Chapter 1: To Save a Life
It is said that we do not truly appreciate what we have until it is taken from us. Running water, electricity, freedom, safety and security. All of these things become sacred, beloved memories, nothing more than concepts when our world comes crashing down upon us. For some, these things were lost in the dust long before the outbreak began. My name is Hassan Najjar, and my family was killed in an airstrike four years ago. Since then, losing loved ones has become part of my life. Loss is inevitable.
I watched my home be destroyed and my country torn apart. I saw death, misery and an untold evil. But it did not break me. In my country we have a saying, "Dwell not upon thy weariness, thy strength shall be according to the measure of thy desire." I would not sit idle and do nothing, as I watched the place I had grown up in be torn down brick by brick. Unlike many of the men my age, however, I refused to fight. My mother had always told me that the surest path to hell was to commit to violence against my fellow man. Instead, I joined the Syrian Civil Defence, a group dedicated to rescuing victims of fighting, regardless of their affiliation. We gave first aid, rebuilt infrastructure and provided services such as obituaries and burials, tokens long lost since the outbreak of the war.
I became a First Responder to airstrikes in my city. We would be the first at the scene of any attack, sifting through the rubble for people, dead or alive. Sometimes, we would find only bodies, or parts of bodies. Other times, however, we would hear the strained breathing of a man gasping for air, the sobbing of a woman or the screams of an infant. But we could not save everyone. Aircraft would often perform a single bombing run, then a follow up strike on the same position, specifically to deny our search and rescue efforts. They killed anyone on the scene and any survivors of the first attack.
Despite all of this, we were still able to rescue over 40,000 people across our entire organization. We had retained our humanity, kept our neutrality and done right by the memories of those we had lost. Our efforts gained global attention, governments provided us funding and training to further our operations. And yet, all I could think of was what I could have done to save more.
Chapter 2: Arrival in Chernarus
Three years after joining the SCD, our division in Aleppo had been offered the opportunity by the Chernarussian government to fly out to South Zagoria in order to train with emergency services there, to improve our life saving skills and firefighting capabilities. Naturallly, I took the opportunity to go. I arrived with my team in early 2017. We spent the next few months running crisis drills with the Chernagorsk fire services and received first aid and trauma training from the paramedics at the local hospital. They were incredibly helpful, and despite the language barrier, I found we had a lot in common with our foreign counterparts. Like us, these were people who had dedicated their lives to saving others. It was uplifting to say the least.
We were due to head back to Syria at the end of July, refreshed, motivated and with fresh training and life saving equipment. But it was not to be. We were told of some new developing crisis in Chernarus, and that our flight out of the country had been cancelled. There were reports of Russian warplanes near the border. Clashes broke out, there were bombings and artillery strikes, with violent demonstrations all across South Zagoria. A number of people had been killed. The first thing I did was grab my gear and head out to help.
Chapter 3: The Discovery
I didn't know what to expect, none of us did. Our interpretor had told us over the next few days that there were now reports of a biological disaster, some sort of epidemic across the north of the region. Rioting and looting had become rampant across many urban centres, thousands of people had been displaced. We moved with humanitarian relief efforts, doing our best to provide medical aid to those wounded, quell fires that had started and rescue survivors trapped in their homes and cars across many strained checkpoints.
Something was not right. A lot of the people that came to us had bite marks or scratches, strange black veins across the skin and eye hemorrhaging. Their wounds appeared to be inflicted by humans. Many of the locals and CDF soldiers told us whatever disease was spreading among the chaos was driving people insane, turning them into some sort of monsters. This was unlike anything I had heard of, even in my war torn home.
The devastating affirmation of these rumours soon came. The afflicted began to 'turn'. Victims pronounced near death, to my horror, reanimated and attacked medical staff. They became violent, unreasonable and aggressive. We were forced to defend ourselves with whatever we could. Soon enough, we found ourselves fighting the very people we were trying to help. A number of my team did not escape alive, instead they were torn apart by rabid packs of disease victims. I fled along with other surviving emergency service personnel and government authorities.
We continued to move day by day, providing relief where we could. We saved many, but as more fell to infection, our numbers dwindled. I can't remember when we decided we could no longer make rescue attempts, but before long we were relegated to providing first aid to survivors in designated refugee safe zones, eventually winding up on the outskirts of Elektrozavodsk. Our spirits were lifted however with the arrival of United Nations peackeepers and doctors from the World Health Organization. NATO forces, too, had arrived to help. I thought, with luck, the situation might be quelled. I could not be more wrong.
Chapter 4: Humanity lost
We did what we could to provide aid to survivors that came to us, but we soon learned that people were desperate for supplies, and when we could not give enough, they turned to violence. To my dismay, many of the soldiers I thought had came to help, had instead moved inland to military bases, bolstering the CDF numbers while leaving civilians to fend for themselves. The situation became dire. There were many hairy encounters with armed individuals and groups attempting to take our van by force, and we were forced to do something we had sworn we would never do. We armed ourselves.
There was no other way to survive. Between the infected and roaming gunmen, we had resorted to firing on people we were once dedicated to helping. Before long, our own supplies were dangrously low. Local authorities would not provide even basic necessities such as food and water. Supply runs became dangerous undetakings for us, having little actual fighting prowess. We were rescuers, not soldiers.
We have determined those of us who are left are either blessed or immune, many of us having bites and scratches but suffering none of the signs of infection. We are in a dangerous country, with no way of escaping home. Airports are closed or overrun, and there is little contact with the outside world. Widespread bombing took place somewhere in the north, preventing us from going in to help for fear of being obliterated by aircraft. Some UN peacekeepers have told me the epidemic has spread beyond the borders of Chernarus, to Europe and beyond. It is far worse than we feared.
Friends have been lost, and the bodies of the dead roam the land. It is truly hell on earth. But my job is not done. People need my help more than ever. The drive to continue to save lives is what keeps me going. I lick my wounds for now, consolidate my supplies and plan my next moves. Someone needs to plug the hole left by fleeing authorities, to keep some semblance of civilized society. Services such as clinics, disposing of the dead and basic medical education, are all necessary to ensure the survival of those of us who are left. I aim to teach and lend my skills to others, so that they too may help others, and that together, we may survive this madness with society, and our humanity, intact.
Hassan compromises by nature. His life choices have meant he has constantly navigated dangerous situations and tense moments on a knife's edge. Doing this means he will make do with what is needed, willing to sacrifice his comfort for that of others, and negotiate with others to make sure they get what they need. He constantly requires purpose. Without it, he is lost. Helping people makes him feel his life has value and meaning.
Hassan does not handle idleness well. He constantly needs to be active and engaged with something. Frustration and boredom usually take over when he is not occupied. If encountered with actions he deems immoral, he will challenge it. Not afraid of expressing his views, he will confront other ideals and defend his own.
Hassan likes people. He likes meeting new individuals and having good conversations. He has a personal interest in philosophy, theology and literature. He does have a tendency to misread some social situations, due to language barriers and an over analytical mind.
Hassan is empathetic, overly so. He takes great personal interest into the wellbeing of others, and aims to set right any wrongs or ease any burden that may be weighing on a person. He is loyal, optimistic and gentle. He is somewhat foolhardy and will often put his own life at risk by running into dangerous situations to help others. Some see this as bravery, others as being headstrong. But nobody can say he doesn't have courage.
While strong in spirit, Hassan has lived through his share of traumatic events. He lives with post traumatic stress disorder. Sounds of children screaming act as a trigger. He has frequent night terrors. This has made keeping long term relationships difficult, as he often cuts people off who are close to him, isolating himself through work.
Meeting new people