“On the Verge” by Andrea Malin

Miranda wants blood. She has learned in this work—in her actual life if she’s being honest—to hide what she wants, and this desire lodges in her throat, metallic, chalky, she can taste it. Her editors, on the other hand, don’t bother to conceal it. Not enough action Sean Fitts from RAW News texts in response to her night shot of a soldier with a cigarette dangling from his lips, the smoke of an exploded shell rising behind him. To Miranda’s closeup of three women standing in an Aleppo breadline: Let’s see people fighting for bread not waiting for it. After she climbs through the windshield of an exploded bus to get a shot from the inside, a shard of glass slashing her thigh, the Sunday Times editor replies: cool art shot. No fucking clue what to do with it. What frustrates her most is the Guardian’s rejection of her 45-second video of a man pulling his teenage son, unconscious, from a pile of rubble—Thanks, but we’ve got plenty of that shit in stock.

In ways implicit and explicit the message has been clear: If it doesn’t bleed, it won’t lead. Miranda sold fewer than half of her photos after her trip to Syria last September, barely breaking even. Even her main outlet, RAW—WAR spelled backwards, a rapidly growing media company that launched by covering “under-reported conflicts” in remote regions—took only two of her images: a soldier slumped on a chair, blood splattered on his white Nike shoes, and another of a woman, her face slashed and blackened, gripping the ankle of a dead child. Blood.

Now, barely four months later, Miranda is back. It’s January 2013. An icy wind tears around them as she and Narbad, her fixer, squeeze through a gap in a low-slung barbed wire fence snaking through a stretch of rocks and weeds, all that divides Turkey from Syria—peace from war. The darkness is just breaking behind the hillside: a preternatural orange-red cracking through the inky black, like the eye of the universe opening. Violent and exquisite, this new light seizes her. But to capture a moment of truth like this, presented by the natural world, would require an ability to harmonize the beauty and pageantry above with the bloodshed and tragedy on the ground. As Miranda has no idea what awaits her, this moment is lost to her.

With government issued visas and permissions rare for journalists now, it’s no longer possible for them to cross officially, at Bab al-Salam. Narbad has chosen this alternate crossing along the porous northern border as it runs through an olive grove and is rarely patrolled. A shard of protruding metal scrapes her arm. “Fuck!” Her expletive breaks the silence, sending two startled birds flapping from the shrubs and into the fragile dawn. Miranda keeps walking, pressing into her wound, dismissing a dirty white scarf that Narbad offers as a makeshift tourniquet. “It’s nothing, really. I’m fine.”

They traverse a wide slope of gravelly soil to a wheat field beside the roadway to wait for Ali, the driver who’s meant to be waiting for them. But he hasn’t arrived. The air smells like sewage and pungent greens. A dilapidated farmhouse nearby appears deserted, even though a donkey and a cow graze in the front yard. The gash on her arm throbs. She spits into her hand and rubs her saliva into it. Such a badass, her close friend Abe would say affectionately, mockingly, if he saw her do that. She feels like one—and not just the edgy self she conjures and feeds for weeks before she enters a war zone. This time, it’s deeper, cellular: she’s pumped and ready for anything.

Those who care about her think she’s foolish—certifiably psycho, in Abe’s precise words—to be entering Syria right now. She may be. The past year has been one of the deadliest in history for journalists. So many members of her tribe—Marie, Remy, Tim, Chris, Tony—have been killed. Others like Jim and Austin have mysteriously disappeared. Fewer news organizations have been sending their reporters across the Syrian border or even hiring freelancers, relying instead on staff from existing bureaus in Beirut and Istanbul to cover the civil war from afar.

“Promise me I won’t see your mug up on the CPJ death scroll with Sergio,” a defeated Abe had said to her when they Skyped just before her trip. That scroll of obituaries on the website of the Committee to Protect Journalists includes Abe’s journalism school buddy, an Associated Press photographer killed in 2011 by sniper fire in Libya, just two months after she left. “What happened to Serge haunts me,” Abe said. “It should haunt you too.”

But what haunts Miranda isn’t Sergio’s death as much as his disappearance—he was gone like her twin brother James, vanished into oblivion.

“Bottom feeders” —that’s what her father, a former Navy SEAL, called freelancers, during a Christmas dinner at the end of 2010, when she asked to borrow airfare to Kabul. She was planning to go with a freelancer named Jacob (pronounced Yacob) whom she’d met at a party and slept with twice. “You’re vulnerable as hell out there without a credible outfit to vouch for you. No back-up. No insurance or proper equipment,” her dad said. “ You’re nothing but a sitting duck.”

“I like my freedom,” she’d said.

Freedom.” Her father virtually spat the word at her. “I’ll bet the duck I just ate for dinner liked her freedom too.”

With any luck, her days of freelancing—of “scraping by” as her father put it— for the likes of RAW for $70 a pop will soon be over. At Reuters, the editor Ravi Patel has given her faint hope of becoming a staffer. “You’re at the top of our freelancer heap right now. You’re on the verge,” Ravi told her. She wasn’t sure what “on the verge” meant exactly. At the time, it struck her as more of an apt summation of her life to date than of her potential, possibly what would be inscribed on her tombstone if she didn’t get a break soon. If she could just land a major story, if she could capture a single iconographic moment, she’d have more options, income, and security. There was no telling how far she could go.

* * *

Waiting on a craggy roadside boulder with Narbad, Miranda feels subversive, scolded. She reconsiders the idea of freedom, why Lloyd balked at its value even though he’d spent his entire life fighting for it. The word strikes her, suddenly, as devoid of intrinsic meaning, more like a myth or a dream, something no one truly achieves. Yet it might be all that matters..

Narbad checks his watch and slides off their rock. “Ali is much too late. This is not like him.” He paces. “We spoke this morning. We set the time.” He pulls his phone from his pocket, and looks at the blank screen—there’s nothing there; Syrian cell service has been sporadic for two days. He chose to work with Ali in the first place, he says, because he’s “one of the most reliable,” Narbad’s highest possible praise. Forced by the war to abort his study of engineering at the University of Aleppo, Narbad himself didn’t become political until a rocket landed near his house, killing several neighbors. He started volunteering in local medical facilities, witnessing more senseless death and bloodshed, which spurred him to work with journalists to expose the truth about this war. He arranges stories and translates for major outlets like CBS, the BBC and the New York Times, and has only agreed to work with her because of his affection for their mutual friend—her former friend—DJ Byrnes. Former. It was hard to know how to think of DJ now: a casualty of an ill-advised one-night stand? An intimate stranger? For nearly a year, he’d been trying to reconnect with her, and she’d done what he’d essentially done to her after Libya: ghosted him—at first, angry and hurt, then full of regret. She doesn’t need to close her eyes to conjure them pressed together in the gutted interior of the abandoned blue truck in Misrata, the terror and the thrill of them, at last, coming together. She has learned to stop before she dredges up the vulnerability that cripples her, the anger she can’t transcend. The brutal sense of loss. DJ haunts her too. 

“I’m sure there’s some reason Ali’s held up,” Miranda says. “He’ll get here.” This isn’t optimism as much as denial. They both know that there are many possible reasons for Ali’s delay, a few of them unspeakable. Their day has barely started, and Miranda has too much to accomplish to tolerate logistical mishaps or tragedy. She’s here to interview and photograph the family she and Narbad spent three days shooting and interviewing last fall—Dr. Tamir Ahmadi, his school teacher wife Basma, and their nine-year old twins, Mo and Daria. Even as mortar fire had claimed part of Tamir’s hospital, leaving it low on supplies, even with bombs being dropped on nearby villages, the doctor told her that he was determined to stay in Syria, to withstand the dangers in his own country, rather than give up his livelihood, and risk his family by fleeing to some overcrowded, far-flung refugee camp, the way scores of his relatives and friends were doing.

But then a bomb hit home.

* * *

Incredible story! Miranda texted Narbad right after she read about the bombing in Al Barbira. It was just a few sentences in a briefing blurb from a local activist group devoted to citizen safety in and around Aleppo. We have to find the Ahmadis! Even though the images she’d taken of the doctor inside his damaged hospital, the twins in their schoolyard, along with the entire family in their yellow kitchen had been some of her best artistically, they were summarily rejected at the time. Just more folks with sad brown eyes staring at the camera, said Sean Fitts, epitomizing the feedback. Pretty pics but what’s the hook?  She would soon learn that another freelancer named Dirk Williamson had beaten her to this story anyway with his own profiles of doctors in ravaged hospitals. Dirk had Reuters covered too, as well as three other news outlets.

The thought of Dirk brought waves of envy and disgust. He was infamous for having once staged a photo of a toddler holding a Kalashnikov. The image had rippled scandalously through the tribe of conflict reporters. But although Dirk was disparaged by other journalists, he remained remarkably unscathed in the way that mattered to freelancers like her: getting hired. Miranda couldn’t imagine stooping that low. But that meant doing things the hard way. The only easy day was yesterday—one of a multitude of military aphorisms that Lloyd tossed around during her childhood, and one she found particularly hard to stomach. For her, nothing came easily.

Upon learning of the bombing in the Ahmadi’s neighborhood, a new idea for a feature took hold: Before and After. She could use her pretty pics to show the human face of the war’s violent escalation, swelling like a tsunami from the time she left into these early days of 2013. This was a hook, a story she could sell. She pitched the story to Ravi at Reuters’ Istanbul bureau. “Syria’s gotten too fucking dangerous, Miranda. Everyone’s folding up shop,” he’d said. “We’re not sending freelancers there.” The London Times gave her the same message. Margaret figured RAW would take a story from Syria if she delivered it. She might even pitch the New York Times. Or Vanity Fair. Why not aim high?

Miranda’s Turkish roommate spotted her the money for that month’s rent. Without telling her father and without worrying about her overextended Turkish visa, she used the rent money he loaned to her—this one last time—to hire Narbad.  Miranda flew to the city of Gaziantep, and a guide from Narbad’s network drove her to Kilis, the shabby, buzzing border town, where her second trip into Syria would begin.

Sitting in the claggy bar of her Kilis hotel, she checked Facebook. From a private foreign reporter group, Miranda learned that Dirk Williamson was somewhere near the Lebanese border. Fleetingly, she’d worried that he was headed to Syria, and wondered if there was a way to find out. But it didn’t matter. She now had a hook that the likes of Dirk Williamson could never claim. And unlike the last time she was in Syria with a failed FSA story and flailing about for random images to sell, this time her mission was simple: To find Dr. Ahmadi and his family. to photograph the hell out of whatever had befallen them. Before and After.

When Narbad showed up at her Kilis hotel the next morning, his sweat stained polyester shirt buttoned to the nape of his neck and his thick eyebrows spraying from his eyeglass frames comforted her in a way she barely understood. In truth, they didn’t know each other well, but she clung to the peculiar familiarity bred in the time they’d once spent together. She clung to how trustworthy he was. She had enough to pay him for a short trip. She not only needed him to like her, but to care about getting this story done.

* * *

Miranda tries not to think of the skinny Mo with his big-toothed grin or Daria with those sad brown eyes. She tries not to think of the bombing in Al Barbira as a story that can change her life. She shivers and rummages through her pack for her sweater. That’s when she realizes it isn’t here—her good luck sweater. Since she first ventured into a conflict zone in 2010, she has been carrying her grandmother’s cream cashmere, threadbare and yellowed, its cluster of pearls disassembled, in her rucksack, even wearing it under her flak jacket in the summer heat. She realizes that she must have left the sweater in Istanbul, at the apartment of a Turkish reporter whom she’d slept with the night before she left for Syria. She can’t say what infused the sweater with luck. Whatever the reason, wearing the old sweater makes Miranda feel—not protected exactly, but somehow held.

Now she feels exposed. The only luck you get is the kind you make yourself. That’s another one of her father’s favorites. Miranda wants to believe him, even as a squall of what-ifs overtake her: What if she never gets to Al Barbira? What if she can’t find the Ahmandis? What if no one takes her story? Concerned about Ali’s whereabouts, Narbad flips through his ink-smeared notebook of contacts. He pulls out his new satellite phone, which, he tells her, has been given to him by a German television producer. “It costs more than 600 dollars US,” he says. But his pride is subdued as he taps out a number.

“Wait, is that him?” She points down the road. A small white car, its windshield cracked, is creeping toward them.

Alhamdulillah.” Narbad’s quiet voice reverberates with residual strain. “That will be Ali.”

Miranda’s body slackens with relief. “We’re lucky he found us.”

“With me there is no luck,” Narbad says. “Only careful planning.”

He sounds just like her father, she thinks, as she ducks into the backseat of Ali’s Renault Clio. Their breed of do-it-yourself luck is all she has now.

* * *

Barely a season has passed since her last trip, and the situation has notably worsened. Syrian tanks block roads where they’d previously traveled. Passable “clean” roads in and out of Aleppo are few and far between and require the careful navigation and knowledge of Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters, who communicate through an intricate web of back channels and have to travel hours out of their way to avoid encounters with regime or even other rebel checkpoints. Although the FSA is much more organized than rebels in Libya had been a few years ago, new foreign fighters have been entering the country, joining locals, with new rebel groups forming, each with its own agenda and manner of ruthlessness—Al Tawhid Brigade, Ahrar Al Sham, as well as Al Qaeda affiliates Al Nusra Front and now ISIL, yet another hardline group gaining power.

Miranda leans back in the small car and lets Ali with his makeshift navigation system and old Nokia flip phone, and Narbad with his careful plans, take control. Ali speeds along the highway. Black smoke streaks across the horizon. It starts to rain. Grayish mud splatters against the cars they pass. She rolls down her passenger window to shoot video: the buildings and walls create a blur of sandy creams and desert yellows. A sprawling mound of trash, the green bordered street signs the only pops of color. They pass a billboard pasted with the moustached face of the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, his face partly torn off, his eyes bearing down on them. Narbad and Ali begin conversing heatedly in Arabic. Narbad swivels toward her in the backseat and gestures toward the other side of the road. “Do you see all that traffic?” Miranda notices the cars headed in the opposite direction creeping slowly, bumper to bumper. “And look you see this side: empty.” She nods. “We don’t like to see this,” he says.

Suddenly, Ali swerves off the highway.

Narbad calls out to her, “Close your window. Please. As we enter the city, an open window is not safe.”

They slump down, in silence, as they cross what Ali tells her is a notorious “sniper zone.” Inside the city limits, Ali maneuvers, honking, through crowds of people walking in the streets, men hanging onto the back side of trucks or piled three-high on motorcycles. “Lock the door, lock the door,” Ali says. Miranda keeps shooting, only now through Ali’s cracked windshield, until she realizes how futile it is. She leans forward. “What’s going on?” Once they’re through the crowd, Ali turns down a narrow side street, up and over a curb, and parks near a wall painted in wide swaths of black, white, and green, with bold red stars in the middle, the flag of revolution. The graffiti scrawled in Arabic, Persian and English is the same word:, حرية Azadi, Freedom.

Ali cuts the engine.

“We don’t like the way that main road appears,” Narbad says. “It seems there is a problem.” As Narbad opens a map, Ali takes a gun from the glove compartment, props the pistol in the middle console and lights a Lebanese cigarette. Small and twitchy, he reminds Miranda of a rabbit, even his dark eyes and bucked teeth.

She eyes the handgun. “What kind of problem?”

“Checkpoint.” Ali exhales a gust of tobacco smoke into the car and says, “My good friend was killed on this road before. It looked the same like this.”

“What happened to him?” she asks.

“Assad’s forces killed him,” Narbad says.

“And so you’re thinking that the similar kind of traffic pattern means the same kind of checkpoint?” Miranda is trying to understand the relationship between what happened to his friend before and what they face on this road presently, but Narbad doesn’t answer her question precisely.

“We want to avoid a checkpoint. We must find another way to reach Al Barbira,” he says. “This will take us more time. I’m sorry. Unfortunately, less time for your work.”

Unfortunately. She hates that word. It’s getting late. Narbad unfolds a paper map, concentrating. Ali leans over to discuss the route, his eyes flicking nervously from the map to the trees and back again. Miranda sits restlessly in the back, Ali’s gun barrel pointed toward her. A quiet urgency floods her.  Perhaps a story about the danger of the roads would make more sense than some photo feature on a family she may never reach and that no news outlet has bought. A siren wails in the distance. Only Miranda flinches at the distinctive pop of explosions,

“I’m sorry to hear about your friend.” She wants to add please hurry but stops herself

“His name was Ghazwan,” Ali says.

“I guess the roads aren’t too safe these days,” she says.

“Nowhere is safe.” Narbad says flatly into the small quiet car with the cracked windshield. “Death finds us everywhere.”

* * *

The site still smokes and heaves, even a day after the bombing. A barrel bomb. On her trip last September, Miranda photographed a string of these attacks on the west side of Aleppo. Although the entire street in Al Barbira appears layered in rubble and ash, the blast seems to have hit hardest on one block decimating two large apartment buildings and half of another, the half where the Ahmadi family lives.

Surrounded by the fetid stench of burnt flesh and rubber, she pulls her turquoise scarf around her mouth to keep from inhaling the fumes, and moves toward the ravaged apartment complex with measured, watchful steps. Shards of unidentifiable debris wedge into her chukka boots and she feels the dull crunch and scrape as she walks. A mangy dog snarls at her. The disembodied shouting provides a numbing soundtrack, as people, stupefied by shock or grief, bump against her.

The scene here is familiar, filled with pictures her editors might call stock: crumbling gray and white concrete, everything colorless, wrecked and ruined, nothing whole or intact. She smells the images too, rancid and fecal. Narbad stays close to her, asking everyone about the whereabouts of the Ahmadi family. At the sight of her camera, a few people pause to shake their fists and rail at the Syrian regime and Assad’s reign of terror. Others wave them off and trudge onward, shrugging at the futile danger of engagement.

Miranda passes a line of bodies wrapped in light blue bags. Feeling like a vulture poking and picking, she photographs them. One of the bags is partially open. Get closer, she tells herself. Part command, part lure, her voice urges her forward. No such thing as too close. But like fingertips skimming dust from wooden furniture, her lens captures only a filmy residue of what’s there. The carnage is too generic to penetrate, the reality too elusive; meaning slips away.

As she zooms into a young man’s face, unshaven and chalky, his forehead bloody, he stares back at her with vacant eyes. Are you still there? She asks the corpse, as she takes the shot. Only later does it occur to her that the bodies of the Ahmadi family could have been amongst the blue bags.

She heads toward the sheared off building that had once been the Ahmadis’ home.

The place is a peculiar sight. Amidst the twisted remnants of appliances, severed pipes and wires, the shreds of lives, arbitrary things remain intact: a metal towel rack with two pink towels hanging. A full-length mirror somehow not cracked. An empty, blackened bird cage. Possessions protrude from the rubble—TVs, paintings, toys, and so many papers scattered and burnt. She shoots it all. The lack of people in the frames, she hopes, will make these shots more chilling.

Miranda clambers over a large hunk of concrete toward a gutted living room where an entire front wall has been blasted away, like a shadow box display of war’s work. She faces her biggest challenge of all, one that has nothing yet everything to do with the story: to get out of the way. Miranda feels her presence like a shameful secret infiltrating every image. This may be why some of the photos she expects the most of in the moment end up as her worst. It’s like a trick. Her self-consciousness obliterates the truth. She feels like she has no control. But she can’t tell whether she’s even in a battle for control or if she’s simply meant to surrender. What will it take for her to be inside of it, merging what she sees with the truth of what’s actually there. How will she know?  She longs for that feeling, that obliteration of self.  She longs for that even as she strives to surface, to be seen, to declare herself worthy.

A woman appears in the wreckage wearing a t-shirt that says GUESS, her hair only partly covered by a flowered hijab. The piles of burnt wood, and the dust of broken concrete help to subdue the light, which ordinarily would’ve been too full and hot at this afternoon hour. Click-click-click, Miranda, a cold, robotic version of herself, approaches the woman.

“Do you know Doctor Tamir Ahmadi?” she asks. Narbad translates. The woman stares blankly at her. “We’re looking for the entire Ahmadi family. For Tamir, for Basma, his wife—” Miranda’s throat tightens. “Mo, Daria—their twins.” The woman’s blank stare and her inability to speak Arabic frustrate her. “They live right here.” She gestures to the rubble. It occurs to her that they are now homeless. “Any idea where they are?”

“Ahmadi, Ahmadi.” The woman repeats the name. She shouts in Arabic toward another woman walking past with a toddler who clings like a monkey to her back. The woman with the child shakes her head, waves dismissively, and shouts back.

“What did she say?” Miranda asks Narbad.

“Everybody here is lost,” Narbad translates, but the resignation in his tone has Miranda wondering how precise his translation is. No one seems to know where the Ahmadis are or even if they’re alive. A part of her is relieved. The unknown offers hope. But her sense of being on the verge is slipping.

“We must leave here now.” Narbad points to the sky, which is scattered with clouds. Even the silence above them feels menacing, as though the quiet dares another onslaught. “The sky tells us everything.”

Despite herself, Miranda shrugs. “It looks empty.”

“Listen,” he says. She hears the hollow chopping of helicopter blades. “We cannot be here, especially after dark. We will come back another day.”

Another day?” This makes no sense to her.

“Tomorrow maybe you can try. I rebooked your hotel in Kilis.”

Miranda doesn’t want to leave, she does not want a hotel. Narbad sounds, alarmingly, like he is done with her. “I can’t go back to Kilis now. I can’t leave without the Ahmadis. Not while it’s still light.” As she moves deeper into the wreckage, Narbad tries to keep pace.

“Reyhanli is closer. If you prefer, we can leave you there for the night. I will ask about the roads—”

“Narbad.” With a breath she flashes on their dawn border crossing, the searing orange-red sun, the worry about whether Ali would show. “I want to stay here. In Syria. We’ve only just arrived. It took such effort for us to get here today. ” She wishes that this little insurgence, born of her deep determination, didn’t make her sound like a petulant child. “There must be somewhere on this side of the border we can stay? Maybe a rebel camp, like the last time?” They’d stayed for two nights embedded with an FSA group in Idlib province. Her intestines twist with the memory. That place would be brutally cold now and full of leering men, but she’d do it.

“I explained the situation to you before.” Narbad had not only warned her before she left Istanbul, but again on their WhatsApp call in Gaziantep, that this trip would be different from their last foray into Syria. Overnight stays for journalists had become perilous, both for her and for him. At her Kilis hotel, he’d insisted that she put her overnight pack in storage for her return later that evening. Nevertheless, she’d stashed a change of clothes and a toothbrush in her day pack. “Maybe you do not understand how fast things are changing here,” he says. “Many journalists have been abducted around here just in the past month.” In an attempt to accommodate her, Narbad lays out a precise plan: after the overnight stay in Kilis, he will meet her first thing the next morning to cross back into Syria. “We will remain very near to the border. But this way, if something happens, we’re already on the outside and not trapped here.”

From the Facebook group where she saw the post from Dirk Williamson, Miranda knows there are other reporters nearby: Heather Boyle with the Washington Post just left Damascus, having received the only government permission in months. She’d also seen a report with a Gaziantep dateline filed by Nicoletta Uttaro, an Italian journalist she’d met in Cairo. There’s no question in Miranda’s mind that remaining inside Syria places her at a better advantage than outside, where other journalists in the region may be circling and she has no certainty of getting back inside.

“Maybe I can stay with Ali.” As Miranda imposes herself on their unsuspecting driver, she spots him across the street leaning against his car with two men, smoking a cigarette.

Narbad looks stricken by the hubris of her question. “Ali cannot possibly accommodate you,” he says. “Anyway, he will not be with us after today. He has another job.”

“Who’s he working with?” she asks, and, again, Narbad blinks at her with disbelief. Although she regrets what she suspects is a rapid fall from grace in Narbad’s eyes, she’s incapable of surrendering to her better self.

“Ali doesn’t tell me his clients. And I do not ask questions that I, myself, would not answer.”

She sighs. “I’m easy to hide, no one will know.”

“But we do not have a plan for this.” Narbad folds his arms. “Syria is not a place for us to…how do you say it? …to improvise.”

“If you ain’t improvising you ain’t trying, my dad likes to say.” Miranda forces a laugh. The truth is that, even with all the adages her father has slung through her childhood, she has never actually heard him say this. He likely wouldn’t have said it—like Narbad, her father is a planner. Now that she thinks of it, the actual phrase she’d heard, probably from someone else’s father on the Naval base in Coronado, was: if you ain’t cheating you ain’t trying. The message was that you have to break the rules to win. Narbad’s caution, his rigidity, feels like something she needs to break. She wants to cheat the fear. To do that, they will have to improvise. “It’s just for one night. I’ll leave tomorrow, right after we find the Ahmadis.”

He removes his glasses and rubs his eyes. “This is a terrible idea. But—” Replacing them on his nose, he sighs. “I will have a word with Ali. There might be one place—”

She wants to throw her arms around him. “Thank you!”

As though sensing this, Narbad takes a step back from her, frowning. “But we will need a solid plan.”

“Yes, of course. Very solid.”

A call to prayer whines mournfully from a nearby mosque. A man carrying a basket of oranges passes a group of men shoveling through the rubble, covered in white dust. On their way to Ali’s car, Miranda stops to take the photo. She wants to grab that burst of color against the white, that merging of life and death.

But she cannot get close enough.

Andrea Malin has been awarded a fellowship with MacDowell, as well as grants/residencies from the Ragdale Foundation and the Vermont Studio Center. Her short fiction has been published or is forthcoming in the Chicago Quarterly Review, Louisiana Literature, The Forge Literary Magazine, and Seventeen Magazine. Formerly an award-winning network news journalist and documentary producer, Andrea’s work has appeared on NBC News, ABC News and PBS, among other media outlets and includes the film companion to Tom Brokaw’s bestselling book “The Greatest Generation,” and segments dealing with the war in Afghanistan. While revising a novel, Andrea recently field produced a documentary in Ethiopia and is currently developing/producing scripted and non-scripted TV projects in Los Angeles.


At The Masters Review, our mission is to support emerging writers. We only accept submissions from writers who can benefit from a larger platform: typically, writers without published novels or story collections or with low circulation. We publish fiction and nonfiction online year round and put out an annual anthology of the ten best emerging writers in the country, judged by an expert in the field. We publish craft essays, interviews and book reviews and hold workshops that connect emerging and established writers.

Follow Us On Social

Masters Review, 2024 © All Rights Reserved