Congratulations to Great Lakes College Tuncurry Campus Year 9 student, Grace Atkinson, who received an excellence award in the inaugural Tell Me A Story Competition.
Over the coming weeks the GLA will publish a range of outstanding stories entered in the competition.
This is Grace’s story, presented as it was submitted.
The warm, red liquid didn’t seem to cease seeping into the ochre soil. Dust was gathering as the tremors of earth that felt reminiscent of earthquakes and pounding footfall like a stampede of frightened bovine gave it lift into the air. Pained screams had filled the area, ricocheting through the valleys, like the wind howling throughout the field. Even the sky itself was overcast, threatening to spill its crisp, cold rain down from the Heavens to the mess on Earth. And there he lay, in the midst of it, at peace.
He looked to see the perpetrator; a sullen figure holding a long, metal instrument which was now pointed at another unsuspecting foe. His eyes locked on to the prey, and down it fell, grasping for someone to catch him, to save it from this dark abyss.
The dust in clouds rose from where it fell. This figure’s khaki uniform was spattered with a dried, dark red substance. Unsteady eyes darted to and from each enemy, desperately trying to figure out which one was contemplating his destruction for the cold-blooded act he had committed. Maybe even the one who had caused his demise was also fearful for his? Maybe they had a family at home, waiting for him to return from this endless clash? A loving family, much like the one of our soldier, who contemplated his life laying in the stained earth.
Slowly, for his energy was depleted to a severely low level, he reached into his unbuttoned shirt pocket and pulled out a singular memory of his own family. The smiles beckoned him, to a world where none of this happened, a peaceful bliss of the Australian outback. Waiting at home for him was a doting wife, his one, and only love. Young, bright faces shone to him, his two daughters, small children who had yet to see the wonders and perils of the world. Innocence and purity were yet to leave them.
With the brief remembrance of his family over, he then noticed another item had been pulled out along with the photo. A single, white feather was pressed against his thumb and the photo, looking incredulously wrong in his unkempt, dirt caked nails. Fear had overcome him, the day the white feather under the door came. A coward, he would not be, for God does not look kindly upon those who wouldn’t serve their country. He would show them. He would show them he wasn’t what they had imagined. Mockery, as one might call it, but he placed the feather into his pocket the moment he had received his uniform. And had forgotten about until this ironically heart-stopping moment.
Were there other soldiers here, purely because they refused to be called a coward? Why had they come, if they didn’t want to be in this seemingly impossible reality? It was if a stone had been thrown up, and been left to fall, that it struck him. If no one wanted to be in this war, this excuse for a fight that ended up costing thousands of lives an hour, then why did anyone turn up to fight? Why did anyone see a better world with violence rather than peace? Isn’t that what they were fighting for, or supposedly, as he lay devoid of hope for this world. This world had really gone so far as to think breaking up families of their sons, their husbands, their friends, to create peace by accomplishing the opposite?
The moment of nirvana had passed, leaving the soldier with a simple choice: should he fight death, like he had in this life beforehand, and to no avail? Or, should he welcome death with open arms, bringing tranquility to his end. Was it cowardly to fear death, like he had with going to war? Yes, he decided, it was. He wasn’t going to fall victim to its claws; he was going to embrace them as if he was falling into his own family’s, safely at his abode.
His eyelids fluttered shut. The calls and screams of agony shrank to but a mere whisper. The shudders and quakes of the ground beneath him seemed to slow as if time itself had stopped to let this moment pass. Darkness enveloped him, clouding his senses until a soothing numbness was all that was left. He had reached the absolute, the pinnacle of existence. All that remained of his conscience was thought, as he drifted silently through his own mind. His childhood was replayed, the countless hours in the sun now seeming like it was yesterday. His first sight of his wife, and the two chubby faces of his newborn children.
Death had opened its arms, a motherly embrace to welcome the newcomer. Then, like a child to its mother, the soldier raced to it, silently falling through the addictive serenity of the abyss.