"Insurrection" by Kaitlyn Martin

“Insurrection” by Kaitlyn Martin

We clutch our muskets with white-knuckled hands. They are coming, aren’t they?

He’d said they were coming. Screamed it as he rode by leaving panic, terror, and fury in his wake.

Mostly fury.

I’d felt a shock of fear as I took down my gun from above the fireplace, an edge of bitterness as I strapped on my shot and powder, and a chilly resolve as I rammed the lead ball down the barrel.

I didn’t know what I felt as I marched out the door.

And now, here, waiting… I still don’t know.

This is it. Years of struggle and bitterness have brought us to this moment.

We’ve endured more than we deserved, resisted more than they expected…. were we now to face more than we could handle?

At least they would now know our intentions. No more would we crawl like snakes in the grass. No more would we knuckle under while we were treated as children.

They poked the bear with a stick, and now we are furious. They should have known better.

After today, they’d understand.

If we all lived to tell the tale.

Sweat stings my eyes, and makes my hands slick on the stock. I pick up a handful of dirt, and rub the grit through my hands. I pick up the musket again.

The stock doesn’t slide through my hands anymore.

Will to my left is pale, and looks like he’s about to cry. The boy is sixteen.

Joseph to my right is forty, a veteran, made of iron; he wants to shoot someone, right now.

I can’t decide which I want to do.

I close my eyes, say a prayer, and for once thank the Lord I have no wife, no one to think of—but other husbands are here.

Husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, all of one mind. All resolved. All together.

Long before we see them, we hear them. Footsteps approach. In perfect rhythm, step, step, step. Boots tramp on twigs and leaves and splash through puddles. Closer, closer.

We hold our breath as if one man, waiting for them to step out of the trees and into the clearing.

They step out, forward, and keep advancing. Is this when we start shooting?

No one shoots.

They stop. We hold fast. I release the breath from my tight lungs. My hand feels like an iron brace on the stock of my rifle, and my finger hovers over the trigger.

We stare at them and they stare at us, all of us frozen in time. Two groups of hardened men, brothers by any other standard, pointing our weapons at each other.

Blood red jackets versus brown wool coats; shiny new rifles against old scratched ones; ramrod straight lines facing a staggered, uneven row.

This is madness.

We all know it,but no one turns tail and runs, no one yells and attacks. No one moves, not a muscle.

I see a boy not much older than Will. He does not look like he’s going to cry. His eyes are hard, and he clutches his rifle, too. His back is straight, his sneer curling his lip. Fools, everything about him says. Try if you dare.

Their uniforms make them an easy target, but they don’t seem to mind. They’re not worried.

They’re exceptional, of course.

They’re better.

After all, isn’t that why we’re all here? Superior, excellent soldiers against ordinary, unimportant farmers?

Isn’t that the big reason?

I feel myself unfreeze. Heat builds inside me as I meet the gaze of each one. My own narrows.

Pretentious. Arrogant. Pompous. Haughty. Insolent. So proud, so full of themselves, every last one.

We are more than second-class citizens.

We do not exist to fill their coffers or pay for their wars.

We are not bound to their laws, their king, or their mentality.

My hand slides along the stock, bettering my grip. Near me, others do the same. We’re ready.

They shift uneasily, the first sign of weakness shown. They cast glances at each other, at their officers, unsure about the orders they’ve been given.

Somewhere, far off, the muscles in my shoulder and back are screaming. But I push it away, harden my gaze, set my stance, and slowly breathe.

They’re outnumbered, but the risk to us is high.

It doesn’t matter. All of my life has brought me here, for this time.

This is it. This is the moment.

How long can we stand like this, between life and death, between freedom and enslavement, between heaven and hell?

God above, will no one make a move?

Maybe not. Perhaps that is the wiser—

Someone fires.

One heartbeat.

Everyone fires.