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Existential Glass
Sue Babcock

Image ©  Matt Popovich  

Image © Matt Popovich 

We stand together, a thin blue shield between life and death. We breathe, our heart beats, and we pray that we may live another day even as in front of us, behind us, resentment, scorn, even revenge fill the night air. Skyscrapers and concrete alleys answer, but we do not. Trained, adept, our only thought is to stay alive, and so we pray for peace, and we hold our line.

Pow-pow-pow! Three shots echo and re-echo among the glass and concrete. Our mind fractures, shards tossed to the gods and the winds, as we turn toward the sound and know our prays were not answered. Not today. Another volley, harsh and biting, splits our ears. Acrid smoke wafts over us.

Shrill screams and moans and shouts reverberate from buildings and alleys, from streets and sidewalks, from person to person. "Officer down. Officer down," bursts through the radio static. Ears ringing, gasping for breath to fill lungs that ache with the pounding of our heart, we press inward as others shove pass us, running and running and running away. We push harder and faster even as we pass others in blue who lay bloodied and still. Our heart stops, our soul breaks. We are left breathless and frozen in a time and place that our reality cannot comprehend. Sirens screams, red and blue lights flash as cars and SUVs hurtle toward us.

Like the glass-clad skyscrapers around us, with every nerve, every blood vessel, every pore and hair follicle and mole and wart exposed, we are stripped naked to a core that must hold strong, even in the glaring light of death. Pundits and bloggers, wags and kibitzers, who live safe in a world apart, who all have opinions and comments, who even imagine they have solutions, fill the internet with words. Words will not fill this abyss between us and them, between life and death. It is time, we say, to clasp hands and hearts and souls. To understand who we are, who they are, to fill the empty void and embrace them so we and they are one.

Courage is elusive. Dreams shatter and crumble. Can we win this struggle, this war? Hate storms around us, a gale of emotions that we slowly, ever so slowly, know we must control. But we have no leadership, no plan, no idea how, or when, or where. We weep as we bury our dead. 

Sue Babcock spent decades researching, constructing, supervising, and writing (dry, technical) reports. Now retired, she delights in writing stories, especially stories of dark fantasy and human failings. She even occasionally gets published when she remembers to submit. She’s the publisher of the online magazines Liquid Imagination ( and Youth Imagination (, as well as the Executive Director of Silver Pen Writers (, an online writing workshop.