For thousands of years this was a peaceful place – pine trees stretching up toward the sky, hawks gliding at the line where the clouds met the infinite blue, fish scuttling down full rivers, one might even get lucky and see a brown bear, a flopping salmon in its mouth. But then the bulldozers came, ripping the ground with violence like a dagger cutting deep into flesh, shattering the idyllic mirrored surface of the lake, those still parts of the river, with the boom of seismic blasts, draining the land of its blood. Pipes were laid for oil to flow but no one who lived here wanted this. The people arrived to defend the land like birds in murmuration, huge crowds, a mass of bodies, there to put their flesh in front of the bulldozers. The people were peaceful. They were told to hold their ground and not panic. But then the riot police showed up to make an example of them. The people were shot by rubber bullets, sprayed with mace, assaulted by water cannons and blinded by tear gas.
After many days and months of camping in frigid temperatures, the people were close to giving up but then one morning as a hawk squawked across the sky, they opened their tents and discovered mirrored shields had been placed in front of every tent. They held these mirrored shields up in front of them, feeling like superheroes. They moved toward the riot police like a unified silver mass of shimmering scales. The police gasped to see themselves reflected back in these mirrors – their black helmets, bullet proof vests, combat pants, guns strapped to holsters, but underneath all that gear they were still human, still of this land, like the stardust they were born from and the dust they will return to.
For a moment there was a vibration of shared humanity -that underneath the uniforms they were just like the people they had been told to fight.
Christine Arroyo’s work has been published in X-R-A-Y Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, Dark Recesses Press, Beyond Words, and Variety Pack, to name a few. She lives with her husband in New York’s Hudson Valley with her rescue dog and cat.