The Terror Within: A short story

It was a mild and sunny day as the man strolled seemingly aimlessly down the sidewalk. A light breeze carried the aroma of flowers and freshly cut grass, mingled with the odor of automobile exhaust as the man casually walked with a small, tattered book in one hand and clutched an equally tattered satchel underneath his arm.

Finally, he arrived at his destination — a small park. Although it was not much more than a patch of greenery among the dense urban sprawl surrounding it, the little area seemed to offer the man a measure of tranquility as he eagerly sat down on a ragged bench. This was his quiet place and even though the rest of the city bustled about, this was a place of calm for him.

The man placed the satchel on the bench next to him then opened the tattered old book and began reading – oblivious to all of the noise around him. He loved reading old books but this one was very special to him because it held within it all of the knowledge and wisdom of an era long gone. The words in the ancient tome seemed to rise from the wrinkled pages and take on a life of their own.

Within his mind’s eye, he was transported back to the time when the words in the book were first penned. He shared in the pride and jubilation he was certain that those responsible for it felt at the completion of their labor.

Suddenly, he was snatched back into reality as he spotted the men turning the corner in the speeding vehicle. Before he could do anything, they were upon him. The masked men jumped from the vehicle and wrestled him to the ground. He felt the cold steel of an automatic rifle muzzle as it was roughly pressed to the base of his skull. Outnumbered, he dared not struggle lest the hulking men with his arms violently twisted behind his back might snap them completely from his body.

He felt the crushing blow of a knee as it was brought down into the small of his back, causing him great pain. The man began to feel his consciousness slipping away. With great effort he managed to speak to his assailants.

“Why are you doing this to me,” he wheezed, as the air was being crushed from his lungs.

“Shut your mouth!” came the terse response from one man who appeared to be the leader.

The others restraining him looked on as another masked man grabbed the satchel and forced it open to examine its contents.

“Be careful!” came the command from the leader. “We don’t know what kind of nasty surprises may be hidden in there,” he barked.

Despite all of the activity, no one slowed down to see what was happening. In fact, people sped up and began avoiding the scene as the masked attackers continued their assault on the apparently helpless man.

During the scuffle, the tattered old book the man was reading had fallen to the ground and a few of its pages were scattered nearby.

“We have what we need here,” shouted the one who examined the satchel.

“Good!” said the leader, shaking his head with disgust, as he plucked the old book from the ground along with some loose pages and put them into a plastic bag.

“Please!” the man begged. “I have done nothing wrong, I only …”

“Save your explanations for the judge, old man,” the leader snapped back. “The courts have no mercy for terrorists … You are under arrest! Take him away,” ordered the leader.

The frightened man was handcuffed and placed into the police van. As the van sped off, a single leaf from the tattered old book fluttered down into the gutter.
There, barely visible on the faded page, were the words, “We The People…”

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