They were on their fourth speaker, each taking turns standing on a bench, passing the same tinny bullhorn around. Mayumi subtly adjusted the shape of her ear to better filter out the feedback from it, and was hearing about every third word.
She was feeling more zen than she had thought, standing in a cage made of men holding riot shields. She hated them, but not because she’d been brutalized by a cop, not because she’d fought men dressed just like them in a dozen countries or more, but because of the way they glared at her, at all of them, unable to take the criticism implicit in their presence at this protest. She had seen often enough that fragility like that never dissipated like you’d assume; it festered, growing resentment and anger as byproducts. She hated knowing she could solve the problem of overpolicing this afternoon by echoing their violence, but that it would only make everything worse.
And she hated all of the little tweaks she could make to her body, because it meant that she was always on alert. So she saw it, the twitch in the officer as he received new instructions over his earpiece, the itch he scratched as he flicked the clasp off his pepper spray and started advancing. But he didn’t walk straight, which would have put him directly in contention with the speaker, who was being filmed from a dozen different angles. No, he singled out a black man, and his daughter, not even paying attention to his approach, too enraptured in the speaker and their soaring, peaceful rhetoric. Mayumi stepped between them, and tried to put her sweetest, most innocent smile on her face. “Is there a problem, officer?” she asked, fighting every instinct she had to end the problem herself.
“You need to get back behind the line,” he said, his finger tapping on the button at the top of his pepper spray canister as he slid it out of his belt.
“How about you return to your line, I’ll return to mine.”
“Bitch, I’m not negotiating.” He was moving through molasses, so sluggish and predictable she saw a dozen openings in the first second to kill him, but instead, she put up her hands, and went limp as he kicked her knees out from under her. He pepper sprayed her directly in the eyes; she told her pain receptors to disconnect, but it wasn’t instantaneous, which meant all of her enhanced senses hit her at the same time. It was disorienting, but not enough to make her fall. She was done falling down for men like him. He sprayed her a second time, and knew the smart play was to crumple, to ball up, because there was no way this pig wasn’t going to start kicking her next. But she was done falling on her hands and knees for people like him, too.
“I’m done fucking with you,” he said. Mayumi couldn’t see, but she’d heard enough button catches on leather gun holsters to know he released it, could probably even have guessed the make of the gun from the sound of it sliding free. She knew she could take it, while the people behind her couldn’t, so she forced herself to her full height, took in a deep breath and puffed out her chest, to give the asshole as big a target as she could.
He fired, and she felt the bullet impact her in the face, though it was a moment before her pain receptors could break through the haze of it all to tell her where. She felt blood rushing from a wound, no, not blood, wrong viscosity, though there was definitely blood mixing into it, replacing it even as all of the aqueous humor left her deflating eye. The cop grabbed her arm and twisted until it should have broken, and forced her to the ground, with his knee to the back of her neck. Mayumi could make out the sound of more boots coming from the police line. Someone shoved her attacker off her neck. “Jesus, man, that’s how- you can’t do that, not today.” He keyed his radio, and began to talking into it. “Dispatch, we’re going to need an ambo at-” he stopped. “Christ, her eye. It’s growing back. She’s one of those, those animals.” He zip-tied her hands together, then the two of them lifted her up off the ground, and carried her towards the police line.