The blasts continued over the next few days, it was like a solar eclipse it was so dark at times, Harry’s mouth was dry, he felt dizzy, nauseous and his body was tense but somehow he kept going. “Well, I did ask when do I start” he thought to himself, it was non stop, going from tent to tent, checking for casualties and dead bodys. The fashion conscious Toyota driving soldier boys were nowhere to be seen although a few of their trucks were lying in the wreckage, bet they wished they had stayed home now. This was real, all too real, the sight of the refugees inflicted with jaundice and malnutrition, the swollen faced children who were so terrified, they no longer spoke, even in the little sleep Harry got, he would see the same images like a real life horror story, in those dreams he could hear himself scream but nobody answered his cries. Night after night he woke up screaming out loud, his clothes drenched with sweat, then it would start all over again and he would have to rush out of his tent and join Polly and Wes in the unfavourable task of checking on the inhabitants of the camp, clearing the pathway of shrapnel, sweeping the toxic rubble to the side in a desperate attempt to keep their dependants and themselves safe. The scenes from the aftermath of each successive bombardment would haunt Harry for the rest of his life, somehow he managed to keep it together even though he wanted to break down, he wanted to lock himself away and disengage from contact with other human beings full stop. He hated himself more than anything, he would watch Polly cursing and swearing at the sky while Wes tried his best to calm her nerves and he contemplated ending it all. Then like a huge collective sigh of relief, things calmed down, the blasts stopped, allowing for a moment to breathe but a moment was all it was, now they had a whole new set of problems to deal with.
Syrian Hands refugee camp was now stretched to its limits, money was running out and even with all the goodwill and donations that were coming in, it still wasn’t enough. They needed medical staff, several pregnant women had miscarried, there is nothing as heartbreaking as seeing these poor women holding onto their stillborn, weeping over their lifeless corpses, if that doesn’t bring you to tears, I don’t know what will. Resources were running out, it was simply a matter of time now, sickness surrounded the aid workers and in some cases, it didn’t spare them either. Harry sat on the ground, dejected and hopeless, he wasn’t sure if he was Harry or Simon, was he here as an aid worker or was he here to find Muhsin? He began to sob uncontrollably into his arms as he crouched down on the ground. He felt a hand on his shoulder “Please don’t cry Simon” said Halimah “If you are not strong, how can we be strong?” as she spoke, a solitary tear rolled down her cheek which she quickly wiped away. Harry looked at her innocent face and his heart melted, she was wise beyond her years and my goodness she had the heart of a Lion, he wanted to give her a big hug but wasn’t sure how she would react. “Thank You Halimah, you are right” he replied, “Are you not going to school today?”, “The school is gone Simon, the books are gone too” Halimah replied, once again her eyes welled up “We need you to be strong Simon, we need you to help us, you are all we have” by now the tears were streaming down her face, she had done her best to hold it back but if a grown man couldn’t do it, then she was more than entitled to a good cry. Life was changing for Harry, the lines were blurring between reality and his assumed persona, as he sat next to Halimah, he wasn’t sure who he was any more.
Harry returned to his tent to get some needed downtime, his phone buzzed, it was ‘Mum’ “Just checking on you, wanted to make sure you were safe, we heard about the surgical strikes” said ‘Mum’, “I’m OK Mum” said Harry, in his head he sneered at the term ‘surgical strikes’, he felt genuine anger at the cold callous use of words for what had caused the death of several refugees, injured countless more and was making everyone else sick. “Have you made contact yet, we don’t want to rush you but its imperative we establish a link” said ‘Mum’ Harry did his best to mask the annoyance he was feeling before replying. “Not yet Mum” was his short sharp answer, “OK, we’ll be in contact again soon, keep us updated on progress” said ‘Mum’ which was followed by the click of the call cutting off. Harry lay back and took some long deep breaths, he wanted to bury the phone in the sand right now, he reasoned with himself ‘Well, I am here to reach out to Muhsin, I knew it was going to be difficult, this is our work, its what we do’. The trouble was his attempts to balance things out just weren’t having any effect, the doubts only ever stopped when he slept and his dreams were nearly always nightmares playing back the ‘surgical strikes’ as they happened in front of his eyes. It had been just over a week but it felt like months, events had taken an irreversible turn and there was no going back, things would never be the same again.
The phone buzzed for a second time, it was Polly “Simon, we need to talk” she said, the tone of her voice was solemn and deadly serious “Can we meet up?” she asked ,“Of course, when?” Harry replied, “Ideally now, oh and Simon, what we are going to discuss, its strictly off the record, we need to be able to trust you on this”, “You can trust me” Harry promised as his heart began beating rapidly “OK, meet us at the outskirts, come straight away please” said Polly with an urgency creeping into her voice. Harry had already left his tent “On My Way” he said and ended the call.