The city square is already three quarters full. I keep my head down and focus on the gray of the gravel beneath me. Around me others try to give their attention to anything than what is in front of them. A woman to my left with black hair and graying edges presses a little boy close to her hip, rubbing reassuring circles on his back as he wraps himself in the folds of her skirt, smothering the whimpering sounds coming from his mouth. She shushes him and continues rubbing his back.
All around everything is deftly quiet. There is uniformity about it, everyone's heads cast down and lips sealed tightly, as if Death himself would give you a punishment far greater than hell if all is not precise.
Somewhere in the distance there is a loud bang, a door perhaps.
As we stand there silent and motionless, cold seeps into my skin and goose bumps appear on my forearms. I shouldn't be cold. Its summer and festival is right around the corner. The weeks before are supposed to be joyous filled moments with the raucous of children running about the marketplace, custodians bringing in decorations, and the chance of getting someone you like to meet you in a special place. There should be bright reds and yellows colors that radiate heat, hot bodies dancing on other hot bodies, going with the flow and friends being friends, making memories. But all of that has vanished. All I see is gray.
The fog hand in hand with the cold and gloom invade me all at once. This feeling I've never had before is attacking me from the inside out. My hands tremble and I can't help but think Things are about to change.
There is an audible shift in the crowd. I dare a glance and I see hundreds of heads slowly rising, now is the time. I raise my head and try to see what is going on. There is a commotion coming from the left. I bite my lip, I can't see anything.
After a minute of straining to see what has occurred, a voice pulls my attention away. The microphone has been turned on and a deep proper voice speaks to us from the speakers. I recognize the voice as Mayor Agins, a wiry man in his mid-forties with a head of gray hair; someone who looks nothing like they sound. His voice is bass and it flows like a river. I believed he was destined to have some type of political career with a voice like that or maybe he could have been on the radio.
I tune myself back into what Mayor Agins is saying.
"….agents of the government." I catch the end of his sentence. The faces of the people around me are mixed expressions, some confusion and horror and others smug looks of satisfaction. The woman beside me with the little boy has a worried expression.
Everything is silent again.
They must have handed the microphone off to someone else because our ears are now assaulted with a high pitched scratchy voice.
"This city must learn to cast out this rebellious attitude and to do that we will have to make a demonstration. As you can see," the voice continued on, "he have some of your community leaders. "
My hands shook. Mother. Father.
"Since we can't appeal to the small number of rebels maybe we can appeal to the large citizenry themselves. It won't be pretty people but one bad apple can spoil the lot." The voice finished. Everything was quiet, so quiet you could hear the snap of a branch and that's exactly what I heard.
Four branches snapping.
Four lives ending.
Four children parentless.