Unrest
Prologue

Author's Note: This doesn't take place in a "real city," however, if you've been to one of these cities somewhere in the world the past year (plus), you can imagine it being your own. It may be based on one particular city more than any other, but...

Everyone in this city has tasted tear gas.

Okay, well, studies put the number at 90% of all the city's inhabitants have been exposed to tear gas, but I haven't met someone who says they've never tasted it. Sometimes, it wafts down city blocks like a cloud when the wind sneaks through just right. Other times it deadens, and lingers in its resting place like a still fog. It clings to clothes, it makes you gag, it stings your eyes. You might be waiting for the bus and the next thing you know, you're coughing and wiping tears away.

Some of the most cynical people call this place "Gas City." Ice cream shops sell "tear gas flavored" ice cream. T-shirt vendors crank out lame slogans on cheap cotton to sell to tourists, exclaiming they were gassed in Gas City. Eateries near the "battlegrounds" feature servers that carry gasmasks, just in case. Journalists from all over the world descend to these streets, hoping to take the next Pulitzer Prize winning photograph, or capture the next bloody clash between protestors and police. Funny, isn't it, how the entire world sees this city as nothing more than an experiment, a case study in political unrest – how we've been categorized, numbered, observed, all without a taste of compassion or understanding?

What are they protesting? I have no idea. Police brutality. Racial injustice. Unfair elections. A corrupt government. The wage gap. One of those things – or maybe all of them, like I said, I have no idea. Politics never really bothered me, so I never bothered with it. I just put my head down and trudged forward. I was too busy trying to make enough money to eat. I had to make sure I kept the heat on in the wintertime. I had to keep the water running. I had to survive.

Everyone's interest and support for the protestors ebbs and flows, probably because that's how humans are with things that are constant in their lives. Some days, everyone stops to cheer them, like they're heroes heading off to battle, as they head to their protest zones, dressed in gasmasks and helmets, gloves and tennis rackets, dark clothes and shoes to run in. Other days, there's murmurs about how idiotic this whole thing is, "Don't those kids have something to better to do?", "Why aren't they in school?", "Haven't they had enough fun for the summer?"

As for me, I don't care one way or another. I'm not one of them and I don't plan to be. Being an unsuspecting victim of lingering tear gas didn't change my mind. The first time I gagged on it, I thought, "Well, it is what it is." A few times, protestors disrupted traffic and I was a few minutes late, but no harm was done. I see no point in taking sides. I have no dog in the fight. I don't even hate cops or their institution. To me, these months of protests are just a part of living in the city, a unique experience I try to accept and move on from. No different than potholes or graffiti.

The funny thing about politics, however, is that it always gets revenge on those who ignore it. Like a predator, it stalks you quietly, silently, until it's time to strike. And if you haven't been paying attention, you're an easy kill. You'll be the first to go.