Intimidation

I pedaled into a roadblock just out of Edmonton. The road had been a long, winding path of concrete and mud and the security police had set up a robust blockade to check everyone heading east out of the city’s barren reach. They do this often, to ensure no one is trafficking any weapons or subversive materials away from Edmonton. It’s really just a display of authority, a systematic and unorganized symbolic intimidation. They stopped me with their rifles drawn and had me get off the bike. They unhooked my bedroll and my large bag of personal items and they dumped everything out. One of the officers did all the work while two others watched with their rifles ready. The officer squatted down. He reached in and fingered my smaller items and then he grabbed this notebook and picked it up, thumbing quickly through the pages. What’s this, he asked, showing it to me.

It’s a notebook, I said.

What’s written in it, he said, and started looking closely through it.

You can’t look in there, officer, I said.

The officer looked from the notebook up to me and then he smirked.

You can’t read what’s inside, I said.

The two men with the rifles gripped the guns tighter and I could hear the sound of skin stretching on metal, I could hear a hawk or something caw from up on high, the breeze warm and stale in my face, carrying dead fish and earth and pine.

I swallowed and said, That’s personal property. As a member of the courier’s guild I am entrusted with important documents, and have, by order of the governing forces of this land, a right to carry personal property while en route to delivering parcels, whether it be a weapon or written materials.

The officer stared up at me and then he looked at the other two guards, both of them primed for whatever directive the officer would give. The officer looked down at the notebook and clapped it shut and stood up, handing it to me. The two guards stepped back a bit but they did not lower their guns as I packed up my scattered belongings and strode onto the bicycle and pedaled east toward the long and winding dirt path, the stench, and the darkening skyline. The officer told me to hurry, leave, before any threat of penalty, and after a few seconds or so I was surprised to not have felt the bullets tearing into my back, my legs, my neck. My lungs were already on fire at thirty meters and after counting to a hundred I looked back at them. They were still watching me.

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