Charlie skulked from building to building. He had to avoid the middle of the street and stay as close to the buildings as he could and off the main sidewalks. Gunfire rang out a block away. Charlie flinched at the pops. 

Citizens protecting themselves. Taxpayers at work, he thought.

He could see a huddled mass near an alley about a block away. There weren’t a lot of police on patrol that day. Not much they could do against a hail of gunfire, especially with only one or two on the force that day. Charlie didn’t see any law enforcement near the people, not even private security, only a lot of folks with bug eyes, terrified they might drop dead any second. Luckily a few of them were armed. They carried rifles slung over their shoulder, had pistols at their hips, and had no problem shooting anyone who looked like they might be bad news.

Charlie packed too. He’d gotten a pistol on pay day, two days before the last bombing and a week after the last school shooting. Before heading out he loaded his pockets with ammo. It wasn’t cheap, but it made him feel better. No one wanted to be a cop anymore. Bullets tore into the concrete wall near him. Looking over his shoulder, he realized there were a bunch of people on the rooftop across the plaza. Charlie thought about being a cop once, but the pay wasn’t great considering the danger. Another bullet took out a window a hundred feet from him.

Not a good day to be out, he thought.  He made his way to the crowd and waited in line. They were shuffling inside, thankfully out of view of the people on the roof. An older woman held her right shoulder. Blood dripped from a wound there. One of the armed men watched her suspiciously. A shiny-headed bald man stood next to him, also armed. He flexed a cold stare in Charlie’s direction.

“Are you even registered to vote?” the man asked him.

He looks like a turkey vulture, Charlie thought. He’s like one of those birds that feed on the dead. They have no feathers from the neck up, only mottled, nasty flesh. It’s so they can stick their entire head inside dead animals. He’s looking at me like I’m a dead animal.

Charlie nodded. “Of course I am.”

“Let’s see your voter identification card then,” the turkey vulture replied.

“Are you with the elections office?”

The man laughed, “Are you?”

Charlie reached into his back pocket. “It’s fine. I’ll show you. I’m only here to vote.”

“He’s going for a gun!”

And then Charlie was dead.

Published by Patrick Whitehurst