Isobelle Carmody Award
For Creative Writing
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.