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2018 Story Competition Winner Upper Secondary Elise Harrington

Remember September

On a strangely humid night in September, Mumma learnt how unfair life sometimes was.

They roared into our commission housing almost as loudly as the sound of hail on our tin roof. Mumma peered outside seconds before they arrived, and began screaming. Pa just turned his gaze towards us, then towards the floor. They roared in, shouting and pushing.  Mumma kept screaming and throwing her hands up, until one of the men shoved her into the wall, while Pa kept quiet and tended to her as her head hit the floor a little too hard.  They had big boots, dark eyes and wide brimmed hats on, and they went for sister first, grabbing her roughly, I began to fight the men. They were too strong, and plucked her out of my arms before I could finish shouting at them to stop. By the time they had hauled brother and sister out of the house, I had ran to Pa, who was cradling distressed and hysterical Mumma, breathing harshly. They were pale like Pa, and we were dark like Mumma, thats why they didn’t like us. I had overheard Mumma and pa talking about the scary men, the ones who came in the night, in big utes , tearing children out of the housing like they had no choice; they didn’t of course, but it was the evil eyes and red hands that made it clear they weren’t fighting it. His big eyes lit up the darkness as he ripped me from Mumma’s grip, hauled me outside, and threw me in the back of the ute, where brother and sister lay, in the open air, clinging to each other as if their life depended on it.

Hours went passed, and it wasn’t until the hot September sun was beaming down on us in the middle of the sky that we realised how far we must have traveled. My eyes followed the rickety fence beside the truck that seemed to go on forever. With our skin was hot, hands sweaty and throats dry, we stayed silent. I kept following the fence until I felt dizzy, and kept following until I emptied my stomach over the side of the truck. The men in the front yelled and spat at me until brother pulled me back towards him and sister and I slumped into them, resulting in a loud cry escaping sisters lips. The ute pulled to a halt and the engine turned off. I jumped out of the tray, thinking we had made It home, but was greeted with a large man’s hands groping my arm and hauling me back onto the it.  He grabbed sister, I looked away a second before the sound of a hand coming in contact with skin tore through my eardrums. Sister was thrown into my lap, silently breathing heavily. The ute roared to life and we started moving again. I kept my eyes shut. It was hours before I looked down at my sister, sleeping in my lap still, with a hand mark, almost as red as the men’s skin after being in the sun too long, just below her cheekbone. My own purple eye greeted me as I looked into my reflection in the window.

The men stood in front of us, three little kids in a line of more than one hundred. After arriving at the church, we were settled for a night, and hauled up in the morning after a long, hard and sleepless night. The men carried weapons, threatening us without even touching them. Their yelling became music to my ears after the silence throughout the church last night. All of the children were too scared to make a sound, in fear of retaliation from the wide set nuns. We stood for what seemed like hours, while a short man with a big belly inspected each of us. They were looking for signs of disease in each and every one of us. One of the girls a few metres down from us had a red boil on her lip, they took her out of line and shot her through the head. I didn’t open my eyes until I felt warm spit on my face. The small man stood in front of me, mouthing something I could not hear, the
gun shot and squeal of the girl still ringing in my head. He lifted my arms up, then ordered me to take my pants off. I slowly slid them down to my ankles. After a long inspection, he turned to the scary man who had killed the girl and gave him a sign. The fat man turned his gaze to brother, immediately signing at the man with the gun. The wide set nuns rushed over to him, picking one of his arms each and hauling him back into the church. A shot rang out next to my person seconds after sister squealed. I couldn’t look. Staring at my feet became difficult as blood stained the gravel in my view. I had lost both my siblings in a matter of seconds.

Days passed and I hadn’t said a word. I sat in the back of the church, picking the skin around my nails. Pa couldn’t stop my bad habit this time. Nuns came and go, giving me water, warm from the sun and watery oats to eat. This morning, four nuns accompanied me, with excited looks on their face. They spoke, words I could not understand. But thanks to Pa, I learned some English and could make out the words ‘family’ and ’love’. I became excited and jumped up; the sadness settled me back to the ground when I remembered I would be the only child returning home. I willingly went with the nuns. This time getting in the back of the ute was easy; I was going home.

The trip was over almost as quickly as it begun, maybe I had fallen asleep for a day? The men driving the truck sounded the horn and within seconds, a young female came out, attached to a male by their tangled arms, smiles as wide as the ute’s tray. They were the palest people I had ever seen. I was confused, this wasn’t home, these weren’t my parents. The men directed me towards the couple, and with big smiles and nervous eyes, they started speaking to each other, words I could not understand.

It had been one entire year since I’d seen Mumma and Pa; I was sitting in a classroom, full of pale children, with the exception of myself, and a petite girl who couldn’t speak English yet. I had been taught English by the pale couple, they gifted me with a house, a warm bed, food on the table each night, and a loving home. They were beautiful people, it felt wrong calling them my parents, but I know they did love me. I still hadn’t seen Mumma or Pa and although by brother and sister were long gone, I still kept each of them in my heart.

As the man and woman sat by their fire, he wiped away each tear she shed with a soft kiss as they mourned the loss of their three children. It was a cold night in September, contrasting the humid night that had ripped their family apart one year prior.

A tribute to the stolen generations.

By Elise Harrington

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