By Dan Seavers
THE ash blew, mixing with the blossom as it was caught in the wind. A shower of grey and red, spilt like blood.
Nobody knew whose idea it was to choose the park. It just seemed the obvious choice. In a city built from greed and corruption, it still stood as an oasis of peace. On a day like today, the sun could squeeze through the skyscrapers and light it up. It was so easy to imagine that we were so far away. That the sirens in the distance aren’t meant for us.
The first wall had been Their idea. We were just stealing it back. They built something to divide the world. To isolate people from one another. To manipulate them. Because united, we can stop Them. But divided, the wall makes us enemies of each other.
Our wall is different. We come in peace, after all. It isn’t to divide, but to keep us safe. To shield us from the violence. It’s our stand. A way for us to fight without fighting. A wall of words.
We have been losing our words for years. At first, it had been hard to tell. We moved from pen and paper to screen and tablet. Until all that remained were digital tales trapped in a digital world.
And then they took the words from us. They chose what could be written and what could be read. We lost access to the classics, with more and more tales taken from us every day. If the story didn’t match Their ideas, it was taken. There was some outcry. But not much.
They already owned the media.
We still have some original books. It hasn’t been that long since the paperback died out. There were still a few that hang onto the memories within their pages. But there are others that know, when winter comes, the paper makes good fuel. And even the greatest words aren’t better than freezing.
As so, we make our stand. As many as could make it here. Word of mouth had spread as far as it could, and brought many to our cause. But not as many as we’d have liked.
They already control the Social Networks.
So we gather on this April morning. The sun shining, the cherry trees running along the path in full bloom. The air sweet with the smell of blossom. It feels so far away from disaster. As if Their eye isn’t on us for a change.
They already owned the police.
We built the wall from the books we brought. As many as we could carry. Some came with few. Some came with barrow loads. There’s a small child nearby, clasping his one story like it means the world to him. It probably does.
And we lay the books down like bricks. Row upon row. It doesn’t matter who they are. The words are all that matters. Each story is ours to own and place. Ours to escape in. Tales that They can’t control. So we lie them down, side by side, stack on stack. Chaucer by Pratchett by Dawkins by James. Darwin on top of the bible. Fact below fiction. It doesn’t matter. They are ours.
The sirens come. And the police. And the soldiers. As if we are Their greatest enemy. As if our words can harm them. We hope they can.
But we don’t fight. We just stand behind our wall, hiding behind our words. There is no anger. No fear. Not in this drowsy sunshine, with the sweet smell of cherry in the air.
We just want to sit and make our point. That no matter what they take, there is still more for us to give. That our words are stronger than Theirs.
They don’t like it. And they bring anger, and guns, and fire. We thought they wouldn’t be so stupid as to burn our stories. That They still had some humanity. But no. They brought fuel, and matches and they burn our wall.
So we panic. Who are we to fight back? We aren’t an army. Just individuals brought together by word of mouth. Some of us run. Some hide.
One man picks up a burning book and throws it back.
And they fight fire with gunfire. They tear into the crowd with their deafening weapons. People fall where they sit. We fall in unity, men and women and children. I see that child shot still clutching his story. And the smoke rises along with our screams. And the ash falls along with our bodies. And the blood red blossom tears through the air, warning of the death to come.
I fall too. I’m not strong enough to fight Them. To stand against Them. I collapse, staring up at the sun. And a single red leaf blows over me. And I think.
Where had it all gone wrong?
© Dan Seavers 2016