Outside the store, I found a quiet corner in which to stand and wait for my family to be done. Silently, I stood there and I felt the calm wash over me with the cool night air, as I rocked back and forth. Vaguely, I sensed movement in my peripheral vision, but I wasn't paying attention.
"Now, Ma'am..." I heard a deep voice say, "Stay calm." It was a man, wearing dark clothes and with heavy black objects fastened against his waist. He was with several other men, some dressed similarly, some not. A car with strange markings pulled up behind them. Gesturing at the car behind them, he said, "Come along, now. See, we've called a car to come for you and take you home."
Alarmed, I began to look around...where were my family? When were they going to come out? These people couldn't take me away...what would happen if my family came out and found me gone? They'd panic! I searched for the words to tell the strangers this, but couldn't form any.
Then a picture flashed in my mind. My backpack! The one I'd been carrying upon entering the store...in my haste to get out, I'd left it! I could see it in my mind's eye, lying there against the wall behind the sales counter. It held my wallet, and all my important things. What would happen to it if I went with them now? Words spoken to me long ago echoed in my ears, "Never let this out of your sight...if you do, bad things will happen."
Was it still there? Could I get it? What would happen to it in there without me to watch it? Would someone take it? I turned toward the front door of the store, only to be grabbed by the nearest man and shoved against a wall. "I'm afraid we can't let you go in there, Ma'am."
I fought against the discomfort of being held. "But I need my backpack!" Each word was its own staccato burst. My mind was swimming. I was beyond the point of caring whether I went with them at this point...why would I even want to go back in there anyway? I'd just escaped it. But I couldn't go anywhere without my backpack. Bad things would happen. I knew it, that's what my mother had said. If I couldn't go in, would someone go and get it, I wondered?
My face was shoved against the cutting red brick of the wall, and I felt my arms pulled behind me. Something hard and cold pressed against my wrist and I heard a click. "Oh no you don't, you're not going in there!" Then the same brick cut into my arms, as I was turned to face them.
The weight of my body pressed my arms further behind me as my shoulders screamed in pain. I recoiled - but could go nowhere. "I won't go." I said, "I won't go." Over and over like a prayer. They didn't want me to go inside, so I wouldn't. That should make them happy, shouldn't it? Maybe they'd go get my bag now?
I looked around, trying to see my bag, trying to see my family...trying to understand what was going on...and that's when the man pulled out a big black object. I heard a sound, a voice that made no sense, it sounded like tape set on slow motion — deep, and foreboding. I finally make sense of it, a second before I feel a burst of pain. "Alright, I'm going to have to taser you!" As the agony overtook me, I fell to the ground, my eyes shut tight as I heard movement and screams coming from the general direction of the store's doorway.
My family had found me.
That's when I woke up. As I sat up in bed, trying to quiet my pounding heart, my first thought was, "I wonder how many autistic people have experienced this in real life?" So, I Googled it — "autism" and "taser".
More than 3 million hits.
Oh. My. God.