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It was time. They had waited weeks for this moment; planned meticulously for this momentous occasion. It was finally the day they had been waiting for. It was time to break free. It was the day they had decided they would make their escape from the clutches of the Al-Qaeda.
Michael Johnson, a journalist, and his cameraman, Alex Little were being held captive. Of the little Urdu they could speak, they had picked up that they were somewhere in the mountains near Kandahar. There was a third white male prisoner but they did not know who he was or how long he had been there. He was kept in a separate cell.
The jihadists were merciless. They beat them harshly. However, it was not time for them to die yet. The murder would only take place before a camera. That wasn't ready yet. All they knew was the third man was to be beheaded on the 28th. They planned their escape on the 26th. There would be no moon then. It would be perfect.
The two men had been locked in a cell which was essentially a makeshift mud hut. On the second night of their capture, they'd looked around the little hut and found a spot that was weak near the base of a wall. It wasn't worth digging directly, though. Every night they were given water and a morsel of dry naan.The famished men used to eat it rapidly and drink some of the water. Then they took the rest of the water in small handfuls and splashed it at the the little weak spot in the wall. Taking their shirts off and tying them around their fists, first they punched the spot 'til it got soft, and then dug until they reached dry mud. Then they repeated the whole process all over again. They barely got anywhere in one go, but it was worth it. The slow digging gave them an ounce of hope. They'd overheard the the date for the execution of the third individual and decided they needed to escape before that. It was essential. They might be killed with him. They didn't know that.
It was time. It was a dark night with few stars barely visible in the horizon. It was time to escape.
“Are you ready?”
“Yeah, Mike, let's do this.”
The mud had already given way to a hole which their now skinny frames would be able to squeeze through. At the stroke of one, when they were pretty sure most of the men were asleep, they started crawling through the hole. It was tight. Slowly, inch by painful inch, Michael got out. He crawled along the wall and waited in its shadow a few feet away. There was a terrorist standing with his back to Michael. Michael crept ahead slowly and got to his feet against a wall with his back to it. The Al-Qaeda man was armed with a Kalashnikov AK-47 and maybe more weapons. He would have to be careful. The journalist tip-toed towards him. With a luckily adept strike, he landed a swift chop to the man's neck from behind. He caught the incapacitated terrorist as he fell and dragged his body to the shadowed area behind him. He took his gun and searched him for ammo. He found a bayonet that must have belonged to some US Army recruit and some ammunition for the AK-47. A little later, Alex was through the hole as well. He moved slowly to where Michael was and they decided to move eastward, towards where they assumed Kandahar would be. There, they would come to a US Army base where they would be safe. Michael gave the knife to Alex and then together, they jumped the wall of the encampment and crawled slowly over the dunes, always staying close to whatever bushes there were and always staying in the shadows and close to each other. However, Michael had made a terrible mistake. Out of sheer human nature, he hadn't killed his captor. At this very moment, the man was coming to.
“The prisoners have escaped. After them.”
A few shots broke the still night air and five terrorists were out of the encampment and on the hunt.
They separated, each in one direction of the compass, and one stayed near the walls of the camp and started checking near its perimeter. The two Americans heard the shots and within half an hour, saw the faint silhouette of a figure carrying a rifle heading their way.
“It's just one guy. Let's hide. We'll move when he's passed or given up. He'll see us otherwise.”, said Alex.
“He's running this way 'cause seen our tracks, obviously. I'll shoot the bastard.”
“No man, they'll all hear us. Don't do it.”
“We're more than a mile away. We'll make it”
Michael was panicking. He lay down behind a small dune and aimed the muzzle of the AK-47 at the approaching figure, now almost clearly visible. More shots ranked the air as the journalist fired a few rounds straight at him. Unfortunately, he had never learned how to fire a handgun, let alone a Kalashnikov. The bullets flew everywhere. He couldn't control the recoil for the first few rounds. He stopped, took a breath of air and aimed to fire again.
“Aaah!” A bullet flew too close to Michael's ear. The next hit him hard in the chest. There was a flurry of shots. Michael fell to the ground, his eyes blank. Alex was mortified as he watched the scene unfold before his eyes.
“What do I do, what do I do.”
Alex thought for a split second and then took the canteen of water from Michael, that he had uncovered off the fallen terrorist earlier. He then crept a little away from the dune and started digging once again, this time frantically. He hid himself inside that little dune hole and covered himself up with sand, all but his eyes and nose, and hoped to God that they weren't visible in the dune's shadow.
He heard the terrorist sliding over the sand to his fallen comrade, hoping he would not come his way. But the man with the gun knew how to track in the desert. A few seconds later, a man wearing a long cloth around his head, carrying what looked strangely like an M-16 carbine, was looking intently at the tracks he was following. He started walking away from where Alex was hidden. His plan had worked.
There were big boulders where he'd been lying earlier. He had walked with smaller strides than necessary, almost on his toes, and thrown the rocks so they slid along the sand, throwing it outward along its sides and then disappeared over a dune. He did that with with about three big rocks so the tracks seemed deep enough to look like it belonged to a man who was trying to cover up his tracks.
As soon as the terrorist moved towards the dune, Alex crouched up and moving towards him swiftly, struck the bayonet's long blade into his neck. No shots were fired. The terrorist was dead.
“Son of a bitch. How the hell did he get a carbine? These guys must have killed some soldiers recently.” Alex took the rifle and used the scope to check his bearings. The surroundings seemed clear. He ran.
He ran all night. He walked and ran at night and hid in bushes and the sand during the day. He never followed a straight course, so the enemy may not be able to track him down too easily. After four gruelling days, he was nearly dead and fell to the ground. As he lay there, barely conscious, hours later, he saw a Humvee heading his way.
“Is that a white boy? Pick 'im up. Let's take 'im to base.”
A month later, Alex Little was back in San Francisco. A video was being aired. It was a footage taken by the Al-Qaeda. They were executing a man, beheading him. It was Michael Johnson. Unfortunately, he hadn't died of bullets that eventful night.
In a world ridden with chaos, people dream of returning home. But everyone isn't able to. Some return, painfully, to the mother that made them, far away from where they were born.
In a world ridden with chaos, blood is always spilled.