Pedigree rattled in the green plastic dish as I filled it to overflowing, enough to feed three dogs. Trixie, my yellow lab, rushed out on the back porch, burying her face in the bowl. She growled when the cocker spaniel mongrel padded out, refusing to share.
Outside the dirty sliding door, Robin barked, baring her teeth. They jumped on each other, a hairy snarling ball, banging into the glass, rolling off the concrete steps, knocking aside the rose trellis.
"Trixie!" I shouted, rushing to the patch of dirt where the two tussled with furiously snapping jaws.
I reached in between to break them apart, and a set of fangs sank into my hand, drawing blood. I resorted to spraying them with a garden hose.
When I arrived at work, the Chief told me to grab body armor and a riot shield. Something was going down at The Plaza, and he needed all the blue he could get. No guns, just nonlethal shit, beanbag shot, taser, smoke, that kind of thing. They even hesitated to give me the nightstick and taser.
"What's all this about?" I asked my partner when we got into the SUV-like squad car.
Jerome shrugged his thick brown arms. "George Floyd. We're not even in the same state and people are pissed at us. Never mind that half the department is black. They just see a badge and think we're the bad guy."
He glanced at my bandaged hand. "What happened there?"
"You ever tried breaking up a dogfight?"
The forty-something black man drove unhurriedly, didn't even turn on the sirens to cross a stop light. Catching my questioning glance, he remarked, "They ain't going anywhere. Pretty sure they'll be there all night."
The vehicle rolled to a stop at the edge of a park overrun with white and black rioters. Clouds of colored smoke wafted over the horse fountain, flares burned on the pavement beside squad cars. Nobody could use the streets due to all the angry people with signs. A beer bottle shattered across our windshield.
"All this about some corrupt white supremacist cops not even in our jurisdiction," I muttered.
Jerome shrugged. "People get angry. It's like Rodney King."
"The way these people are acting, you'd think it was Hitler."
"You see how young these kids are? They don't even know who Hitler was, let alone Rodney King. The Twin Towers happened roughly a decade ago, folks seem to have forgotten that one too."
We donned our helmets and face shields.
"Anyways, these people have a lot to be angry about. Everything's shut down, people are losing their jobs, and you can't even go anywhere. You can't go to concerts, you can't go to the bar, you don't know where your next meal is coming from. They can't even get away from their damn wives. People lose their shit."
Outside, we couldn't hear ourselves think. We stood in a perimeter, got on bullhorns, ordering the rioters to go home. Someone said they didn't have one.
People pushed around dumpsters like Trojan Horses, shielding themselves from the pellets and stun grenades, hurling our flares back at us.
"Bet they think this is a damn video game," Jerome muttered.
Our smoke and flash bangs repelled them somewhat, but they tended to get thrown back. The news vans arrived, turning it into a circus. We had to order them back.
All the while, the crowd kept chanting "Black lives matter." It came across sing-song, like the "Let's go Royals" you hear at ballgames. One of our officers started rapping his nightstick on his shield to the rhythm, as if to say, "We think black lives matter too." When Jerome started in, I though I'd follow suit.
"Claire! Look out!"
A sudden sharp crack.
Something hit me in the back of the knee, and I toppled to the pavement. The crowd cheered.
I looked back and saw a hooded shape. I swear the man looked exactly like the Unabomber.
A blue shape loomed over me, yanking my helmet away. "Is this what you want?" an unfamiliar voice shouted through a bullhorn.
The crowd responded like a tardy rock star had at last made an appearance on stage.
A nightstick crashed into my temple. More cheering.
The stranger stomped my riot shield, grabbed me by my Kevlar vest, dragged me into the crowd.
People grabbed me by my hair, beat me and kicked me. The Kevlar came off.
The other officers backed away, like Brutus at the end of Julius Caesar, staring wide eyed as people punched and kicked me.
I couldn't see for a moment, on account of the mob and the falling fists, the kicking shoes, the boots. When a gap cleared again, the other officers had all disappeared, the last squad car slowly pulling away.
I lost consciousness for several minutes, awakening to the sensation of my body being dragged down a staircase in some dingy parking garage.
A rusty steel door clanged open, and the mob carried me through a service corridor, then an underground catacomb.
Honestly, not sure of the history of the place. I've lived in Kansas City all my life and have never heard of a real catacomb existing anywhere. We only had the Catacombs Haunted House, which is fake. Could have been the ruins of an old speakeasy, or a Civil War thing, I suppose.
Amid the chaos, someone dropped me. With aching cracked ribs, I rolled sideways, slipping beneath a massive sewer pipe.
Someone made squealing pig noises.
A bullet ricocheted off the concrete cylinder, grazing my shoulder.
I kicked open a grating, squeezed into a sewer tunnel.
Unlike what they show in movies, I did not have a large magical place to wade around in. Both sides terminated abruptly in a little tube that only a large cat with wirecutters could pass through. It didn't even have much breathable air.
Holding a breath taken from outside (my ribs protested) I rushed to a ladder, pushing the manhole open.
I'd forgotten the mob.
Once I'd gotten halfway out, a white teenager yanked me by my hair. "Aww, piggy's been rolling in the muck! Better throw the bitch back in!"
He gave me a shove. I fell and hit my head on something.
I came to in a large underground chamber, strung up along a crumbling brick wall by my own handcuffs and zip ties. A bronze statue of a horned creature towered over the jeering mob, glaring at me with sightless eyes.
The crowd got silent all of a sudden.
A robed figure with an antlered skull mask passed through the throng, each and every person stepping back in...reverent respect?
The antlered figure drew close to me, chuckling at my helpless state.
"It's a great virus I created, isn't it? Not only will we soon be phasing out the use of coin and paper currency, the virus itself has a very interesting impact on human psychology. A few cleverly placed electronic signals in television broadcasts and Facebook, and the airborne pathogen overloads the aggression centers of every human brain in America, to the point of bursting. A few more gentle pushes, and I'll have this capitalist country on its knees, begging me to take over."
The crowd clapped appreciatively.
"Now..." The stranger drew a gold sacrificial dagger from his purple robe, offering it to the crowd. "Who would like to do the honors?"