by Stella Lisle, The Rockhampton Grammar School
Leaving was the right choice. It felt like a million years had passed since she left me. Then it just happened. That one night of passion caused me eternal damnation. I waited there for Sarah, drove her from the procedure and back home where she spent the day sleeping. Then I turned away and walked out.
The city suffocated me. Everywhere I looked constantly reminded me of how I wasn’t good enough for her, how much of a mistake our little miracle was. The grand buildings we would never visit, the expensive cars, the townhouses. I kept walking, glancing up only to cross a cobble-stone street. I don’t know why I bothered; I didn’t really care if I walked into death. Maybe that’s how it was supposed to be. My last chance at a family was murdered. My baby was gone. I passed several churches, not having the guts to enter, much less go in and ask for forgiveness. What point was there? The jig was up; I had transgressed. I had done the unforgivable. This was the mortal sin. So I fled …
I took the first flight available at the airport. Heading, God knows where, I didn’t care. The consistent hum of the struggling engine was a mere backdrop to the imposing sight outside my window. The wing and propeller obscured my view of the untamed wild. Turbulence assaulted our craft repeatedly while I clung to the seat. Yet, in my desperation to escape, I was oblivious to nature’s warnings, heralding one of the most violent cyclones of the century. Sustaining the thought of superiority over the forces of nature, I turned away immersed in the grander problems of my life. Motion sickness engulfed my stomach as the plane began rocking side to side like a pendulum. I wondered if Sarah felt like this. Simultaneously holding my breath, gripping the seat and squinting at the window, I must have looked quite comical. Boyden and Shepard burst out laughing, erasing a fraction of my fear. The plane banked sharply to the left.
And then Mother Nature punished me.
All I can remember is the enormity of the metal shriek and the howl of the intruding gale. I watched as half the plane was peeled back like a sardine can. Graham flew past me wrapped in what would be his metal coffin; his body was mutilated in split seconds. I couldn’t react. Time became incomprehensible, as if it had been eviscerated alongside our airplane. The stench of burning plastic and chemicals bombarded my nostrils and constricted my lungs. Still I sat in my seat. An explosion rocked the wreck in slow motion. My body moved at its own accord, I grabbed the two men slumped direction in front of me and pushed them limply through a gaping hole. I should have just stayed in the plane.
I awoke to the jungle roaring like an angry sea. A paralysis shot though my limbs, a toxic coldness pain, fear or shock; the feeling would stay with me forever. We had escaped a swift death, only to face a death far more gruesome: the torture of starvation, exposure and despondency. The limb that was my leg looked alien, a mass of lacerated meat and bones protruding at impossible angles. I was propped up against a Milky Pine, my leg strategically placed on the steep incline. Leaning against the two trees next door, were the limp passengers I had thrown. Westray, to my left, sat nursing his bruised ribs. Binstead, to my immediate right, grinned in a way that was extremely inappropriate given our predicament. In fact, he was far too cheery the whole eleven days. Proud handed me a large metal coffee flask with a tied on looped handle, which he has scavenged from the ribcage of the charred mess. The cool water raced down to my elbow and all down my chin. Prior to the crash I had never appreciated the miracle of water. Even now, I am guilty of falling back into the habit of taking essentials for granted. Such is the normal for a first world country.
Each dawn would awaken clouds of blow flies that coated worst where my reach couldn’t affect their breeding. I could smell myself putrefying; see the maggots beginning to feed on my flesh, encompassed in the yellow puss of my thigh. I could smell myself rotting away. I thought it was what I wanted. Binstead gushed about how nature was saving me, while nature was turning me into living compost. Defying him, I plucked the white larvae from their feast. My willingness for life had returned. I wasn’t going to just die here, leaving my life meaningless. I had to go back to Sarah. I had to show her that we were meant to be. But nature was ever hungry, willing to digesting anything. If I was to be her next meal, I refused to go down so easily.
Strangely, of the rescue, only one thought burns my conscious – Sarah. I began to pray, please to god. There was so much I had failed to do. I begged for forgiveness. I prayed for Sarah. I prayed for the life we could’ve had.
My life became a dappled haze of light and pain and fevered dreams, impossible to distinguish from reality. Eventually, we must have been found. To this day, I still don’t know how. The paramedics told me later about how lucky I was, that the infection had not spread to my blood, how my wound was sealed with the aid of the white worms, how my leg could be saved. Nature was the sole reason I am alive today.
Hour after hour a myriad of creatures – bacteria to whales, flora and fauna – are born to die. They don’t account for much to us. We even ignore the importance of the accumulation of their minuscule effects. They do not suffer much. They do not live for pleasure, nor reflect or perceive acutely. A thousand million of their deaths would not, to us, begin to outweigh the importance of a single human death. Yet for me, their existence can be said to have saved my life. Nature really is an unrealised miracle, though unpredictable, she never ceases to amaze. Nature saved me; nature brought me back to Sarah.
Word Count: 1056
On behalf of Paul and Esmé Robinson. Esmé, the current judge of this section was committed to an overseas trip which gave her time to read only a portion of the many entries. She gave her views to Paul, who judged the remainder, after re-reading those initially read by Esmé.
Of the 160 entries, most were personally moving, ranging from heartbreakingly tragic to cunningly comic. Themes included Stolen Generation, Bullying, Dementia, Drought, Murder, Warfare, Relationships of All Kinds, Domestic Violence, Natural Disasters.
Stories features narrators of the students’ own ages, as well as those reaching into the Eighties. Many of these revealed highly imaginative projections. Some of the topics were courageously chosen, engaging the reader on personal and imaginative levels.
Most were expressed in competent prose. But many were obscured by spelling, grammatical and punctuation errors. Most of these would have been overcome if the authors had read them carefully aloud before submitting.
First Place: Sarah
This story is an imaginative re-creation (through the student’s perceived awareness) of the grim, but ultimately positive, experience of a survivor of the 1937 Stinson Plane crash in the jungles of our Lamington Plateau’s Green Mountains.
Second Place: So He Didn’t
A moving “what might have been” lifelong chronicle of missed opportunities.
Third Place: Out of Step
A father-son relationship involving an uneasy wrestling with stereotypes.
(i) Secret Box
A poetically-intense prose response to a rare musical performance. Pandora’s Box transformed.
(ii) The Intensive Care Unit
Hope when least expected. The final two sentences really hit home.
(iii) Our Land
A confident, non-Indigenous “legal professional” learns a lesson. Reconciliation presented with realism.
(iv) The Ipswich Line
A familiar railway line, portrayed in a most unfamiliar way. The station passengers range from witty and sharp to disturbing. Not your usual Translink journey.