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Boat People

Georgia Bayley

Isobelle Carmody Award

For Creative Writing

Highly Commended

A line ofmillions desperate toflee sweeps across the land. Thousands

of malnourished children weep in their mothers’ tired arms. Old

men lie restlessly on the harsh, uneven floor in need of days of sleep.

Every thirty steps, a fierce looking man stands guard armed with

guns and batons, scanning the crowd like a hawk, eager for someone

to do something punishable. A stubborn brick wall topped with

vicious amounts of unforgiving barbed wire stretches across the

shoreline beside us for hundreds of kilometres. Glancing down at

my beloved Firas is the only happiness I can experience in this

treacherous place. My son is my life. A day apart is a day of despair;

a second without him feels like a year. Some day, we will escape this

devastating land together and live an incredible life. The line to the

boat may slow our journey but a feeling in my gut tells me we can

make it to Australia.

We’ve been here for months, Firas and I. Terrible things have

happened in the line around us every day; so terrible that I must

shield my son’s eyes even though his ears can hear the stories. I

know not to step out of line so we patiently wait for a spot together

on the boat. Firas now lies restless beside me, he whimpers loudly

and pleads for water but I cannot help him. Fresh water isn’t

common in our line to freedom. Leaving for water would mean

leaving the line and starting all over again. My little boy continues

to weep and he’s getting louder. People are beginning to stare and

guards are closing in on him as if he’s fresh meat. The nearest guard

reaches over and strikes him on the back, cruelly silencing my poor

Firas for just a second before he bursts out with a piercing shriek. I

try to stop him but he’s uncontrollable.

Night is falling and I fear that Firas will continue to cry. He lies

nestled in my protective grasp and finally drifts off, still sobbing

into my skin. Soon afterwards I find myself falling into a hazy state.

I let myself slump to the ground and dream of better days. Just a

few hours later the morning light touches my eyelids and tears me

from my deep sleep. I roll over on to the rutted floor and hear the

gravel crunch beneath me. When I finally become aware of the life

around me, my heart stops. I stare down into my empty arms. My

empty, childless arms. A series of deafening screeches escape my

mouth. Firas is never gone in the mornings; I know something is

wrong. Perfectly shaped tears struggle down my weathered skin as

panic rises like a tsunami inside me.