The room was full of sign-painters. The signs weren’t elegant, but rather they were slapped together last minute before curfew. Cheryl stood next to Steve, who splashed red paint on white poster board. A blank sign sat on the table before her, and her own paint brush—a conglomeration of uneven horse hairs dripping globules of red craft paint onto her white sneaker—hung limp in one hand. “I just don’t know what to write on mine,” she said.
“What? What do you mean you don’t know what to—look, you can just copy mine. We don’t have a lot of time here.”
Cheryl looked at Steve’s sign again. It read: You say curfew, I say screw you!She chewed her lip. “I don’t know. I don’t think that line is really me, you know?”
“Then make something else up. Or don’t carry a sign. You’re the one who said you wanted a sign.”
Cheryl looked around the room again. They were in Sarah’s and Peter’s basement. Half-windows illuminated the three-dozen people in the room, but by the time the sun went down, it’d be empty. Some were painting signs. Others counted out canisters of mace. “Maybe we should just go home. What if we’re the only ones?”
“We won’t be. Peter heard that everyone is preparing for tomorrow. Everyone’s going to march.”
“But what if they don’t? I mean, if we’re the only ones, they’ll arrest us. They’ll—well, you know what they do to dissidents.”
Steve wiped his hand on his shirt, leaving a red streak across his stomach. Cheryl stared at it. Steve was sweating; they all were. Air conditioning was a thing of the past, but Cheryl could remember the cool dry air even in the middle of summer. Between global warming and the recent shut down of electricity service providers, they all had to learn to sweat again.
“Look, Cheryl, if you’re going to freak out about tomorrow, then maybe you shouldn’t come.”
“I’m just starting to wonder if we can even fight this. There are just so many of them. Don’t you remember the news reports? Tear gas, Steve. They’re going to throw tear gas at us.”
“We can’t cower to tyranny because of tear gas.”
Cheryl scoffed. “Why not?”
“Because. If we bow down to them because of that, then they win. Curfews. Reduced resources. I can’t remember the last time I saw kids on the street going to school. I know they’d be on summer break right now, but that’s not really the point. It’s messed up, Cheryl, but that’s why we have to do something.”
“This might not even accomplish anything.”
“I know. But we’ve got to try.”
She sighed. “Okay.” Five minutes later, five minutes before sundown, Cheryl dragged her brush over her poster board. Say “no” to tear gas. Say “no” to tyranny.That night, after curfew, Cheryl didn’t bother cleaning the red paint off of her sneaker or Steve’s shirt.
This is in response to Sunday’s writing prompt about emotional wounds. In looking back at my last couple of flash fiction pieces, I’m noticing a theme…granted, the random number generator picked the page with civil unrest for this prompt, but I think the #WriteBackToFightBack spirit is coming through in these stories.