Excerpt for Reading: A Love Story for a Nation

I’m doing an author reading tomorrow at Penangpac’s 4th Anniversary Open Day. Below is a portion of the passage I’ll be dramatically performing. After horrible tragedy strikes the former writer Gerald Sanpatri’s life, he joins the mass protests happening in front of the presidential palace. But he comes to realize that this cannot possible be the way.

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“Fire!”

The word echoed over the loudspeaker, and a deafening round shot into the crowd. Screams of anguish rang out in all directions. The crowd panicked and ran backwards, trampling hundreds under the feet of the frenzied masses. Bodies fell to the ground, both dead and wounded.

A second round of shots. A third volley.

A young woman standing next to Gerald grabbed his arm as she buckled over. A bullet ripped through her abdomen and blood erupted in all directions. Gerald tried to pull her up, but she fell, twisted and torn, trampled by feet trying to flee the gate. Bodies—alive, dead, and wounded—bounded into Gerald from all sides. He contorted himself in several directions at once, surrounded by an escapade of chaotic sight and sound. The girl who had grabbed him fell quickly out of his mind as he, too, thought of nothing but survival. He tripped over someone but luckily balanced himself on a gentleman who had fallen down. The shots continued to ring loudly, until they were drowned out by the firing of the tank. Its piercing ordinance soared over the crowd, magnifying the screams of the frantic exodus. The large traffic circle at the back of the square had been closed off by another military unit, forcing people through the park on the right, or up the side of the boulevard which led to Reoux. The military nabbed dozens of runners, whipping them to the ground to be handcuffed and taken away. Gerald navigated the square about as well as anyone else. He tried to make it to the trail near the boulevard which led down to the river and over towards his home. When he finally made it to the side of the bank overlooking the square, he looked back and saw the tumultuous scene, a grand epic from Hollywood’s golden era; it was like the Egyptians had caught the Israelites on the wrong side of the Red Sea. Bodies lay like flies over the square. Screams and pleas sounded over the firing of the menacing rifles. He stood watching history unfold in front of him; a tale being played out with pawns, kings, and willing participants who would never see another day.
Gerald stared at it all out of obligation. He watched it through his tears and felt sick to his stomach, knowing intimately that life would never be the same again for both himself and his nation.

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