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An old dream

Me and David were heading out of their areas. On the grubby paths we could see many of the natives; the fortunate ones were headed out, the unfortunate in. We had stuffed our cameras’ heads with grass and leaves, held together with mud. We hoped the glass was hidden and the cameras looked like short blunt clubs. We had heard rumors that they were killing anyone with a camera and claiming that they were journalist-spies. And it was good to be seen carrying a weapon.

We got out of the forested areas alright, and quietly. We were dirty enough by this time that no one looked at us twice. But the way out led right through a cluster of big brick buildings, perhaps the remains of an old missionary center. It would be a good spot for ambushing us.

After making sure our camouflage was sturdy, we entered. There weren’t any Americans there, which was a bit surprising, but it meant we wouldn’t have to worry about them shooting us. There were a lot of people huddled around on the steps of the various buildings. Some were watching us, but most were tending to their companions or themselves, and a few simply looked dazed. We climbed a bit up some steps between two buildings and sat down, leaning against the wall: we had been walking for the past several hours and could use a bit of a break while we discussed where to go.

I don’t know whether David heard it come down, but the moment it hit, I curled up in a ball. My back was against the wall, my head was tucked between my legs, and my right arm wrapped around to protect my neck. For a brief pause, nothing happened, and I was about to uncurl when some debris hit my arm, ripping open some of the scabs, and causing me to flinch back into a ball. This reflex probably saved my life, because I then felt an immense bulk whoosh over my head and right through the brick wall.

After that, I couldn’t help but look up to see what had narrowly missed me; I wanted to joke a little with David, but he wasn’t there. He had been a little above me on the steps, and my stomach fell when I saw his prone body sprawled over the mound of dirt. His left arm was missing, just gone completely with not even a stump left but only spurting blood to bear witness to what used to be.

In my shock, the only thing I could think to do was to rush to him and tie his shirt shut at the sleeve as a make-shift bandage. That I completely forgot how to tie a tourniquet is a fault I feel to this day. I put him other his shoulder as he moaned softly, and ran down into the central area, where I saw a black nurse tending to an infant on a stretcher.

I noticed the infant was missing an arm as well, but the right one instead.

I asked the nurse for help. She pointed off to the further corner of the square, saying that there was a medical station there.

So I went there.