A single drop of hope falls from the sky, and slides down the dried river
bank, leaving a threadlike trail behind. It could join another, and form
a trickle, which would eventually find another and another and form a
creek. Then a stream, then a river, where it would make up not even
one millionth of the storm of spray that leaps onto our bare feet from
the mouth of the gushing river. But that single drop fades into the hot
sand, lost beneath the fiery expanse that is the sky above.
Nerida trails behind me, the dilly-bag slumped over her shoulder.
We urge ourselves forward, feet burning with every footprint that is
left on the red ochre soil. My dark arms clasp the water container
just as they held Nerida when she was a baby, but it is empty of any
weight that could slow us. As we walk, the land becomes more
cracked and more brittle beneath our calloused soles. We are now
moving into unknown territory. We are lost. Fear of the unknown
and untouched holds us back. But fear of the White Man pushes us
forward. Slowly, we make our way. Forwards? Backwards? Perhaps
to the edge of the Earth, and still we may find no waterhole. Neither
of us had prepared for such a difficult trek; it is usually too hot and
dry tomigrateNorth during the Birak season, and our water supplies
vanished faster than we could imagine. The only moisture within
miles of empty terrain is the sweat that drips from my temple.
My feet are well trained for the journey; I am used to moving. But
not used to change. I can’t remember the last time a real change
decorated our monotonous, yet nomadic lives. Our stories and
paths and landmarks have remained the same since before the sun
began to shine. The first time we saw a white skinned devil, we
feared, we ran. And we are still running, it seems. After that first
time, more of them came. They brought new things, new colours.
Their clothes were vivid, richer than any colour I had ever seen. And
they brought long gleaming pipes that shone brighter than the
Southern stars. But the pipes made thunderous noises and stole the
spirits of five Kamilaroi men. The White Man keeps on bringing
things; food and grog and sickness. But they also take things. They
take our hunt. They take our soil. They take our waterhole. So we
run from them, then they can’t take our stories. We will still have
our tribe. As long as they don’t take our children.
Nerida calls my name but I fail to hear it over the loud bleating of
the white-hot sun.
‘Kirra!’ she calls again, collapsing as the hoarse sound echoes
A Single Drop
Isobelle Carmody Award for