Way up above the bright lights of a bustling city a villain stood. Her outline was illuminated by the last rays of the dying sun, a striking difference against the purple sky. She stood on the top most balcony of a battered apartment building, her voice echoing off her surroundings. Her scarred face was visible to the people crowding the streets, a pleased expression stark against her mangled features. It had come time to tell her story.
The news stations stood on the crowded streets, cameras pointed at the woman. With her voice amplified by her cities loudspeakers, She began.
“On November 5, 2014, I made a choice. A choice I no longer regret. Every moment of that wretched day is etched into my memory like a photograph. Waking up to the smell of syrup being heated on the stove, I rose from my bed and patted down the long hallway to reach the kitchen the stained carpet itching my barefoot as I walked. When I entered the dimly lit room, my mother stood at the stove with her favorite strawberry patterned blouse, swaying to the quiet classical music. Bach’s symphony number 9 if I do recall. The lights flickered as she plated the last of the pancakes, placing the chipped plate onto the countertop. The gray marble counter was so filled with our blue dishes that it was hardly visible. It was my brothers birthday that day, and mom was preparing a grand breakfast of pancakes. Little did she know, it was going to be the last breakfast she ever cooked and the last birthday my brother ever celebrated.”
A quiet gasp came from the crowd as she spoke, nobody knew anything about the personal life of the cities most wanted person. The villain paused, waiting for quiet. It came only moments later.
“My brother came waltzing down the hall at 7:27, fifteen minutes after his alarm clock goes off and dressed to the nines. He wanted to impress a friend of his with his new button up shirt and jeans. He had even combed his hair, which let me tell you was a first for him. I smiled looking over his light blue shirt and dark jeans, remembering a time not that long ago when he was still in onesies carried around his beaten up stuffed rabbit. That was 11 years ago, a fact that took me by surprise. He was turning 15 years old today. A proper young man.” An hint of bitterness creeped into her voice.“My mom leaned over and gave him a kiss on his forehead whispering something to him. He quickly ate his pancakes and gestured to me to do the same. We ate quickly, the taste of syrup flooding my mouth. Smiling, he booped my nose with the back of his sticky fork. That was the last happy memory I’ve made.”
The villain began to pace along the small balcony, as a she continued, her voice shaking a bit.
“The rest of the day passed quickly enough. Mr. Burley handed out grades from our last test, the seniors had a class meeting at 2:35 where a large bowl pot green skittles lay in the dead center off the glass table. I’ve always hated skittles.” She chuckled coldly.
“Just another thing that made that day so great. The meeting ended late, but it didn’t matter. I could hear laughter coming from the halls. It seemed that my brother on the other hand was having the time of his life. You could hear the celebrations of his birthday in the halls, the lunchroom and especially in the freshman classrooms. He was so beloved, the light of everyone’s world.” She paused for a brief moment collecting herself. Her pacing had long since stopped.
“After school, mom didn’t feel like cooking so we all headed over to the best restaurant in town. His favorite restaurant, a burger joint. I had suggested it. A split second, a thought that I spoke out loud. A choice that haunts me. We arrived at the restaurant at 5:45. The bright neon lights of the shop lit up my brother face as we walked in and he hadn’t ever looked more at ease. The green light bounced off his emerald eyes, making them appear like little gemstones. The shop was super crowded, but he laughed as a waiter, a friend of his, greeted him at the door with their secret handshake. He smiled so bright as we were seated at the third booth from the right, directly across from the door. My brothers spot. He had often bragged that this seat gave him all the wonderful smells of the kitchen whilst still letting him be visible to any cute grills who walked in. I wish I got to hear him say it one more time. At 5:54, we were served our food. I had gotten a burger with cheese and unions, covered with avocado and lettuce. He had gotten his Big Apple, a bacon covered burger. My mom had gotten a mushroom burger with sweat potato fries. The smells wafted up from the burger, a warm comforting smell of herbs and spices and grill. I bit into the burger, a small bit of juice from the onion rolling down my chin. I moved to get the napkin, when I saw my brothers face. He face had hardened, the look of ease long gone from his features. He was white as a ghost and his pupils were dilated. Fear. There was no doubt in my mind. Time seemed too slow. I turned, only to see a large shape in the doorway, a burly man with a large gun in his hand. He smiled so wickedly when his gaze landed on my brother. The silence was defining.”
There were tears streaming down the villains face now. Her green eyes were now visible from the street as the lights came on. The crowd stood pressed together, transfixed by the spectacle in front of them. Her voice warbled as she continued on.
“I had just enough time to scream to my brother to get down before the man opened fire. A loud pop rang in my ear before I saw a splattering of blood hit the wall. Pain followed soon after, first a stinging pain, then something much more intense. It was emotional pain” Her hand trailed over her scarred cheek as she spoke, in what seemed to be a mindless habit. The villains face was full on crying now, her face blotchy from the hot tears.
“The sup-splattering of b-blood came from the bullet which struck my mom in the chest. It ha-had first struck my cheek. Loud pops continued to go off and screams filled the air. The small burger joint on 5th Avenue that had never seen chaos, was the chaos of the night. As if in slow motion, I saw a bullet strike the table, throwing our food all over the place. My brother appeared dazed as I crawled through the river of blood, ducking under the table to reach him. To give him a comforting hug, an I love you, a something…”
She trailed off. Her body shaking with the effort of retelling this horrific story, she glanced out over the crowd pausing for a brief moment on one of the news anchors.
She stared at him as she spoke, “I never got to do any of it, because at 5:57pm on Thursday, November 5, 2014, my brother was shot in the head twice. His body fell onto the table where just minutes ago, his burger had been. The man moved around the store attacking other patrons. Looking back, I should have done something, anything to stop other people from going through the pain I was about to go through. I didn’t. I’ve never been brave enough.”
The villain was on her knees now, shuddering. Her head was resting against the railing. She looked so small from the street. All the cameras were trained on her, waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for her to make a move, to trigger her scheme, to hurt them. She didn’t. The villain simply continued.
“ I lay under the not so stainless steel table, hurting everywhere. I couldn’t move. Surrounded by popping and creams and the sounds of bullets striking glass. I was simply too stunned. The shooting stopped at 6:08pm when the man ran out of the store. When I deemed it was safe, I glanced around. My mom lay dead, next to the folded form of my now lifeless brother. The green leaves of the strawberries lay stark against the red of the blood. Her once-white dress was a gruesome shade of crimson. I couldn’t bring myself to look at her face. I stole a glance at my brother. His beautiful face was bleeding, a hole in his forehead and one on his cheek told me he was dead. His eyes were open, his once vibrant green now faded as the spark of life had been drained from them. I’ve never been able to unsee the look of despair on his face. In that moment the cruel neon lights played a trick on me, they made his vibrant green eyes appear full of life, a hope I clung to desperately. In that moment I curled inwards upon myself and cried. I broke inside. My head was spinning, the room came in and out of focus and all I could hear was ringing. Cold waves of fear washed over me as I realized what just happened. My only family was dead”.
She whispered the last word so quietly it almost was mistaken for the breeze. The reporter she had been looking at paned his camera down as he realized why she singled him out. He had been there, as a paramedic, one of the first on the scene. He had been the one to discover this small bleeding teenager. The sole survivor of the massacre, a girl with an incredible will to fight. He knew her name, and she knew his. She was a 19 year old girl whose name was Alice Rogers. Her name’s irony didn’t fall on him. Alice meant “the good one” in some interpretations. The air of mystery surrounding her broke, and for the first time in two years he saw who she truly was. A young woman in pain. A young girl all alone, traumatized. He felt sorry for her. He felt remorse for what he did. Alice cleared her throat. His attention snapped back upwards at the young woman.
When she spoke again, she seemed like an entirely new person. The hatred in her eye was gone and so was the fragile girl that was just sitting on the balcony. She looked in control and powerful. The cadence of her voice was strong, and she shouted down to the street “ You can all see the trauma that led me here now. I have shared my story. But in your eyes I am a villain. You are wrong. I am a HERO!”The young woman screamed the last word and the weight of the last hour fell onto the reporters. They had been the ones to make her a villain. She always kept her identity a secret, writing in anonymously, as Lady Justice. All she had done in the beginning was organize rallies and lobby in Congress. When she started getting hate, instead of folding in on herself, she organized a march on Washington. She spoke with legislators, she wrote letters to the president. She was demonized in the press. When none of her legal tactics had worked, she had simply disappeared. Lady Justice was gone from the news.
A few weeks later, the cops were getting reports of some person buying up all the guns in the stores and on the streets. That this person always wore a mask and never said anything of her identity. She would take the guns and never be heard from again. The armed robberies in the city fell. The murder rate was basically gone. But the city sat on edge, waiting for the next bad thing to happen.
Lady Justice returned months later and to embarrass the government. She claimed that she was the one behind the drop in crime, the one who bought up all the guns, the one who wore the mask. She still hid her face and her name was not known. She wrote an op-ed to in The New York Times, addressing the new president publicly. She snatched his main political issue of “Tough on Crime, Tough on Guns” when it became clear that that was stolen from her hard work. The reporters and media had demonized nothing but a survivor of a mass shooting, they realized.
Lady Justice spoke again, this time sounding reserved. “If nothing else, learn from what you did to me. Don’t ever assume the worst of people actions. You are often wrong. My story is one of pain and suffering that ignited a plan, a change, a hope for social justice. I did nothing wrong, I saved countless lives. You are the true villains in your stories you weave for the masses. Especially you, John, as you are the one who fed the fire of hate.” She made direct contact with the reporter from earlier. The one who saved her life after the shooting, was her largest archenemies in the fight for justice. For her brother, her mother, and the horrific club of survivors of gun violence.
She had two names. One from before the shooting: Alice Rogers and one for the person who was wheeled out on a stretcher, fighting for her life and for her new found cause: Lady Justice.