When All the Flags of Injustice Wave as One
by Kurt Newton

750 words

The march began at noon. The fascists, the bigots, the racists, and the just plain angry—all gathered at the city's municipal parking lot and headed toward the capital. Each carried a flag, a tall, billowy red flag emblazoned with the symbol of their rage: a giant white fist.

         

A fist for our country! A fist for the first! A fist down the throat of those damn foreigners!

         

Not a proper rhyme, but the chant was crudely effective. To them it was patriotic. It was nationalistic ("the first" referring to the Founding Fathers). And it identified the enemy in no uncertain terms: immigrants. It was the kind of hysteria that rose from the bitter ennui that accompanied any great economic downturn. And there was no indication that it would get better before it got worse.

         

The marchers, numbering in the thousands, filled the streets, blocking traffic. They brought the city to a virtual standstill. There were just too many for the riot police to stop; the best they could hope for was to simply contain the herd. But, on orders from the mayor, if the situation spiraled out of control, they were prepared to use whatever force necessary to minimize the damage.

         

News crews and counter-protesters waited at the capital in anticipation of the inevitable confrontation.

         

"A fist for our country! A fist for the first! A fist down the throat of those damn foreigners!" The marchers chanted proudly, flags waving in a great sea of red. From the news choppers above, it appeared like a river of blood flowing through the downtown streets. And then a curious thing began to happen. The flags began to twist and bend.

         

At first, it appeared a wind was responsible—a sudden gust kicked up by an approaching storm front. But, no, the sky was clear and blue. It wasn't long before the marchers realized their flags had taken on a life of their own.

          Poles were yanked from the marchers' hands as the flags knotted together, creating a crude lattice structure—a makeshift underbelly. The flags joined at the corners and billowed upward like the segments of a giant serpentine beast. They then began to move as one, skimming the outstretched hands of the marchers, undulating like an immense Chinese dragon. As portions of the monstrosity rose, other portions came crashing down, bludgeoning those beneath it. It appeared to be attempting to take flight.

         

Those at the scene who were able to overcome the initial shock of what was happening ran. Others rushed to the aid of those fallen, regardless of their differences. For the riot police, the chaos of the moment required a response. Instead of crowd control, the armor-wearing officers opened fire on the flag monster with rubber bullets as the creature repeatedly tried to gain purchase on the minimal air currents that moved between the city's high-rise buildings and parking garages.

         

Windows were shattered. Car alarms sounded. Hydrants ruptured, sending geysers of water toward the sky, dampening the flags, weighing the beast down.

         

The beast let out a screech, a cry of frustration at both the attack by police and its inability to take flight. It appeared intent on freeing itself of the cumbersome nature of its earthbound material existence.

         

Witnessing the hydrant's dampening effect, the riot police quickly repositioned their water cannon and aimed at the monster's head. The blast knocked it sideways, temporarily caving in its skull. The beast arched upwards to try and avoid the attack. Flags snagged on traffic lights and uprooted signposts. Again it cried out, as if realizing it would never reach the sky. It was the sound of brakes squealing, a thousand funeral mourners wailing, a large animal dying.

         

By now, most of the marchers had fled to the safety of city's park to watch the spectacle, forgetting, for the time being, the anger that had brought them there.

         

The beast was at last subdued.

         

Ten city blocks were cordoned off. It took several days to destroy the flag monster. Parts of the beast still attempted to rise, fluttering in sudden spasms. But it was cut into pieces, removed in small, separate piles, taken to the local incinerator and burned.

         

It was later discovered that the flags were made in Malaysia, Indonesia, India, and China; made in sweat shop factories by laborers too poor, too powerless to protest. The irony was not lost on the organizers of the march, and it was promised that, next time, the flags would be American made.

Kurt Newton's fiction often straddles the boundary between the dark and the surreal. His work has appeared in Cafe Irreal, The Wild Word, Fudoki, The Arcanist and Unity Vol. 1.