The Nameless Village - James "JD" McKenzie '18

     Iraq; 17:00, -transcript[CLASSIFIED]


The city of --- in southern Iraq,

The air is heavy and wet, it's the rainy season in --- , farmers flush the fields, hunched over, and excessively clothed for their mid-summer occupation. It's the best time to till and plant, while the soil is soft and wet. We’d been in the air for about 20 min when suddenly one of the farmers looked up and revealed the RPG-v7 from under his robes, unleashing a  surprisingly accurate round that struck the tail, sending us into a controlled crash landing, Sargent-Shawst managed to aim us for a plateau on a nearby hill hoping to give us the advantage of superior terrain. We skidded in with a large shake, dismounted and prepared to engage.

Shakir Al Mahed had never been a violent child, from the day he was born all he could seem to do was good deeds and righteous acts. He was known as the pitiful flower by most in his village, which emphasized his sad virginity to self indulgence and freedom. It was of his own free will that he abstain from the earthly temptations, he did it to please Allah and to obtain those pleasures in the afterlife. His devotion was pure and strong, he wished to serve Allah however he could. Sadly, it was this devotion that would lead him to the lifestyle that would ironically, end his Life. How had the pitiful flower, Shakir, ended up where he died, no one will ever really know. His life was one of simple kindness and devotion, and Allah claimed him so young, he took him on that fateful day in the summer.  

The air was hot and wet, heavy with the stench of mud and sweat. The chaos erupted around the post dinner rush, while the neighborhood was buzzing with farmers planting and weeding their crops while the sun was still up. I decided to go on my usual rounds to spread my wealth within  my community, first over to Magi Hussein, the village wisemans, to ask if he's heard word from the cell,. From there I go to the town square and buy my groceries before returning home to pray. Once I completed my mid morning prayer, I headed back into town; to the slum to pass bread to the poor. The session was wonderful and gave me the strength I needed to continue to do good for others. I continued from there to the local mosque to scrub the floors and polish their tiles. From there I returned home to help work in the fields just like any other day. But today was special, today Allah gave me a chance to prove myself to him to show my devotion, today the final task was to eliminate the infidel and free my village from their oppression. Just as planned I began my evening task of planting and weeding in the fields, the RPG weighing heavily on my back while I hunched over. There was an eerie calm that came over me that evening, Allah must have sent me his strength to fight this battle, for I felt there was no way I could lose. It was my job to bring them down, then the others would finish them off. All I had to do was make the shot and watch the nonbelievers pay, so that is what I did. When I heard the sound of the engine to the south I knew it was them, they were flying patrol, scouting the area coming to collect new soldiers to train and to take food and taxes from the poor people of the village. They rounded the village once, and as they made their second loop I raised my robes and shouldered my weapon. My sights were locked on as if aimed by Allah himself, my heart pounding in my ears and adrenaline coursing through my blood: down, down, down!

My name is Hadeel, I live in a small building in the slums of the town with my mother, two younger brothers and baby sister.

It is always midweek when the UN soldiers make their rounds supplying water and much needed resources to the village, my mother is ill and they provide us medicine to keep her healthy, Our village relies on them to survive and to keep the extremists from turning us into slaves for their cause. I never really picked a side of the conflict, I'm really just trying to survive and keep my family together. My little brothers and baby sister all need to eat and drink and I'm falling apart trying to keep this family together. Every week their faces light up when they hear the helicopter coming from the south, children fill the streets and everyone rejoices. I was busy cleaning my baby sister when my brothers ran outside and my mother gingerly made her way to the door, leaning on the frame she smiled at me and said it was them. As the helicopter did its first round the children chased it around the village hollering and laughing. I wrapped up my little sister and carried her outside on my hip to join in the festivities, the helicopter rounded the church tower and was coming back around for its usual landing spot in the empty lot behind the cemetery and suddenly the warm spring breeze turned to ice. There was shock and confusion everywhere, flames raining from the sky screams echoed down the narrow alleys. Hanou, the local school teacher was killed by shrapnel from the tail of the helicopter. I rush to my mother who had collapsed on the front step, I pick her up and get her inside and tell her to stay in the cellar where she is safest. I leave my sister with her and run out the door to find my brothers, gunshots ring in the distance while I frantically call out to my brothers. I hear my youngest brother, Malik,  yell my name with a panicked tone and as I round the corner I see him crouched in an alleyway ten yards away. I sprint to him and ask where Rahim, my other little brother, is, he says he was in the school when it happened and that the tail had crashed on the roof. I told Malik to run home and hide with mother in the cellar while I looked for Rahim, he hesitated and hugged me before running off. I took a second and looked at my surroundings, fires had sprung up everywhere, there was pure chaos in the streets, the school building was only a block away but every time I heard gunshots or an explosion I had to duck and take cover so it took me much longer than I would have liked. As I came to the building half of it was collapsed in and the other half was on fire, I scream Rahim’s name as loud as I can but hear nothing in return. I round the building to the entrance the tail of the helicopter is sitting on the rubble of what used to be the south corner of the building. I pull my hijab over my mouth to filter the smoke at least a little bit. The hall is dark and hellacious flames creeping through doorways and climbing the ceiling. I squint as I makei my way through the building yelling for Rahim and coughing as I try to inhale. Somehow amongst all the noise I could hear my brother yelling, it was less of a yell and more of a scream but I knew it was him. I ran down the corridor and followed the sound into a room completely on fire, it was Rahim, he was trapped in the centre of it all, wailing like a banshee, too shocked to realize what was going on. I don't know if I can make it to him but I have to try, I back up to the wall behind me and push off sprinting as fast as I can, I leap through the flames in two steps and grab Rahim. Just then the door frame collapses in, and we're stuck in the room. Now I'm really freaking out, I just want to curl up and cry, there's nothing I can do, I search frantically for anything that could help us, I hold Rahim tight in my arms and can feel him sobbing into my stomach. There's a window but flames line the wall it's in, the only door is blocked and there is nothing to extinguish the flames. More searching and still no ideas, the smoke fills up the room and the flames get closer, we're going to die here, it would take a miracle to get us out of here alive. Just as I began to accept my fate rahim looks up to me with tears in his eyes and says that he loves me, no matter what happens.

The next day…

As the sun rose in the east casting rays of sunlight over our little nameless village, the buildings smoldered and the stream on the edge of the village ran black with soot. Most of the homes in the village had burned down, the school had been completely demolished and a few fortunate souls who managed to escape to the woods began to wander back into town. The dead littered the streets, bodies of men women and children were scattered amongst the rubble. It was a bright and beautiful day by most standards but for the survivors of the clash this was the darkest day of the year. the crashed helicopter lay on its side on the top of the hill to the south east of the village,the soldiers that were in it occupants were either dead or captured the cargo from within was stolen as well. The terrorists had won the battle but at a great cost, many young men from the village had been turned by the local wise man, who spread the propaganda through his work with the youth.  The deaths of the many served the few and in the end nothing was gained.