This is a work of fiction. A short story of 500 words.
Elyas stroked the head of his young son, Tarek. The boy’s head was warm from the sunshine, his face flushed from running around and playing. “Rest now, have something to drink”, he told the child. “You can play some more later.”
The man watched as his wife brought their son a cool drink. She smiled as she saw her husband’s eyes move to her swollen belly. Only two months more, and there would be another in their family. “How are you today, my lovely Amira?” She blushed a little. Elyas was a good husband, more affectionate than most. She was lucky.
Meeting his older brother, they enjoyed a refreshing mint tea on the shaded terrace of the cafe. Elyas watched the striped shadows move in the breeze that afternoon. They discussed the latest project. With contracts signed, they would soon be employing a larger team to work on the new houses west of the city. Things were good. Business was going well, and he would be a father again soon. As he said farewell to Ahmed, he embraced him fondly. Family was everything. Family endured.
The interior of the car was hot, so he opened the window all the way down. Stopping at the market on his way home, he bought some fruit. Raising the ripe fruit to his face, he could smell the perfume of nature, the freshness. He nodded to the vendor; yes, he would take them all. Back at home, all was quiet. He guessed that Amira and Tarek would be asleep in the cool bedroom, avoiding the heat of the late afternoon. He sat outside smoking a cigarette, picturing his slumbering wife and innocent child in his mind. He had never been happier.
Something woke him. At first he was confused, wondering where the plastic chair and table had gone. A rough hand was shaking his shoulder, and there was a taste of something in his mouth. It was hard to breathe, and he shook himself, overwhelmed by panic and fear. “Elyas, get up. They are coming again. Get up and get ready!” He recognised the man shouting close to his face. It was Sami. Then he realised what was in his mouth. Concrete dust. He turned to spit, and noticed something in the corner. It was Rifat, crumpled and bloody, not moving. “Get to the window. Now! Quickly, there’s no time.” Sami sounded hysterical.
Elyas fumbled in the dust for his rifle, and dragged himself across to the window. He looked down the street and could see tracer fire coming in close to their position. As he inserted a fresh magazine into the AK-47, he just had time to realise it had all been a dream. A dream of another Aleppo, a different place. Amira was gone. Tarek was gone. And Ahmed was gone too. He raised the rifle and placed his finger around the trigger.
But he couldn’t see to shoot, for the tears that filled his eyes.