Tales from the Apocalypse: The People

Posted on January 2, 2013

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They call themselves The People, and they were as mysterious and intriguing (not to mention powerful) as the Sea Peoples who brought about the fall of the Hittites and Egyptian prominence in the thirteenth century. 

It was a peaceful, sunny day in our little refugee colony when they showed up. Men and women, accompanied by teenagers who guarded the children. The majority of them wore white shirts, with either khaki or green camo pants, or blue jeans. They were all packed into various pickup trucks. Those in the first twenty or so trucks all carried mortars and had red bands tied on their right biceps. They let loose a hellish barrage of missiles, killing the Guardsmen protecting our camp, as well as many people who were unlucky enough to be close by. 

I started to run with the rest of the refugees for the other side of the camp. As I was running, I noticed more trucks speeding along the perimeter fence to my left. These people all wore blue bands on their left biceps, and carried everything from AK-47’s to AR-15’s. Of course, Dodge and Chevy trucks can beat a human in a race any day. As such, we were trapped. They gunned down all who escaped the perimeter. So we stopped, and looked our captors in eyes. 

Another five minutes went by before their leader showed up in a big, blue Dodge Ram. Two poles jutting from the truck bed on either side of the cab bore two different flags. The one on the right hung horizontally. There was a blue bar on top, red one on bottom, with a single white star at the center. Above the star read: The. Below the star read: People. Both in white lettering. The banner on the left hung vertically; blue bar on the left, red on the right. There were three rows of words, all in white lettering. Starting from the top: Justice, Domestic Tranquility; Common Defense, General Welfare; The People. 

The leader, a well-built man, probably about six foot, and in his forties, with combed black hair, stood before us in his truck bed. He wore a white polo shirt, though it was somewhat dirty. On his left bicep, the blue band, on the right, the red one. Green camo pants completed his attire. He looked out at us with a cold, calculating stare. Finally, after looking us over, he spoke. “My fellow people.” His voice resonated throughout the camp. “On this day be grateful, for you have been liberated.” 

I struggled not to laugh when I heard that. In my long years of being a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, that phrase had become all too familiar to me. Each time the leader of some supposed “people’s movement” announced the “liberation” of a nation’s people from an oppressive government, it usually meant an even more oppressive government would take its place.  The People were not exempt from this trend. 

They were also not exempt from putting up a harder fight. Did this man, whose name he never got to announce, really think there were only a mere thirty Guardsmen to defend a camp of hundreds? Either he was hoping that when the rest of Dog Company (about 100 men) of the 32nd Mechanized Battalion returned from their weekly rescue and food gathering mission, he could fight them off; or, he really believed those thirty men were all that was left. 

Either way, his confidence dwindled when he felt the ground start to rumble. The People looked around at each other in confusion, suggesting that they probably didn’t count on the existence of the rest of Dog Company. Refugees, myself included, looked at each other with subtle, knowing smiles. The People were going to pay. 

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