Tell A Tale in 500 Words

Plus ca change By John Nuttall

John Sacks was a surgeon in New York, doing cosmetic work for rich patients. This paid well, but he got no job satisfaction. One day his daughter, Jane, brought home a Syrian student, Feizal, on a visit from college. Feizal told John all about the suffering of the Syrian people. For the first time since his wife died, John took interest. This was something he could live again for. Very soon, against the advice of his country and daughter, he volunteered for Medecin Sans Frontieres and was posted to a hospital near Aleppo.

Unfortunately, after only a few weeks, he was captured by an IS squad and held hostage under terrible conditions. IS wanted ransom money, but the US would not co-operate. John's family were told that he had gone on his own responsibility. John endured in the dark. The only window was barred and shuttered. The wind howled. Sand blew in. He was constantly thirsty. Threats of execution were common.

Where John was being held, the local IS chief was barbarous. Any infractions of Sharia law were instantly punishment. Everyone knew that if he disliked you, you would suffer. One day, in a rage, he randomly executed many of the local people. Riad Ali lost his wife and child. He vowed to get revenge.

Riad made a very dangerous journey to join a group of Syrian Democratic forces. The group sent him back with a laser targeting device so that the IS stronghold could be identified from the air. A US special forces mission were tasked to try and capture the local IS chief. They failed. The IS militia had fled. In the underground cell they found John Sacks, close to death. Riad Ali was found, tortured and executed days later when the IS forces returned.

On hearing that John had been rescued, Jane and Feizal made their way to Syria to see him. Feizal was deeply in love with Jane, but this was not reciprocated. John was not fit to travel. Excessive dehydration had weakened his internal organs. While he was there, Feizal discovered that the US had revoked his US citizenship. He admitted that he had entered the USA on false pretences, and was related to the Makhlouf family, associates of Assad. He had engineered his way out of Syria because he was disgusted with the Assad regime, but this cut no ice with the USA.

John was being looked after in the original MSF hospital. Jane fell in love with the Dutch doctor, Antoon, who was giving him end-of-life care. A few days later, an Al-Qaeda faction tried to drive a wagon load of explosives into the hospital. Feizal was outside in a car, when he realised what was happening. He blocked the wagon with the car. It exploded outside the hospital. Feizal died, but no one was injured inside the hospital. Jane went home when John died. After the Dutch doctor completed his term, Jane and Antoon married in New York, later that year.

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