DAY 1000 - DECEMBER 9, 2013
Foreign fighters on both ends of the conflict flood into Syria, hoping to turn the tides in a country where little more than rubble is left of most cities. A family of 150 Kazakh jihadists, including women and small children, arrive in northern Syria to try to help topple the regime of embattled President Bashar Al Assad. Meanwhile, a team of Russian mercenaries, beholden to Assad, is discovered to have operated near an oil field in Deir Ez Zor after an ISIS member finds a foreign ID card. As the winter months approach, disease, malnutrition and starvation affect those Syrian citizens that have not evacuated the country. Polio, a virus that has been eradicated in the United States for over 25 years, surfaces in Deir Ez Zor, Damascus, and Aleppo. The Syrian government meets the first deadline for disposing of their chemical weapons with all of their manufacturing facilities being successfully dismantled. However, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says that although they have located most of Assad's stockpiles, the complex instability in places like Homs has made it difficult to verify if clusters of Mustard, VX, and Sarin gas still exist amidst the daily firefights. ISIS soldiers continue to push westward against the Free Syrian Army, eventually taking control of Bab Al Hawa, the Turkish border crossing that was both a FSA stronghold and a transport lifeline for foreign arms and medical supplies. The UN and other international organizations, unable to verify mounting fatality figures in Syria, start to abandon their death toll tallies. The numbers continue to soar while the identities of the deceased gradually disappear, namelessly, without reason or record.
That night you have a beautiful dinner together. It's the first one you've had as a family since Emad moved out five months ago. You don't have anywhere for him to sleep tonight but you offer him the mattress where you have been resting in the backroom of the store where you sweep. It's all you have but you want to give it to him. You would give him more, everything, if you had it. Emad changes out of the black shirt he is wearing with the Tawhid flag on it and into a faded collared shirt, an old one, one that you know because you have seen him wear it so many times. It makes you happy to see him wear it again. And then it makes you happy to see him put the ISIS shirt on the cold concrete floor of the room. That night you sleep on the floor, in the well of a work desk that is in eyesight of the mattress that Emad and Yara share. You sleep a comfortable, dreamless night, feeling inordinately relaxed. Or at least more relaxed than you have been recently. The next morning when you wake up you don't see Emad or Yara in the room. You ask the shopkeeper if he saw them come in or go out of the shop this morning but he says he has not. You walk around the block, go into all the stores, ask the people in the town square. Talk to everyone you know in Al Raqqa, but no one has seen them. It's only when you get back to the room and glance at the cold concrete floor that you notice that Emad's black Tawhid shirt is missing. And then a jagged pain rifles through your body when you realize that ISIS has taken your children.