A girl in her early 20s
“From every mountainside, let freedom ring!”
- Martin Luther King Junior
A girl in her early 20s
It’s 7:00 am. Her dad has gone to work already. She tiptoes out of the bedroom, and is careful not to wake her mom and brother up. Her dad makes sure mom to not let her escape this time. Her brother is in the bed, sounds asleep, a superman toy in his hand. She sighs and whispers to herself, “if only superheroes existed and saved us all from this hell”. She changes the clothes, puts on the mask, and leaves the house.
Unlike the usual bustling environment, it is quiet on the street. She takes a deep breath and checks around to make sure there is no danger in sight and starts taking on her journey. The crackdowns on protestors are becoming more brutal, and there is no more protest gathering in her ward so she is joining the group of her friends in a different area.
She keeps marching along the desolate street. Some stray dogs wander around, and crow on utility poles, all seem to be more alive than she is. Loneliness creeps in, and she plugs her earphone and loops the playlist. Freddie Mercury’s voice relaxes her, “Mama, oooh, Didn’t mean to make you cry If I’m not back again this time tomorrow,…..”
Suddenly, gunshots ring in her ears and bring her back to a conscious state. The protest spot is just around the corner, and she is worried about her friend. She picks up her pace and just realizes something. “Damn it! Forgot the helmet at home!”
A man in his 50s
He has been driving around on the empty roads all morning with no passenger on the bus. He sees the traffic light ahead showing the red signal. He puts the bus to a stop before realizing there is also no vehicle on the roads. He smiles to himself, runs the engine and drives forward, and leaves the signal behind. Then, a traffic policeman comes out of nowhere, hands signaling to stop the bus. He could just keep driving at this point, but with a conformity instinct, he pulls over.
“The country has become lawless, but not yet in my area, buddy! “The voice seems familiar so he looks at the officer. Yes, he knows him. He used to chat with him while waiting for the passengers at this stop.
“You know, I have been stuck here alone for many days and there is no one to talk to. And, I saw your bus and realized it was your number, so I pulled you over. Wanna grab some tea inside?” He doesn’t want to go into the station so he declines, and says, “It is hot in there. Let’s just have a chat here.”
He asks the officer about his family and his children. The officer responds, “They are doing well. My kids are not going back to school though. There is a CDM teacher offering free lessons to kids in the neighborhood.” He keeps on saying, ”I don’t want to remain in my position during
this time around, you know. But, I have to earn and survive and stick to this before I could find another job.” And he asks, “How about your family?”. He sighs and says, “Well, my wife and son are doing okay, but my daughter, I told her to stay home but she keeps sneaking out…..”
A girl in her early 20s
To her relief, there is no one lying in the blood pool on the street. Her friend is waving at her and she walks towards him.
“You are late.”
“Sorry, had to deal with some stuff at home. How was yesterday?”
“Thank god you asked me this. They almost got me. I ran into the nearest building which I found out later, as a liquor store. The man inside quickly pulled down the shutter and locked the door.” “That was close.”
“Yes, that was. And, it turned out he was the store owner and offered me some drinks. I accepted as a courtesy and got two tequila shots.”
“You are a lucky bastard!”
The protest spot is close to the main road, so she is concerned that police could show up and enter the street fast enough that everyone would be arrested.
She grabs a shield made out of a satellite dish from the pile-up on the platform. “You sure you want to do this? ‘, her friend asks. “Of course! Why not? Hey, no more stereotypes, okay. We are also in the idea revolution now, and it is time to revolt against outdated gender norms.”, she
says. She checks around and studies the formation of the group. There is a chanter with a megaphone. Behind him, in the middle, is a group of protestors with the protest signs in their hands. Then, there is a counter teargas team at the back with some holding water buckets, one with a fire extinguisher in his hand and another with a traffic cone which is used to neutralize the gas. And, there is a medical team, which her friend calls “healers”, armed with first aid kids, and remain in standby mode. Finally, there is this Tankers team, hers, in the frontmost with the make-shift shields in their hands. They do know that the shields could only take the damage of rubber bullets, but not the real bullets, so once the fatal shootings happen, they are prepared to drop the shields, and run like a wind.
Everyone is in their position, and they are all waiting for the chanter to give the first shout-out. For a moment, there is silence, and everything else seems to come to a stop. The chanter takes a deep breath, raises the megaphone, and spits out the first line which could be translated as “We’ve all got each other back!! Haven’t we?” and the chanting from the rest follows.
It goes on quite smoothly for a while until the tear gas comes in, flies over her head and lands right inside the car nearby after penetrating the back mirror. Those in the back make a quick move, one opens the door, and neutralizes the gas with the fire extinguisher. She feels bad for the car owner though.
She sees two police officers on the main road, standing there like those Queen’s Guards at the entrance of the palace except for the fact that they have been given the license to shoot anyone to death.
A man in his 50s
He hears the protest chanting nearby and asks,” Where do you think this is coming from?”. The officer responds, “Oh! It is right across the road. They have been gathering there for two consecutive weeks despite all the crackdowns, and getting quite an attention lately.”
He shakes his head and says, “This whole thing is a Mistake! Those kids are supposed to be studying at universities and enjoying their youth. Now. They are out on the street, fighting for what they believe in. And, what are we doing as adults?”
The phone rings and the officer picks it up. He sees the surprise, followed by the saddened look in his eyes.
“They are coming!”
“Those bastards. They are coming to get those kids, and they want me to clear the traffic. I mean, is there even traffic at this time?”
A man in his 50s
The police cars keep honking at a military truck from behind. Military personnel comes out and slowly walk towards him, with a gun in his hand.
He is not even sure why he is here in the first place. Oh, he could recall it now. 15 mins ago, he turned on the engine. Placed his hands on the steering wheel. And, put the bus in a sideway position, completely blocking the road. And, he could still hear the echoes of his friend, officer’s sayings,” Wait! What are you….”
A girl in her 20s
The scout runs towards them. He is trying to catch his breath when he reaches the group, and finally says, “Move! NOW! They are coming. There is even an army troop and they are fully armed this time.” “I saw the bus stopping sideways across the road and it was blocking them. It should buy us time to escape”.
“Wait what? A bus? How about the driver?”, she asks.
“I don’t know. I run here as soon as I see them coming. Now is not the time to argue. Let’s disperse now.”
She hears the honkings from the distance and looks at her friend.
Her friend responds, “Let’s call it a day, and I hope the driver is safe!”
She wants to go there and check the driver’s condition herself but her rationale wins in the end. “Dude! Can I sleep at your place tonight? I don’t want to go back home tonight. I can’t face my dad’s rage for joining the protest.”
“Sure! My sister would be glad to have you over. She has been asking about you lately!”
Right after dinner, she gives her mom a phone call and asks if her dad is home. Her mom says he hasn’t come back yet, and she tells her not to worry since dad returns home late occasionally. But, she doesn’t feel right this time. Her mom goes on to say, “About this morning, it’s okay. He wants you to come back home no matter what. We all want you to come back home.”
Tears dwell in her eyes.
The spring night is unusually cold tonight. The sky looks clear. She looks at the stars and wishes she could just escape to space, wondering if it could provide the space she needs.
This story is inspired by true events, and even though the storyline is fictional, the protests and the characters reflect the real situation at the beginning of the coup. The attempt to save protestors by the YBS driver was an actual event. He was arrested on March 5th and taken to an unknown place. On April 5th his body was returned to his family but there was no longer a soul inside. This short story is a tribute to him.