Writing by Keira
I've had this saved in a word document for a while, waiting to make it into a zine. I thought I'd share it here for now so that y'all can enjoy it while I wait to get my butt into gear.
The museum felt too clinical. All the surfaces white and chrome, with large empty spaces. Whoever had approved the refit must have forgotten that museums were there to connect us to the past, not make us distant observers.
“I think I found it,” said Ambrose. They were peering at a map on the wall. One finger tapped a location marked 'Entomology Collection' while the other hand fiddled with a cord on their jumper. I noticed the fiddling and filed it at the back of my mind. I wanted to make sure they weren't pushing themselves too hard.
“Oh yeah? Think you can get us there?” I smiled warmly at them and they grinned back and grabbed my hand. “Hold on to your hats, gentlefolk,” they announced to an imaginary crowd, “we're going on an adventure!” I chuckled. It was nice to see them having a good time. It had been a while since they'd had the energy to venture out of the house. Hopefully today was the start of a series of good days, but I also knew that people don't magically get better. I knew that depression and anxiety weren't magically cured by one good day. It didn't mean that I wouldn't stop hoping for more good days though. I squeezed their hand, twice. They repeated the squeeze back to me. Little signals we sent each other that meant 'I love you', or 'I'm okay'.
“Gentlefolk, I am pleased to announce that we have arrived at our destination.” Ambrose flourished their hands in a giant wave at the 'Entomology Collection' sign. “And we didn't get lost once!” I laughed; it had only been down one short corridor. Ambrose made a bee line for the giant cicada shell – it was the whole reason for this outing. As I walked over after them, I noticed their shoulders slump slightly. Oh no.
“This is wrong. This is all wrong.” They turned to me, the frown line between their brows deepening. “I can't believe they got the story so wrong. This is nothing like what Nan told me.” I walked up to the small pedestal which held an inscription saying:
The last Giant Cicada, (Cyclochila praegrandis) was
captured and killed in 1938 by Captain Bradley
Arlington of the mounted police. He is honoured to
this day as a hero who helped to rid the area of the
plague of Giant Cicadas, known colloquially as
“man-eaters”. Many schools and even a suburb
have been named after him. This empty nymphal
casing is from that last Giant Cicada.
This definitely was not like the story Ambrose's Nan had told them. I'd been there for a couple of the tellings of this story, as it was a favourite of Nan's. While Ambrose and I stacked the dishwasher, she would tell us about the her Gran, a woman named Maggie, who was 'hired' (although never paid) to help police track down and kill Giant Cicadas back in 1938. She had a great knowledge of the area, gathered and passed down through countless generations, and the police exploited this when hunting down the 'man-eating' Cicadas.
The Cicadas would net any person who could catch one $50 from the Government as they sought to eradicate the 'pest'. Apparently Maggie thought it was really the new police and Government who were the pests, but she was too scared of what they might do to her wife and newborn child, so she continued to do as she was told. The men she answered to were the ones with the power. They were also the ones who would take all the money she should have earned when catching the last Giant Cicada.
No wonder Ambrose was disappointed. I reached out for their hands again, and they stepped forward to hug me. I knew they must be exhausted already. To come out here with so much energy, excited to see the story told by their Nan in the local museum, only to find out it had been buried by those with privilege and power.
I held them close, pressing my hands against their back, just being close to them. I knew words would be too overwhelming right now. We quietly left the museum.
I wrote this poem a little while ago and have this zine for sale for $4 at Junky Comics if you want to pick up a copy. Any profits will be going to charity. I've uploaded it here to share it with people who can't access it any other way. Please let me know what you think in the comments :).
I wrote a zine about being bi and all the secrets of the bi community. It's full of jokes and myth busting. You can grab it for $5 at Junky Comics, or contact me and I'll post it to you for $5. Any extra money I make from this zine will be going to the Queensland Aids Council.
The pigeon hopped down from his perch on the brick wall and wandered over to the nearby cat. He thought she was beautiful, but he knew she was dangerous and made sure to stay out of swiping distance. She was a grumpy tabby who had lived in the neighbourhood for 3 years already. The pigeon, Alfo, had been watching her for months and he was in love.
“Hello my dearest, how are we today?”
The tabby's ear twitched and her eyes narrowed but she didn't respond. Why was this bird talking to her? Birds and cats do not talk; cats eat birds and kill them for sport. Maybe this bird had been hit by a car and was dazed. Good, she thought, easy pickings.
“Come closer and I'll tell you all about my day Mr Bird.”
Alfo stopped his strutting and parading in front of her and puffed up his chest. “Miss Cat! Why are you calling me a bird? Can you not see that I am, in fact, a cat? Yes, my fur is a little strange, and I seem to have lost two of my legs, but I am a cat. Why else would I dare to court such a beauty as yourself?”
The tabby was too shocked to even laugh. This bird thought he was a cat? The poor creature. Maybe she shouldn't eat him. But then again, her owners were away on holiday and she'd already eaten all the food they'd left. Maybe she could get a free meal from this ridiculous bird.
“Well...” she drawled, “Why don't you come and meet me here tomorrow and we can have a nice little meeting, watch the real birds fly around and all that?”
If a pigeon could blush, Alfo would have. He was delighted and bobbed his head in happiness. “I'll see you tomorrow lovely” he called after her as she sauntered off back into the human house.
Tony had been watching the strange brave pigeon talk to the tabby cat from his position high up in a tree. He was intrigued by the fact that the cat had left the pigeon alone and thought that he must be very brave to have gotten so close to the tabby. Tony had almost been killed by the tabby just last week. The tabby seemed to have a thing for pigeons at the moment and had killed three of Tony's friends in the last week. Maybe Tony could learn some tricks from this other pigeon and together they could outsmart the tabby. He swooped down from the tree, landing next to Alfo.
“I couldn't help but watch... You talked to the tabby cat and she didn't kill you! What's your name, brave bird?”
Alfo looked Tony up and down. Then he turned away. He was insulted that a bird would talk to him as though they were kin. Tony hopped after him.
“Wait up! I just really need to know what your trick is! So many of my friends have been killed by her and I want it to stop. I want no more pigeons to die at the paws of this monster!”
Alfo stopped and thought. How could he get rid of this bird? This bird who had insulted him by thinking they were kin, and who had insulted his beloved by calling her a monster.
“Come tomorrow, to here, at the same time, and I will help you talk to her. She's really not a monster at all, just misunderstood. Trust me. I'll help you all talk and she will leave you alone from then on.”
“Thank you so much!”
Tony flew off, back up to his tree, and Alfo hopped off to his den down the street. Tomorrow would be a long, interesting day for both of them.
The next day, Alfo was in the yard first. He wondered who would show up first; the tabby or the rude pigeon. It turned out to be the tabby.
“Good morning my love! Let me tell you, I have a surprise for you today!”
The tabby, who planned on killing Alfo as soon as he was within reach, thought it would be a day full of surprises, but not for her. She was patient, and as Alfo talked about the pigeon he had met last night, she slowly edged closer, ready to kill him.
“Here he is!”
Another pigeon joined them. Everyone was going to think she was going soft, hanging out with pigeons. She'd have to kill them both today or risk losing her reputation. Not to mention, she was hungry. All of a sudden, Alfo lunged at the other pigeon, knocking him off balance.
“Quick my love, tear out his throat, and we will have him for dinner!”
Shocked, but acting on instinct, the tabby leapt for Tony's throat. She had barely the time to register his shocked little pigeon face. In a mere second, Tony was dead. She felt his warm body weight in her mouth, and gently placed him on the ground. Alfo started pecking him, getting blood on his beak.
“Aren't you proud, my love? I lured him here for you to kill!”
The tabby was disturbed by this, but wouldn't let it get in the way of another free meal. She lunged at Alfo, killing him swiftly. Collecting both birds in her mouth, she headed back to the house to feast. Silly birds.
[content warning: abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, torture, r*pe, this is a horror story]
I was hiding in my room, waiting for Dad to come in and beat me. It was Friday night, which meant he'd been out drinking and would come home, yell at Mum, yell at my brother and then it would be my turn for a visit. I was just waiting for it to be over. I hated waiting, knowing that it was coming, knowing that I was going to get hit. The worst part was that I didn't know what time he would come home. I used to go to bed, thinking that he wouldn't wake me in order to hit me and tell me what a waste of space I am, but I quickly found out that he had no qualms about pulling me from the bed by my hair and screaming at me. Like I was terrible for making him go to this extra effort to hurt me.
Where was he? I needed this to be over. I hadn't heard him come home yet. Maybe he had gotten into a fight at the bar. He was always fighting. The only place he didn't seem to fight was at work, which was good because Mum said we needed the small amount of money he was bringing in to put food on the table. Mum also worked but it wasn't enough to feed all four of us. I think that if she had one less child, maybe she could have left Dad and taken my brother with her. Maybe then we wouldn't have had to stay here. My fault again, being born and being another mouth to feed.
My alarm woke me up. I moved from my position in the corner on the floor, sore and tired. Looks like Dad hadn't made it home last night. Maybe he was passed out somewhere in a gutter. I could only hope. Those were the brief reprieves we would sometimes get; when he had too much to drink and couldn't make it home. It meant I had to wait until next Friday night to see how much my father hated me. In the meantime, breakfast.
Mum was in the kitchen, humming a tune about ducklings over the stove, making us bacon and eggs for breakfast. It was surreal. I hadn't seen Mum humming or singing, or even happy for that matter, in a long long time. It almost brought a smile to my face. Almost. It's hard to be happy when you know bad things are coming, just around the corner. My brother came out of his room when we were sitting down to eat. Mum was just having toast and eggs. She's a vegetarian, something that Dad always picked on her for. Said it made her weak, said it was why she never fought back. I shook my heads to dislodge the thoughts and focussed on my bacon and eggs. None of us asked where Dad was. It was nice to pretend for a while that he didn't exist. That it was just the three of us. Maybe one day my wish would come true. Maybe he was in a gutter somewhere, dead.
A whole week passed and I still hadn't seen him. It was beginning to worry me. Was this some sort of trap to make us all complacent and happy so that when he came back it would hurt even more? What about our money problems? I guess, if Mum didn't have to pay for his food and she got some more hours maybe we could get by.... Maybe I could get a part time job somewhere and help out. I knew my brother had been looking around. As it was Friday night, I went back into my corner and settled down for a long sleepless night of waiting for my father to come home.
At about 11pm he still hadn't come home. I checked the clock. I heard a door open and close, but this was at the back of the house. Confused, I decided to snoop. If I was quiet, he might not know that I was sneaking around and maybe I wouldn't get into trouble. To my surprise, it was Mum that I saw sneaking across the backyard, key in hand, heading for the shed that we used to store our whipper snipper, yard tools, and mower. Was she doing some late night gardening? I watched her slip in and I snuck out into the dark after her. As I got up close to the shed door, I heard muffled grunting. When I opened the door, a mix of happiness and revulsion welled up inside me. There was Mum, standing over Dad. He was chained to an old chair and was missing a leg and some fingers. Mum was humming a tune about ducklings as she carved some meat from his right forearm. In shock, I retreated back to my room.
The next morning, we had fresh bacon with our eggs again.
I love the environment and I love nature
But I have a feeling they won't be there in the future
We're mining and drilling and all around killing
Destroying everything around us without any feeling
Scared of police, the government, authority
That put corporations before you and me
I do the things that are socially acceptable
Like putting my rubbish in the right receptacle
But there are people out there taking real risks
To honour them I'ma write you some lists
There's the Wangan and Jagalingou people
Who are stopping Adani mining for coal
Adani doesn't care what these people have to say
They go behind their backs to try and get their way
They talk to the government, which has Adani's back
But the Wangan and Jagalingou people stand firm against their attack
They are not the only ones fighting for their community
Or the environment; many groups stand in unity
Around the world a lot of movement is happening
The fact that we have to fight for our future is maddening
In Peru people move to stop a Southern Copper Corp mine
One person is dead, many wounded, fighting a dollar sign
Tibetans are arrested while protecting sacred lands
From resource extraction that government demands
Secwepemc Women Warrior Society says #waterislife
Saying Imperial Metals' Mount Polley mine has already caused strife
Knitting Nannas and everyday farmers are banding together
To prevent Coal Seam Gas mining in NSW forever
All of these people and many more globally
Are defending the futures of people like you and me
They deserve more than a poem, more than a song
We're running out of time to stop it all going wrong
It's time to stand up, against corrupt corporations
Against profiteering government organisations
Time to stand together and say enough is enough
We can do this together even though it will be tough
It sure was dark this morning. I couldn't see anything. And there was a weird smell. I went to sit up and swiftly hit my head and blacked out.
I woke up again and it was still dark. This time I was a bit more cautious. I used my hands to feel around and above me. I was in some sort of box. Oh great, I had been buried alive. Fantastic. It's not like I had things to do with my life. Now I get to end it in a box. Well, at least there were things I didn't have to worry about now, like exams, assignments, bills, work. Although I wonder who would look after my cats... Good thing I hadn't been in a relationship so no one would have their heart broken. That's right, think of the positive things while you're buried alive instead of trying to get out.
Fine. Time to get out of here if I could. I used my fingers again to feel around, this time searching for cracks or crevices. What was this? A rope? Who buries someone with a rope in the box? I pulled it. Nothing happened. Useless. Maybe if I had something in my pockets I could try and break a hole in this box. I searched all of my pockets but they were empty. To be honest, this clothing didn't even seem familiar. So someone had not only abducted me and buried me alive in a box with a rope that didn't do anything, they had changed my clothes as well? That made me feel super icky. Best not to think about it.
Well, I was stuck here. Hopefully someone would notice that I was missing and come for me. Maybe one of my lecturers would notice my absence. Probably not though. My landlord would notice I hadn't paid rent after a couple of weeks, but maybe would just assume I was a deadbeat and replace me. I really hoped my cats would be okay.
There was some strange noise coming from directly above me and it was getting louder. Holy crap, maybe someone had noticed that I was missing. Whoever they were, I was going to treat them to...something... What do you buy someone who saves your life? Flowers? A coffee? A holiday? A holiday seemed right... Suddenly there was sunlight streaming down on my face and I was being hauled up out of the ground by some strangers who were all smiling. Yeah, that's right, I'm happy to be out of there too. I smiled back.
“Welcome topside Claire!” said one strange looking fellow in a tie dye shirt.
“Thanks so much for saving me. I really did not want to die down there.”
They all looked at each other and Tie Dye started chuckling. All of a sudden all of them were laughing, except for two who looked a little unimpressed.
“Uhh... What's so funny?”
One of the sombre looking ones, a beautiful person with long black hair, came up to me. “Sorry to tell you Claire, but you're already dead. We just pulled you out of your grave.” They gestured behind me, to where I had been pulled out. I turned around, and stared at a headstone with my name and date of birth. There was also a date of death.
“Well...” I said weakly, “That's some grave news”.
Tie Dye just about had a fit at this and broke into howls of gasping laughter. The blonde person smiled at me. “My name's Mika, pronouns she/her. How about you?”
Someone who gives a shit about pronouns when you're literally dead on your feet? “Claire, they/them.” We shook hands. Her hand was strong, scary strong. She helped me stay steady as everything was spinning with the revelation that I was dead.
“How?” I whispered.
“You were hit by a car crossing the road to get to a cafe.” Mika said it so matter of factly that it had to be true.
“I don't remember that.”
“You wouldn't. Not right away. Maybe never. Remembering death is actually really horrible. But then again, it might help with closure. I dunno, I didn't get far in my psychology degree.” She smirked again. I think I was developing a crush. Trust me to leave it til after I was dead. I wondered if I'd ever get a chance to do much now that I'd died. Maybe I should leave worrying about that until I knew what was going on.
Our group was still standing around the grave I'd just gotten out of. The others were just standing there smiling. “What now?”, I asked.
“Now”, Mika said, “We go get a coffee.”
Tie Dye snorted. “That's ironic. Hey Claire, my name's Branden, I managed to drink too much and die of alcohol poisoning. That's Warren in the punk outfit – he killed himself poor bastard. And Renee--”
“I can introduce myself Branden.” A young person in a bright floral dress stuck their hand out to me, flicking their blue and green hair over their shower. I put my hand in theirs without thinking. No warmth, no cold. “I'm Renee. She/her pronouns. I was murdered by my ex-boyfriend. He's in jail now. That was a shit night. Let's go get that coffee. I bet you want to know what the hell is going on.”
“Branden is he/him and Warren is also they/them”, Mika whispered to me.
Our rag tag group shuffled across the graveyard to the bus stop. None of us had cars or licences. Apparently governments weren't sure about what to do with the recently living dead. What rights we were meant to have, what place we held in society. Governments were pretty sure we had to pay taxes though, of course. Branden hailed the bus driver and Renee paid for my ticket. Apparently no one had thought to put my go card in my pocket before they buried me.
The bus driver didn't seem to be worried by a person covered in dirt as we got on the bus together. Branden sat at the back, typical high school kid style, so the rest of us crowded back there too; Renee and Warren sat together on one side of Branden, and I sat crammed between Mika and Branden. Mika almost sat in my lap as the bus pulled off while we were sitting. Hopefully no one saw me blush. This was ridiculous, I hardly knew her.
Sitting on the seats, I was reminded of the trip I took to the coffee shop. “Huh. I remember going to the coffee shop now. I was on the bus.”
“Glad to see you're remembering buddy,” said Branden.
“Yeah,” Renee said from her corner, “it took me months to remember. Mika reckons it's cause of the trauma or something. Hopefully you remember faster, it can help I think.”
Punk Warren hadn't said a word yet but looked at me and nodded. Their denim vest had a patch on it that said “Dead Kennedys”. I knew that was a band, but damn that was hilarious to me right now. I giggled. Warren saw what I was looking at and smiled.
Mika tapped my shoulder to get my attention. “Do you remember anything else about your death?”
“Aw come on man can we not? I just wanna go have some coffee, maybe some icecream, play some xbox...” Branden's whine withered away under the power of Mika's stare. “Fine,” he grumbled.
I tried to summon memories of that day. My last day alive. While I remembered that I was going to get coffee, and had caught a bus, I couldn't remember why. I knew that I hadn't gone to the same coffee place that I usually did. This one was a little nicer and a lot more expensive. No way would I go there on my measly pay without some sort of reason. Everyone was looking at me, waiting for some sort of revelation to fall from my lips. Always a disappointment, even after I'm dead. “Sorry guys, I can't remember much yet. I mean, I did only come back to life like an hour ago, right? Speaking of which, how did you even know where to find me?”
Mika let out a small sigh, like she'd been hoping I'd know why I was going to get coffee. This woman must really like her coffee. Renee came to my rescue. “It's a system that they put in place once they started realising that people were coming back to life. Most people who are going to revive, do it in the first week after death, so they leave the caskets above ground. There have been some slow pokes like you though, who think they need a longer nap for whatever reason and take more time to revive. So they set up these ropes in the caskets. When someone revives, they pull on it and it's monitored.”
“So you guys just sit around near the graveyard all day and wait for someone to pull on a cord? That sounds like a pretty boring way to spend your afterlife.” Made me feel a little less rescued too. And like I maybe owed them something for the time they spent waiting for me to pull that rope. Renee laughed. “Oh no, that would be a boring as shit job. The graveyard attendants or whatever they're called let their local revived folks know so that we can come and collect you. They don't want to deal with the living dead and it means that whoever just woke up will have a sorta support network of other living dead peeps.”
I nodded. This was actually pretty cool. They were like a new group of friends I was having forced on me. I could live with that. Made it easy. And they'd know all the stuff about being dead so that might be a little less scary. For some reason though I hadn't been worried about the fact that I was living dead.
The bus slammed to a halt at the red light and we all lurched forwards in unison on the bus. All of us trapped in the same misstep by the bus driver, like a really boring and expensive dance with a crappy instructor. Mika pointed out the window. “There it is.” I followed her long brown arm and bright green nail to a coffee shop across the road. It was the coffee shop that I had been heading to on the day that I died. The expensive one. The one that I had been going to in order to meet someone.
“Oh!” I yelled. “Oh my god! You!” I half stood up in my seat, unable to hold inside me the revelation that had hit me. I needed this energy to go somewhere, I needed to be able to get up and pace but I was trapped on this bus. I head bumped the bag racks as we went over a speed bump and pulled up across from the coffee place. “You!” I pointed at Mika. “Holy crap. I came here to meet you.”
Branden fist bumped the air, Renee and Warren smiled at each other, but I didn't even notice. I just stared at Mika. She looked exactly like the photo on her dating profile. We'd chatted for months before deciding to meet up in a public coffee shop. Both of us were pretty paranoid and scared of meeting someone from the internet, fear ingrained in us by overprotective mothers. So we'd decided to meet in a coffee shop and see what happened. But I'd been killed by a car crossing the road as I went to meet her. She must have thought I'd stood her up. “I didn't stand you up!”
Mika smiled. “I know. I saw you get hit by the car. I called the ambulance. There was nothing they could do though, something got broken inside you and you bled internally. Bit of a full on first date. I never thought you'd be the one to get out of that grave today, but when I saw the name on the headstone I couldn't believe it.” I stared at her. I had fallen in love with this woman online months ago, gone to meet her, died, come back to life. “I may not be superstitious,” I whispered, “but this sure does feel like a second chance.”
The bus driver yelled “This is the final stop!” And we got off the bus, holding hands. Time for some coffee.
[content warnings: eating disorders, weight loss]
One size fits all
Is what they say
But what they really mean
Is that there is only one size that you should be
And that is thin, prim, tiny, small, petite
Don't you eat that treat sweetie
Don't you know it'll go to your hips
Don't let those nasty things get past your lips
Count the calories, one two three
Watch your weight, it's all you can see
Trickling away, trickling down
Oh babe you look so good
Do you wanna come home with me?
You're my kinda gal
A one size fits all kinda gal
Going in and out in all the right places
Making all the right faces
Sssshhh honey don't cry
One size fits all baby
Don't you know that?
Almost lost myself
Whittled away, washed away
Gone away, no holiday
Found myself, laid some words on thick on my bones
Plastered on some ideas and some happiness
Some love and some sadness
Some care and some bitchiness
Some fear and some weakness
Some hope and some forgiveness
All the things that make me thick
Sticking them on my bones
One size fits all, no way!
Maybe in your beauty hegemony
But babe why don't you look at me
Your hegemony is empty
We were free, on our way home. Water spray floated in the air, lingering on my face. It felt so fresh. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.
“What are you smiling about?”
A hand on my shoulder, movement in the air next to me.
“I'm just glad we're heading home.”
I opened my eyes. Sara was looking out over the railing at the waves. Short black hair, a slight frown on her face, legs braced slightly as the boat rocked... She was stunning. To have gone through it all and come out with the ability to still look forward, standing up with such strength, made me love her all the more.
I cast a glance back at the coast. The palms waved gently at us, as though the beach was saying goodbye. I hoped it would stay this peaceful. I hoped they wouldn't realise we'd found a way to escape. If they did- A bump against my leg. A ball. Minny's child. One of the few children not taken by them. Minny's wife had been taken. Don't think about it. I reached down, grabbed the dirty cloth ball and tossed it back. A solemn looking child, I could only imagine how the terror of the past few years must have affected her.
It was getting dark and some clouds were starting to appear. It was time to start sorting out the rations and seeing what we were having for dinner. We were taking it in turns to prepare meals, divvying up the workload. Tonight Lara and Luc were in charge. Back on the beach, mealtimes were always hurried. Now, we had the time to prepare food the way we used to at home. We could pour our love, songs, thoughts and culture into our food. Our food could help us heal. At least, that's how I felt.
Lara and Luc were in the belly of the ship. Everyone was starting to make their way down. Altogether, there were 38 of us on this ship. We had a sister ship as well, with another 23 of our people who had fled the beach. They would be sitting down to dinner as well. It was a meal of fish, herbs and the few vegetables we had been able to bring along with us. As we all finished dinner, the children gathered together in a corner as Minny started to tell a bedtime story about our homeland. The adults all slept in a large area together. It made us feel safe, to be surrounded by so many others.
I woke up in the early morning, jerking myself out of Sara's embrace. The boat was rocking. It was moving so much. The storm outside was throwing us about like it intended to kill us. The children woke up and started crying. Sara looked at me with fear in her eyes and my heart broke that she should feel like that. My heart hammered in my chest, in my throat, it felt like it was catching, like I was swallowing it and choking on it at the same time.
“No”. I whispered. “No, no.” Not like this. We can't have escaped for it to end like this. “No!” The sound came from deep within, my heart pounded with it, my throat felt raw and everything around me stopped moving.
When I came to, I was told that the storm had stopped when I yelled. Sara explained to me that it was like the powers those we had fled had used. That was why I was tied up. The rest of them were debating. They were scared, they were just reacting out of fear. Soon they would realise and would let me go. There were many discussions, which I was not a part of. I heard that Sara was the main reason I was let loose after two days. I don't know what happened, what power they thought I unleashed, but I really couldn't blame them for their fear. We had been tortured and twisted and killed by powers like that for years.
We'd been sailing for a week when we realised that we were being chased. They had warned us that no one escaped. We had dared to defy them and now they were coming to make us pay the price. Their boat moved with unnatural speed, pushed along by their strange powers. We all grew fearful. Some of the crew blamed me, said that I was some sort of agent working for them to help them track us. I ignored these accusations as best I could.
On the fourth day of pursuit, they caught up to us. We felt their magic in the air and knew that it would be over tonight. One way or the other, it would finally end. They tied me up, “for your safety and ours”, said Luc. Sara came and huddled next to me, hugging me. The charge in the air was building. We had no way of fighting or defending ourselves and we knew that they wouldn't board the boat. They were here to wipe us out. If only that power everyone thought I had would come back, then maybe we would have a chance. I felt the tension in the air snap and Sara held me tighter.
“I love you.”
“I love you too.”
“I'll find you in the afterlife.”
Then the boat came to life and started tearing everyone limb from limb. The planks moved, the wood came to life, and trendils emerged. They choked, tore, whipped, and killed people. I watched all of this with horror. It happened so fast. I felt a trendil stab me in the ankle, the wrist, in the gut. I turned to Sara, but she was gone, her eyes lifeless and a huge group of trendils waving around out of her mouth. My heart pounded, I felt sick. This was not how it was meant to happen. We were meant to make it to our new home. She and I were meant to live together, help everyone raise their children, cook dinners together.
“No” I whispered as my vision faded and I blacked out again.
This time when I awoke there was no one there to tell me what had happened. Or wait, there was? There were people everywhere. I couldn't see them though, only feel them. What was going on? Sara, Sara... Where was she? I should bury her body. It seemed like the fighting was over, so maybe at least I could put her body to rest. I tried to move but my limbs felt strange. I looked down at my legs. They were covered in vines. No. They were vines and wood. Was I part of the ship?
Memories came to me. From different viewpoints, I watched as my body was raised up and torn from the bindings my friends had placed me in. The ship stopped attacking everyone, but it was too late. Everyone was dead or dying. There were screams and cries from our sister ship, so maybe some of them survived. I watched as my body patched itself up with the living flesh of the ship-tree. Huge wings exploded from my back, made of leaves and twigs, and I flew off towards the ship of our killers. A while later, their ship sank.
“We're all here with you.”
“Yes, it's me. Somehow, when you made your body part of the ship.... You brought parts of us all in to you as well. I guess we'll never be apart now...”
“This isn't what I wanted. We were meant to have a life together, not this.”
“I know, Mary. But this is what we have now. Let's try to make the most of it.”
I took a step forward, breaking my links with the ship. I could feel the sap flowing. It felt slower and colder than blood. I had no idea what I was now, nor how I had become like this. I spread my wings and headed for our homeland, taking them all with me.
About this story
This story was inspired by a dream that I had. The dream was not quite as long, and ended with me being taken in by a group of scientists and experimented on until they managed to kill me, then throw me out the back to rot. Instead, in the rain that night, I came back to life.
Shuffling people around like chess pieces
Pushing them back and forth, back and forth,
Not sure when the politicians will cease this
When will they stop treating asylum seekers like faeces
Can you believe it?
Children terrorised, terrified but not televised.
We hide them
Hide what we're doing to them. Hide our disgrace.
It's all about keeping them in their place
We keep saying it's not about race...
But it is.
Parents choking, on words, on fear, on tears.
Scrambling to stay alive and turn the tide
We've put them in a jail untried, with no hope supplied
Why have we done this?
Do you even know? What can we know by standing on the outside?
It is time.
No more fear, no more hatred
No more lives being debated
No more nationalism overinflated
It's time for communities to be open
For governments to communicate, emancipate and participate
In our country, our community, our culture...
About this poem
I submitted this poem into a competition at the beginning of the year. It was the first poem I'd written for years and years and it is about something very important to me; Australia's disgraceful human rights abuses in regards to asylum seekers. While I didn't win, I'm really glad that I had something to motivate me to write it. If I get enough support, I may be persuaded to actually record myself saying it!
Want to learn more about Australia's treatment of asylum seekers?
Here you will find a list of written work by me, including poems and short stories. I've been entering these into competitions since April 2015 in an attempt to write more. I used to love writing, before I went to university, so this is about me exploring writing. Please feel free to share these if you want to, just credit me. My pronouns are they/them and my name is Keira Edwards-Huolohan.