The bodies swayed in the cold January wind on the gallows the mob built. Tanks and military vans swarmed the National Mall as the angry crowd surged, shots of gunfire in the background.

I grabbed Erin’s arm and pulled her away as the crowd surged against military might. The same forces surrounded the White House and demanded surrender. Over a loudspeaker, the guard announced that the District of Columbia would be under lockdown until further notice and for the crowd to disperse, followed by more gunfire.
Erin and I were tourists from California. But the surging mob ruined our vacation plans. The bomb forced a hole in the capitol building as the angry mob marched through, followed by screams, gunfire, and hanging bodies.

We ran toward the metro station, hoping to reach our hotel room safely. A crowd was already clogging the metro station. They carried Confederate and Nazi flags and demanded their leader’s release.\

A man in military fatigues yelled orders to the crowd through a loudspeaker. Another man, wearing a thin blue line shirt, shot the man on the intercom, and the crowd trampled over him toward the trains.

My heart caught in my throat, and Erin screamed as we ran up back the steep stairway to the city above, fighting through the frightened crowd. Another man in military fatigues waited at the top of the stairs, waving people past. A black van rested behind him.

“I’m going to need your ID,” he said.

Erin and I handed my state ID to the man in fatigues. He glanced over mine. He paused and searched Erin’s ID with more scrutiny.

“It says your name is Aaron?” he flipped the card, showing a picture of a young man.

“It was,” stammered Erin. “I’m transgender. We’re just trying to get to our hotel. Could you please let us through?” tears formed in her eyes.

The man’s eyes narrowed as he glared at Erin with hatred and disgust.

“Guys, we have a groomer,” he barked as he pulled Erin away from me and threw her down the stairs. She tumbled toward the bottom before landing in the crowd below.

“This is the beginning of your reeducation,” screamed the man in fatigues.
I screamed in horror as the crowd trampled Erin and tore her to pieces. I squeezed my eyes shut, preparing for him to throw me into the mob.

“That’s what happens if you fall out of line and don’t obey,” said the man in fatigue as he squeezed my face and petted my hair.

“We can save you,” he murmured as he zip-tied my hands behind my back and threw me in the back of the van.

There were six other women in the van with me, all with bruised faces and tears in their eyes. I only wanted to go to a few museums and listen to a few speeches. Erin was dead, and it was my fault for bringing her here.

Around me, everything burned, and gunshots sounded. This was America. This wasn’t supposed to happen here. The actual military would fix this, and we would have peace. But as the van took off, I knew I would never see California or my family again.

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