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Pen Your Pride

Day One

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Lisa's bucket list: "I wish my sister Marina wins her battle with cancer."


Lisa turned on her phone as soon as the Bard on the Beach performance of The Tempest ended. She panned in a circle, recording the applauding audience and an occasional snobbish grimace before she concentrated on the stage.

When the actors filed out of the wings for their third curtain call, people began getting out of their seats. The evening was almost over, but she kept on filming, when a young man with long oily hair elbowed his way through the leaving crowd and climbed onto the stage.

Prospero smiled at him, but the youth didn't acknowledge the welcome. He whipped out an automatic weapon from beneath his windbreaker, pointed at the actors, and started shooting. The actors fell. Blood pooled on the brightly lit stage. The rifle swung towards the audience, and the throng of happy Shakespeare lovers turned into a milling stampede.

Lisa froze. She couldn't escape from her middle seat anyway. To her right and to her left, in front and behind, people shouted, pushed, and shoved. Some tried jumping over the seats or climbing over the heads. Others disappeared under the rushing feet. Terrified screams from many throats reverberated between the canvas walls, together with the gun's rhythmic rapping.

Lisa's shaking hands still held her phone. The gunman's face on her phone's screen looked distorted, his mouth open, but she couldn't hear his screams beyond the roar of the crowd. The gun swerved right and left, until it pointed straight at her. She was going to die, but she wasn't afraid. Maybe her fear glands hadn't caught up with the horror. Would anyone find her phone after she died? Her interest felt clinical, detached.

Suddenly another person leaped into the frame of her screen, between the gun and herself, a guy in a white shirt, jeans, and a gray Sikh turban. He tackled the gunman. They both tumbled to the stage, and the gun went quiet, although Lisa's ears still rang from the pandemonium of the audience.

On her phone screen, a knife flashed in the Indian guy's tanned hand, descended, and vanished again. He stood up, his white shirt reddening rapidly over one shoulder. One of the bullets probably hit him, but he didn't seem to notice. He kicked the limp body of the gunman, glanced at the fleeing audience, and his lips curled in distaste. Then he sprinted towards the back of the stage, where a large gap in the back canvas wall of the tent opened up to the night sky and the mountains. In another moment, he disappeared from view.

Lisa turned off her phone. By now, most of the audience cleared the front below the stage, but the terrified mobs still roiled near both exits. Several bleeding bodies sprawled in awkward poses on the seats and in the aisles. A few people called 911, screaming for the police to hurry. A couple started back towards the blood-splattered stage.

Lisa grabbed her bag, dropped the phone inside, and darted towards the stage too. She couldn't help any of the victims, but she wanted to talk to the rescuer in the turban. He had doubtlessly saved her life, together with many others, and she wanted to thank her savior face to face. Maybe even interview him for her film.

She tiptoed around the stage, where a gruesome tragedy had wiped off the joy of the Bard's story. Her eyes trained firmly on the natural backdrop of the night sky behind the stage, away from the bloody bodies. Her stomach churned. In the back, a short wooden staircase, faintly lit by the light from the stage, led into shadows.

She hurried down the stairs. Where was he? A wire fence stretched in front of her, separating the Bard's compound from the grassy shore and the waters of the False Creek. A lone figure in the white shirt and turban headed away from the fence, towards the access road. How had he gotten over the fence? It was at least as tall as she was. Had he jumped over it? He probably could—he had vaulted up to the stage, hadn't taken the stairs.

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