The Raven

2017

Winter

Protect and Serve

Sam Joyner, Year 12

Blue. Red. Blue. Red. The lights still flashed before my eyes. The screams still rang in my ears. The tear gas still filled my lungs, stung my skin, burned my eyes and seared my tongue. Somehow, the worst pain was still the police batons cracking down on my torso, neck and skull. The gravel digging into my skin as I tried to escape the pain, to no avail. White men in riot gear defending the Republican senator from Texas. Black men and women against the gates of his six-million-dollar estate, holding up phones as candles in silent protest. “Suspicion of collusion and/or masterminding in relation to various hate crimes,” was the official reason I now sat in the interrogation room of the Austin Police Department. The real reason was “of dark skin.” I glanced toward the observation room where I am sure there were a score of them, conspiring, planning, devising some way to lock me up with no crime committed. It was as I glanced that I first saw my reflection. Bruises ran across my face, my shoulders and down my arms. A patchwork of colours. Purple. Red. Yellow. Blue. Red. Blue. Red.

The opening of the door startled me from my reveries. A corpulent, white man sauntered in. I estimated him old, maybe sixty. He was near bald, but tried to cover it with a dreadful comb-over. Dead shark eyes peered out from beneath a spray tan that appeared plastered on. His uniform was faded, yet still with some semblance of the blue it once was. He looked at me and a smirk crept onto his face. He even chuckled slightly as he came to plant his blubber on the seat opposite me. It nearly buckled under the weight. I kept my eyes looking anywhere but at the beady black eyes of the officer who was now casually reclining in the metal chair across from me.

“Ya know boy, I weren’t too sure when Jimmy walked up and, oh Jimmy, well you know he’s a God-lovin’ American, and he says to me, he says: ‘Christmas has come early for ya this year, Earl!’ and heck, ya know I didn’t nearly believe him, but walkin’ in here to find a, uh, whadya people call yerselves these days, uh, a ‘negro’ boy like yerself, well it’s just too darn good to be true!” He wheezed with laughter for a second before it transitioned quickly into a vicious cough that shook his whole body. I clenched my fists and scrunched my toes, but my staunch expression didn’t waver. I’d met enough men like Earl in my lifetime to understand what confrontation of any kind would warrant me. He grabbed some papers from the table and began to sarcastically peruse them.

“‘Given names: James, Michael. Family name: White.’ Ya know boy, I think that’s what they call ‘ironic!’” He chuckled again, but stopped himself when he began to cough. I could tell he was proud of his extensive grasp of English vernacular. “‘Born 1992 in Austin, Texas.’ Ah a local boy I see, ‘Graduated University of Texas, Austin, with a degree in law, 2016’ and heck look at that, you were near top of yer class. The rest of the file is pretty borin’ stuff, ya know, ‘Mother died at four; murder; unsolved.’ Ooh sorry to hear about that one, boy.” His smile suggested otherwise, which caused my leg to shake uncontrollably in pent up anger. “Well, pretty borin’ with the exception o’ one thing.” He cleared his throat and I clenched my fists harder. I could see my hands in front of me, and my fingers began to turn white as my nails dug into the veins that now began to bulge from my skin. “It says here, and this is very interestin’, so pay attention, it says ‘Father incarcerated at age 7 until age 19, then AGAIN at 21, sentence of 15 years. Charges of assault and battery of a police officer, two accounts, and obstruction of justice.’ And you’re here for violent hate crimes. Well boy, it looks like it runs in the family!” He started wheezing again looking at the mirror where I could see only myself and Earl, but where I could hear at least three more men cackling just as boisterously. It was then that the white room turned red.

I slammed my fists on the table, clanging the cuffs that shackled me to the table, and Earl looked away from the mirror and stopped laughing. But he didn’t stop smiling. If anything, he looked more amused now than anything else.

“My father was innocent! He didn’t do any of that! He only hit the police officer because he insulted him! That man was racist and should have been the one locked up! You say I’m here for violent hate crimes, but I stood there with hundreds of other TRUE Americans peacefully! We didn’t hurt anyone, we didn’t assault anyone, we protested a corrupt government official who has imprisoned more black Americans than any other American since the Goddamn Civil War!” The smile only grew on his face as I got more enraged.

“Well, listen boy, that’s all well and good, but just quietly between you and me, I get paid more if I arrest more people, and the worse the crime the better it is for me. So you can burst a blood vessel or two gettin’ angry with me, but it ain’t gonna do you no good. We’ll send ya off to jail regardless of yer crimes, cuz let’s be honest,” he looked back to the window as though for confirmation from his cronies, “any sane judge who sees a nig-”

Before he could talk further, I snapped the cuffs tying me to the table, and with a roar leapt on top of the man and started pummelling his face; the further I went, the harder I hit, until blood poured down his face, and across his uniform. Hands pulled me away, and I saw Earl’s damaged face, engorged and swollen, as his was dragged away to be tended to.

“Yer goin’ to jail for a long time, boy! A long time! And if I got anythin’ to say about it, you won’t ever be getting’ out!”

As I felt another pair of cold steel cuffs being clasped around my wrists, I realised: I’d committed a worse crime than my alleged, this was only going to get him more money, and he would be hailed a hero. Before I too was hauled away, I got one last glimpse of Earl and his faded blue uniform. Or rather, faded blue and red.

The Hunter

Christian Benney, Year 12

The equatorial sun beat savagely down upon his pitch-black, glistening back. Creeping through the tall, dry grass of the savannah, he stalked his prey, only the top of his head and the startling whites of his eyes visible above the sea of autumn brown grass. His bow, unused and never fired at anything but targets, was knocked and half drawn in front of him, held by shaking and slippery hands.

Maway had been away from his village for two days now, surviving only on water and plants he had found. All boys of his village had to leave at his age and claim their first kill on their own or not return. The soles of his feet pressed lightly down upon the dry, dusty earth as he continued his stalk. Freezing suddenly, not moving a muscle, he glanced down between his feet. A track. Slowly releasing the tension of his drawn bow, he placed his left index finger into the new print, which was larger than his hand. It was still moist, a fresh track. His heart skipped a beat; was he really ambitious enough to go after a lion, let alone one this size? A steely calm fell over him; of course, he was the Chief’s son after all.

Re-cocking his bow with its wicked arrow, he hunched even lower, allowing himself to be swallowed up by the vast expanse of the savannah. Taking his water skin from his hip, he took a deep draught of the cool elixir. Still hunched over this massive paw print, he felt the afternoon wind begin to pick up. The savannah became a shimmering oasis as the waves of grass crashed and flowed with the wind, but with that wind came a sound. Something that chilled Maway to his very core. A roar like a crack of thunder silenced even the rustle of the grass as the world listened to its master. The hunt was on.

Drawing his bow to its familiar half-drawn position, Maway broke into a brisk run. Gliding across the waves, he flew towards the watering hole where he knew the roar must have come from. Loin cloth whipping around his legs, he began to pick up a familiar scent from the breeze he was labouring against. A deep, musky smell. The smell of a fresh kill. This scent of red filled his nostrils as he approached the water hole, his feet digging ditches out of wetter and wetter earth. Heart in his mouth, bow fully drawn and ready, with a loud battle cry, he burst from the sea of grass into the clearing. Whipping his dark brown eyes from side to side, he scanned the watering hole for the signs of his target. And there it was.

The zebra lay upon the left bank of the hole, half-eaten with only its top half remaining. From the middle of its barrel-chested torso down, it was an awful tangle of guts and fur. As Maway moved closer, he saw enormous gashes in the zebra’s neck, the handiwork of vicious claws and cruel fangs. Great paw prints in the sodden dirt led off back into the sea of grass but Maway was too smart to follow such a beast into its preferred hunting ground. It would return. No lion that size would leave kill of this magnitude to rot. Maway began to dig his hands into the rich dirt, slathering himself in the dark earth. Once he was covered from head to toe, he took out his knife – a short, fat blade but razor sharp, and began to cut down the head-high grass, sticking it in the still wet mud caked to his body. Next he made his way to a great baobab tree on the far side of the watering hole. Climbing his way up to the second highest branch, he cut large chunks out of the bark and stuck them to himself, gradually melting into the tree. Then he waited.

It was well after the molten yellow sun had been swallowed by the expanse in front of him that something caught his eye. Betrayed by the bright light of the full moon and the twinkling stars of the entire galaxy, the grass could be seen parting. It materialised out of the sea with no warning and strode towards its kill. A huge scar dominated half of its face, followed by its great mane and powerful legs. Muscles rippled as it marched towards its feed. Maway knew his time was now. Drawing his bow, heart busting out of his chest, he breathed in, breathed out, and released.

Death of a Rhino

Cameron Wade, Year 12

And in that moment, like a swift intake of breath, the rain came. All of a sudden the desolate plains of the Savannah came to life, as if it had been revived by the sweet kisses of Mother Nature. As the blue skies turned grey, a tremendous roar of thunder rippled across the landscape, sending birds flying toward the heavens. The earth beneath Isaac’s feet turned from red to brown, as water began to flow through the scarce foliage. The sound of the rain, although deafening, was music to the ears of all those who were familiar with the extreme climate. The group of tourists led by Isaac quickly retreated to shelter, which came in the form of a towering oak tree.

“Magnificent,” exclaimed Isaac, “absolutely magnificent”.

The tourists were elated, apart from one man at the back of the group, Samuel, a British backpacker. “Maybe we should head back to the camp,” he pondered, “this is a little crazy”. Samuel spoke in a worried tone; he had never experienced anything like it.

Isaac was a brawny man; he had grown up in South Africa, showing a passion for nature from a very young age. “Nonsense,” he replied, chuckling to himself. “This is a natural wonder, you’ll never see rain like this anywhere else in the world,” he exclaimed.

Isaac was right; the rain continued to pour down, growing louder by the minute.

In the distance, animals retreated from their shelter, emerging into the open plains in a rhythmic sensation. Elephants, gazelles, lions even, all uniting into the harmonious provisions of the heavens.

The water levels continued to rise; Samuel soon became increasingly concerned. “The water is seeping into my shoes!” he yelled, trying to be heard over the sounds of the storm.

Samuel’s naivety amused Isaac, he turned to the group as he said, “Maybe you should have taken a hint and worn boots like the rest of us”.

Embarrassed by Isaac’s mocking tone, Samuel turned to face the camp. “Fine,” he proclaimed, “I’ll go back by myself”.

“You’ll do nothing of the sort!” replied Isaac. “If a lion spots you, that’ll be tickets for you.”

Isaac’s slang amused the tourists, one of whom chortled, “Let him go, maybe the lions will be able to put up with him”. The group let out a cry of laugher.

“Yes, yes, very funny,” said Samuel sarcastically, “the lot with all of you”. Samuel stormed off, unbeknownst to Isaac, who was consumed by the beauty of the Savannah. Herds of Kudu Impalas leaped and galloped in the rain while the elephants let out tremendous cries of joy. By this point the water levels had risen so much that the footsteps of the tourists began to sound as if they were walking in a shallow lake.

“I think it’s best we head back soon, just to check the camp is okay,” suggested Isaac. “Does that sound good to you Sammy?” he asked sarcastically. After being met with no response, Isaac turned to discover Samuel was nowhere to be seen.

“Where is he?” he asked, showing worry.

“He walked off about three minutes ago,” replied another tourist.

“Yeah, right after his little tantrum,” joked one of the photographers. The group laughed, but Isaac’s face turned pale. “Is the boy thick in the head? This is when predators are most active; the man could die!” he exclaimed. Isaac grabbed his rifle from behind his back and ran in the direction of the camp. Isaac’s heart rate began to increase; his clothes became soaked as he trudged through puddles of water.

“Samuel!” he shouted. “Samuel, where are you?” Isaac was met with no response. He picked up his radio and called his assistant tour guide.

“Make sure the others get back to the camp safely, I’m going to find this nutcase,” he said, out of breath from all the running.

Isaac continued to search for Samuel for minutes, and had nearly reached the camp, still having no sight of him. Isaac decided to return to the camp and organise a search party for Samuel, who he feared would have got lost in the chaotic storm. He returned to the camp; sprinting into his tent, he began calling for volunteers. Isaac was met with the sight of Samuel, sitting in a lawn chair, sipping a cup of tea.

“Nice of you to join me,” he said. “The water’s warm if you’d like a cup?”

Marble

Jack Logan, Year 12

Beneath the blanket of familiar faces,

Besmirched with preceding reputations and regretful memories,

A stranger seated, at once surrounded and isolated,

Adrift in a sea of unknowns, driven by the tide of apathy.

 

Dulled by music better suited to elevators,

Mocked for the sensibilities of sobriety,

The hyenas’ cackles follow her as she departs,

A trail of grace through the sludge of social climbers,

Catching the eye of Rushmore’s fifth face,

The intriguing carving of anonymity,

Which optimism moulds to her wishes,

The beauty in the beholder’s eye.

 

Yet perfection is fickle,

An unreachable podium,

That people nonetheless place creations,

Amidst their glory, their hubris.

Elgin’s theft didn’t make the Marbles greater,

A flower picked is still bound to wither.

Perfection is a peak, an insurmountable slope,

A fact one only grasps when one draws close.

 

But she didn’t care for perfectly crafted creations,

For a shining example to place on that podium.

What she loved was the life that breathed from the cracks,

That rippled from his flaws, that radiated from his quirks.

His imperfection to her meant naught, it was a blessing,

A small comfort that one needn’t climb that mountain.

 

And when one day he was found, that perfect creation,

He’d be paraded through the streets, regaled at galleries and museums.

That five-star wonder, what a man he would be!

And lesser men would crave and desire,

To gaze into Paradise’s window, in place of a mirror.

As for the pair?

They needed neither,

For beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder.

The Track

Joey Belcastro, Year 12

And in that moment, like a swift intake of breath, the rain came. Men burst from their makeshift shelters in which they were sleeping with arms outstretched and tongues pointing to the sky, desperately trying to wash away the dirt and grime that did not leave even an inch of flesh untouched.

To many of these Aussie boys, the rain was God’s way of telling them that they were gonna make it, that the world knew where they were and that they were coming. The men cheered and embraced, stirring up a ruckus in our camp. I dared not join them however, as I knew once the rain stopped, there was nothing to protect us from the cruelty of the Japanese.

I had worked the Kokoda Trail for almost six weeks now, forced to dig and build a railway for “The Emperor,” as we were always told. The Japanese who watched over us were the most ruthless and unforgiving beings to have walked this earth. Naturally they were despised by myself, and every other sod in here, but their utter disregard for human life meant they were feared. Three days ago, Jim Stevens – the poor man – was lugging a wheelbarrow full of fresh water to set some cement when the front wheel took off into the mud, spilling everything in front of the officers. His face went white, like his soul had just left his body, as he watched one of the Japanese, who was calmer than we would’ve expected, walk right up to Jim and shoot him, point blank. His body went limp and came crashing down into the mud; everyone became frozen, too confused and afraid to process what had just happened.

Outside of the random executions, we were constantly beaten. Many men were whipped relentlessly just for working too slowly or even looking into the officers’ eyes. Gangrene was one of the many infections that followed us on the trail like the Reaper himself, ready to steal us away at any moment. I knew I couldn’t survive here for long, and neither could any of these other men, so I decided it was time to escape.

I had grown up with my mother and three sisters near Kalgoorlie, my dad having died in a mining accident when I was three. It was hard growing up without him, and it meant that I was the one who had to provide for the family.  One of the local indigenous, Neville Wirrapunda, used to take me out into the bush and teach me all sorts of things, like hunting and tracking. I spent almost every weekend out in the bush when I wasn’t working, hunting roos and rabbits, but that all ended when the war came. After those Japanese attacked Darwin, something inside me told me I had to fight, and to protect my family, because there was no way any of us were gonna let them hurt us again.

My time in the bush with Neville all those years ago had somewhat prepared me for Kokoda, and although the jungle was an entirely different beast to the bush, I knew I’d have the best chance to survive on my own. I waited for my opportunity for days. The Asian sun was bearing down on me like a hammer, wearing me down as I hacked a stone with a pickaxe for hours on end.

After eight days of preparing, the opportunity finally came. A monsoon had begun to riddle our camp with rain and debris, so the Japanese called us all into their camp to wait out the storm. I sat silently trying to figure out how I would manage to slip past thirty or so armed soldiers.

We all heard a bang that left our ears ringing like bells, many of us bent over holding our heads. Lightning. There was silence for a few seconds, then this crackling started. Everyone was still dazed and confused as the crackling got louder and louder, and then suddenly a tree came crashing through the camp roof. I saw my opportunity to escape amongst the confusion and began to sprint into the darkness. I heard shouting behind me, and then more crackling which I wasn’t sure was gunfire or just more lightning. All I knew was, just keep running.

Only Sadness

Sidharth Bhargavan, Year 12

Dark. A world without light.

Cold. A world lacking in heat.

Therefore I ask, what are you?

Are you simply the absence of joy?

Or, do you mean more than an absence:

More than nothing, are you instead,

One that completes the being?

The missing piece without which

I would find myself lacking.

Or is the answer, simply, only sadness.

 

What is it you do?

Hidden away inside, waiting, biding time:

Only to emerge when I wish you not.

Are you spiteful and bitter

Of a life squandered, by my hands?

Perhaps instead, I am ignorant,

Of the services you do me with your actions.

But what help will you give us?

What is the benefit of your pain,

Your torture, your anguish!

In hateful anger I lash out but

My rage ignored I despise

That which has ruined my mind

And therefore ruined me.

To think, of people crying, people sad.

Makes me, truly, very, glad.

The Day Before Yesterday

Toby O'Keefe, Year 12

[two days before tomorrow]

* Lines of text marked like so: XXXXXXXXX , indicate areas of confidentiality for reasons of anonymity or good taste.

Before we begin:

 

“Hello, is that you? Stop calling this number! Just, please leave me alone.”  

 

That was indeed the first and final word spoken:

*      The first being that of utter simplicity

*      and the last a return to normality.

Or so XXXXXXX XXXX had thought.*
Alone, in the comfort of silence.

 

Alone without need for les autres.

 

Alone – for lack of a better understanding – is an absence of anyone else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

Because the events that play out at this point can be somewhat confusing, even when put in their plainest form, accessible to a reader as – well – simple-minded as yourself, I have chosen to begin before the end and outline them in their clearest form.

The day before yesterday [two days before tomorrow]:

A young person [hereafter PERSON 1] of age no older than yourself (or myself), had at one point or another mistaken the number ‘5’ in the elevator of No. 205 for the number ‘7’. The numbers had been swapped. By whom? One cannot say as the EnviSure™ system within the complex had been down for some time.

PERSON 1 proceeded to step from the elevator, as one does to check their surroundings, only to be greeted by a sharp glance by another person [hereafter PERSON 2], this one far older than you or me (of course). A witness had assured us that PERSON 2 was a man of great height with a large dark moustache. He smiled – I am sure – as he retrieved his key from the lock of apartment 8[1].

I interrupt your intent reading now to deliver a quote from the great Jean Perrat.

[To be read with an air of prophetic wisdom.]

“In life there are only two ways, in or out. Only when you have discovered which of these you wish to follow will you truly be at peace.”[2]

It must have been at this point that our moustache man discovered his answer to this question and this was most certainly…

In.

Despite my attempts to resurrect what is truly a harsh story and in some ways to ‘sugar-coat it’, I have grown weary of such melancholy and soft pursuits.

In short:

  • PERSON 2 follows PERSON 1
  • PERSON 1 closes door to Apartment 109, Floor 7
  • PERSON 2 knocks requesting use of certain amenities unfound
  • PERSON 1 answers door whilst it remains bolted
  • PERSON 2 overpowers PERSON 1 causing damage to property on entrance

And it is here where I must return to a most sensitive tone, for the events that ensued can only be described as tragic.

Witness accounts tell us only so much:

Heavy footsteps down front passage, followed by even heavier ones.

 

[Reported by residents of Apt. 99, Floor 6]

 

A muffled scream (similar to that made when having a tooth pulled) was heard shortly after supper.

 

[Reported by residents of Apt. 111, Floor 7]

Silence for some time.

 

[Reported by ALL]

This subsequent silence may have continued for even more than some time were it not for the intrusion of Officer No. 199788 and Officer No. 178883 [hereafter OFFICER 1 and OFFICER 2 respectively] who were called about half an hour prior to report a break-in that had occurred at Apartment 102, Floor 7 four days prior (nothing had been taken, and the only damage, a loose ceiling vent; the occupant had only just returned from travel).[3]

The victim of the XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX that had ensued was spared, no doubt from a grisly end by OFFICER 2 who had noticed the signs of forced entry and entered Apartment 109. PERSON 2 after a brief attempt at escape via the open door reached into his upper breast pocket to remove a gun[4] but, was shot dead at the scene by OFFICER 1 who had heard from his/her place at the doorway “sounds of a struggle”. 

Now that that dull episode is dealt with we step on to slightly more interesting ground, that which concerns the case that is to follow. It becomes necessary at this point to name names, for names are the only way in which one can gain a name for him or herself.

PERSON 1: Mr. Dennis CLAUDIERE

Apt. 109, Floor 7, No. 205

Age: 34

  • Reclusive but world-renowned digital artist (you may have heard of his piece, ‘Sitting Duck’?)
  • Active Gay Rights movement sympathiser

PERSON 2: Mr. Michel LETEND

Age: 54

Apt. 88, Floor 5, No. 205

  • Dennis CLAUDIERE’s ex-lover of three and a half years
  • Since, convicted of sexual assault (acquitted on grounds of insufficient evidence)

As, I am assuming you already know, the CLAUDIERE and LETEND affair was one of much public scrutiny. The relationship ended abruptly and publically shortly prior to the court case concerning the aforementioned sexual assault charge. CLAUDIERE being the hermit that he is shied well away from the public light whilst LETEND on the other hand stood square in it.

Now one can understand why the price paid for such information has been particularly important whilst discussing this matter. One cannot simply give away the details of such an interesting predicament without asking first, for a reasonable sum. And so I trust that such information will be used responsibly and would not dare to slander such an innocent man as Mr. CLAUDIERE.

 

Regards, and awaiting your next call as if it were the last,

Mr. XXXXXX XXXXXX

[1] Later, following investigation discovered to be apartment 88 due to its location between apartments 87 and 89. The second 8 is said to have been misplaced or perhaps torn off the door of apartment 88, we do not know when.

[2] Jean Perrat, The Great Woe of Life, 1887.

[3] Later investigations have found that said ceiling vent provides access to electronic wiring some of which was noticeably damaged, particularly those cables giving power to the EnviSure™ system on Floor 7.

[4] Later investigations have found the said gun to be, in reality, no more than a plastic replica one might purchase from ‘Le Bonhomme de Bois’ or a store of similar ilk.

Time

Emanuel Radici, Year 7

Simple and slow,

Yet complex and inadequate.

A labyrinth of history and tales.

Secrets are wrapped in the deep folds of its mere existence,

As small and compact as a grain of sand.

Falling through a vortex of space and time.

 

We are small, as humans.

A mere pixel in the artwork of the universe.

Time expands infinitely.

Who knows where we would be hundreds of years from now.

A different time? A different place?

There are too many possibilities to grip a proper answer.

 

Think of the slowly ravelling pieces of time,

Sinking slowly into the vast areas of the universe we don’t know,

Time is infinite, but in reality,

We never have enough of it.

Stars and planets are checkpoints in life,

Manhood, Knighthood, Marriage, Death,

These all, situated in various points in the expanse of time.

How far have we come from the beginning?

Are we close? Are we far?

The real answer is, we don’t know.

We have never known.

We probably will, never know.

 

Time is too large, too big, to put a measure on,

Simply too much to take in, a sight beyond comparison,

If we were ahead in our time, what would it be like?

How far back are we really?

Is it just the beginning?

Are we nearing the end?

 

Only cold, and bitterness, will remain in the end,

The remains of a civilisation which was brought to its knees,

By the depression and grief of lost ones,

By the arguments and war of nations,

 

By the long-lasting separation of different cultures,

Who only want to make peace in the end.

But is it possible?

 

Is peace a possibility in a such a large land and environment?

 

Look at the stopwatch,

How far has it gone?

Is it an endless hourglass?

To remind us what we were?

 

Time is of such large nature,

Which is twisting and turning,

Full of constant joys.

But with joys come a price.

Jealousy and hatred will swarm civilisation,

Fighting and chaos will separate communities,

But most of all, the world will never be what it was.

Never.

 

But that hasn’t come yet,

And pray that it will never,

For another day blossoms up, and looms before your eyes,

Time has passed quickly, and we must move on,

Through time and space and the new revolution.

A New Life

Darby Cuming, Year 9

As the cold air blew past my face I was beginning to seriously consider turning back. The punishment for the crime would be countless years in jail. Is it really worth it? I tried to push this thought out of my head as I walked over to the southern side of the fence. There was a gang of men standing around, waiting to be instructed on what to do, when a large figure approached. The group turned to face this stranger as he introduced himself, “I am Ramus. I’m here to show you the way to a better life”. The group followed him through the tall palm trees to a small clearing.

The icy night sent shivers down my spine as we huddled around to discuss the plan. We, among others, had attempted to get over the border before many times but to no avail, yet we still will try in the hope that we will be the first to have success. The government currently is extremely strict, preventing anyone from getting out of this appalling war-torn country, Costa Rica. The Spanish Civil Guard, or SCG, runs shifts day and night, with armed men and sniffer dogs walking around the border. We can’t stay long.

This was the night. A twenty-foot climb, directly up, to reach the top of the fence. From a quick look around at everyone, I could clearly see that not everyone was in prime condition to be attempting this climb.

“Diego, Miguel and I will go over to the main power supply box to cut the power for the electric fence and spotlight. When the lights go off, start climbing,” Joel stated.

Diego added, “There will only be a few minutes between when the light will go off and when the SCG resort to the back-up generator. Any stragglers will be left behind.” As Diego finished, the group split up.

The group climbing, which included me, hid behind a small bush, waiting for the illuminated sky to go pitch black. Five minutes passed, then ten and twenty. As a few people were about to give up hope, the blinding spotlights turned off. Everyone stood up and ran over to the fence and began climbing.

The rusty wire dug into my hands as I gripped the next hand hold. I was beginning to feel queasy, as I was now 15 feet in the air. I had just reached the top when flickering lights could be seen overhead, sirens could be heard in the distance, the spotlights, now turned on, illuminated where we were. In a panic, everyone had either sprinted up the fence or dropped down and made a run for it. I had just dropped down on the other side when I saw piercing blue and red lights in the distance, sirens blaring. I and a few others stood in shock, not knowing what to do, as we were surrounded by officers of the Spanish Civil Guard.

I made a dash for the bushes on my right with two other men, one of whom suddenly dropped to the ground in a spasm as blue sparks flashed from his chest. The other guy and I dived head-first into the bushes as a few more Taser shots passed me. The other guy, Dante, got pulled out first by the authorities and was instantly handcuffed and taken to the back of the truck. A huge man came through the trees looking for me. I crawled up into a ball and prayed for my life.

All those planning sessions on what would happen on the other side – well, I guess people assume that there would just be a home there waiting for them. I felt a sharp pain erupt from my back and I was sent into a spasm. I blacked out.

“Where am I?” I blustered out as I woke up. I was met with no response. I looked around in a haze, to see metal walls of a truck.

What now?

Diamonds to Dust

Aidan Mattys, Year 12

“Have you taken the samples?” Laird said to his assistant, looking at a marked map on his desk. The sound of machinery could be heard through the supposedly soundproof walls. The air conditioning was broken again so the room felt like an oven, slowly roasting the occupants, making it hard for Laird to think. The small ‘office’ stank of sweat and cigarette smoke, curling in the air and casting shadows on the walls.

Laird’s attendant was a young man almost half his age and Laird had noticed the curious, vibrant light in his eyes. Laird envied him, so happy, so full of life, aspects that had disappeared from Laird’s mind long ago. A simple gift that we had once taken advantage of.

“Yes, Sir!” the attendant said excitedly. Laird knew we loved this part of the job and had said it made him feel like he was hunting for treasure. Laird would chuckle, “Thanks Steven. Just place it on the desk and I’ll be there in a second.”

Steven left the room and returned with three long cylinders. Each was filled with dirt, Laird was sure. They hadn’t found any new sites for several months now and his manager was becoming impatient. “Hopefully this time the readings are positive, Sir,” Steven said as he placed the heavy metallic cylinders onto the inspection tables.

Hopeful; Laird thought it was a strange concept that he had forgotten these hard months. He knew this was his last chance to keep his job. His other co-workers had been let go and he and Steven were the only ones remaining.

After scribbling some notes onto a form, Laird came over to the table and carefully separated the first sample from the five metre long cylinder.

“Sample 56A. North-East sector. One kilometre from the main site,” Laird said, beginning the inspection. Steven picked up Laird’s form and began jotting down the information onto the sheet. As Laird inspected it, he could see the colour of the sample change from reddish-brown to hard bedrock. No pockets were present. None of the layers contained any trace of valuable resources. Laird sighed and placed the sample to the side.

“Sample 56A – negative.” Steven looked disappointed as he wrote the result and picked up another form from Laird’s desk, coughing as he inhaled the deadly smoke. “Sample 57B, North-East sector, 1050 metres from the main site,” Laird continued, beginning to inspect the second sample. He was becoming anxious now. He didn’t dare hope, for he didn’t want to bring his hopes up, but he needed something, anything, to satisfy his superiors.

The second sample read negative.

He couldn’t help it anymore. He pulled out a cigarette and his lighter. He had already gone through a box today, his personal limit, but he had to have one whenever his heart was racing. It calmed him, but today it had no effect. Upon separating the final sample from the container, he almost wept for joy. There were shiny studs covering the final layer, about 200 metres in the ground where the sample was taken. Steven almost began jumping up and down with anticipation and hurried for the chisel. Laird took it from him and began removing some of the shiny pebbles from the sample. His hands shook as he carried them over to a machine that looked like a mix between a microscope and a 3D printer. He placed the stone inside and wiped the dust off the glass with his sleeve. He was hoping now. He set the scanner to carbon and waited while the lights went over the rock. It looked like a diamond but he needed to be sure. He needed the machine to read the carbon on the crystal. Steven had the pen ready, waiting to write the status of the mineral.

The machine beeped and a coloured light turned on. Laird stepped back in shock. He knew he shouldn’t have hoped and cursed himself for doing so. He stumbled back to his desk and began placing his belongings in the box to the side of his desk. Steven looked at him expectantly.

“Sample 58A,” Laird said, his voice no more than a whisper, “Negative.”

The White Area

Tom Kinnaird, Year 9

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but for days now I’ve been feeling like something’s different. Walking down the streets, I’m used to the demeaning looks but I’ve been going through this since I was just a girl. It’s just part of being a coloured woman in today’s society. As I hand the vendor my change, I take the newspaper, along with a sharp stare from the boy. It’s disgraceful that this ‘white community’ is breeding offspring that carry the same prejudice as them.

Standing under the shelter of the bus stop with, by now, a soggy newspaper under my arm, I notice a white man staring at me out of the corner of one eye. I don’t stare back. I just stand and stare off into the distance. Provoking racism only makes us more segregated. Before I even know what’s happened, I feel a sudden blunt force against my side. I stumble and fall out onto the wet, muddy ground, looking up only to see the back of the head of that same white man who was glaring at me. He clearly thought nothing of shoving the black woman out into the rain and onto the street. I stand up with the back of my loose dress now dripping with mud, the ruined newspaper still under my arm. I straighten myself and throw the wet, muddied newspaper into the trash can behind the small bus shelter.

As the bus passes over the crest of the hill a large, white man tosses a dime to a passing coloured boy, who then begins waving viciously to hail the fast-approaching bus’s now open front door. I wait my turn to enter, as every other coloured person does. Still though, I’m pushed aside by other white folk who clearly have no time or business waiting for black people. As the last person on, I hand the driver my fare and walk down the aisle. Several white people who are in their zone at the front of the bus sit impatiently, cross-legged, with their newspapers, anxiously waiting for me to sit myself down at the back of the bus with all the other minorities. I can only walk slowly, since I injured my ankle when I was pushed at the bus stop. My slow pace clearly angers all the white commuters. I notice, approaching the back of the bus, that all seats in the coloured zone are full. I stand in the aisle, holding the railing around the seats. The bus takes off hard, making me fall to the floor of the bus. As I did earlier that day, I stand, straighten myself and carry on.

The bus continues through the centre of Montgomery. I look across the coloured gentlemen and out of the window, imagining if I were only born white. Everything out the window only enforces a black and white society. White and coloured walk the street separately, signs everywhere dictating where each may stand. I just keep imagining if I were privileged and not the oppressed. I let the world roll by outside until something catches my eye. I see what I think could be a black man standing blatantly under a ‘white area’ sign. I look again and turn my head in the rush and confusion that this brought me. As I watch him disappear out the back window, I’m shaken and feel bad for the brave soul who will surely be beaten for disobeying such a simple rule of society.

The pain in my legs worsens. I don’t think I can stand much longer. I can’t let it get to me; the only seat left is in the white area. The dilemma is eating away in my head. I stare at the empty seat, above which a sign states ‘Whites’. When the bus slows at the upcoming intersection, I take the opportunity and step forward, taking the seat. Immediately the bus goes quiet. Murmuring starts up and deeply demeaning glares are soon coming my way. I keep it to myself, staring out the window, the relief of my feet and legs only causing me to grasp the gravity of the situation I’m now in. I know I’m breaking the rules, but I’m certainly no rebel or activist. I’m just a black woman in the white area. Surely this isn’t the crime against humanity that it’s being made out to be. The bus stops. The driver walks down the aisle and stands, glaring at me. I keep looking out the window.

Beautiful Privilege

Sachio Ingrilli, Year 12

“This one must be yours then!” The security guard reached onto the carousel and grabbed Ruby’s bag. She had spent the last hour in the quarantine room being questioned by a daft looking man in a black suit and white mask. She had had an extreme fever when she got off the plane and Customs feared that she might have had Swine Flu so took her away just to make sure.

As she dragged her dilapidated, almost broken suitcase behind her she wondered how it had survived yet another beating from impatient baggage handlers. They always seemed to treat old bags better than the new ones, which is weird, she thought, because she would feel a lot worse damaging a brand new bag than an old one.

“Okay, all good,” the lady said as she flipped over her immigration card, skimming through the maze of ticks in boxes. “Just head down to the second door on the right.”

Ruby headed out of the airport and over to the taxi line after briefly raiding the brochure display. She wanted to get the full Australian holiday experience like her sister had told her about. No expensive hotels and buffet breakfasts, just a tent, a campfire and about every single tourist attraction she could get her hands on in the daytime.

“G’day, I’m Russell.” The taxi driver reached out to shake her hand.

“Ruby,” she replied as her hand was crushed by his firm grip.

“Just hop in and I will chuck your things in the back. Won’t be a minute.”

“I hope you don’t mean that literally,” she replied. “If you break that bag you can pay for it!”

Russell hopped in the car and reached above to switch off the taxi light on top of the car. “So where are we off to?” he asked.

“The beach please.”

“The beach? What beach was that?”

“Just the beach, thank you.”

“Alright, to the beach it is then.”

Ruby looked Russell up and down trying to make sense of his revolting odour. He was a scruffy bloke, wearing a baggy untucked taxi shirt that looked like he hadn’t washed since he got it. His face was hidden by his wild beard and bushy eyebrows and hair covered by a broad brimmed hat as if he was a bush ranger.

“So Russell, you think that you’re Russell Coight? Or is the hat just to hide the grey hairs?”

He laughed.

“And how would someone like you know about such an Australian icon?” She was American, Russell could tell that much from her accent, but he knew she wasn’t an Australian Citizen the way she had been glaring out the window at the coastline.

“How could I not? Even us Americans love a bit of All Aussie Adventures.”

“Did you want me to drive all the way to Darwin or are you planning on hopping out somewhere along the beach?” he said wittily.

“Here is fine, but I want to keep going to my campsite after I get a photo of the waves. Can you wait?”

“Okay.” Russell was hesitant.

“But don’t take too long or I might get bored and have a look in your suitcase.”

She got out and glared out to sea, walking like a zombie towards the waves and forgetting to shut the door behind her. It was beautiful. The water crashed on the sand rhythmically like a rain stick in a symphony orchestra. In the distance she could see a cargo ship chugging through the water like a rocket unobstructed in the black abyss of outer space. The cool breeze sent shivers down her spine as it brushed over the back of her neck.

“This is Australia.”

Ruby jumped in surprise. She was caught up in the view and she hadn’t noticed Russell sneak up behind her.

“Where I live there are no beaches; I only see the water on plane trips,” she replied.

“It’s a shame,” Russell said. “More people should be able to see this.”

“So do you come down to the beach to swim every day?” she asked.

“Oh God no, not me; those waves would gobble me up before the sharks could.”

“That’s not an excuse.” She couldn’t comprehend how someone could not take advantage of such a beautiful privilege.

“Go on then, let’s see you slap on your budgie smugglers and hop in.”

Promised a Better World

James Watson, Year 9

From the day we got the letter, it would change our lives. Forever. Once we got it and read it, we realised what would have to happen. My family would have to leave me. Leave me behind with what we had here. At home. They said that it was the land of the free. But getting in there would prove to be impossible.

Going up the fence with twelve other strangers. It would change my life forever. Looking at the other side we could see what our lives could become. The start was the hardest. The fence was all rusty. Probably twenty years old. Some parts of the fence had completely rusted away and had left sharp pieces of wire exposed. The land around the fence was arid and dead. A few metres away there was desert littered with small shrubs. We started climbing up the fence, not knowing what we were getting into. Everyone deserves a chance. My family was given one. I wasn’t.

Sweat dripping off our faces in the scalding heat, and the fact that we could get caught and it would ruin our chances forever, made this trip daunting.

“Antonio!” Juan shouted.

“What?” I replied.

“Are you sure that no-one will come?”

“I’m pretty sure,” I answered.

We all started the climb at the same time. Going at the same pace. Slowly but surely making our way to a better life. We’re all going over for a reason. I’m going for my family. Juan, he’s going for a new start. A better life. We had only just started climbing up. My whole body was sweating. Not just because it was scalding, but also because it would change my life forever.

We were all near the top of the fence. Unknowing of what was ahead of us. As we all climbed over, our hearts dropped. There was another fence. I could see the sadness on everyone else’s faces. Distraught. Broken. We were all in a terrible state, but our journey had not finished. We started to climb down the first fence onto the hard grey concrete. The sun’s rays were bouncing off the concrete onto our sweaty skin.

“Let’s go again, guys!” I shouted as we began climbing up the fence. The second was harder. We were already exhausted from the last one and climbing up another fence was hell. We were all mentally and physically prepared for just one fence, but the other fence was just a barrier stopping us from pursuing our dreams in a new land. This fence was different. The base of the fence was in a ditch, adding to the already gigantic fence.

We couldn’t see anything through the fence. It was covered by lush green foliage. There was a problem. The plants had large, sharp thorns on them. This added difficulty to the already staggering, long challenge ahead of us. We all started climbing in unison. Carefully checking for thorns before our hands grasped the metal wire that was the fence. We couldn’t avoid the thorns; they were everywhere, as though they were trying to stop us from reaching a better life.

Everyone’s hands were bleeding by the time we got to the quarter mark. It was so hot. The blood pouring out of our hands was quickly being dried up by the sun. Our hands were bleeding and fragile. We knew that there was no going back, so we decided to keep storming on. The unbearable pain pushed us to keep going.

I was about to quit. About to go back to what I once called home. I knew I had to do it for my family. For my kids. My hands started shaking. They then became numb. There was no feeling in my hands. Numb. Dead. Disconnected. I kept on going. It was a struggle. I was halfway to the top. Numb and bleeding hands. Exhausted muscles. Despite the odds going against me, I kept trooping on. Just hoping that it would end sooner.

We were all nearly at the top. We were all screaming on the inside with all the pain that we went through to get a better life. Little did we know that it would all fall apart. We could not see what was at the top of the fence. Just hoping that there was nothing and no-one to stop us. We finally got to the top. There we saw barbed wire. We knew that this would be where we would fail and crumble back down to our life back at what I used to call home. We all sat at the top of the fence looking down on a golf course. Luscious green grass everywhere. Tall green trees and beautiful lakes filled with ducks.

This made us all have hope. Hope about what our lives would be like on the other side. We sat at the top, admiring this view. We were all trying to figure out how to get past the barbed wire. A barrier between our freedom. We decided to climb over.

“Antonio!” Juan shouted, “You go first!”

My whole body was trembling. Fear of failing and getting caught. Ruining everyone’s lives. I started to climb over. It was rusty. Very rusty. As my bloody hands gripped the wire, I could feel the wire crackling and flaking away. I got my other hand on the barbed wire. I was now dangling from the barbed wire. Feet above the ground. I started to pull myself up and I felt the wire giving way. Suddenly. I couldn’t even react. The wire broke. I slammed into the fence where all the thorns were, my hands still gripping onto the broken wire.

“Antonio!” Juan shouted in shock. “Are you okay?”

“I think so,” I replied, whilst grasping the fence with both my hands. “I’m gonna keep going. I just made it easier for myself.”

As I climbed back up to the top of the fence, the heat started to get to me. I move slowly, becoming dizzy and nauseous, but I keep moving forward, thinking that it can only get better from here.

The Lake in the Desert

Ben Nixon, Year 12

The body was as grey as a winter fog. Its face was wrinkly and moist from the lake water and the hair of the dead man was floppy and wet over his forehead. The reflecting sunlight twinkled on the man’s entirely wet body. The man’s tie had been flung over his shoulder touching the coarse yellow sand. The body was now on its back. His cause of death was so obvious a baby could spot it. Four blotchy, brown bullet holes, sunk deep into his chest out of sight. The man’s suit and jacket were crusted with the drizzling, brown mass. The dried-up blood permanently stained the expensive suit. Good riddance, Sheriff Johnson thought to himself as he frowned down on what he thought of as a dead fly. Johnson rolled the cigarette in his lips to the left corner of his mouth, his wide-brimmed Sheriff’s hat protecting him from the intense heat of the sun. Johnson had his hands on his hips as be glared at the body he was all too familiar with.

“What do you think, Sheriff?” the junior officer beside Johnson asked.

“What do I think about, what?” Johnson mumbled, his eyes still gazing at the body.

“Well, who do you think might’ve done this?” the officer politely replied. “He was the Manager of Core Industries!”

“Yeah,” sighed Johnson, as he surveyed the empty desert landscape around him. “Yes, he was.”

Cornville was a small town positioned in a wide, expansive, roasting desert. The landscape was stark, hellish, yet undeniably beautiful. At least that’s what Johnson thought. Jagged, leafless trees poked up from the course, suffocating dirt to worship the glorious sunlight. The lake was cool blue and the sunlight sparkled, romantically on its surface.

“I’ll …um…I’ll start filing a report and let his family know,” the junior officer exclaimed as he dashed back to his patrol car which was not far from the lake. Johnson continued surveying his land. The relaxing emptiness of the desert of Cornville pleased him; then he saw Core Industries, just beyond the lake with its hideous grey structure and plumes of smoke invading the sky from two huge cylinders. Johnson frowned, biting into his cigarette making it sizzle angrily out the other end. The junior officer sprinted back, exhausted.

“Okay, Sir!” he puffed. “They’re on their way to the station!”

“Good,” Johnson beamed down at the officer. “You’ve done well today.”

The officer cracked a smile as he panted.

“But,” he began, “who would’ve done something like this? Four shots? That’s aggressive murder!”

“No idea,” Johnson replied firmly, “but I’ll get to the bottom of this. Mark my words!”

Johnson paused. “Though it won’t be good for Core Industries. They may have to leave or start over.”

“Yeah,” the officer replied, “Well, I’ll take the patrol vehicle back and you’ll take your car back?”

“Of course,” Johnson smiled. “I’ll meet you at the station.”

Once the junior officer took off, Johnson waltzed back to his car. Once he reached it he stamped out his cigarette, pulled out his revolver and inspected it. Two bullets were in. Four shots missing.

Damn, he thought to himself, if only I knew where those went. He cackled quietly, creepily to himself.

The Ukraine Conflict

Thomas Webb, Year 12

“This separatist cell once consisted of nearly 200 men. Mind you, not ordinary men; they were as tough as Soviet steel, as cunning and as brave as the revolutionaries of old; they were Russians. But this war had changed that; now merely 70 strong we still fight in hope that we will unite the rest of Ukraine with Mother Russia.” Mickela Andropove, 17 January 2017, read the inscription along the bottom of the page. Mickela was only 17, a tall boy with deep blue eyes and a standard separationist number one haircut. He was on guard duty and was using this time to update his diary. As he looked out over the rooftops he could see smoke stacks climbing into the sky on the edge of the horizon. He looked out over the thick forest scrub for movement in the still trees. Mickela was stationed at the 16th cell barracks, an old Soviet remnant from the days of the Cold War. The building was a testament to Soviet engineering. It had three floors, a roof top firing position and a bunker deep within the ground. For a building verging on 50 years old and that had been neglected since the fall of the Soviets 20 years ago, she still stood tall. The only damage she had received was from Ukrainian artillery and even then, it only took off the paint. Suddenly Mickela heard a whistle. It started off faintly and slowly built up in pitch and volume. He knew this whistle all too well because it was the whistle of death. It was an artillery strike.

Fearing the worst Mickela rushed out of his seat, tripping over himself in his panic. He grabbed his rifle and rushed to the roof top alarm. His panic began to worsen. “What if it is gas like at cell 27? We’ll all die!” he muttered to himself whilst grabbing the lever. With one swift pull the old lever cranked down. The mounting whistling was soon replaced by the screaming siren and red flashing lights shortly followed by screaming and audible locomotion in the building below. Mickela had done his duty; he had warned his comrades of the impending danger but he had frozen, too scared to move from his post, his hands still locked to the lever. Seconds, maybe minutes went by, he couldn’t tell, when suddenly an officer ran up the stairs that connected the roof top to the rest of the building. This officer stood with the sun glowing behind him, almost angelic, screaming at Mickela, “Get to the bunker boy! You know the drill. This is a daily”. His thick Russian accent and stern order triggered Mickela to rush down the stairs without thought and without his rifle and diary.

Stumbling down the stairs in a frantic panic the only thing going through Mickela’s mind was getting to that bunker. Every day the Ukrainians had been getting closer; with every day they got closer to hitting their bunkers, their home. The Ukrainians had the advantage, artillery and not some old Soviet pieces. No, they had American artillery. The American artillery was bigger, had greater range and was far more accurate. The Ukrainians had no regard for where they fired; in many attempts to wipe out Mickela’s cell group they would hit nearby civilians or in the case of Cell 7 near the Cherenkov Airport. They obliterated apartment buildings and houses as if it were a game of battleship.

Mickela finally made it to the bunker with his angelic officer right behind him. The same officer now screamed orders initializing a call off. Soldiers began to number off one by one. “16, 17, 18, 19,” screamed over the sound of the siren. “37, 38 … 38. “Mickela! ….Mickela!” Once again shouted the officer.

“39, Sir,” snapped Mickela.

“40, 41, 42,” screamed the soldier continuing the roll call.

As 70 was called the officer ordered the siren off and the blast door shut. Looking around the room Mickela saw the men take up their usual spots but found himself standing there waiting for the whistling to come back. Once again Mickela lost his perception of time; this small damp crowded room had no natural light, merely a few dim lights. There were a couple of bunks but more importantly there was a Russian’s best friend, Vodka. More time passed, minutes, seconds, it didn’t matter to Mickela. He was waiting, still waiting for death’s sweet whistle.

Suddenly the room went quiet. There it was, death’s sweet sound. The angelic officer screamed, “Brace! Prepare for impact”. It was louder than it had ever been before. Mickela stood trembling in his boots, standing up right in the middle of the room. The more experienced men counted out how many shells they could hear, guessing their size and calibre as well. The first one hit, close but not a hit; the bunker shook, the dim lights shaking on their chain. The second one hit, close, much closer, the bunker violently shaking. The lights cut in and out and the dust fell from the ceiling. An audible explosion was heard, a first time they had heard the impact; the bunker shook like an earthquake had struck it. Mickela was thrown to the ground, hitting his head on the way down. As he faded in and out he heard proud men wailing with grief, lights fading in and out and his saviour from before standing over him.

Blocked

Mike Youngleson, Year 12

“Son, listen here and listen bloody closely. Identity fraud isn’t a joke. You could be done for, so start yapping,” the policeman warned me sternly.

“Sir, believe me I know I was in the wrong. It’s not going to happen again. Please just let me go,” I pleaded. Tears began to surface on top of my grey eyes and slide down my pale face.

“I’m afraid you’re staying in custody until I get an explanation and it better be a good one,” the officer aggressively snapped at me. This guy, Officer Jacobs, was no joke. His shaved head made the many scars he possessed visible, gruesome lacerations stained his dark complexion. His uniform gripped to his chiselled abs like a glove and his biceps pulsed as blood struggled to fill his huge arms. As a result of this interaction and uncertainty I crumbled.

“Okay, okay. I’ll tell you everything, please just let me leave afterwards. It started yesterday when my mate Dave gave me a buzz.”

“James mate, how are we? Anyway you hitting the club tonight, it is the last event for ages.” Dave had demanded.

“Ah, maybe mate. You realise we’re underage, right?” I informed him.

“Ha! Shut up mate. Don’t be such a girl. I’ll see ya tonight!” Dave abruptly hung up, failing to come to terms with what I had told him. I hated these events, however, my anxiety yet again succumbed to peer pressure as I opened my cupboard in an effort to find tonight’s outfit. I grabbed my button-up shirt, newest jeans and black boots in an attempt to make my scrawny, undeveloped body look as old as possible. Once I was dressed I grabbed my ‘fakie’ and held it up to the mirror. No longer was I James Jones; tonight I would be Jack Matt Black, born on the 4th of July 1998 and currently attending Sydney University. I hated having to lie about who I was to get into these parties. I knew that I shouldn’t be there and yet at 7.30 that night I was waiting in the line that expanded to 500 metres full of eager adults.

My best mates, Dave, Tom, Harry and I waited anxiously in the line. My blood was boiling as sweat began forming and rapidly falling down my face. I looked around, studying my mates, each one scrawnier than the last. We all stood at about 5’8” in an ocean of giants around us. I examined Dave and weighed up our chances of getting into the club. He was pale, with freckles scattering his dry skin. He smiled at me, his jagged teeth being pulled in line like soldiers by his bright purple braces.

“Dave, you have braces; who over 18 has braces?” I nervously exclaimed as we began to trudge up the line.

“Relax mate. Live a little. If you get turned down, nothing happens anyway. Just chill,” he stated, trying to reassure me, but it failed. This was wrong. We should wait our turn to go to over-18 events. All these bearded men did. I turned to leave when a hand firmly rested on my frail back. I turned and realised I had made it to the front of the line. The bouncer was dressed in black: black beanie, black tee-shirt and tight black shorts that failed to cover up his bulging quads, purple veins, pumping overtime. I look up to see Dave, Harry and Tom waltzing up the stairs casually, a sense of euphoria and excitement stalking their pubescent faces.

“Hurry up mate, do you even have an ID?” the bouncer teased, taking me as just being a baby-faced adult.

“Yeah, one sec man.” My sweat-sodden hands reached into my jeans as I clumsily pulled out my identification. It slipped out of my hand, dropping to the floor, as well as my other belongings. Side by side, my actual ID lay next to my ‘fakie’.

“OK mate, we might have a problem ‘ere!” the bouncer exclaimed as his huge, pulsing arms reached for my skinny neck. I stumbled, grabbing my things, sprinted past him and up the stairs. A sense of euphoria overcame my nerves as I darted up each stair. I was a rat in a lion’s den as the guard quickly approached his prey, his hands pushing me. I buckled forward, falling and harshly landing on the sharp metal stairs. I crumbled as my hand and body collapsed. As I was escorted down the stairs, hands firmly tied behind my back, the sea of adults in the line tormented me as they shouted, “Serves ya right ya little twat.” And it did. I knew I was in the wrong.

“Don’t let this happen again mate,” Officer Jacobs warned me.

“Believe me, Sir, I won’t. I promise,” I pleaded as my salty tears began to dry up, relief overwhelming me.

“I’ve notified your parents and the system has a tick next to your name. Next time it is an offence.” They held onto both of my ID cards as I wearily left, my body aching; however, I was relieved.

Trapped Behind Colour

Jack Beazley, Year 9

“But, Sir! Please, I really need to go!” Vincent exclaimed.

“Get out of here. I don’t serve people of your race!” the owner roared.

The service station owner pulled out a double-barrelled shotgun from under the counter and cocked it with a large click. Vincent gasped as he felt his heart drop to his stomach. He pivoted on the spot and tried to get out of the service station as fast as possible. His legs were shaking with fear and his eyes popped out of his head.

“Get out!” the service station owner screamed as he fired the shotgun. The bullets just missed Vincent and shattered the windows, leaving glass all over the floor around him. He pushed open the door which seemed a lot harder than it felt coming into the store. The bell rang as he burst out of the door and ran through the slippery and puddled car park.

The school bell rang loudly and made Vincent jump as he was daydreaming through Mathematics and his boring teacher, Ms Jacklyn. He gathered his books, put them in his black backpack and was looking forward to the weekend as he exited the classroom with his peers. Vincent was walking through the school on a warm Friday, the end of another long, boring school week. He passed through the large metal gate that was rusting away which read faintly, “Gracedale Elementary Coloured School”. The path came to an end and he had to cross a very busy intersection outside his school that was always packed with cars.

Vincent let out a big yawn, bored, waiting for someone to let him cross, as it must have been ten minutes. Finally, an elderly black woman in a small, beaten-up old car slowed down and waved him across. He got to the other side of the road and began his way home again. The breeze blew through the trees and made him shiver as the tall abuelo trees swayed. Vincent continued along the path as he noticed a Caucasian mother and what must have been her daughter walking towards him on the same skinny path.

Vincent took a deep breath and kept his head down as he walked past. As he was passing, the mother and daughter turned off the path and walked around Vincent, intensely staring at him, as the mother was shaking her head. Vincent was a black African American living in Detroit, USA in 1960, when your colour defined you. As he continued walking along the path, he felt a drop land on his forehead, which rolled down to his cheek. Vincent wiped it away and looked up to find the sky had filled with dark, stormy clouds. Another drop, another and another. The sprinkling then became rain and Vincent realised he would have to take a shortcut home to get there in time for dinner and avoid the rain. The only problem was, it was the whitest part of town.

Vincent took a path through the bushes to avoid being seen by anyone because he knew he would be in trouble then. He felt a sudden urge and became desperate to pee as the rain soaked his smelly, maroon sweater. He grew tired and ran out of breath after ten minutes straight of running. Vincent was soaking and looked up at the sky, desperate to find cover. About two hundred metres down the road a large, bright sign that he couldn’t quite make out caught his attention. The building looked deserted and there was no-one around. Vincent sprinted to the building, then realised it was a brand-new service station that must have just been installed.

‘Welcome to Gracedale Service Station. ‘STRICTLY NO SERVICE TO COLOURED.’ Vincent was ‘busting’ so he ignored the red and white sign and approached the entry door. He tried to look through the glass of the door but it had fogged up from the cold weather. Vincent breathed on the glass door and wiped it clear. He peered through the glass to find an elderly white man standing at the front desk, a bored expression on his face as he watched the television on the wall in the corner.

Vincent’s heart beat faster, his lungs were inhaling, exhaling, inhaling, exhaling. A rush of adrenaline ran through his body, making him strong. Vincent knew it would be breaking the law to enter the service station, but he was desperate. He slowly opened the glass door as a little bell rang, catching the man’s attention. The man’s facial expression turned angry and aggressive, like he could not believe what he was seeing. He must have been the owner of the service station.

“Hey! What are you doing in here?” he yelled at Vincent.

“Um, uh, S-sir, could I please use the bathroom? I’m desperate,” Vincent asked carefully and quietly.

“No! Did you see the sign? No coloured! Now get out!”