Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for violence.
It's finally nearly Spring. The girl emerges from a dim alleyway to greet the morning light, looks both ways, then scurries down the road, her green eyes sweeping the road systematically, alert. She is hungry and fearful, but so is everybody. There'd been fighting around the airport since December, slowing down the procession of food and blankets into the city. They'd given her a blanket, even though she had one where she slept. But on the way back, there'd been another gunfight and in the confusion she'd lost it to blind panic. The buildings around her are blasted, scorched, but she dares not stop and look. There's some warning when faced with certain threats, but others that creep up on people in the middle of the day and snuff them out entirely without care. The sounds of bombs or gunfire are almost constant during the day. More gunfire, a crackle in the distance from some unknown idealist, reminds her that she's little safer in the morning than during the day. Which side was shooting rarely mattered - a bullet will tear you apart all the same.
The girl darts through alleyways, avoiding the main streets as much as she can. This was a daily occurence throughout the winter, but something is different today. It is still cold, she is still hungry, she can still hear the guns. For a while, it had looked like the rebels might take the airport, back in January, but that hadn't lasted. They had been hoping that somebody could send food, beds, anything from far away lands, but it had been fruitless. The girl knew where she was headed: the market. Most of the surrounding buildings, at least those on the ground, are abandoned. Along every street there are apartments hit by the constant shelling or the bombs, their windows destroyed by blast. They say that blast shakes up your brain and turns it to soup, killing people even if they aren't bleeding. The girl once saw it, or at least she thought so. One of the dead men on the ground looked fine, like he was just sleeping, until somebody else ran over and took his gun. They also say that once you lose your gun, your soul is ready to walk As-Sir??t, to heaven or to hell. The girl wonders how many of her family have crossed the bridge since it began, but she doesn't know. She nearly steps out into the road, but something in her, a sense she cannot identify, pulls her back for another second. A man steps out of a building with a rifle over his shoulder, strolling casually into the road and glancing around, the furtive gesture that lets you know that you are in Damascus. His comrades in arms appear, one by one, behind him and spread out across the main road, all sharing the same fearful shadow, as if they know they are being watched. More gunfire, from the motorway, causes the men to prick their ears and the leader to start shouting, pointing north along the road. They follow his lead, and begin a marching chant in rugged unison.
"Allah! Syria! Bashar is enough! Allah! Syria! Bashar is enough!"
The girl watches them intently, until they are far enough down the road that they cannot hit her, and, with a final check of the road, scurries out, heading again for the market. She is only halfway across when the familiar whistling sound begins. Except it's not just a whistle, as it develops quickly into a whine; a screech; a roar. The girl panics and runs for shelter at the other side of the road, only to see a flash, then hear a bang. Down the road, the soldiers are in disarray - they've been hit by a mortar strike, probably coming out of the Babbila district. The girl keeps running, escaping into another alleyway, again as deserted as the homes surrounding it, just as a group of men burst out of a building behind her. She cannot help but scream as they open fire on the first group to cries of "Allah" mixed between jubilance and fear. The morning is young, but already the fighting has resurged. There have been many deaths, some of them to the bombs, some of them to the guns. There were a few, the unlucky ones, who had starved.
She almost reaches her destination. She almost makes it to paradise, or to her next meal at least. But fate is cruel to the children of Damascus. Another sign, another sound of danger, this time a low rumble, accompanied by a similar whooshing to that of the mortar strike as it draws near. The girl throws herself to the ground, just as her mother had taught her. The last thing the girl does before she blacks out is to pray in her head that her mother is ok, that she will come back today. Then, a mighty bang and she feels the air being ripped from her lungs. Darkness follows, stealing her vision.
The blurry outline of a face, covered in hair, appears before her, briefly, but the light stings her eyes and she snaps them shut. She blinks a few times, cautiously, but can't make out the figure in front of her. She doesn't even remember how she'd got there. Her ears are still ringing with a shrill shrieking sound, but there is a faint noise, a voice, speaking in a language she doesn't understand. The voice continues for a moment, making no sense, but eventually switched to Arabic, in a broken dialect.
"Hello? Can you hear me?" It's a kind voice. The girl nods, but the motion sends sharp pains up and down her body. Looking down, she notices that she's still in one piece. Her vision is clearing slightly; she can tell that the lady is white and wonders for a moment if it'll be another useless blanket, or better some food.
"I need you to stand up for me, can you do that? We need to move you." The voice continues, but the girls shakes her head, pushing away with what little strength she had. Her ears are still ringing and her head pounding, but she knows she needs to flee. It's coming back to her, there must've been a bomb close by.
"I need to get to the market... my mum, she..." The girl's voice trailed off as she realises that she smells something burning. She looks down the street to see sickly black smoke, curling spitefully out towards her like the claws of ??Ibl??s. The market is burning, the stalls torn apart like paper before the blast. The white lady helps the girl to her feet and starts to walk her back the way she came, out of the alley. Out in the road, a shell casing lies, out of sight of the carnage it had caused, save for a plume of acrid smoke trailing lazily towards the sky. The young lady leads the girl back across the main road and into a building, then up three flights of to a landing. The girl drags her feet, almost tripping as she tries to keep up with the nervous stranger. The woman chooses a door, number 24, then knocks three times. Two quick knocks, a pause, then another. The girl lets go of her hand, looking scared, as the door swings open. A man, also white, stands in the doorway and breaks out into a relieved smile when he sees the woman, embracing her quickly and speaking in an alien tongue. The girl is nervous and instinctively wants to run, but the shock of the explosion has paralysed her nerves and she knows she wouldn't be able to outrun either of the two mysterious strangers. The man notices her and asks his companion something, who appears to beseech him for something. He sighs and rubs his forehead, before kneeling down and facing the girl, switching to Arabic.
"Hey, little girl, what's your name?" He asks kindly. She doesn't speak, watching his face. He frowns for a moment, then stands up and looks over to the lady. She squats down to the girl's level and takes over his line of interrogation.
"Do you have any family? Anyone we can find for you and get you back?"
The girl remains mute, thinking of her mother. The woman gazes at her for a moment, then gives up and turns to speak to her companion again. They exchange conversation for a moment, but he shakes his head. The lady starts to raise her voice, but thinks better of it and says something else. He shakes his head as he replies, resolute. He withdraws into the apartment, not looking at the girl. A moment of silence, before she turns to the girl and crouches down.
"I'm so sorry... we can't help you. Will you stay and talk to the camera? It's the best we can do."
The girl stares at the lady for a moment, then shakes her head and backs away, before turning and heading towards the stairs. She's still hungry, too hungry to stay with these strangers. Outside, there is another whining sound, with a whoosh and another great bang. She needs to find food, or another aid handout, or her mother. The reporters have nothing for her.