“You want some son?” exclaimed Paul standing chest to chest to a man clad in combats with an assault rifle slung round his back, Paul’s arms were spread out to his sides in a ‘T’ shape, palms open wide. The man Paul was confronting was Neil, a former high ranking serviceman who had crowd sourced the money online to form a rag tag group of well armed ‘volunteers’ here to fight with the various factions camped out in Syria. The increased amount of supplies to the Syrian Hands camp had aroused his interest and much like the bearded youngsters in their Toyotas, he had taken it upon himself to check for ‘potential threats’. Neil was approaching 50, in great shape with muscular tattooed arms, his face had a worn look to it, his skin was gravely and his hair had long turned grey. Neil would frequently strut around the camp with his men seeking out ‘threats’, uninvited and unwanted of course, his tone with the aid workers was that of a military man dealing with ‘wet behind the ears’ civilians, it varied from irritating over confidence to condescension and disdain. What Neil was about to find out however was that the tours in Kandahar and Fallujah wouldn’t be enough to prepare him for a local lad from Camberwell, London.
“I said do you WANT SOME…mate!!!!”
“I’m not your mate”
“Take another step and I will knock you out son”
“You think you can knock me out do ya? Do you know where I’ve been? Do you even know the things I’ve seen and done? You wanna knock me out do ya? Go ahead and try…PAL!!! , go on!!!”
Harry could hear the thud from where he stood, Neil lay down on the ground nursing his jaw, his gruff Lancastrian tones silenced by a well placed swinging right. “Get….out” snarled Paul, Neil duly obliged without any further utterances. Harry shuffled off to see what needed to be done in the camp leaving Paul to cool down, he wondered to himself if he could stand up like that to a man with a gun, you had to admire Paul’s resolve.
The Tents in the camp varied from a dull beige to dusty white covered in bits of tarpaulin and blankets. The insides would consist of whatever essentials the occupants could get hold off, a scattering of ornate rugs, rusty buckets used for drinking mint tea and cooking food on the camping stoves. The hope was that if enough funds could be raised, wooden slats and cement could be ordered and the tents could slowly be built into proper homes, after all, nobody really knew when this civil war would end. The various groups and militias which increased by the months of conflict didn’t even seem to know why they were fighting and it was probably of little significance to the powerful nations carrying out air strikes, to them it was all just a game of chess where one leader would decry the other as a war criminal while they all did the same thing, carpet bombing everything in sight, destroying the hospitals, schools, homes and the beautiful architecture wiping out the centurys of history held within their structures. Harry carried school text books to Halimah’s tent, she was waiting for him in the baking hot midday sun, her grandfather sat with her on a flimsy fold out chair with a white cloth draped across his balding head. Halimah wore a pink embroidered tunic and yellow pants, her feet were bare as were her grandfathers. She took the books beaming with gratitude, her every spare moment was taken up in studying, in her youthful mind, it was the route out of this desperation and onto better things. Her grandfather, Salih gestured to Harry and spoke in Arabic. “He is asking if you can find a lady to look after me” Halimah translated “He says a child my age shouldn’t be doing the work of a grown woman”. Harry didn’t know what to say, he smiled sheepishly and ruffled Halimah’s hair then excused himself with “I’m sorry, I have to go”
As night fell, a fleet of trucks arrived with blankets, flour and clothing, the thick bearded hooded drivers heaped sacks onto their backs and proceeded towards the camp, Harry and Paul were ready to assist them and joined them in lugging the heavy sacks. The target was amongst the carriers, knowing this, Harry engaged in banter with Paul as the men stacked up the supplies next to a water tank. After a solid half hour of heavy labour, the work was complete, Harry sat himself down using the water tank to support his aching back, he could hear Paul and the target talking but their voices were too low to be distinguishable, the conversation stopped but now Harry could hear footsteps getting closer and closer behind him until he felt a hand on his shoulder followed by five words that filled his gut with horror “I know who you are”