Public Order

Content Warning: Contains scenes of violence

people near buildings during nighttime with lights

Photo by Alex Knight on Pexels.com

 

Our eyes lock, and for an instant, I can’t breathe. I avert my gaze to the floor. Keep walking, I tell myself. Just. Keep. Walking.

I walk past him. I can no longer see him, not even out the corner of my eye – my hood is up, obscuring my peripheral vision. I keep going, hoping that he has too. Hoping without seeing.

The rain is relentless. It’s a deluge.

I shove my way into the market square, where miserable vendors are selling miserable wares. The stench of fish and body odour assaults my senses, but this is nothing new. I pray that I don’t see his features in the sea of strangers. I push and I am pushed as I navigate the throng of proles.

Miraculously, my prayers are answered. I scan face after face as I cut through the crowd; none of them are his.

I exit the other side of the market, and for a split second, I give in to the urge to glance over my shoulder. A hiccup in the rhythmic thudding of my heart – was that him? It’s hard to tell. There are too many people, swirling around like dust in a storm. The rain droplets blur my vision… God, I wish it would stop raining. I swipe the water from my eyes with the back of my hand. I look again, but he’s not there. Maybe he was never there to begin with. Maybe I’m just paranoid. Perhaps I’m not.

I keep going.

The crowd thins out the further from the square I get, and I’m starting to feel exposed. Every balcony threatens, every alleyway lurks. I feel eyes on me that aren’t there.

A drug peddler startles me from out of the shadows, asking if I want something to numb reality, and I scream. Against my better judgement, I break into a run. Almost immediately, footsteps begin quickening behind me. I do not look.

I run through the rain, the glowing neon of brothels and tattoo shops reflected in the puddles before me. I splash through them, rippling their glassy surfaces, sending dirty grey water sloshing up my legs. I pay it no mind; I’m already drenched.

I come to the T-junction and my brain shoots rapid-fire questions at itself. What if they know where I’m going? What if they know where I live? What if they’re already there?

I take the right turn too quickly and skid to my knees on the slick concrete. Arms flailing, I crash into the metal barrier of a closed storefront. As my hands and feet scramble for purchase against the ground, I steal a glance around me.

There he is: bursting out from the market crowd, sending several people flying. There are screams. He is running. He has seen me.

I get up and slide, landing on all fours. I stand and slip again. Get up! my mind screams. Get up! Get up!

My body cooperates. I stumble unsteadily to my feet and hit the pavement at an ungainly sprint. My ankle hurts – I think I’ve twisted it. I try to put more of my weight on the other leg.

I can see the building already, and I know it’s too close. I’ve not got enough time to lose him, but there is no other choice. Either he catches me in the street, or he corners me in my apartment. Maybe I’ll have time to shut the door on him, if I’m lucky.

My hand gropes in my pocket for my keys. It’s coming up on my left. I hope the main door is open.

I can hear him close behind me. His ragged breaths. His thudding boots.

I pull the keys free from my pocket, fumble, and drop them. The jangling metal ring goes skidding across the floor in the rattling rain. The keys come to a stop under his boot.

I can see him. And I can see him. And I can see him.

“STOP,” he says, from several places at once. His cold, soulless voice scares me beyond all reasonable fear. There’s a warmth in my crotch, and I know it’s all over just as sure as I know my bladder has let itself go. “YOU ARE UNDER ARREST. DO NOT RESIST.” He sounds robotic, but I know he’s no android.

The march of a thousand boots fills the street. I spin in a full circle. Wherever I look, he is there. Some of him have batons. Others have cattle prods. Some have weapons at their sides but are clenching their empty fists with pleasure.

In seconds, I’m surrounded. I stand at the centre of the ring – the odd one out. None of him move. He is just standing there, as the rain falls without reprieve. The city is silent except for the deafening roar from the heavens.

I look from face to face in the ocean of uniforms. All features the same. All expressions the same; contempt, anger, an insatiable lust for violence and pain.

I lock eyes with one. “Please,” I whimper, disgusted at myself for the way my voice sounds, but unable to help it. I didn’t know I was crying, but apparently, I am. “Please,” I stammer again. Before the rest of the words have finished escaping my throat, I know it’s a mistake. “My daughter—”

“CITIZEN RESISTING ARREST,” he says, every mouth opening in unison.

And then the rumbling thunder of a thousand police officers stampeding towards me. A hurtling train of merciless muscle. Batons. Fists. Sweat. Steel-capped boots. Unflinching faces. Empty eyes.

My final moments are neither swift nor free from fear.

I do not even get a final glimpse of the night sky – he occupies every space. Every inch of my puny frame is pummelled. Every one of him jostles for a piece of the meat. The pain is excruciating, the claustrophobia suffocating. As my skull is ground into a fine powder, as my brain splatters the pavement like snot, my final thought is: No escape.

 

1st October 2019

 

Written for the October 2019 #BlogBattle

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36 thoughts on “Public Order

  1. Ahh, why am I looking for deja vu glitches and Mr Smith?? Fast paced Joshua and I’m seeing a thread in chase scenes here. This time it’s the clones that bite…although I’m waiting for someone to include a Star Wars reference somewhere this time. I saw Marvel mentioned in Shield so there must be an aficionado with a clone war reference waiting to happen!

    I digress, again, so near and yet so far. You might find consciousness is lost long before the brain is mulched too. I think concussion sound would possibly reverberate too stunning thinking and then, well, no thinking at all as it would be a shade late to ponder much by the time the ringing stopped.

    Not as terrible (brutal or horror) as you made out on the BB post….well, I don’t think so, but then again you already know my genres reading and writing wise so very unlikely I’d get disturbed lol.

    Excellent lead up play too. Looking for the one man and not for a second thinking there might be clonal expansion. Again many questions rise…why is she running? Why is an entire army necessary to catch her? All good thinks though…short stories well crafted leave many questions. Often that might mean it’s not quite finished with the writer too. Sequels…novella..books…

    I did have one serious question to chuck in…. what if this is future time and this is the grown up baby of Rose? Now what would be the link that caused state to be so concerned about them?

    Great story once again.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Gary! I had in my mind something of a blend between The Matrix, Robocop gone bad, and the claustrophobic fight scenes of The Warriors.

      Yes, as I was writing it, I thought to myself, “Another chase scene?” But I didn’t question it — inspiration had struck, and I just rolled with it. 😀

      I imagined that last thought being bounced around the brain like a ping pong ball, as our protagonist undergoes the final beating! I’m not sure how realistic that is, having (thankfully) never experienced such an event! 😉

      I know this piece wasn’t too disturbing (compared to some of the stuff that’s out there!), but as I wrote it, I felt it was a bit ‘worse’ than my standard fare — as it’s rooted a little bit in reality, as opposed to fantasy (zombies, and tree monsters, and the like). With current affairs, such as the Hong Kong protests, I thought maybe a little heads up might be the right thing to do…

      Hmm, that’d be interesting! I’d have to have a think about how the world progressed from the zombie apocalypse to a bleak dystopian society! That might actually be a really unique story. I’ll have a ponder! Maybe I’ll try and bridge the gap between these two worlds in a future BB!

      Thanks again!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Definitely worked for my reading tastes and you’re well advised to not disregard inspiration too. Can’t go far wrong short story telling with a good old fashioned chase of dread!

        I’ve contemplated post zombie apocalypse dystopia a few times. Question is more about how long can a zombie exist once there nothing left to devour? What’s the biochemical process by which they arose? Plague or virus or deliberate population purge. Almost Resident Evil there! But assuming they have a finite existence before fully degrading and that pockets of humans persist then the world by then is pretty much in dystopia.

        Now I best get onto my effort!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I know, I’ve often pondered such things with zombies. We as scientists are prone to analysing such things in a realistic manner… Have you read the book World War Z (very different to the movie) or The Zombie Survival Guide, both by Max Brooks? They take a very analytical approach, with a lot of humour, that I really enjoyed.

        Can’t wait to read yours for this month! Interesting to see where you’ll take the prompt. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • I try and use the science to ensure scenes get a truer feel. It can undo me though through over analysing! I’ve seen WWZ as a film, but not yet read the book. I might try that once I’ve reduced the current TBR pile. Even that’s got a logic trend to ensure diversity! I’m hoping to tackle my effort this weekend. I’m mulling ideas at present. I was intending to draw on horror, but this prompt seems to be leading elsewhere. Probably best not to fight the intuition!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I know, I often find myself trying to make everything as grounded as possible, and end up tying myself in knots. I think it’s a fine line between being realistic and going OTT. I’m still learning to strike the balance…

        Never fight intuition! 😉 Although, if my next piece turns into a chase scene again, I may have a brief battle with my instincts…

        Liked by 2 people

      • Very fine line! That said it helps with world building as it tightens up the creation. Overthinking can ensure nothing’s missed. The down side is spending too much time pondering and none actually writing! Balance is the right word there!

        I’ll wager a chase scene will fight you lol. They fit short stories very well…at least yours do 😂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, balance is key! My first few full-lengths I ‘froze-up’ on occasion, as I had one or two unanswerable questions about the world and plot.

        Haha, I’m sure it’ll put up a good battle! Yeah, the speed and intensity lend themselves well to a 1,000 word limit!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ahh… my post advice a while back is push on. Forget editing, proofing and plot pondering if it’s going to cause a stall. As King says, first draft is the bones of a tale, flesh gets added when editing. NaNo doesn’t let you do anything but build bones lol.

        Actually, on form I can do 1000 to 2000 words a day. I learnt that during my first book and then NaNo. Consistency is my big flaw 🙄

        Liked by 1 person

      • Therein is my own nemesis too Joshua. I form and lose habits really easily…well lose them way more efficiently lol. That hour a day is doable. I can’t offer any excuses why it isn’t there yet! Might be the Camps give a much needed assist. I know I can do a chapter a week so what the smug am I playing at????

        Liked by 1 person

      • Gadzooks, I just realised I wasn’t following your blog! How that got missed after all this conversation is terrible!

        I think WIP,s are far more than just writing. It’s a huge undertaking and commitment if the aim is to publish. Short stories are easier by comparison so folk like us navigate to them as a procrastination excuse lol. We both know we can write consistently. In my case the habit has drifted. It’s neither mindful or stopping that inner annoyance at not doing so. Ergo Camps must feature next year! If I do them well then I’ll certainly have a go at the full NaNo then too. I think my next project is sorting this blog out. 🤔

        Liked by 1 person

      • Haha, not a problem, Gary! Yes, I do agree. The commitment to a single idea is quite daunting — short stories can be done and dusted in a single afternoon, after which you can wash your hands and move on to the next idea. (I think this is a problem of mine, too — wanting to chase every new idea!) I’ll join you on that! Although I may still give NaNo a go this year, if only to see how well I fare since my last attempt…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hmm, that’s making me think I should have a go this year then too! Although I’m not prepared as much as in past efforts. Very true about short stories too. Except when they start congealing into another flipping book idea!

        Thing with short stories, almost by definition, is they start fast and end fast. That leaves questions to readers at both ends wondering if there’s more. I take that as a positive accolade on the piece…until I also start asking those same questions! Must learn to let them go sometimes!

        Thing with NaNo, is keep going. Think of the word count like a speed limit… it’s not a target, it’s a maximum speed. If you keep going and walk away with 30K words that’s a third of a novel. If you hit 10k and stall it’s a trial that’s said this isn’t going to work as a book. Both are win win. Some words is better than no words type of thing.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m not prepared at all, really. It might be a bit slapdash, but I’ve got a WIP that’s near the beginning, that I keep stalling with. Maybe NaNo will give me an insight into whether it can work or not. I’m really in love with the idea, so I hope I can make something out of it…

        I sometimes like unanswered questions in a story (sometimes, if done well, not always!) — I love thinking about a story and its characters, long after it’s over.

        That’s a very good way of thinking about NaNo. If I have a crack at it, I’ll keep that perspective in mind. Invaluable advice, Gary!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I ought to throw you at the post I did after the last NaNo. It’s threaded with my thoughts and positives to take from it. Might help inspire lol. I’m in the same boat too. I have maybe 3 WIPS that need starting properly. All I know already will work too. I’ve done so much prompt backstory on them the world build is pretty advanced. That was the 60k I mentioned a while back.

        I think there’s a difference between books and short stories to re unanswered questions. Books can’t have too many unless it’s a serialisation. Some, as you say, written well can leave things open as long as the story arc is closed. Short stories though lend themselves to open ended questions. Good writing leaves tons and often leads to comments asking where the rest is! With only 1000 words to go at there’s little room for filling every detail in.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Please share a link to this post — I’d definitely like to have a look! So, you’ve done quite a lot of the work already — you can dive in to an already fleshed-out universe and just play!

        Yeah, I do agree with you there. Speaking of unanswered questions and DT on our other chat, I want to read about the fall of Gilead! Please, Mr King, could we have some more Gunslinger stories?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Here’s two links to posts I wrote a while back after my experiences. Others are there, but tend to focus on me actually writing something called Black Marsh.

        https://fictionisfood.com/2017/10/14/thoughts-on-nannowrimo/

        https://fictionisfood.com/2018/11/07/thoughts-on-success-during-nanowrimo-its-not-all-about-hitting-the-word-count-iswg/

        Very true too! I have loads done on the base worked build and on several characters. Very daunting it seems too 😱

        And dead right on DT. So much left to tell. Have you noticed all the cross connections with other books of his too? Easy one is Callaghan from Salem’s Lot lol

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ll have a read of those, when I get a minute to breathe! I’ll gladly read any tips and pieces of advice before I undertake the challenge myself.

        Yes, I love how it’s all connected! Utterly brilliant. I’ve not long revisited The Talisman and Black House. Truly the work of a great mind(s).

        Liked by 1 person

      • No rush, but I try and rally positives in NaNo posts!

        Have to admit I enjoyed those two as well. I’m slowly catching up on books he’s written that I seem to have overlooked. Obviously targeted anything that cross linked to DT first though! Ought to update my GoodReads reads too. I don’t think I’ve added all the King ones yet, my bad!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve set aside some time today to have a read — I need to motivate myself in order to get ready! Sketch of the story is in place, with rough ideas.

        I know, I’ve read a good deal of his books, but its seems he writes faster than I can read! I don’t know how the man does it. I swear he writes in his sleep.

        I’ve been rather punctual with keeping my GoodReads updated this year. I had let it slip previously…

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think you already have ergo I’ll move onto the second paragraph lol.

        Same here. I’ve just got his latest one too so that’s sitting in my TBR pile right now! I think you’ll find writing 1500 to 2000 words every day might have something to do with it too. That’s 728000 words a year… if you average, say, 100k words a book….now get your head round that one!! What the heck are we messing about at 😂

        Like

  2. Nice one Joshua. I thought for a moment it was Bladerunner – Zhora’s perspective of running from Deckard, right up to the point she didn’t get shot in the back at the store. Great pace to it, love the repeated “and I can see him”. Nicely ambiguous at that point, repeating in fear or seeing multiples? Sadly my favourite bit in the whole thing, “like snot”, such a great counterpoint to the rest of the finely crafted descriptions, it gives it impact. Definitely ends like the big Agent Smith fight, but much darker with no defence.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Chris! I love Bladerunner — I was trying to evoke the feeling of the bustling city we see in the movie. Yeah, I was quite happy with how nasty that little description was. 😉 Thanks for taking the time to have a read! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • But I thought the prompt just got posted. Maybe I was just busy and time flew by me between me seeing the prompt and your reply.

        I hope to write something next week. Today I shared the “unremembered” piece for CarrotRanch. I’m behind. I might have to change my creative writing posts from Thursday to a different day to comply with their deadlines.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I saw the prompt get posted, wrote the piece on my phone right then and there, and posted it a few hours later when I got home. I haven’t cheated — I promise! 😀

        I look forward to reading yours. 🙂 I know, sometimes life can get a bit too busy…

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Read ‘Public Order’: My entry for the October #BlogBattle! | Joshua G. J. Insole

  4. Another well executed piece (pun intended)! The imagery in this story is so vivid. I can feel the rain, smell the odors, feel pain from the concrete…. With the prompt word in mind, I initially wondered if the narrator was fleeing his own clone (more about the masculine assumption in a minute). Somebody who wanted to ‘replace’ him, perhaps? And then you did that brilliant line of “I can see him. And I can see him. And….’ That was a great lead in to our discovery there was a whole troop of them.
    In the beginning I vacillated between the character being male or female, and chose male because of the theory I mentioned above. Upon review of your story I confess feeling a bit dense because I still can’t pick up on the narrator being a woman. Men can cry and have daughters and be puny, which I suppose were supposed to be the clues about her identity? I’ll just chalk that up to thickness on my part! Loved this!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you very much for your kind words — it really means a lot! Yes, I tried to keep it a bit ambiguous — keep the reader on their toes!

      Very interesting that you bring up the gender of the narrator. I tried to keep the protagonist as ‘blank’ as possible so that it could be read either way. Although, even as I tried to do this, I still had it in my mind’s eye that the character was male — so you were very astute, there! I wouldn’t want to say that anyone who felt the character was female is ‘wrong’, however.

      Thanks again! Looking forward to reading yours for this month. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: #BlogBattle Stories: Clone | BlogBattle

  6. Since I finally got around to writing and publishing mine, I was able to read your entry without worrying about becoming biased.

    A great story. Definitely suspenseful. It made me feel like I was your character in a crowded city. Paranoid. Trying to escape… something. I, too, thought the character was running away from themselves. The “And then I saw him. And then I saw him” confused me, until I realized what was really going on.

    Like you, I thought of the main character as a male, but I did notice that it could have gone either way.

    I skimmed through some of your discussion with Gary and laughed when I saw the mention of the running. I thought the exact same think as I read. You’re really good with that, though. Do you have dreams in which you are running away from something? Do you feel smothered or chased in real life? I’m starting to wonder if there is something psychologically relevant there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, thanks very much! I’m glad you enjoyed the story. Yes, I’m going to try and buck the trend, next month! Whether I’m successful in this endeavor remains to be seen…

      Interesting — perhaps we writers have no control over our stories at all, and are simply scribbling down reflections of our own psyche?

      I’ll pop over and have a read of yours when I get the chance! I’m curious to see if you went in a similar direction — I love seeing where everyone takes the prompts, the similarities, the curve balls, etc.

      Thanks again! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Totally! The diversity in those entries is phenomenal. I read some and think “this is similar to mine”, or “I thought about it, but chose a different route in the end”, and sometimes I go: “WHAT? Where did that come from?”.

        Liked by 1 person

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