The video is horrifying. A young girl with curly black hair walks in a large group of people towards two soldiers guarding the streets. My sister Lucy. There’s no audio, so even though I can’t see what she says to them I can tell it’s an insult by the way the soldiers stiffen. The group begins to taunt them. Lucy was only fifteen. The girl standing next to Lucy throws something at them. The men shout back. Lucy looks nervously over her shoulder. More items are thrown, more taunts are yelled. The government says the soldiers are only there to keep the peace. If the soldiers weren’t there my sister would still be alive. The group continued to protest. Rocks are thrown. One hits the soldier on the left on his cheek. They fire into the crowd. My sister falls. There is no audio. You can not hear the screams. The group flees. The soldiers do not cease-fire. My sister lies on the ground. I am 6 years old.
The soldiers never leave. They stand on the street corners. I do not go outside alone. There is less food in the house. The window is smashed with a rock. My father eventually stops trying to replace it. My mother grieves for Lucy. The only image of her face I have is the one in the video. I listen from the stairs. My father talks to my mother. His voice is tense with anger. The soldiers were never punished. He leaves the house. He never comes back. We only see him one more time through thick plexiglass. Assault. I am 10 years old.
I join the protest. My mother begs me to stay at home. I do not listen. We hurt the soldiers like they hurt us. We loot the government buildings and harass the soldiers. I do not care if I die. Anything is better than living here. My Protest leader puts me in charge of a run. We stand in the cold outside the army recruiting center. The snow on the ground is brown. The smell of cigarettes is terribly strong. I hurl a brick through the window. Glass shatters on the street. Alarms blare. A small piece embeds itself in my hand. I leap into the store. My group gathers the papers. The flash of a lighter in the dark. The burn of the flames catches on the edge of the carpet. A trooper car pulls up outside. We flee. The building burns. I am 14 years old.
We move through the streets. The gun on my belt is heavy. My heart races. The men ahead of me move with purpose. The army uniform feels wrong. I pass a soldier with a blue cap. He tugs his left ear. I glance at my watch. Five minutes. The click of the army boots around me is like the chirp of insects. The time passes. I fire. They fall. A bullet clips me in the leg and I fall to the ground. I do not cease-fire. I watch the men fall. I do not care for them. They killed my sister, took my father, and broke my mother. They will pay. I lie on the hard gravel as the man with the blue cap helps me to my feet. It is finished. We have won. I am 18 years old.
I stand on the corner of a street. The sky is dark but the lights of the city flicker through like the fireflies I caught before Lucy died. Jacob stands beside me, in the uniform of The Protest. My leg is still weak from the bullet I took as a teenager fighting in The War. The rebels from the old government still fight, but their cause is lost. They approach us now, as we stand on the street. They yell, they scream. They are younger than I am, they have not suffered as I have. A brick sails past my ear. Jacob doubles over from a rock to the stomach. I yell a warning. They do not listen. They never listen. Another brick hits my weak leg and I fire. The rebels fall. I hit a young girl in the back as she turns to flee. She collapses to the ground. I do not cease-fire. I am 21 years old.