Copyright © 2017 by John Wiber
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“In just this past year we have endured six separate terrorist attacks from radicalized, domestic terrorists. These savage attacks have left a path of pain and sorrow in their wake. We, as citizens of this great city, can no longer stand for it. I promised you during my election campaign that I would take action, and that’s exactly what we are doing with these swift and appropriate new measures. I am proud to announce that all Mosques within the city limits have been temporarily closed, and no Mosque shall be re-opened until a thorough investigation and evaluation is completed. These evaluations will be overseen by our Special Committee on Public Safety, and will be conducted by the Ottawa Police Force. Our aim is to confirm any organization claiming to preach religious beliefs is not promoting and perpetuating hate and violence. This is not an attack on religion. It is a pre-emptive attack on hatred and violence.”
The crowd claps solemnly as a cool wind ripples over their heads. Confederation Park is packed with citizens. People always flocked to politicians during times of crisis, and this certainly was a time for fear and chaos. For every citizen crowded into the park, there was an officer to match, standing along the outsides of the venue with their automatic rifles hanging against their chests. They looked like statues, standing stock-still with stony faces and glass eyes.
“I’ll take a few questions now,” the Mayor addresses the press box. “But please, remember to keep them short. I will have to be brief… yes, you there!”
“How do you feel about the security in our city? Are we adequately protected from another attack?”
“I feel very confident with the security systems currently in place. We’ve just added over five hundred high-powered, state of the art video surveillance cameras in the Light Rail Transit line, and we continue to revamp our traffic light cameras and radio wave monitors. Our police force has nearly doubled in the past year, and we continue to have military presence in our streets.”
“How much are we spending on this dramatic increase in police presence?”
“My administration does not put a price on the safety of our people!”
The crowd cheers and pumps their fists. The mayor sheds a crooked smile as his eyes move over the people.
“What does the mayor’s office think of the wave of anti-Muslim sentiments spreading throughout the city?”
A ripple of uncertainty washes through the crowd, soft whispers of filthy towel heads and other ugly words.
“Now, now,” the mayor says, using his arms like an orchestra conductor to calm the crowd. “I know, there have been a lot of hostilities towards Muslims recently, but I am here to tell you that help has arrived. Your fear and hostility is warranted, but won’t be needed for much longer. You elected me at a time when our city needed it. A military man who isn’t afraid to take action! Who isn’t afraid to make the tough decisions, and I am proudly standing here before you today…”
“That bitch has a face scarf on!” yells someone from deep within the rows of people.
Everyone turns violently towards the woman, who is standing just off to the side of the crowd beside an idol bench. Her Hijab is wrapped tightly around the lower portion of her face. The concealing of one’s identity in public was made illegal earlier in the year.
“Rip that shit off her face!” someone yells.
“Now, now…” the mayor starts to say.
The bomb shreds through the crowd like a bolt of hot lightening; a white flash devouring the world in an instant. Sounds of metal scraping against metal, followed by the shrill screams of the mutilated. A woman lies on her side, a gaping hole blown through her gut, prodding at her spilled intestines as they lay like rotten pasta upon the grass. People disperse throughout the park, running in no particular direction at all, only to get away from the horror. A man is tripped and trampled, his skull busting open like a cantaloupe against the cold ground, releasing a mixture of blood and yellowish puss.
The mayor is rushed from the platform and encircled by armed men, his own personal guards who are equipped with the full gear; helmets, vests, and automatic weapons. They usher the Mayor into a black SUV and speed off down Sussex.
A young woman stands in shock, unable to move her limbs. Her hands shake and lip trembles as the swarms of police men and soldiers charge into the crowd. Pedestrians are thrown to the ground and handcuffed; feet on heads, fists in stomachs, and cries of pain fill the air. A man with brown skin is shot in the leg as he tries to flee. The police pounce on him at once and restrain his legs and arms. Another man stumbles past, bleeding from the hole in his shoulder where his arm used to be, the red liquid gushing out in a thin geyser. He looks at her with empty eyes and says; ‘mom?’
Willing herself to do something, she begins to move away from the scene, making sure to move slowly so as not to attract any unwanted attention from the hundreds of armed police and men in camouflage. She doesn’t notice the puddle of blood she steps in, and the subsequent trial of red footprints following behind her. The unforgiving herd tramples on, oblivious to humanity as they do everything they can to survive.
Suddenly, she stops.
Over the sirens and the screams, she can hear a baby crying. The sound of the infant pierces through all the rest, and she searches the crowd desperately, moving back towards the way she came and shoving those who get in her way. She notices the baby lying alone on the ground, all wrapped up in a white and red blanket. Her heart skips a beat as she unconsciously bolts towards the tiny bundle on the ground, her body moving on pure muscle memory, as one does in a time of extreme crisis. She scoops up the baby, brushing off all the glass and dust covering the baby’s face She feels a hand grasp her shoulder, and suddenly she is twirled around to face a grizzly looking police officer, his eyes like black marbles, sweat dripping from his forehead.
“What are you still doing here?” he demands.
“I just found this!” she cries, holding out the baby.
“Jesus,” the officer responds. “Let’s get you out of here.”
The officer escorts the woman across the park and they make it to the street where dozens of police cars and fire trucks are parked, their flashing lights only adding to the chaos.
“I need to get to a hospital,” the woman says, cradling the baby softly in her arms.
“Good luck,” the officer replies, turning back towards the park.
The police have cornered off most of the streets, and cars are beginning to line up as the city prepares for yet another lockdown. A man with a megaphone begins to speak; “Please return to your homes and lock your doors. Do not allow anyone to enter your home without confirming that the person or persons is in fact a police officer. I repeat, please return to your homes IMMEDIATELY. Lock your doors and do not allow anyone to enter, or leave the premises. Please return to your homes…”
“Oh my goodness,” an elderly woman cries from the sidewalk. A man in camouflage approaches her and shuffles her along the sidewalk with the butt-end of his rifle.
Standing with the baby clutched tightly against her chest, not wanting to let go and not really sure what to do next, she tries to get a grip on her frantically racing mind. Which way is the hospital again? She had worked downtown Ottawa for the past ten years, and yet she felt completely lost. The cries of the child echo inside her skull. You know where the hospital is, you’ve been there a hundred times! But it was as if her mind were not operating in sync with her body. The sheer panic and terror had caused a disconnect, a momentary freeze. Please unplug and try again.
A voice erupts inside her head; YOU’RE RUNNING OUT OF TIME!
“Please,” she begs a passing soldier, “Please, help me.”
“Move along, lady,” he retorts, continuing down the street with his assault rifle swaying gently back and forth across his chest.
“You need to head towards Bank Street,” says a man passing by with a torn shirt and bloody hands. His eyes are moving frantically from side to side, desperately trying to see everywhere at once. “There’s a clinic set up there.”
“Thank you, thank you sir,” she says graciously to the man. Her legs propel her forward as she hugs the baby tightly to her chest.
“Do you know you’re bleeding?” the man asks her.
Blood is seeping out and coagulating against the bottom left corner of her shirt. The stain is dark red, and suddenly she can feel every inch of the wound. Stupid man, he should have just kept his mouth shut. Clutching the child in her one arm, she lifts up her shirt to reveal a gaping hole in her side abdomen, the flesh torn away from a chunk of shrapnel. It was the pure shock and awe which prevented her from feeling the pain at first, but now that the shock was wearing off, she could feel it. Damn right I can feel it. A sharp pain shoots up from her side torso and resonate in her teeth, chattering. The dizziness takes hold and she stumbles to one side, pulling the baby in close with both arms. An ambulance zooms by with the sirens blaring, and another man collapses beside her, the left side of his face looking like mashed up ground beef.
She forces her jelly-filled legs to move, taking one painful step after another. She begins to run despite the burning sensation in her side which is slowly starting to crawl up towards her chest. You can make it, she tells herself. It’s only six blocks to Bank Street.
“You can make it,” she says aloud to herself.
The baby’s eyes stare back at her all glassy and reflective. She could see herself in those eyes. Such potential wrapped in such a miracle. Such innocence. Such promise. And soon to be such a tragic waste.
Two blocks from the clinic an armed vehicle pulls up in front of her, blocking her path. Two heavily armed men jump down from the back and accost her.
“Why are you running?” says the one.
“What’s that you have there in your arms, ma’am?” says the other.
Breathless, she holds out the child in utter despair, every breath sending stabs of pain through her abdomen. Between her gasps she manages to choke out the words; baby-needs-help.
The two soldiers share a look of concern and confusion, looking back at the blood soaked woman with her blood soaked baby.
“Okay ma’am, move along.”
Using the sound of the baby’s cries to push her on, she uses every ounce of strength left in her depleted body. Focus on the sound of the baby, nothing else, only the sound of the baby crying.
“It’s okay, it’s okay,” she croons, stroking the baby’s head as she staggers forward. The clinic sits dauntingly before her, a chain linked fence enclosing the rectangular building. Soldiers with automatic weapons sit perched at all corners of the compound. Two of them point their weapons down at the woman and the baby.
“Please!” she cries, “I have an injured child, a baby!”
A man approaches her from the other side of the fence.
“What is your business here?” he asks.
“I have a child,” she says again, holding up the baby. The man stares at her for a moment, then grimaces at the sight of the child.
“Where is your identification card?”
“I-I don’t know, it’s gone. I lost it in the explosion. Please, can’t you see? This child is dying!”
“Okay, come in.”
He unlocks a small door in the fence and ushers the woman inside, her pallid skin looking translucent in the fluorescent lights. The pain was numbed now though, because she was slowly losing all sensation in her body. Numbed.
“It’s okay now,” she whispers to the child, “everything is going to be okay.”
Inside the clinic there are people with bloody bandages scattered throughout the lobby, some sitting on the floor, some crying, and others holding each other in savage embraces. The baby stares on, oblivious to the death and destruction surrounding it.
“I need a doctor!” she screams.
“We all need doctors!” a faceless voice responds.
“You there!” a man in a white gown says, pointing at the woman from across the room.
The man in the white gown moves towards her, escorted by two armed guards, their guns clutched menacingly in their hands.
“It’s a child,” she says, “it’s only a child… please… you have to… help…”
She collapses onto the cold linoleum floor, still holding the baby tightly to her chest. She gasps for air but her lungs seem to be rejecting it. The doctor scoops up the baby in the blood-stained blanket and orders the guards to move the woman into an operating room.
“Please,” she says as the men lift her from the floor, “please, save the baby. Save the baby, not me.”
She passes out in the arms of the guards and they rush off with her down the hallway. The doctor holds the baby in his arms, looking down at the dead child with a blunt but solemn horror. His sense of shock had been dulled over the years, and he sighs as he moves slowly through the room, the smell of blood thick in the air, and the suspended cries of the innocent hung up in the ceiling, stuck in perpetual motion.