Cara

There is a commotion in the marketplace. People are screaming and running from the area, not looking back. I struggle against the screaming people as they push me with their fleeing bodies, our shoulders colliding as I run towards where I left Parker. I can just barely make out a fire engulfing two buildings it's just a short distance in front of me, the view is mostly hindered by the people that move, panicking, past me. A large man carrying a small child suddenly appears in front of me and hits me with enough force that he knocks me down tripping slightly over my legs as he tramples over me. I try to protect my head with my arms, looking up in time to crawl quickly out of the way of a cart that clambers wildly by. The man urging the horse forward screams in a foreign tongue, one that I don't even try to identity. The horse rears when three young men run in front of it and it breaks free leaving the cart and its owner behind.

Two strong arms grab mine and haul me to my feet. Parker's eyes meet mine and he takes my hand and begins to pull me with the direction of the crowd. I look back one last time, and see a young woman cradling a small boy running behind us. The boy is not moving and a thick line of blood is running from his temple down onto her sleeve. Her eyes are emotionless when they meet mine. I know the child is dead.

Parker

Cara is in shock. She was closest to the explosion. I was lucky to have missed it, that's where we had agreed to meet up once we had done our shopping and she was late. I was late too, thank god or we both would have been dead. Her eyes hold a glazed tone and she turns back towards me from the young woman and her dead child. I can tell that she isn't there. Her eyes take in everything but she isn't reacting. The crowd surges forward and we are pushed along with it. Colors blur as people run past us panicked. Dust rises from the group creating a haze in the air that both suffocates and brings tears to my eyes. I pull Cara closer to me and the police run past us, assault rifles in hand, back to where the fire is getting larger. I can feel its heat growing on my back. They appear to be securing the area; I don't think that there is much that they can do for those injured until medical help can get there. Cara shakes in my arms, and I rub her side gently, her arms are bare to the heat. I slow our slight jog to fast walk. Her face is white as a sheet, the young woman behind us has begun to sob, but her wails attract no attention. Even Cara cannot bear to turn around again.

Lucas

Jesus Christ! I knew this country was unstable, but this is insanity. I join the crowd moving away from ground zero. My camera swings violently around my neck as I hustle towards the entrance to the market. I pass abandoned carts and a stand that has been raided of all its fruit, only a few pieces that lay crushed on the floor nearby it identify what it held. The entire market is trying to funnel itself out of the gates of the court yard. In front them, medical help is beginning to arrive, they push back against the crowd trying in vain to reach the wounded. They aren't going to make it in time, not for anyone who was near that blast. I turn around, walking backwards, and snap what pictures I can get of the crowd, the fire, and what is left of the clearing street. A couple, two other obvious foreigners walk past me and the man gives me a dirty look. The woman only looks straight forward. I ignore him. I wasn't sent here to take picture of flowers. I'm here for the news story, not to make friends, not to sit around and watch the action pass me by, undocumented. Two police officers walk pass me, nudging me with their rifles as they pass. I can take that hint. My camera goes back in the bag. I turn back around and pick up speed.

Parker

I think it's disgusting what some people do for a living. There are so many people here that need help and press fly around them like vultures looking for the weakest prey. The photographer that Cara and I just passed is now pushing himself past an elderly woman trying to make her way out of the courtyard. He practically is shoving her out of the way. I can feel my eyes narrowing as Cara places a steady hand on my chest. Her eyes see him too and she pulls from my arms to grab the woman and steady her. I can tell by the way that she leans into the older woman that she is trying not to alarm her. She speaks low and slowly into her ear. I walk a couple of feet behind them; I don't think it would be a good idea for a man to grasp her, even if it is to help. I know what Cara is saying to her. She is saying the only word that she knows in this foreign language, friend. The woman grasps Cara's arm and we move out of the courtyard.

Cara

When the elderly woman is distanced enough from the crowd to walk safely on her own she releases her grip on my arm and disappears with the crowd, down a side street. Parker comes up behind my right shoulder and takes my hand. I squeeze it. We were so lucky. It could have been us. I don't feel lucky. I feel as though my life was exchanged for those who were there. If I had been standing there, if Parker and I had been standing there, would we have taken up enough space to spare one of the victims? Could we have misplaced that young boy? Would he be here holding the young woman's hand as we lay by the burning building unmoving? Parker pulls me along, back towards the hotel we are staying at. I don't want to go there. I don't feel safe, I'm not sure that I will ever feel safe here again. I thought this would never happen to me. I knew it could, but I thought we would be safe.

Lucas

The crowd has almost completely dwindled down to nothing. All that is left now are medical personnel and armed police. I need to get back to my hotel so that I can upload and send these pictures out. This will be front page in about twenty minutes. It's the miracle of the internet. I follow a couple of locals and the foreign couple down the main street towards my hotel. They enter it first, I'm not surprised. There are few places to stay here nowadays, and it is not unlikely that we would be staying in the same one. They head past the front desk to the elevator and I can feel eyes on me as the door closes. I take the stairs. In twenty minutes I will a lot richer. In twenty minutes the world will know exactly what just happened here.

Parker

Cara shivers against me as the elevator slowly heads up towards our floor. I wrap my arms around her and she buries her head in my shoulder. I can feel her deep ragged breaths and I know she is crying. I know that the shock has finally worn off and the reality of what is actually occurring here has hit her. I regret even asking her to come with me. She belongs at home. She belongs in a place where a market has refrigerated goods and shopping carts. I never through that this would be a good place for her, but I didn't want to be without her. I was selfish and I regret it.

Cara

I know that we came here to help, but I don't even know how we can anymore. I feel useless, I feel like a burden to Parker, and easy target to those who intend to hurt others. I want to tell him that I want to leave, but how can I just reject his cause like that, reject him. I can't stop crying. I can't stop trembling. It was so much easier to be brave when I was feeding homeless children and walking through a peaceful market. We step out of the elevator as another blast rockets through the air. The lights in the hotel instantly go out. My breath catches in my throat as yells and screams erupt from every direction in the darkness.

Lucas

Fuck, the power had to go out now? Only two pictures uploaded. The darkness is almost total except for the pitiful light that barely makes its way in from the window. I feel around for my backpack and pull out my wireless internet card. It cost a fortune here, but I know that the pay from these pictures is worth it. I'm back in business and the building again shakes slightly. It feels almost like an earthquake, but instead of the entire building swaying equally I can feel it coming from the front. Something is going on out on the street. I hurry to the window just as I hear my laptop connect to the internet and continue to download. Out on the street mayhem has erupted and a vehicle sits burning just opposite of the entrance to the hotel. It's crashed into the business across the street and pieces of what's left of it litter the street. Something else litters the street, but my eyes won't identify what it was. I pull my head back through the window. Two explosions from one car bomb and I was sitting trying to get on the internet. I grab my camera.

Parker

Cara just looked up at me and asked me if we are going to die. I don't know what to say to her. I thought it would end with the market, but the second and third blasts that vibrated through the building proved me wrong. I think she is waiting for me to tell her that it is over, and that everything is going to be alright. I can't say that, I don't even know what is going on or if we should really be in this building right now. A maid runs past us in the hallways and doesn't even give us a glance. She runs into the stairwell and out of sight. I don't know what we should do. I pull Cara after her.

Cara

Parker…. The lights come back on just as we reach the second floor. The stairs are smooth and have little grip. I slip on the last two before we reach the first floor landing. Parker reaches out for me, but I fall out of his reach. My ankle twists awkwardly and a shooting pain rips up my leg. For a second it hurts too much to breathe and then a sickening pop sounds, slightly echoing in the stairwell. I scream. Parker is quickly at my side. He kneels next to me. His eyes scan my body looking for an injury. I slowly and lightly place my hands on my ankle. It has already begun to swell and I can feel hot tears begin to once again stream down my face. I stopped screaming, but the pain forces me to have to clamp my jaw shut. Parker lightly grazes my ankle with his finger tips and I scream through my teeth. He stops immediately. The lights flicker lightly in the stairwell, as though they are going to go out again but they don't. I think my ankle is broken.

Lucas

I'm not sure what the hell is going on here, but it's big. I move away from the window quickly when I realize there are no good angles for shots. I need to get back down on the street. I put my camera back in its bag and search around my room key. The lights finally have come back on, bout damn time. I spot my key right by the table next to the door. I grab my backpack, and swinging it over my shoulder I am out the door. Out in the hallway I head away from the elevator. I've heard enough horror stories about elevators in emergencies that I don't even bother to hit the down button. It's only four flights; I push the metal door to the stairwell and begin to take the stairs by two, time to make some more money.

Cara

Parker and I half stumble out into the lobby of the hotel. The front desk is empty. Behind us the door to the stairwell opens again and a blonde man runs through, pulling a camera out of bag. He hurries towards the street. He bumps Parker as he passes us and Parker calls him a "Fucker". The blonde man doesn't even acknowledge him. Parker leads me over to a bench across from the window. Outside all I can see is black smoke and people running past the door with their hands covering their mouths.

I'm so scared I can't even breathe. Parker walks quickly over to the desk and grabs a phone. I can see him listen for a dial tone. He is silent for a moment then slams the phone down angrily. We make eye contact for a second before another explosion, much louder than any of the earlier ones erupts. I cover my ears as the windows explode inward onto the marble floor in front of me. Parker has ducked down low and when I open my eyes I see him grasp a three inch piece of glass lodged in his right arm. It's bloody and he shakes as he removes it. I try to open my mouth to tell him not to do it, but I can't even force it open. I look away, I barely hear the glass fall to the floor.

Parker

My arm feels like it's on fire. I need to get Cara and me to the hospital, or at least to the embassy. The phones dead and I don't think the street is safe. Quickly I glance around the lobby for an exit sign. There is one hanging above a small hallway ten feet to Cara's left. The gash in my arm is bleeding heavily now, and I can feel the blood running down my arm into my palm. I lift the arm slightly and hold it against my chest. I need to either elevate it above my heart or get some clean bandages on it fast. Cara gets up and limps half stumbling over towards me. She takes off her shirt and tears it with her teeth. I can see the tank top she was wearing under it is drenched in sweat. She says nothing as she wraps a piece of her shirt tightly around my arm. My wound bleeds through the thin linen in almost seconds, but the blood seems to stop there. I give Cara my other arm and she grasps it tightly as we make our way towards the exit sign and down the long hallway to the hotels back entrance.

I'm starting to feel like this is all a bad dream. In seconds I will wake up and we won't be here. We will be home and I will have to get up and go to work. Cara will have the day off because she doesn't have to go to the hospital on Tuesdays. Her nursing allows her to have a very flexible schedule. I'll kiss her on the check goodbye and she will smile sleepily at me as I walk out the door. I would be at work in half an hour. I hate my job and wish I could do something to help people instead of computer programming.

Lucas

My lungs burn with every inhale I take, and cough violently with every exhale. My camera lays somewhere to my right but I can't see it. I only had a chance to take three quick shots of what was left of the restaurant across the street before I found my self rocked through the air. I don't know where I am, or what is going on. The only thing that I can feel is my lungs as they spasm in my chest. I need to try and find a way out of the smoke to fresher air. I need to move, out of the corner of my eye I see a green truck and a tank begin to make their way from the direction of the market where the first explosion happened. They don't see me and I know that they are going to run over my legs. I try to get enough air into my lungs to scream my presence to them. They pass right over me. I didn't feel a thing. The smoke must be becoming thinner. My lungs aren't struggling as much to pull in air. I look up towards the sky and a face comes into view an elderly woman and then the faces of two young boys. I can feel myself being pulled upwards.

Cara

This must be hell. The scene outside is complete panic and people are running in every direction, beside me Parker beings to viciously cough. I turn towards him and see him raise a strip of my ripped shirt over his face. He hands the other to me.

I tie it over my nose and then help him tie his. I grasp his good arm again and as quickly as my ankle can take me we begin to make our way through the back alley away from the main street. Around us people rush by, not giving us a second glance. The alley is scattered with trash and we have to maneuver around pushed over trashcans and debris. Parker calls out to a man that is dressed in the outfit bus boys wear from our hotel. He asks the boy for help and I can see in his eyes panic and his urge to run. He says in broken English that we need to get away from this place. Parker asks him where the hospital is, the boy points behind us and say one kilometer. Parker asks him where our embassy is, the boy again points behind us but this time he says four.

Parker

We have only been in this country for almost two weeks. I should know where the embassy is, I was an idiot not to find this information out sooner. The boy I stopped is now running in the direction that we had been walking. He did not even hesitate a moment after he answered my question. I pause for a moment, watching the boy run away. I can feel Cara's eyes on me but I don't turn to look at her. I don't know how to fix this situation. I don't know if we are going to get out of here safely, or alive. Gunfire bursts through the air behind us.

Lucas

Mother fucker, my legs started burning a little while ago and it has been growing in intensity. At least they are still attached to me, what their condition is I don't know. I don't think I want to know. I may never find out. I don't know who these people are who are dragging me but they are locals. I hear the old woman who I first saw giving commands to the two boys that are holding me by my armpits. They say nothing in response. In the distance I hear gunfire and I wonder how far we are from where the attacks are. Where was my camera? I lost it in the last explosion, dammit I've lost my pictures. I take a deep breath and try to speak but the dirt from the people's feet that are dragging me keeps on getting kicked up in my face. It's sticking to my chest. I look down to see the front of my shirt is soaked in blood.

Was I dying? Where were these people taking me? I was going to be another statistic. They were going to put me on some video tape and I would be the next news story. Cold fear worked its way down my spine. I had always known this would be a possibility, heard of it happening to others, always somehow felt like I was invincible. No one was invincible, especially not here. Another explosion rocked off somewhere in the distance. Its sound was the last thing I heard before I went under.

Cara

I feel up in the dust and to a wet spot on the back of my head. There had been some gunfire and then next thing I knew I was being rocketed backwards through the air. Where was Parker? I scream out his name and my words sound far away, muffled. I pull myself to my feet and wipe the tears that formed in my eyes away. The dust is thick and I can barely see more than a foot in front of me. I hold my hand in front of me and limp forward. I scream Parkers name again and trip on something I hadn't seen in front of me. I fall onto something wet and solid. It is small. I pulled it out from under me.

I drop the hand, gasping for enough air to scream. It was pale, male. Parker? I scream and felt the pressure of it in my whole body. This isn't real. None of this is real. God help me, someone help me. Please. I gasp for air and look around into the sand colored air. I am alone, there is nothing but dust. I stand again and will myself though the pain as I put as much distance between the hand and me as I can.

Parker

Cara? Something is moving to my right. I can see whatever it is stirring up dust as it squirms. I roll onto my stomach ignoring the pain in my arm and drag myself through the debris to it. A young man lies on the ground. His entire right side had been blown away. He looks at me with fear when I reach his side but still reaches out with the hand he had left to grasp my arm. He is a foreigner too; pale, with features not common to this area.

His words come out garbled and I do not recognize the language but I know what he means. He doesn't want to be alone. Maybe he knows no help is coming, or maybe he just knows his time is running out. He looks at me was pained eyes, and then slowly they became lax and close. His hand falls off of me and I place it on his chest. I hear footsteps behind me and freeze. Help or the executioner?

Should I risk it and call out or wait to see who will show up? They could miss me entirely. I take a half second to catalog my body. My arm hurts from the last explosion but the rest of my body feels fine. I glance back at where I landed. Cara is nowhere in sight. As the stranger comes closer I lie still.

Lucas

Light, darkness. We have stopped and I am dumped unceremoniously on my stomach, the gash on the right side of my chest filling with sand. I can see fuzzy shapes moving past my vision. Over my right shoulder I hear some screaming and a body falls on top of mine. I grind my teeth and try to stifle the scream that wants to erupt as my wound is ground further into the sand. The body squirms for a second then is still. I can feel it go lax and a liquid begins to stream down my back. I recognize the smell of urine. A gruff voice gives a command I don't understand, I don't understand anything that is going on. Where were the troops? Earlier I had seen so many armed men running into the marketplace. Where were they now? What was the point of having an army if they could do nothing when the people really need them?

The body was lifted off of my back and thrown without ceremony in the corner of the room that was now coming into focus. I recognized it immediately. The woman who had taken me from the explosion lies crumpled in front of me. She is covered in blood from two knife wounds in her chest. One eye is closed but the other remains open and unfocused. I stared at her in half pity and half shock. Those feelings were quickly shifting to fear. The room had gone silent and I fear all eyes were on me.

Cara

Walk, scream Parkers name, walk forward. I can't see anything. A loud noise penetrates the buzzing in my head. I look up, a helicopter flies by. I wave my arms to it but then stop. I don't know who the good guys are or who the bad guys are. I'm not sure that I want their attention. I feel cold. I'm so cold. Something wet on my neck makes me shiver. Where am I? I feel like the dust is thick as mud. Moving forward is hard. My ankle sends sharp pains up my leg with each step.

I scream Parkers name. He is nowhere to be found. Maybe I should double back. He could still be back there. Maybe, I should- I am so cold. I close my eyes and sink to the ground.

Parker

The footsteps pass, a helicopter flies overhead. What can they do? What can be done anymore? We are all going to die. I've brought Cara and me to deaths door. Maybe she is already there. I close my eyes and drag myself to my feet. In the far distance I think I hear her voice. I pause a moment.

There is was again. Her voice, she screaming my name, her calls are frantic and each time softer. She is walking away from me. I call her name back. She doesn't hear me, just continues to scream. I head in her direction, thankful that I can still walk at all. Blood from the dead foreigner makes my hands sticky and my fingers hard to separate. They are half caked with sand. Small cuts cover them. The sand slows the bleeding but it hurts to move them. I can feel the sand moving more and more into my wounds and body. Cara's scream pulls me out of my own world. I move as quickly as I can in her direction searching through the dust for her form. I scan the floor and the doorways for anything. Cara's calls have stopped.

Lucas

After a moment I am picked off the floor. I am blindfolded, strapped to a chair and gagged. It is more pain than anything else I had ever experience in my life when they tie my legs, but I don't give them the satisfaction of a scream I tighten my jaw so only the smalls sounds get out. When people see this, they will know I died with some god damn dignity. My fear is gone. I know how this works. The journalist is killed, the tape is sent, and nothing ever changes.

I will be a blip on the television screen, if I get that much. Maybe, some day down the line, someone might read the reports and remember that some people had the balls to go out and get the news.

Papers smack against my chest and I groaned. The smell of ink and paper hits my nose, a newspaper. I hear a helicopter over the hurried voices that speak behind me. Information of the attacks would have hit the news rooms by now. I wonder if any of my pictures have.

Parker

Cara lies still on the ground in front of me as I turn the corner out of the alley and around the building. I look around for help but the street is empty. The sound of distant gunfire echoes through it. I run to her and pull her into my arms. Her head rocks, loose, the back of it is wet. A sob escapes my throat and for a moment I think it comes from her but it doesn't. It's mine and my vision of her goes fuzzy as my eyes water.

I call her name softly, leaning in, there is nothing around me anymore. There is nothing but her and I. She is not opening her eyes. Her body is colder then it should be. Shouldn't she be warmer? It's very warm here. She gave me her shirt when I hurt my arm. All she needs is something warm and then she can open her eyes again. Cara is just cold. She will open her eyes. Cara?

Jonathan

The helicopter circles back around and I look out the side at the carnage. People are running in fear of their lives. We reach ground zero, the area where it all began. The fire is out of control, we can't get too close, so we circle around and head out again back towards the embassy. Well now at least I can tell the powers that be, that have been calling me non-stop since the shit started falling from the sky, something.

My tie flaps loose in the wind and I shove it back in my jacket. The money isn't worth this. All of this makes me sick. The pilot says he has seen something and circles back around again. I squelch my annoyance of having to go back and don't say anything. Out the window something catches my eye. A man is waving a white bloodstained shirt at the helicopter.

Lucas

Footsteps around my body and I can now tell there are two people in the room. They speak and I identify them as men. I can hear nothing beyond their hurried discussion. The momentary bravado I had is fading, the fear is back, and I use everything I have in me to not shake. I don't want to die, not for this fucking job. I have plans and none of this is in it.

Suddenly everything has gone silent. What is going on? An explosion, so close I am thrown to the face first to the floor. The chair I am strapped too shatters. Moments pass and the floor vibrates underneath me, heavy footsteps. I can see nothing, and the ringing in my ears cuts through my head like a knife. Rough hands grab me and I am dragged down stairs and through dirt. My blindfold slips and I cry out.

Parker

They strap Cara into the helicopter seat and we take off. I sit across from her as the other man sitting in the back of the helicopter works on stopping the bleeding. He told me when they landed, that he used to be an EMT before he had come here. Cara is pale and limp. We land at the embassy and are transferred to another helicopter. This one is a medical copter. I am told by the man in the suit that the only way out of this city is by helicopter. We are lucky the medical helicopter hasn't left yet, inside is a very critical patient.

Once we are secured I take Cara's hand. A woman comes over to Cara and begins to help her. I don't look as she works. Instead I only look at Cara. She is so still. We came here to help and instead ended up needing help. A hand lands on my shoulder. I turn, the woman who was working on Cara smiles at me and says the pulse is strong. I can feel myself unraveling. Tears stream down my face. I look at Cara as the woman goes over to assist a man working on someone injured behind me.

Jonathan

The medical helicopter takes off and my pilot motions for me to get back into the one I had just vacated. I clench my jaw and get back in. When I put on my helmet he says that we need to leave. We are the last civilian helicopter to leave. We take off and head in the same direction as the medical helicopter.

There is a distant whistling noise that gets closer. Suddenly the helicopter jerks forward and a fireball barrels towards me. No time to even blink.

Lucas

I can hear the screams of the people who are covering me with blankets. The other helicopter has been hit. I open my eyes enough to see the male technician consoling the female one. She is crying hysterically. I hear a soft male voice over my shoulder whispering words of comfort to someone I can't see. I tilt my head.

I am surprised to see the man from the marketplace and the hotel again. He is probably the only other foreigner in the entire city and he looks like shit. He holds a loose hand to his cheek, female, probably the woman he is with. The angle I am holding my head in hurts, I turn away.

Cara

I can hear people around me, noises, something wrapped around me. My eyes are too heavy to open. What's going on? Where am I? I'm scared. My hand is warm, I can feel skin, I wrap my hand around that warmth and I can hear Parkers voice, faint but growing louder.

Somewhere off in this distance there is the sound of an explosion.