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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

Claire Smart

Isobelle Carmody Award for

Creative Writing

Highly Commended