Printed from WriteWords -


by  firethorne

Posted: Friday, February 11, 2011
Word Count: 1334
Summary: Jax and Zac Jordan live by the code of the housing estate. Due to an accident when they were kids, their mum Sharon is slightly mentally impaired and vulnerable. She's in debt to a loan shark. New neighbors move in next door to the Jordan's and express interest in the family and their welfare. Shorty after their arrival loan shark goes missing . Story starts in Gaza , moves to Alamut, then Sheffield.

South of Gaza .

Brick dust poured out into the sunlight through a hole blasted in the wall. Artur's unit had cleared the first room and were moving on to the back of the makeshift compound.On gut-instinct Artur stepped back into the room and looked over the bodies again. He was prodding the end of his rifle into the chest wound of the nearest fighter to test if he was really dead, instinct was telling him they'd missed something in the room. He didn't have time to analyze what it was.


Artur spun around and leveled the sights of his weapon. His finger stopped on the second biting point of the trigger, and he breathed out rapidly to expel the nervous energy with which he was about to follow through and blow the head off the target at the end of his rifle sights.

A girl, whose clothes had been shredded by the blast of explosive, was standing a meter away from him in rags and tatters . Her face and thin angular frame was covered in brick dust. The muzzle of the homemade pistol she was aiming at Artur's chest twisted from side to side as she repeatedly pulled the trigger . Her weapon was jammed.

The girl had dark hair and eyes that could have been either brown or green depending on the light. Although she appeared to be Arabic, under the dust Artur could make out patches of light skin, which combined with her bone structure suggested she was perhaps half European.

It was an odd moment and Artur could never give a full explanation for his actions that day, other than in less than a faction of a second he'd recognized something in her.

The room he was standing in had been a kind of living quarters and the TV, at the far end of the room, was still intact . Canned laughter from an Arabic subtitled American teenage program was inter spaced by short bursts of gunfire at the far end of the compound, but this had only been a superficial part of his epiphany.

It had been what he'd instantly recognized in the girl's eyes that had stopped him from killing her. They told him she wasn't in shock. She was beyond shock and already in the zone he and the other members of his team trained for. In this moment she possessed the absolute clarity of a warrior's mind during battle. Artur instinctively knew he and the girl could communicate on equal terms .

Artur spoke out of the side of his mouth keeping his weapon raised and his cheek to the side of his rifle stock ."I knew it wouldn't fire, that's why you are still alive."

"Why?" The girl demanded though clenched teeth , still trying to make her weapon fire . Her palms were sweating and the adhesive tape wrapped around the pistol's grip was unbinding. The grip was slipping up between the pressure of her hands.

"You were set up." He said." A member of my section supplied your people with the ammunition . The earlier firefight was to get them to use up any reliable ammunition stocks. The round in your weapon came from a faulty batch. You could try clearing the breach but the next one will be probably the same."

Artur could tell the girl knew he wasn't lying. He sensed it even before she stopped trying to pull the trigger .

Artur , glanced over in the direction of the most concentrated gunfire indicating it would not himself that killed her.

" They're not taking prisoners, so perhaps you would like to talk to me for a few moments?"

It was a standard line he used for beginning an impromptu interrogation.

There was a few seconds more in the stand-off then the girl lowered the weapon . Artur noticed how thin her arms were and how the weight of the gun pulled her body forward as it came down and she had to step towards him to maintain her balance.

Artur continued to aim his rifle at her head wanting her to maintain her state of adrenaline-fueled clarity so she didn't edge into shock.

"You parents , are they in this room?" .

The girl perceptibly shook her head.

"This compound? "

Again the girl turned her head from side to side.

"Brothers and sisters?"

"No." Artur heard her unmistakably clear, English "No".

"Then you have no one, no relatives?"

She just stared at him and he didn't need to ask any more questions. She had the eyes of an orphan, both deeply haunted and hardened to the world. Tha's when the decision formed in his mind.

Artur swallowed and lowered his rifle . He walked over to the settee . With one hand he grabbed the front of dead fighter's jacket and heaved his body off the cushions. The body rolled onto the floor banging its head into the leg of an armchair. Artur sat down,rested his rifle across his knees and examined the girl. She followed followed his every movement. There was no trace of self pity and he was certain she would have killed him without a thought if her gun hadn't misfired.

"Chiayal ?" The girl demanded , her eyes darting over him, trying to make sense of his unusual combat gear.

"I'm not an Israeli soldier , not Hamas nor am I American." Artur replied. "My team's from somewhere else, way over any of them."

'Tyurrah,' the girl spat out .

" No,I'm not "bullshitting. "

"My name is Artur. Yours?"

"Jennah." It was almost a snarl the way she pronounced it.

Artur ran his hand over his chin and glanced at the doorway that led from the room into the back of the compound. The short bursts of gunfire back there had ceased . In the cool silence Jennah began to shiver and he could see goosebumps pricking up in the blood-caked dirt on her forearms and legs.

Artur's voice was quiet and factual. " I have made a decision , you don't have to die here Jennah."

Jehhah's body was starting to shake.

" Your body's so wired you're about to go into shock . Before you go , I want to give you a choice : They will kill you Jennah. So, either you never wake up again ,or when you do, I'll be with you and I will teach you how to fight your enemy . I need you to make that decision, now."

Never taking her eyes off him, Jennah gulped and nodded .

"Jennah that is a yes?"

Jennah nodded again then she dropped the gun. Her legs gave way sending her sprawling sideways onto the floor. Tremors had begun running through her body, and she stared blankly across the carpet at eye level with the fighter Artur had rolled off the sofa when he sat down.

Artur got up, stripped a canvass jacket from one of the dead Palestinians and wrapped Jennah's skinny body with it. Then he radioed 'outside' to say he was bringing a civilian out .

Jennah felt as light as a sheaf of straw as Artur carried her across the front courtyard. The wooden sheds outside the compound the were burning, flames crackling, shooting sparks up into the air . Sap boiled and whistled, singing inside the scorched branches of an olive tree that overhung the collapsing roofs. The air stank sweetly of seared flesh and wood smoke. Livestock that had been locked inside the burning sheds had stopped screaming, and there was the familiar, ringing silence that immediately followed battle , but none of this, neither the bloodshed inside the compound nor the silence outside had touched him.

He'd pulled life out of routine carnage and destruction. Over the years he came to understand it was a life that reflected his own, and of course,at the time, Artur needed a girl around Jennah's age to train for his long term mission.