The Miracle of Monroe Projects
This is another story that I wrote a while back that has gone through a revision. I wrote this after a news report appeared about a mother and her son that were brutally attacked while at home. I could never forget the horrific details and I had to write something. I always called this story an “Urban Fairytale” but I can guess you label it a little like urban fantasy. Either way, it’s something that I would like to happen even if it is in my dreams. Hope you enjoy it.
The Miracle of Monroe Projects
The light from the streetlamps did not distinguish the row of box shaped units that inhabited the Monroe Projects. Nor did it aid in illuminating the degree of inhumanity within the 80 acres hidden behind a dilapidated gate. It was the prison of the impoverished struggling to make life better and the malcontents who fed on the weak and oppressed.
Years ago, when these housing projects were first built, the tropical colors of peach, lime and yellow were used to signal a new beginning, a bright future in sunny Florida. Now, they are remnants of dreams obliterated by the scorching heat and disappointment. The predators know this and welcome the futility. They own the night, the day and everything in between.
It was only a week ago that the most heinous of crimes was committed against a young mother and her son. Ten teenage boys attacked the family, raping the woman and severely beating the twelve-year-old boy. After the brutal subjugation, they poured bleach into their eyes, further eradicating any dignity left in their soul.
Government officials promised to tighten security and protect the residents of Monroe. However, like all apathetic bureaucracies, their words fell like tears of stone, heavy and meaningless.
Status quo maintained its chokehold on the project dwellers. Thugs roamed the sidewalks, terrorizing hard working individuals struggling to escape the abyss.
The miraculous appeared at the front gates of what residents despairingly called Hell.
He stood there in the silver gleam of the moonlight, motionless, almost as if he was scared to breathe. His long white T-shirt billowed in a breeze that did not share the same current as the men loitering outside. They were sweaty and smelled of hot musk. He wore black jeans tucked inside his boots, completing his attire as he stood and watched them conceive new ways to exploit the inhabitants.
Dreadlocks hung down loosely to his shoulders with a few strands hiding his clean-shaven caramel face. His arms, folded behind his back, hinted a commanding stature signifying his calmness to what his presence will mean to the community.
With his eyes closed, head tilted slightly upward, he listened for a sound. Some sign that the time had come. Then he heard in the distance the rumble of thunder. It grew louder and closer to his vicinity and they became aware.
The group of young men threatened all who were not from the projects. It was their kingdom amidst a land of perceived inopportunity. Drugs were rampart. Robbery became the norm. Murder lent itself to solving conflicts. Some of the denizens grew up in homes where they never experienced the closeness of family. That only gave way to sycophants leeching on their despair.
They taunted and jeered the stranger, spewing all manner of epithets. Bottles thrown toward his direction only crashed in a puddle of beer and soda, falling short of their destination. Agitation set in and the men became incensed with his lack of response.
He slowly opened his eyes, which shined a brilliant blue like an untouched ocean, and swiveled his head, scanning the group for some type of civility. Their rage became more bloodthirsty as the lust of violence permeated the air. Then the crackle of gunfire exploded in the night sky, scattering some and emboldening others.
The rapid succession of bullets traveled within inches of the man’s face, became inert and fell to the ground like slot machine winnings.
Weapons dropped in disbelief along with jaws wide open. The air became thick with haze as the stranger raised his right hand into a tight fist. Surge of electricity overloaded the streetlamps causing them to burst, raining glass and filaments over the stunned crowd.
With a slight twist of his fist, the group of ten men that a moment ago called him everything but a child of God became silent. Their voices stripped, panic besieged them while some grasped their throats as if choking. All witnessed by the residents of Monroe, whom a fair amount dropped to their knees in prayer.
At that same moment, the distraught young men felt their bodies stiffened and became perpendicular. Like dead men lying in their graves, the group stared blankly into the peaceful night. Still alive.
He took a step towards the weather-beaten entrance where the residents congregated during the spectacle. There was confidence in each stride, a gait of regality that shined throughout his person. His countenance resembled an angel and as the gates flew open, a majority of people bowed their heads in reverence. Some stood belligerent, unwilling to believe and others could not comprehend the magnitude of what they witnessed.
They shook his hand, patted him on the back and gave praises to the Lord for sending one of his messengers to earth. “I’m not an angel,” he said in a voice that was so deep it felt like a continuous thunderstorm. “My name is Sheppard and I’ve come to bring peace. You will not be afraid anymore. No one will harm you ever.”
Sheppard leaped onto a concrete canister and spoke to the large crowd gathered at the gate. “I am a manifestation of what we can achieve, my people. No more thugs controlling our destiny. We will stand up for what is right and rid this cancer from our community. It has to start now and continue for the generations to come. If you believe as I do, we are more than conquerors. We are blessed,” exclaimed Sheppard to a thunderous roar of the crowd.
Those who did scoff at his presence felt his words and knew the truth deep in their hearts. It was time to take back what had been stolen: dignity, self-esteem, integrity, and pride. All of it taken because of fear. Fear of failing. Fear of succeeding.
Amidst the celebration, Sheppard stepped out unto the group who lay in a catatonic state. He went to each one and waved his hand over their blissful face. One after the other awakened changed. The malice that covered every crevice of their heart gave way to something bigger than their affliction: peace. They went into the courtyard greeted by all and embraced by the community. The stranger, who brought wisdom and a chance to change, vanished into the night.
That day was the beginning of renewed vigor within the residents of Monroe Projects. Their tenacity for building a better neighborhood and stomping out crime was a model for all the surrounding communities. Things changed for the better. People were becoming self-sufficient and no longer relying on bureaucratic measures. They were relying on one another and becoming a better community.
It has been several years since that night. Monroe Projects grew into a functioning model of what society continues to aspire. The generations that came after have lived in peace and understanding with pride in their hearts and a respect for all people. In the middle of the courtyard stands a monument dedicated to the stranger who lifted them out of their weakness and made them more than conquerors.