Hope this isn't too late...
Amman, once the glowing jewel of the Jordanian kingdom was now a very dark place. The streets and houses were abandoned and cars littered the roads. The only sound was the occasional barking dog or creak of a windblown door or window. Far off, the roar of a fire that had blazed on for almost a day burned on unchecked. Four young men, mostly soldiers, stood on the outskirts of the dead city dazed by the events that had brought them to such a place.
Even though he was a seasoned veteran of the Israeli Defense Force, Sergeant Amit Levin could hardly believe that almost a week before he had been guarding a checkpoint in the northern Gaza region. Things had changed when word of an infection and a pandemic had come along with more security and a mix of about European Union and American soldiers. They had worked furiously to turn the checkpoint into a fortress where they could mount a defense if the carriers came. When they did, the checkpoint had fallen to the unstoppable horde.
Amit had fled east with the survivors, just over a dozen of the original four hundred troop, all of differing nationalities; seven Israelis, two French, two German, and one American. After reaching Jerusalem the group had split even further, the French and Germans opted to stay and fight on with the EU soldiers stationed there. All but three of the Israelis had opted to join them as well.
The remaining Israelis and the American, a Corporal named Terry Hobbes, agreed that after the carnage they’d seen in Gaza the very last place they wanted to be was near a large city. Rumors were already spreading in Jerusalem that the disease brought the dead to life. If that was true, a city with three quarters of a million people was not the place to find out.
The four Israelis and Corporal Hobbes “borrowed” an Israeli Defense Force Toyota Land Cruiser along with some food, water, ammunition and several fuel containers. The group had quickly piled the supplies into the back of the SUV and driven off hastily before anyone had noticed the missing truck or equipment.
Amit had taken his issued radio out of his pack and tuned it to monitor the defense of Jerusalem. Only 30 minutes after their group had left the outskirts, reports began of Israeli helicopters that had spotted several sprinters heading towards the ancient city. Much like in the Suez and the checkpoint in Gaza, the helicopters’ rockets and machine guns quickly dispatched the first sprinters. Then more sprinters appeared and in ever increasing numbers. At first helicopters and Israeli F-16s and F-15’s were sent to intercept the approaching carriers, but as the day wore on it be came clear to everyone in the Toyota that Jerusalem would fall like so many others before it.
Around 1800 that evening, the group was nearing the checkpoint at the Jordanian border near Jericho. A mix of Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian vehicles and equipment had been left in a panic and were scattered around the bunkered and fortified checkpoint. Amit slowed the SUV to a stop.
“I want to make sure there is nobody here,” He said in heavily accented English. “no sense in coming this far to get killed by the Jordanians.” The group nodded in approval.
As he opened the door, the radio crackled to life.
“Guardian six, this is Checkpoint Twenty! Guardian six come in!!” Cried a frantic voice in Hebrew. Guardian six was the commander in charge of the defense of Jerusalem.
“This is Guardian three, go ahead.” came a reply, also in Hebrew. This was the radio operator for officer in charge of operations.
“Guardian three, we have at least two hundred sprinters approaching our location, we are running low on ammunition. We need supplies now!”
Corporal Hobbes did not speak Hebrew, but had gathered from the frantic young man on the checkpoint radio something very bad was happening. He had understood one word though: ‘sprinter’.
“Oh fuck.” He whispered.
“Checkpoint Twenty, how much longer can you hold? We will get a supply truck to you as soon as we can.”
“Guardian we need help now!” They could hear the rapport of automatic gunfire over the crackling radio, “Now! We need help now! They’re here! Oh God they’re here! Help us!”
Sounds of more gunfire, screaming men, and the animal cries of the carriers could be heard before the checkpoint radio operator stopped transmitting.
“Checkpoint Twenty, are you there? Checkpoint Twenty, do you read us?”
The increasingly desperate Guardian radio operator tried for two solid minutes, but got no reply and at last the radio went silent.
Amit, turned off the radio.
“Holy Shit!” said the American.
“Yes, “agreed Amit, “Holy Shit.”
There had been no one left at the Jordan checkpoint. Evidently news of the ending of the world meant that international borders were a thing of the past. They had spent a few minutes scrounging around for supplies, then cleared the debris and abandoned vehicles from the road so they could pass through. Fifteen minutes after checkpoint twenty had fallen, Amit’s small group was moving east again.
The road to Aman was improved, but not quite up to western standard. For the most part it was a fairly narrow two-lane road. Potholes and entire sections of missing road were everywhere. Amit had been forced to slam on the breaks twice when a rather sizable pothole seemed to appear out of nowhere. As the last of the sunlight disappeared below the horizon, the men could make out fires that dotted the distant rolling hills.
“There are still people out there.” Hobbes spoke for the first time since the radio was shut off.
“Not for long, I think.” Replied Amin. “They will begin moving east like us very soon.”
“Where will they go? And for that matter, where are we going to go?”
“I’m not certain. Iraq, or Syria Maybe.”
A young Israeli Private Named Katz spoke up, “Iraq! How can we go to Iraq? It is bad enough we are in Jordan!”
“The carriers do not seem to know the difference Katz, pretty soon I think we will be wishing for the days when we were standing guard in the Golan or the West Bank.”
“This is crazy.” Hoffman sighed and leaned back into the chair.
“And we must hope that it is crazy in a good way for us.”
“Because if we get to Amman and it is anything like the madness in Jerusalem, the Muslims may tear us apart before the carriers can get here.”
Katz chimed in again “We are wearing uniforms and carrying weapons, anyone that stops us will know who we are, and what we are.”
“Well, I’m not Israeli. And Jordan is supposed to be an ally of the US.”
“My friends, we must hope that things are so confused now the Jordanians will not notice us, ally or not.”
“Sergeant we should change out of our uniforms, they only set us apart.” Another young private spoke up from the back, this time speaking in Hebrew.
Amit replied in their native language, “We will Private Moshe, but we must put distance between us and Jerusalem first. We’ll stop after we’ve made it to Amman to get supplies and clothing. And speak English, it’s rude to the American.”
“My English isn’t very good though.”
“Try.” Amit concentrated on driving once again. The trip to Amman was not a long one, but between the lack of illumination, the questionable road conditions, and the ever-present threat of a checkpoint or ambush he was not in a rush to get everyone killed as they made their escape either.
As they got closer to Amman, they could see a glow on the horizon, the tell-tale orange of city lights glowed against the night sky. As the group grew closer though, they could see flickering light of fires as well, burning whole sections of the city. Amit said a silent prayer that these were only a result of panicked or opportunistic people, and not caused by carriers that had somehow gotten to Amman before them.
The young men who had been silent most of the trip, now stared at the spectacle of a major city tearing itself apart in rise of the oncoming pandemic. It was amazing how quickly civilization could collapse on itself. The defense of humanity had been abandoned for self-preservation. Amit had never liked Muslims much, since as far as he knew they all wanted to see him dead. But even he felt a tinge of pity for the people suffering inside the city.
The car slowed to a stop and Amit turned to his compatriots.
“I think we should find a place to stop for the night, get some supplies and clothes, and move out before the sun comes up in the morning. I don’t suppose we are soldiers any longer, so I will ask your opinions on this.”
“What if the carriers make it this far before we can leave?” Private Katz asked.
“I don’t think they will. The soldiers defending Jerusalem will probably slow them down, and they will also need to get through all of the West Bank before they even get into Jordan. No, I think we have a day, perhaps two before we will need to start moving.”
“I don’t know man, staying here even over night just doesn’t seem like a good idea.”
Amit pointed through the windshield towards Amman, “Would you like to see how lucky we would be in there Corporal Hobbes?”
“Yeah, good point. And please, call me Terry.”
“Very well Terry. How about the rest of you?” He looked into the back seat at the three soldiers. Katz and Moshe spoke to one another in Hebrew, and then turned and nodded to the Sergeant. The last soldier, another Corporal who Amit had known for many months stared blankly out the window.
“Lev? What do you think?” Amit and Lev Peretz had been stationed at the checkpoint together months before the pandemic had even begun. They spent many long and stress-filled days watching Palestinians pass through their checkpoint. The constant stream of people that moved through were almost always quiet and fairly passive, but without exception they always with a look of resolute anger and hatred for the Israeli soldiers.
Lev and Amit had come from the same neighborhood in Haifa but had not known one another until they were assigned to the unit in Gaza. Even so, they had still become fast friends.
“I will go with whatever you think my friend.” Lev turned to look at his friend, smiled meekly, and went back to looking out the window.
“Okay, lets find a place to hide then.”
They turned into a small community outside Amman, it looked like any other suburb in the developed world. Rows of houses that would have made Terry Hobbes think he might be in a small town back home, were they not all sitting empty.
They found a home with a driveway that gave access to the rear of the house. They pulled the car in back and got out.
“Do you all know how to conduct a house clearance?” Amit asked in both English and Hebrew, to make sure he was understood. In matters of life and death it was always best to be certain you made your intentions clear.
Everyone nodded, they were all infantry soldiers, and in modern combat learning how to clear a house was part of the training.
“Good, Terry you take the point, Katz two, I’m three, Moshe you are four, and Lev you are the breach.” He took exactly one minute to talk the ad-hoc team through their entrance and how they would clear each room. They then checked their weapons and ammunition and moved to the rear entrance of the house where they “stacked up” ready to make their entrance. The men tensed, their rifles at the ready.
With a hand signal from Amit, Lev moved to the door, inspected it for a week spot, turned the handle to see if it would open, and finally stepped back and gave the door a swift kick. The door swung open violently. Like a machine, the team began moving as one. They entered the house swiftly, checking corners, clearing rooms and danger areas. They flowed through the house ensuring every room was empty. At last, when Amit was certain there was nobody in the home he called out. “All clear!”
Like a switch had been turned off, the soldiers became young men once again, their weapons lowered from a ready position and they began to meander around the house, taking time to inspect anything of interest.
The modest little home had once held an entire family. Children’s toys magazines for women, a sitting area with a large television, and a modern kitchen with a large dining room table all indicated an upper middle-class family. Amit felt hopeful they would find clothes here. They spread out further in the house, each man looking for supplies. Terry Hobbes opened the refrigerator to find it had been stripped of anything edible but condiments and a plate of something that looked like brown mustard and rice.
He looked over at the sink area, the plates and dishes had been surreptitiously dumped into the sink and forgotten about. But it reminded Terry of something very important.
“Hey Amit!” He raised his voice just enough to be heard in the adjoining rooms. No need to attract more attention than they already had.
“Yes Terry?” Amit’s voice came from the next room.
“We should top off our water while we’re here. No telling how long it will be ‘till we get to running water again.”
“Good idea, I will go and get the water containers.”
Amit dropped the blankets he’d found piled up in the next room and started to head outside. He slung his rifle across his back as he did to free up both hands. When he reached the Land Cruiser, he opened up the rear hatch and grabbed two of their three 40 Liter water containers. They had consumed one already, and hadn’t had time to top off the other. He placed the containers on the ground and stepped back to close the gate. As he did, he felt something metal press against his back.
“raweenee edeek.” A voice came from behind him.
Amit raised his hands immediately. “I don’t speak Arabic,” He said in English, hoping it might buy him a second to turn around and face his assailant.
“Then turn around.” The voice said in British-accented English.
Amit turned, his hands still raised head-high. As he did a young man in his mid twenties filled his vision. In his hand was a semi-automatic pistol, most likely a 9 millimeter. He was clearly nervous, but angry. Amit recognized his face from the pictures he’d seen inside the house. As Amit turned, the young man examined his uniform, he felt hit gut sink when the man noticed the subdued flag of Israel on his shoulder.
“What are you doing in my house Israeli?”
“We were just looking for some supplies, we didn’t think anyone was home. We will be on our way soon.”
“I don’t think so. You broke into my house, and start stealing my things. It is no surprise that Israel would use a time like this to try and take our land!” The anger burned in every word he spoke.
“You misunderstand! We are only…”
“Hey! Amit, check out what I foun…what the Fuck?” Terry Hobbes walked out holding two beers in either hand. The smile that had been there a second before was quickly wiped away.
The young man turned his head, startled. It gave Amit the half-second he needed. Swiftly, he brought his left hand across to the hand holding the pistol. He grabbed it and pushed it into the young man’s body. With his right hand he quickly drew back and stepped forward to unleash a punch to young man’s nose. The Jordanian flinched though, and instead on hitting him on the bridge of the nose, Amit’s punch landed on his cheek. It was enough though, the move was so violent and fast the hand holding the gun reflexively let go of the gun as Amit used his punching hand in a hammering motion on the pistol. As he did, the pistol came free in his left hand. Amit stepped back, pulled back the action on the pistol to ensure a round was in the chamber and drew down on the young man who was holding one hand to his face and the other to his chest his eyes dazed.
“Jeez…” Terry could only watch in awe at the display he’d just seen. He’d heard the Israeli military’s self-defense techniques were effective, but he’d never seen them in action. He made a mental note to ask for some lessons later. He put the beer down, unslung his M4 rifle and moved down to help his new friend,
The young man turned again to watch Terry as he approached him. Suddenly, the shock of Amit’s attack wore off and he began to scream.
“Ahtaaju Almusa'ada! Ahtaaju Almusa'ada!”
Terry flipped his rifle over and hit the screaming man in the head with the butt of his rifle, knocking him to the ground unconscious.
“That’s about enough of that shit.”
“…can’t kill the guy, he was just trying to protect his house!”
Someone was speaking English, an American.
“He will not just let us go Terry. We have to leave him tied up here then.”
“Amit that’s as good as killing him. When the carriers get here, he’ll be defenseless!”
The Jordanian man opened his eyes painfully. His vision was obscured by swelling in his right cheek and his head throbbed painfully. A gag tied tightly around his head kept his mouth from closing fully, and his hands and legs were hogtied behind him. As his vision cleared, he saw five men standing over him. Four were wearing the uniform of the Israeli, and one an American uniform. The American was the first to notice he had come to.
“He’s waking up guys, we’re going to have to figure this out.”
The man who’s voice the Jordanian had heard a moment before replied, “Terry you hit him in the head with a rifle, I doubt we’ll get much cooperation from him.” It was the Israeli he’d fought with outside.
“It’s worth a try.” The American turned to face the young man.” You speak English?”
“Okay, I’m going to take off your gag. If you talk like a civil human, we’ll return the courtesy. Understand?”
He nodded again. Terry leaned down and untied the gag from the man’s head. As he did, the Jordanian opened and closed his mouth a few times to moisten his dry tongue and lips.
The American stood up fully again, “What’s your name?”
“Hamid, what were you doing pulling a gun on my friend here?”
“You were breaking into my house, what else would you expect me to do?”
“Okay, fair enough. Now here’s the deal Hamid, we aren’t here to hurt you or anyone else. We just want some supplies and water, and we’ll get out of here. We’ll let you go as soon as we leave”
“And why should I trust a bunch of Israeli thieves?”
“Because we have the guns,”
Anger flashed in his eyes, and then gave way to sadness. He shrugged as much as he was able, “Whatever, take what you want. “
“Well, I’ll make you a promise. I’ll untie your legs and hands, if you promise not to try anything stupid. I know that’s not comfortable. Deal?”
Hamid sighed and nodded resolutely.
Terry pulled a knife and cut the twine they’d used to tie up Hamid, his hands and feet came loose and he moved them gingerly as they regained feeling. Slowly, he pushed himself into a sitting position. He saw two of the Israelis react as he did; everyone was clearly on edge.
“I’m not going to do anything,” Hamid said. “I told you to take whatever you want. I suppose none of this matters now anyway.”
Amit pointed at a family portrait sitting on a nearby table. “Where is your the rest of your family?”
“I don’t know. We went to town to try and get on a bus to a shelter in Turkey. The crowd was massive, everyone was crowding to get onto the busses. There were only ten, TEN! For at least a hundred thousand! Suddenly someone started screaming that carriers had gotten into the crowd, and everyone panicked. I was knocked into a wall and trampled; I lost my family in the crowd. I hope they made it onto the busses. There is certainly nothing left for them here.” A dour look crossed his face.
“How did you get back here?”
“I walked, we had to abandon our car on the road. Nobody could move, the streets were too jammed.”
Another of the Israelis asked “Were there really carriers? Were they there?!”
Hamid shook his head. “No, just frightened people. Or, at least I didn’t see any.” He looked up at Amit. “So, you’re not part of an Israeli invasion force?”
Amit shook his head. “No, I suppose we are all on the run. We were all in a fight in Gaza, only 12 survived that we know of. And some of those chose to stay in Jerusalem. We have no idea how many are left now.”
Hamid scoffed, “Typical Israeli, running from the flight with your American protector.”
“Call it whatever you want,” Amit shot back “the winners of this fight are the ones that survive. The lines will break, they all do.”
In the sitting room, the TV came to life. It startled everyone except Private Moshe who had grown tired of the conversation since he couldn’t understand most of it. He’d found the TV remote and started clicking through channels until he reached a news channel that was broadcasting in Arabic, but he immediately recognized the picture as the city of Jerusalem being recorded from a news Helicopter. As he watched the camera focused in on what looked like ants swarming, but as the camera continued to increase the magnification he could make out men with automatic weapons firing desperately at the onslaught heading towards them. As the sprinters reached them, some of the men broke and ran, others were trampled under the sheer force of what had to be at least a thousand sprinters.
“Sergeant, you need to see this!”
Amit and the other Israelis moved to see what he was watching. Terry, was left to guard their prisoner.
“What? What is it?” He yelled.
“Jerusalem has fallen to the carriers.” Hamid answered
“How do you know that?”
“I was listening, I do speak Arabic.”
“Right.” Terry wanted to smack himself for such a stupid question. But the gravity the situation called for a more collected response. “Not good.”
“No, I suppose it’s not.”
Terry helped Hamid to his feet, and walked him into the sitting room so he could watch the television. He instructed Hamid to sit in the sofa on the wall, but soon they both were staring in horror at the events unfolding on the screen.
A TV reporter was standing in front of a line of soldiers who were firing madly into a group of rushing sprinters. The news channel had dubbed whatever language he was speaking into Arabic, but they could understand what was happening regardless. They watched as the sprinters overwhelmed the soldiers on the line. One sprinter jumped on a soldier tearing wildly at his throat, blood began jetting out from the soldier’s neck. The reporter broke and ran, the cameraman behind him was trying hard to keep up. Then, the image became a sideways view of two men running away, the cameraman had dropped the camera. They could now see sprinters close behind the fleeing newsmen. The reporter and cameraman were quickly overtaken by their pursuers, who immediately began tearing them both apart.
“Allah al-must’an.” Said Hamid. It jolted all the soldiers back to reality, who suddenly realized they had been so wrapped up in the carnage on the television they had stopped paying attention to their prisoner.
“What was that Hamid?” Asked Terry
“It means God help us.”
“Yeah… Throw one in there for me too.”
The men sat around the table in Hamid’s kitchen. The pretense of prisoner and captor had been dropped, for now. The conversation of where to go next had lasted over an hour, it was now almost 0130 and the men were showing their fatigue.
“We should avoid the city, there is no way to get through with any sort of vehicle. Besides, you will all stick out in a crowd of Jordanians. It’s worth the longer route, and I know my way. I’ve lived here most of my life.”
“Perhaps,” said Amit, whose eyes were bloodshot and tired. “But shouldn’t we at least stop for some supplies?”
“There is a market less than 3 kilometers from here, we can stop there on our way around the city.”
At this Private Katz jumped in “Are we really going to take this Arab shit with us?” This had been the primary point of contention all evening. Even Hamid wasn’t sold on coming with the soldiers, but he liked his chances against what he’d seen on television even less.
Terry sighed angrily, “Even, you’ve been outvoted on this one, so shut the fuck up. We’ve left enough people to die. If you leave him you will leave me with him, and then you’ll be a gun down.”
“And I’m not going to let us go down by even one gun.” Amit said, rubbing his eyes. He looked at Katz, who slumped back in his chair resigned to being the sole dissenting vote. “It’s settled then, we will leave at dawn and go to the market on our way around Amman.”
The men broke from the table, and moved into the sitting room. Hamid had brought out pillows from the beds in the house and they had taken some of the blankets Amit had found earlier to create makeshift beds. They were all exhausted and fell asleep almost as soon as their eyes were shut. Amit was the last to drift off; as he did he smiled a bit at the irony of Israelis taking refuge in a house in Jordan.