To the many who died not knowing the many they have saved…
To the failures who tried to change the world…
Chapter 1: The Coward in All of US
The metallic taste of blood always made Michael want to throw up, but the taste had went away a while ago after the first few gulps. His mind raced but not on anything in particular. The numbness ascending from his sweaty palms that were tied tightly behind his back, the crunch of the gravel from the mob of men that were positioned around him like a horseshoe, and the thud he heard when another punch smashed his cheek. It had been over a decade since the last time Michael had been punched and the forty-something year old county sheriff hit much harder than the middle school bully did then.
The barn was poorly lit with jerry rigged lights dangling from the high ceiling and half of that light escaped into the night of the open barn door across from Michael. His head bobbed as blood dripped from gashes along his face down over bruising that covered the rest of his skin. When Sheriff Colson and Deputy Sheriff Sonders tied him into this chair with, Michael promised himself he wouldn’t cry and give these assholes the satisfaction. He almost made it five minutes before the tears began to fall. Michael was tempted to piss himself when the bag was yanked from his head and he saw over a dozen bucktooth militia members. These guys were the authors of the hate mail sent to The Social Movement and the death threats to Michael personally for months. Considering the circumstances, he thought he handled the situation well.
“This is pretty fuckn’ funny ain’t it?” Sheriff Colson yelled over the cheering crowd. The younger deputy sheriff was back in the crowd more reserved than the celebrating militia men, but he shared a beer with them none the less. “You’re not laughn’ with your friends anymore, are ya!” The cop shouted with another hook to the body sending a spray of sweat from the sheriff's brow. Michael heaved coughing blood as he whimpered as silently as he could.
Every fiber of his body was telling him to cry out, that maybe a passerby on a nearby road would come to help. Or maybe if he begged for his life they would have mercy on him, they would stop beating him or wouldn’t kill him. When he was first taken all that mattered to him was The Social Movement, the inspiration of this mob’s hate. He whispered to himself inside the paper bag, “I’ll die for this movement. I’ll die for this movement. I’ll die for this movement…” But when the punches started all he could think about was praying he would not die. And when the punches continued all he could think about was doing anything to get the pain to stop. Why don’t I beg for mercy? Michael thought as his vision began to blur.
Bravery was a virtue that Michael never possessed, and he knew he was going to die here tonight. He wanted to think of the good memories he had in life, but the only memory that was stuck on replay in his mind was the last time he was punched. In middle school, his first girlfriend, Sarah, had her shirt ripped off during lunch by a freckled red-headed boy named Tommy Welsh. All the boys laughed and all the girls giggled and Sarah sunk to her knees beside Michael covering herself in tears. Michael knew he was supposed to do something. Am I suppose to hit Tommy? He thought. But he's twice my size. He heard Sarah’s whimpers and looked down. Her pale back was arched over her knees cradling them to her chest. When he looked back up, Tommy was in front of him boasting from the cheers of his group at his back, his hand extended with her torn shirt in it.
“Here, she looks better with it on,” Tommy laughed. Michael took a step back out of instinct, he glanced behind him seeing a hole in the crowd of kids to escape through, and then something happened. Michael wanted anger or rage to replace his fear but it was sadness that controlled him. He was sad that in a room of a hundred kids, no one would help Sarah, not even her boyfriend. From his step back, he took one forward arched his back and spit a gulp of snot and saliva into the center of Tommy’s face. Every kid in the circle gasped and covered their mouth, Michael even saw Sarah glance up from her knees to see Tommy before he beat Michael’s face onto the ground. He couldn’t even put up a fight. Michael shrank into the fetal position and felt humiliated as he was beaten into tears. It was the last time he resembled anything close to bravery and he couldn't even throw a punch.
The tears streamed down Michael’s face as fast as they did fifteen years ago, only now it was worse, because he was now a man. With one last punch to the nose, snapping Michael’s head back against the wooden chair, middle school becomes yesterday and an older bully is inches from his teary eyed face, again.
“We won’t let you and your friends steal everything from us!” Sheriff Colson shouted, with sweat pouring from his graying hair. Michael’s fear began to dissipate; the crooked cop’s yelling left no anger in Michael, only sadness.
Michael’s bloody lips trembled as they separated long enough to send a gob of blood and mucus into the sheriff's eye. Colson yelled angrily stumbling away and kicking another wooden chair across the room. Michael held a restrained sweaty smile as he felt hay pieces fall on his shoulder from the tall stacks of bales towering behind him. The sheriff picked up a baseball bat beside Michael and shuffled forward swinging it hard into Michael’s left knee cap.
“Gaaaaahh!” Michael screamed as the pain snapped through him.
“Fuckn’ piece of-” The cop shouted over the roaring crowd when a balding man stepped forward and took the bat from the cop’s hand. Through Michael’s groaning gasps of pain he heard two words from their muffled conversation. Kill. Him.
The words were being processed when, Michael felt the piece of wood touch his left temple and saw the balding man’s red shirt through his watery eyes. I won’t beg for my life, I won’t beg for mercy. Fifteen years ago he had found a reason to try to be brave, and this cause is worth being brave for, again. I will not beg for my life. I will die for The Social Movement.
Before the chunk of wood could be pulled back for a swing, it began raining in the barn. Michael looked up as a hard droplet hit his eye ball just about the time the screams began. His eyes burned and his nose drained, emptying mucus down his shirt and pants. The liquid continued to fall and Michael couldn’t breathe, coughing, he squinted through his swelling eyes and saw a train of people falling down. Everyone was covering their faces hunched over, but then one or two would fall to the ground, another thrown down as a black figure darted through them like a car zigzagging through traffic cones.
Michael recognized the screams of Sheriff Colson to his right, and heard his large body thud to the floor hard. Michael’s eyes were clamped shut now, they were pinecones with eyelids stretched across them, coughing and gasping was his way of breathing. He felt a hand grip his shoulder sharply and his arms dangle free after a swift tug on the rope binding them. The strong savior helped him hop forward, stepping on screaming bodies, and dragged him out of the barn. He heard the rumble of an old engine and felt the rusted metal as he was loaded into the bed of a pickup truck. The engine chugged as he felt the truck speed off and Michael welcomed the wind on his burning face and teary eyes because he was alive.
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