Caught Up In A Riot

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: The Imaginarium


A short story prompted by: You find yourself caught up in a riot. What will you do?

Submitted: May 12, 2018

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Submitted: May 12, 2018

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Caught Up In A Riot

Martina sat at the table, a piece of paper in front of her and a pen in her hand. The paper had a line drawn down the middle breaking it in to two halves. One side was headed ‘For’ and the other, ‘Against’. She had not written a thing on either side.

She could clearly hear her parent’s voices. They would both be arguing for the ‘Against’ side. Her mother would say, ‘It could be dangerous, you know, Martina’, while her father would say something along the lines of ‘Why would you want to be associated with such yobs?’

Perhaps that was what decided her to go. After all, Martina was a big girl now, had moved away from home. And it was a demonstration about something she had strong feelings about. They’d said it would be peaceful, just a crowd walking along together, carrying banners, chanting, perhaps.

She pressed a button on her phone. “Hi, Chris. Just letting you know I’ll be coming along.”

The sheer volume of people that had gathered was far greater than she had expected. All ages, all types, from the look of it; all united in one goal. All sharing similar thoughts. It was kind of over-whelming.

Martina spotted Chris, Fran and David, standing under a banner and beckoning her to join them, so she hurried her way through the crowds towards her friends.

“A good turn-out, isn’t it,” Fran said, smiling and waving at absolute strangers.

And that was it. There was such a sense of camaraderie, the sharing of a common purpose, that the feeling was that, even though really strangers, one was amongst friends. That feeling only increased when the march got under way and the whole group began to walk together.

Things were going well. The people they passed mostly waved or gave a thumbs up; the ones that disagreed, for the most part, just looked away. Then a tension seemed to form, other chants coming from the opposite direction, arguing against the point of the protest. These chants were disorganized, rowdy, somehow threatening.

Who threw the first stone? Those against, without a doubt. And it wasn’t a stone, but a bottle. It smashed against someone’s head, caused a stumbling, a faltering, and very soon was joined by more. There were screams, shouts, and the marchers broke ranks, tried to find cover or somewhere to hide.

They outnumbered the attackers but were not prepared to retaliate in any way. They weren’t after violence, but some got drawn in to it anyway, simply because they had to stand up for themselves or take a beating.

It took a while to reach back as far as Martina and her friends. People fell backwards, ran through them, some with blood pouring from cuts to their faces and their heads. The banners were dropped and the crowd scattered in all directions. Chris disappeared and so did Fran. David was grabbed by someone, pulled away from the rest. Soon Martina found herself running amongst a crowd of unknowns.

She couldn’t tell who was friendly, who was not. She just wanted to get away. The sirens that were approaching from a distance made her feel safer, reassured. Then the realisation hit – if she couldn’t tell who was out for blood and who was trying to get away, how would they be able to tell.

Somebody made a grab for her. Martina let out a shout, lashed out and dodged to the left, running straight in to a blue uniform. The police officer took a firm hold of her, looked at the terror in her face. Did he understand? Maybe, because he let go of her, shoving her towards a clear spot, a way of escape, and made a grab for her attacker instead.

Martina put her head down and ran. She took the first lane she came to and dashed down it, only pausing to rest when she reached the next street down. Dropping to the ground she put her head in her hands, rested it on her knees and tried to fight back the sobs that were threatening to burst out.

Deep breaths, that’s what she needed, but she did not want to look up. A hand touched her on the shoulder and she flinched back, expecting to feel pain. Instead, she heard Fran.

“Are you okay? Look, drink this. It will help.” Fran thrust out a bottle of water and Martina took a long swig.

Fran’s normally neat appearance was in tatters. She had a bruise forming on one cheek but otherwise looked unharmed. “The others?” Martina at last got out the question.

“We’ll get your arm looked at and then we’ll see if we can find them.”

Martina looked down. Her arm? What was wrong with it? Someone had grabbed it, she remembered that, but that did not explain the blood that was running down from above her elbow and dripping from her hand. Someone had stabbed her, slashed her, and she had not even known.

Fran helped her to her feet and they walked towards the nearest hospital. She was definitely going to need some stitches. As they walked one of the anti-violence banners tangled its way around their ankles before being blown away by the breeze.


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