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A chair, a table, a bed. Four white walls, and one door. Above, a single

light bulb hung from a cord, casting a soft, yellow glow on the stark

room. A small window with a pull down blind was on the opposite

wall, and through this, Aliyah could see into the concrete courtyard

encased by walls the colour of stormy skies. A small brown ball

bounced off one of these walls and into the hands of a boy, back and

forth, back and forth. Something to do, a way to pass the time.

Aliyah’s fingers skimmed along the rough rug that lay under her

body, the frayed edges prickling her skin. The weaved material

reminded her of the times before, how Umi had taught her to make

bowls and cups from reeds; her steady, protecting hands guiding the

reeds above and beneath each other like a patchwork. Unlike the boy,

Aliyah did not have a ball, instead she liked to think of how things

were before and imagine that each thought was a strong and solid

brick that she could pile up around her to create a protective

encasement that could fight off the fear. Sometimes she was so sure

she had heard Marlah’s giggling laughter or Abbi’s voice calling her

that she would turn, only to find another white wall. But there were

also things from before that Aliyah did not ever want to think about,

things that she tried to forget. The war. The control, the running,

the screams, the hiding, the pleading, the tears. The loss. But as hard

as she tried, even her bricks crumbled as these terrors would seep

back into her mind; consuming her as her eyes closed.

And Aliyah remembered.

Aliyah was shaken from her bed in the dead of night, ‘hush now,’

whispered Abbi, ‘gather only what you need, it is time to go.’ Down

the stairs, through the corridor, out the door and into the night they

fled. Even at night the streets were not quiet. Distant alarms sounded,

dogs barked, and the occasional pop sounded as they scampered

through the city. The pounding of Aliyah’s heart reminded her of

the pounding footsteps that at any minute could pursue them.

Her hand clamped down hard over her sister’s mouth. ‘Don’t

make a sound,’ she breathed into Marlah’s ear. From among the fruit

crates they heard the soldiers’ footsteps trace the truck and then, the

flap at the back of the truck lifted up. She felt Marlah stiffen in her

arms. There was shuffling and then the scrape of a crate across the

floor. Muttering. And then the flap was shut and the truck began to

roll forward again. Peeling her hand from Marlah’s face, Aliyah let

the unstoppable tears roll down her cheeks.



Laura Aldous

Isobelle Carmody Award

for Creative Writing

Overall Winner