remembered. I remembered first coming to the capital of Sudan, Khartoum, as a reporter all starry eyed about the next big 'scoop'. I remember snapping off rolls of film all of mutilated corpses, burned huts, and fleeing refugees. For many war was hell, for a reporter it was bliss. I remember being first contacted by the agency, how we should be teammates, after all we both wanted the same thing: information. They gave me money and tips about the next big bombing. They knew the where, the when, and the how far before it happened so I was able to get there and have exclusive pictures first hand. That alone should have tipped me off to their darker side but sadly it didn't. I remember Mr. Nook. I can still hear him telling me; seducing me, into my first 'job', the extra cash… just a favour …you owe us … for the good of the country and all those other spy fabrications. After the first job came another and another soon I was making too much money to stop, the newspaper suddenly seemed so unimportant.
I remember the day I realized I didn't know who were the bad guys and who were the good guys. I remember the day I didn't care. I had become addicted; to the money, to the power, to the feel of a warm gun against my palm. The day after that I was sent to a miserable little town deep in the Darfur province to take yet another life. She was a Canadian doctor from my home and native land. I snapped, right there in front of her, I broke down and cried. At the time she was helping a boy who had got his hand blown off by a mine and took me for a grieving friend. She ushered in a nurse to take me out of the medical tent to wait. I walked out in a daze. All around me there was the most beautiful village I had ever seen. Children played with a soccer ball while smiling mothers watched and proud fathers lazed in wooden rocking chairs chatting amiably. I was in love.
I cherished that village. I stayed there helping out for more than a year. They had been attacked a month before and were still rebuilding some homes and I gave myself mind body and soul over to their reconstruction. I used the money I had acquired to buy food and medical supplies enough to last them for years. But most importantly I was free. A burden had been lifted from my core and I found myself laughing along with the children as they played soccer and grinning ear to ear with pride when one scored a goal. I improved both my French and my Arabic while living with them. With Emily (I had now learned the doctor's name) I flirted shamelessly in French and with the people I chatted endlessly in Arabic. Though I was close to everyone in the village I never revealed that I had been an assassin, afraid that they might no longer value my friendship. I was in love, but not without some trepidation.
It was that love that made me do one last insane thing. I went back to the city, I returned to Khartoum. I wanted to marry Emily and to do that I needed a ring. I wanted the most spectacular ring in Sudan. I went to Khartoum with a smile on my face because I was positive that everyone who saw me could see me overflowing with happiness and with my hopes for my future with Emily. I found her a ring and it was wonderful, and expensive. I had to borrow some money from some old reporter friends in the city. And since I was in town they suggested that I may as well go to a reporter's get together and shake some important hands. Just for old time's sake.
So I went. I wore a suit consisting of my nicest dinner jacket (and my only dinner jacket) and some very trim dress pants and a shiny new tie. Apparently I looked surprisingly handsome. On the inside I laughed at the trappings of western society forcing themselves on the wealthy Sudanese. I looked around at watched wealthy landlords trying to get comfortable in stiff suits as they listened to the French ambassador prattle on about something while the pretty thing on his arm eyed up a general. Afraid my smirk was about to be noticed I attempted to gracefully twirl away from the group and ended up nearly smacking into a waitress.
As I mumbled my apologies I gazed around the room. It looked like it had been a mosque before being rudely converted into a lavish dwelling. At the other end of the main court yard in which I was standing was a raised platform surrounded by security guards and on top of it were some of the most ostentatious people in the entire damned party. I wanted a better view so I climbed some stairs to an overlooking balcony. I grabbed a wine glass from a passing waitress on my way up but was disappointed to find it contained only sparkling water, none the less I stood there posing fashionably and sipping my drink. I began to recognize some of the people on the platform and when realizing their rank I began to actually pay attention. At the podium there was the Sudan President Omar al-Bashir himself speaking, "… the cease fire will come to an end soon. December 30 to be exact. At that time those scum bag rebels the SPLM have promised the UN to push for a permanent treaty."
Omar al-Bashir bellowed this with distain. At the same time I could see my reporter friends pick up their ears and suddenly move towards the dais; notepads and recorders appearing from inner pockets. "They shall have no parlay!" This statement brought a collective gasp from the crowd; my friends were now sprinting all out for the stage micro phones and recording devices held above their heads as they plowed through the gathered ensemble. Without losing pace Omar al-Bashir continued, "Earlier today I was aggrieved to learn that a Colonel from the Sudan National guard was kidnapped and by now he is probably already dead." More gasps as his masterfully crafted life flowed fluidly threw his lips. "The rebels have broken the treaty and as such we must retaliate!"
With this his fist thudded against the podium but instead of the sounds of outrage I expected I heard instead a chorus of agreement. I gazed dumbly at the crowd. How could they support this madman? But the maniac's voice pierced my thoughts. "In retaliation the armies staged outside Darfur are getting the go-ahead tomorrow. Not just that but our air force has full permission to aid them in anyway necessary. The collective force will be in position two days from now…"
Even as he said this I was moving. I shoved politicians, business men and women out of my way; racing to get to my car. I had to get back to the village and save Emily. I raced through the dark streets of Khartoum, my heart pounding. I had to get home. I had to stop those insane zealots from ravaging my village, my wife to be. It was late in the night and I was speeding beyond reason. I skidded into an intersection and hit a taxi full on in the side.
When the ambulance came they saved me because I was white and assumed that I could pay the hospital bills. The other man was left behind and died. He was the first taxi driver I killed. In the ambulance I could think of nothing but the armies of demons marching towards my home and of death raining from the sky. I could see in my mind's eye the houses I built being burned to the ground. Thoughts of my wife to be kept me from death. I realized then the weight of the ring in my pocket and oaths yet unmade. It was then I heard the sirens blaring. I awoke the day the sky rained fire.