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By: Richard Jeter

The wind whistles around her, whips at her skirt, updrafts in cyclones through her hair. Tousles it. Blows strands into eyes that stare at nothing in particular. She does not blink. She does not make any effort to remove them. She just keeps staring, fixated, at the office windows across the street. They’re beginning to notice her now. There is confusion, some laughter, some concern. It’s New Orleans. If this is the strangest thing they see all day, they’ll probably be doing alright.

She waits. She is patient. She has nothing but time now. Because they can’t reach her. Not the people across the street. Not her pursuers. For the first time in years, she is motionless and unafraid. Time is all she has left, and she doesn’t have a whole lot of that either.

Her gaze shifts, finally, slowly, deliberately. She glances down, over the edge of the parking garage she is standing on. To the sidewalk five stories below. Now there is no laughter in the office windows. Now there is chaos, people trying to find a way to communicate with her, people frantically dialing cell phones, people beginning to guess what her intent is. The police won’t reach her either. No. Today it finally ends. Today there will finally be peace.

She waits. She is patient. They need to hear this message. There needs to be witnesses. They will try to cover this up. They will try to paint her as insane. They will try to destroy everything she ever was, just as they destroyed everything she thought she knew. She needs witnesses. She needs them to see her, calm, collected, aware. They will do what they must to discredit her, to make her a statistic, a mentally ill child trapped in a woman’s body, a failure of the system. The office windows on multiple floors fill up now, with inquisitive eyes that do not want to watch, but cannot look away.

In so many ways they are like her. If they could just truly see.

Sirens, distant and growing now. A crowd on the sidewalk. The slowdown of traffic, the snarl of rubberneckers beginning its accordion effect in every direction from Commerce Street. The world is nearly ready. She removes her coat, letting the bitter winter wind off the river cut through the fresh wounds on her arms. Carved, so that no one can erase them. Symbols, messages, knowledge, what the people need to survive, to fight. Yes. They will have to remove the limbs to remove the message. Someone will see. Someone will know. There can be no covering this up.

Sirens, immediate and urgent. Police, some moving towards the entrance in a desperate race up the stairs. Some calling out meaningless platitudes about a life they know nothing about. She stares at them. Calm. Collected. Sane. She does not speak because she cannot trust her voice anymore. She hears the footsteps behind her, but the stairwell door has not opened. The police have not had time to reach her. The others have found her. The familiar fear grips her, but she knows they cannot harm her now.

Time is up.

She steps forward.

The wind whistles around her, whips at her skirt, plasters her hair straight back behind her. She does not blink. She just stares at the sidewalk as it grows. And smiles.

They cannot hurt her any longer.

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