Laurel decided that if her last act was going down in a massive crowd, that was a noble end. She and Dwight made bandannas out of ripped shirts. She tied hers so that the DAMN. logo was facing front. Dwight’s showed a glimpse of a cat above his eyebrows—remnants of a t-shirt that had looked more like a van mural (for reference, check out the Creepy Van Murals Facebook page). They posed for each other’s cameras and posted the pictures. Dwight spent most of the prep session complaining about a wasted Bumble date and how he didn’t understand why he didn’t connect with anyone. Then he added peanut butter to a BLT, which may have been a clue. Laurel tried to comfort him with the knowledge that if they died in the protest today, the issue would be solved. Dwight flipped her off and ate his BLPBT.
It was going to be busy downtown, so they took an Uber close enough where they could ease into the giant crowd. Even shoulder to shoulder, some enterprising merchants had muscled little carts of food into the area. Dwight Venmo’d a vendor for two burritos, which they ate as they drifted toward the epicenter. Dwight thought every girl with braids was his date last night. Laurel told him to focus on the end of the world.
They heard big chants and shouts from various disparate causes all melding together into one large crowd. Somewhere still further up there was a speaker on a microphone, but over the chants, drums, and various other talking, it was impossible to make out. Laurel and Dwight took pictures of posters they found funny or poignant and posted them. They joined various chants as they passed them, and eventually drifted away from each before picking up a new slogan. The day was bright and hot, and everyone seemed to have brightly colored shirts.
Later discourse would never be in agreement about what happened next. It all depended on sides. The first shot that rang out hit Dwight in the bandanna. He collapsed, and Laurel tried to drag him to the side of the crowd. People shoved and pushed past her, knocking her down over and over again. One runner stomped on her ankle, breaking it, causing her to try to slide over to the sidewalk.
To anyone who was there, the shots were the actions of a wrathful government emboldened by its own echo chamber. To the other side, they claimed the protesters had begun shooting themselves to blame them. Even the militants who claimed responsibility had gaps in their story. None of those potentialities struck Laurel as she tried to maneuver into a stairwell to take care of her friend, who was already passed on.
She’d wait in the stairwell, afraid to let go of her friend, for several hours as all of the running and panic subsided. It was dusk by the time paramedics found her and Dwight’s body. The joke they’d told while prepping eight hours ago, “hey, at least if alt-right radicals attack, we’ll be saved from more shitty DC Universe movies,” now rang bitter and hollow.