Your father and his friends were ready to go to war. Me and Akeem didn’t know how to use any of these guns so we just took a couple knives just in case. But we knew good and well this was out of our league. We weren’t gonna be doing anything out here.
We all hopped back into the jeep and followed your father’s friends through the woods.
“Are we gonna die?” you asked me again in the backseat.
“I’m not gonna let anything happen to you, remember?” I reminded you.
I didn’t know how I was gonna do that, but I promised you anyway. Because you were so scared and you were the last piece of my sister I had left. So even though I didn’t know how I was gonna keep you safe, I had to.
It took us about an hour to reach the supposed hideout where your father’s friends said The Indian was staying. It was deep in the woods and looked like a really fancy log cabin from way back in the past. It reminded me of the game Oregon Trail, but you wouldn’t know anything about that.
The plan was simple: your father and his friends were gonna sneak in, hoping to find The Indian by himself in there, smoking a cigar or something. Then they were gonna surround him and shout some superchessey patriotic catchphrase like, “Yippee kay-yay, mother father.” Except they wouldn’t say father. Looking back, I don’t know why we even agreed to come along. We should’ve just stayed back at the cabin. You would’ve never had to see what happened. But then again, we would’ve never known what happened.
Your father took a deep breath and stared out the windshield for a few seconds. I guess he was psyching himself up. But then he turned in his seat to look at us and said something I’ll never forget: “Rick, if I don’t make it, you take care of my daughter for me. You’ll be a better father than I ever was.”
I blinked and watched as he blew you a kiss. I didn’t know how to respond. I honestly didn’t even know your father was capable of having feelings. And that was hands-down the least racist and most encouraging thing he’d ever said to a human being.
Then your father and his friends hopped out and walked towards the cabin, about a hundred feet away, and me and Akeem stayed behind in the car with you.
“Everything’s gonna be okay,” I kept saying to you.
“Stop lying to her,” Akeem said.
“Shut up, man,” I said to him. I turned back to you. “It’s all gonna be over soon. Don’t worry.”
Then Akeem said something that came straight outta left field.
“We both know you don’t really care about her,” he scoffed.
“Yo, what is wrong with you?” I snapped.
“You keep lying to yourself,” he went on. “She’s gonna die because of you.”
And something went off inside of me. Normally I would sit still and shout this out, but I lost it. Before I could stop myself, I was hopping out the car and Akeem met me in front of the hood, bumping me in the chest.
“You wanna do this right now?” I growled at him.
“Who you tryna act tough for?” he asked. “You don’t care about her.”
“She’s my niece!” I screamed.
“Then why you ain’t never said anything about what Mark did to her? Huh? All you talk about is how racist he is. He raped her. And nobody says anything about it.”
“Are we really doing this now?” I whispered.
“You don’t care about her,” Akeem said. “So if she dies, it’s on you.”
I stood there thinking about what he’d just said. It wasn’t true. I knew it wasn’t. But part of me couldn’t fight the sick feeling I was getting in my stomach. So to get my mind off it, I walked back into the jeep and slammed the door. He was wrong, but I still didn’t feel right. I stared out the windshield over at your father and his friends on their way to the log cabin.
And just when I did, something crazy happened that changed this whole thing forever. When your father and his friends were about halfway between the jeep and the log cabin, somebody screamed. At first I thought it was a Native that had spotted them and he was giving some kind of tribal calling to alert the others. But then another scream came. And another. And another. And then I realized that your father was bending over. And two of his friends had dropped to their knees. Then all of them started shaking and spazing out, and they fell on the ground. Your father turned around and tried to run back to the jeep, but he could barely move in a straight line. And when we saw his face, we got a front row seat to how wild all of this really was.
We didn’t hear any gunshots. We didn’t see any arrows. There was no sign that there was even anybody else in the area. But your father was bleeding everywhere on his face: out of his eyes, nose, ears, and mouth, and coughing up globs of blood. I rushed back to the jeep and hopped in the driver’s seat, but Akeem stood outside watching him drop to the ground. Your father and his friends shook for a few more seconds like fish out of water then stopped suddenly, like someone had just flipped the switch off their bodies.
We found out later that those were the exact symptoms that everyone who got infected with the virus got. And somehow The Indian had been able to infect your father and his friends at will from wherever he was and kill them on sight.
We sat there in the jeep for a whole minute, too stunned to move.
“It’s time to go,” I finally said. “Akeem, get in!”
But it was too late. Suddenly, a group of Wasichu came sprinting through the trees towards the jeep. Akeem turned to run back, but tripped and fell flat on his face. And right before our eyes, two Wasichu swooped down and pinned him to the ground.
In that moment, I had a choice to make: stay and try to fight an armed gang after watching a bunch of crazy armed white dudes get killed at will. Or save the two of us.
I chose us.
I hopped into the drivers seat, whipped the jeep around, and blasted us out of there as fast as my black feet could drive. You were crying like crazy in the back and I almost crashed into a tree trying to look at you in the rearview mirror.
“It’s gonna be alright!” I told you. “Don’t worry. I told you we’re gonna make it, remember?”
We made it back to the cabin safely and against everything in my black soul, we spent the night there. We couldn’t drive back the way we came because the Wasichu would recognize us and know something was up. So I needed time to figure out a plan and I was honestly too shook to be thinking straight. So we spent the night.
We were just gonna spend one night. But one night turned to three nights. Then one week. Then a week and a half. There was a lot of food in the cabin, enough to last us a few months. There was even another jeep in the back and the shed had all the survival tools we’d need for anything from a nuclear fallout to a zombie apocalypse. So I figured we could stay a while since no one knew where we were.
But then, on November 29th, two weeks in, The Indian made another announcement over the radio.
“In honor of the Sand Creek Massacre in 1834,” he said. “Where Americans killed 148 Indians in Colorado, 148 white people will be killed today.”
I lowered my head and held you as you started sniffling.
Sure enough, that day, 148 white people in Colorado were shot and killed with arrows. But to this day no one ever saw the archers coming or going. And as we listened to “This Land is Your Land” play over the radio again, I finally admitted that it was time to go.
That same day we left for Mexico.