We walked until the road turned off to the east and bent with the crowd gathered around us in red and blue and white and boisterous as we walked. We marched until the road stopped. It turned into a broad parking lot and there were plumes of smoke rising in the fore and our group was stopped by a line of men in yellow vests talking hurriedly.I could not hear them. I was in the rearguard. The crowd was restless and hungry and inebriated. I could not make out specifics from the men at my back and to my front. There was nervous talk coming down as the men in the yellow vests tossed their hands about and my comrades at the front stepped closer and threw hands toward the men. I strained forward to hear but my ears roared and chants spilled over and red banners cleaved the sky around us. The Acme Irregulars and the Fire Ultras 98 and the Arsonists and the Barn Burners 1871. Faces twisted into steel and metal and our fear went with them.
A song rose and it was broken in tone but true in spirit and virility and it briefly overtook the space. Arms went up in V's and we could not see the sky.
"Our Chicago, we love you so. We will always follow anywhere you go. Fire here. Fire there. For the Fire we will travel anywhere."
A man to my left swayed and vomited across my shins. The crowd parted and collapsed back around the vomit like a battle wound ripping open and closing and I stepped in the vomit.
"I can't see," the man said as he rocked back on his heels and vomited again on the white letters that spelled Quaker on his large swelling stomach.
I turned to him, the night hugging our group lit by red road flares and stars punched in the firmament.
"Take off your sunglasses."
He took off his glasses. He saw his vomit and vomited again and we all stepped back and stepped forward back into the wash of the vomit.
The men in yellow vests were parting now and the songs and chants and yells grew to a roar that poured into the parking lot and filled it like a oil drum filling with saltwater. Our group lurched forward and careened into the concrete expanse. There were not many of us but we felt like a universe. "There are millions of us," I thought. We were surrounded by men dressed in white and blue yelling unfamiliar chants but we did not care. Our spirit ran ahead of us. The kindling caught and we were roaring and rocking forward and backward and kept in a pack as we slowly walked forward in our mass. The man to my left with vomit on his red shirt had disappeared. I swung back and did not see him and the crowd swept us forward with malice and fear and excited shouts piercing the din. The pace was quicker now and the squawking noise from all around grew. I looked down at my feet to keep my balance. The fires were around us and the cars sneered and we were densely packed in this place.
The tone was different from our group now as their numbers grew and ours were the same. There were mumbles directed toward the enemy in front of us, behind us, around us. Their faces were twisted and the pale light bounced off the blue sashes on their shirts and we were sore and afraid and louder still.
"I can see them now," a man behind me said. "There are too many for us."
A small man with a moon-swept face and tousled hair was just then hoisted onto the shoulders of a taller man at the front of our group. We stopped. He swayed violently on the shoulders and slapped the man's forehead and the swaying stopped. His eyes were a brush fire and we strained forward on tip-toes and tuned our ears through the shouts around us. The noise around us faded to white and we listened.
"We are Section 8 and Los Angeles is ours."
Through a cracked yell it was all he said and we were wild and unafraid. The brush fire was unquenchable. It poured from his eyes and lit the ground and traveled up our legs and gave us energy. A man darted from the group and into a huddle of the enemy and kicked over a black kettle. It spilled onto a car and the coals splayed onto its hood and the cheer went up around us. He was set upon by the men in blue sashes and a group of us were on them. I was there first and perhaps 12 men were next. We out-numbered them and the numbers advantage was ours for the first time that day and we did not waste it. A man connected with a twisted tire iron on my solar plexus and I heard a crack and blood came from my mouth. He disappeared in a mound of red and I did not see him again. The world spun and I rose up and looked around and saw red and the men in blue sashes were gone. My chest ached and there was blood but I was alright. The coals smoldered quietly on the car hood. The camp was cleared of the enemy and we returned to the chants and the noise full of vigor for we defended our flags and our comrades were pleased.
We approached the grim gates and the men and women guarding the gates were nervous. We filled the lot with our noise and music and they did not know what to do with us. I saw the small man with the mad eyes throwing his arms at a ticketman at the front and the tall man with the unsteady shoulders was at his side. I felt my ribs and they were cracked and I wheezed through them but I was alright. Another song lifted from the group and hit the ticketman and I could see his eyes as it did and he fidgeted. A man in the front produced a snare drum I had not seen and the rhythm was hard and strong.
"Dale Dale Dale Dale Dale, Fi-re."
The ticketman disappeared inside the gate and our group ran in the crack in the gate. We stampeded in like bulls with wide eyes and red in our veins. I looked at my feet to keep balance and moved forward. We did not have tickets. We ran into the concourse and the chants were as loud as they had been. A flag pole to my left scraped the roof of the concourse and snapped in three places and showered splinters on us and it made us chant louder. It was light in this place and we blinked away the fluorescence as the men and women in blue sashes looked on our ragged band of red in puzzlement and fear. We were strong and we did not notice them. We wanted to see the game. Men in bright yellow vests poured from exits and doors and corridors and surrounded us as our flags punched into the caverned sky. It was a dangerous thing but there were too many. They guided us past the fear of the enemy and we came into the stadium now and we were exhilarated.
I have seen a war spread and I have seen it die in embers of cold ash spread over the dying ground. I have seen the Home Depot Center.
- Will Parchman