began to feel words rise in his chest. He stood all the way up, suddenly feeling powerful. The others came to stand at his side as he slowly raised his fist up over his head and turned to face the guards.




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