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A Rapture of Ravens: the Prologue

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

ARaptureofRavens-sm I will never forget one thing. In Winter time, when you go to
Wounded Knee, never dig deep into the snow. All you will do is
find the blood left by your family before me. Think only of
them and say, it is a good day to die!
-Tashunkala (Little Horse), SihaSapa Lakota

February 3, 2011
Justine stood at the frosted window in flannel pajamas, an Indian blanket curled around her like a cocoon, curtains drawn to reveal an island of lights on the Taos campus of the University of New Mexico a half-mile away. A meteor streaks by and disappears into a palette of stars, a mere sliver of moon hung in the eastern sky. Barely 5:30 a.m., she hadn’t slept since Amir’s 2:30 call. In a couple of hour, the mantle of snow on the Sangre de Cristo Mountains would turn shades of mauve in the early morning light.
Revolution day all over again. She held her steaming coffee cup with both hands, the noise of the television in the background. Without turning, she listened to the sounds of men and women flooding into Tahrir Square in Cairo. It was Wednesday.
All Amir had said before the line went dead was, “I love you, Justine. It could be today. Then I’ll be home . . . . ” It could be today, which could only mean one thing: Mubarak was expected to step down. The revolution would achieve its goal: the end to a brutal thirty-year dictatorship. Justine felt a tension in her gut—could it be so easy? Could Mubarak be brought down in less than two weeks? Perhaps, but not likely.
The possibilities were promising, yet she was gripped by deeply unsettling fears for Amir, his leadership role with the youth of Egypt placing him at great risk of being arrested. The turmoil in the Middle East was unprecedented, clearly, so perhaps none of the old rules applied. This is a new game, in a new world bursting from the ground up, a popular revolution quickened by social media. But then what? She knew that if Mubarak were removed, Egyptians would still have the military and the Brotherhood, since no one else was as organized. Perhaps with Amir’s help, those who led the January 25th revolution would form themselves into a focused political movement. Perhaps.
Justine gripped the blanket more firmly around her chilled body and returned to the kitchen for the last dregs of coffee. On the couch, she curled her stocking feet under her and stared at the screen. Tahrir Square was crowded with thousands of Egyptians chanting, “Down with Mubarak,” arms flailing the air, placards in Arabic demanding the president’s resignation. The crowd throbbed, like a singular heart beating in concert.
Her vision was captured by a familiar-looking figure in the throng. While the images were nearly indistinct, she recognized his gait, his posture, even his profile. Amir! She smiled involuntarily to see that he was wearing the Kokopelli scarf she’d given him for Christmas. It must be Amir. She couldn’t be wrong, could she? He was facing west, toward the burned-out Hilton, leaning into a small group of four or five men.
From the edge of the screen, men rode swiftly into sight on sturdy Arabian horses and lanky camels, clubs swinging above their heads, then coming down to strike indiscriminately into the swarm of young people.
Suddenly, one of the camel riders rushed in his direction, charged with intent as though he knew his target. Amir didn’t see him. Justine jumped to her feet, spilling her coffee, turning over the coffee table. “Amir! Amir!” She was with him in the middle of the grassy square, screaming, warning him. Two men in the crowd pointed frantically and raced to pull the hoodlum from his camel, but too late. The club crashed against Amir’s head. She imagined blood spurting into the electrified air. As the rider lifted his club for a second blow, he was pulled from his camel and beaten into the ground.
Bloody Wednesday had begun.

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