Thursday, November 7, 2013


Short story

Capsaicin--the active ingredient in Oleoresin Capsicum (pepper spray)--is received by mammals' TRPV1 receptor. The transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V member 1 (TrpV1) is the sole receptor for capsaicin. TRPV1 also helps regulate body temperature. Blocking the TRPV1 channel in the body can cause hyperthermia. In fact, the only to market drug has been unable to overcome this effect.

Which is why I was in an athletic tee, and sweat-wicking pants. As I felt my body heat up, and my sweat uncontrollably pool in all the uncomfortable places, I gathered my protest gear and marched out into the crowd. It was February, but the combination of adrenaline and this unpleasant drug made the 35 degree weather seem balmy.

I wasn't alone. A group of us, wearing red, were prepared to create blockades for the protesters. Eventually we would be blocking nearly the entirety of downtown. About two thousand of us were deputized as the wall between the police and the protest. Our sole job was to maintain order and our lines in the face of clashes.

I heard later that the line broke about two blocks south of me. A group of anarchists broke through the crowd and attacked the riot squad causing a small mob. Two members of the Red Wall were trampled. I'm not sure what happened after that exactly. The police opened fire first with the pepper spray.

But we held our line.

Then I heard the screams from inside the crowd. Or maybe it was the explosion. It must have been the explosion first. Something tore through my side and three mounted police pushed through our line and headed straight toward the source of the screams.

I was worried about this. I knew I had to run. But hyperthermia isn't just unpleasant sweating, my temperature had been artificially raised to 100 degrees. Too much physical exertion could kill me. Worse, I couldn't tell how hot I was. The TRPV1 receptors were put to sleep in a way that made me feel hot regardless of actual body temperature.

My adrenaline skyrocketed as I tried to get a hold of my senses. As I did so I realized I was standing in the middle of a bloody crowd. Were the police beating us or was it the explosion?

A second explosion rocked the plaza. I heard a crashing and I saw Jackson Tower's guts momentarily exposed before being engulfed in black smoke. What was happening?

I grabbed at the first red shirt I could find, we had been organized to respond to chaos by putting order back into the system.

I pulled the shirt into view and noticed that he wasn't part of the Red Wall; he was covered in blood. I let go of him and started running toward the south mall checkpoint. In case of emergency we had gathering points. When I got there, two red shirts were standing, waiting for order.

I screamed something at them. They obeyed my orders (I can't remember what) and took off. It was all sirens after that.

I was soon subdued by about four officers. In the confusion, the Red Wall was assumed to be the attacking force. And in the commotion we had become the Red Herring.

"Your temperature is very high, 102," the police medic said. I was in police custody; in their temporary holding zone about 6 blocks away.

"I know, I took Noripraisin," I said groggily. I had been hit pretty hard with a concussive flashbang.

"Well, your hearing is going to be ok, and if you relax your temperature should return to normal in 3-6 hours. You should be careful about Noripraisin though. Extreme physical activity can exacerbate hyperthermia and cause death. You are lucky the police pulled you from the fray."

I bit my tongue. I didn't find getting beaten by four officers and incorrectly identified as a mass murderer lucky. Besides, I was planning on a peaceful march, not a chaotic riot scene. I smiled at the medic wanly, "yeah."

There was a long silence, while the medic checked out my physical condition. "You are free to go. If you have stuff in the protest zone, it's best to consider it gone. There are bomb squads going through the entire area and destroying anything suspicious."

I thought about my small bag of protest items. Nothing important. I had lost it in the confusion. "Any other news?" I asked.

"I've been put on standby to treat bomb victims. The Jackson Tower is still in flames, and there aren't any new reports of explosions, but that still leaves six total. This isn't a good day," the medic looked at me and we exchanged a brief moment of understanding.

"Is there something I can do?"

The medic handed me a signed form, "hand this to the processing officer at the intake table and you are free to go. Other than that, go home and rest until the Noripraisin wears off. Drink water."

I tried to give the medic another understanding look. It wasn't returned. I left the police gathering area and headed back toward the chaos. Nearly 100,000 protesters were streaming out of the downtown area, trying to find their loved ones and get to safety.

I headed back in. I didn't know why.