Georgina Ray, Grade 10, Daramalan College -
Excellence Award in the 'Write-Along 2018' competition
War. When Sho first heard the word, he didn’t understand what it meant; no villager wished to speak of it or answer when he asked why “War” was fast approaching their country.
And then the stars started to fall. They fell from the sky with surprising grace but as the stars reached the ground, they destroyed everything in a fiery explosion. The air suddenly turned to fire and it hurt to breathe in, he ran into the jungle, he didn’t know how long he ran for until he collapsed with tears in his eyes. He now knew what war was; war was hurt, it made people hurt, it made the sky rain down with hurt, but it also made a different kind of hurt, something that couldn’t be healed with any medicine known to man, this hurt pained the body and didn’t go away for a very long time.
Nowhere was safe. Eventually he was running from the sound of marching soldiers and crashing stars. The jungle was no refuge and he had to leave it behind. One day he came upon open plains, feeling the sun on his skin, the wind ruffling his dark hair, filling him with warmth he hadn’t felt in forever. It had been a while since the stars had fallen on his village and war for Sho had started, he had been running ever since, trying to stay alive. He passed travellers on the road, who would always tell him to watch out for the enemy. He didn’t know what they meant by “Enemy”, he wasn’t watching out for “Enemy” he was watching out for war. Now he was out of the jungle. And that’s when he found the bird.
The bird was a small sparrow, she flapped onto his shoulder, pecking at his black hair ‘Hello,’ he said politely, offering her a piece of his bread, ‘my name is Sho.’ The bird gave a little tweet and flapped her wings, ‘What is it?’ he asked, stroking her back. Then the bird flew up and landed a while away and gave another tweet, she wanted him to follow her, he thought, so he got up and followed her across the fields until they came to a long, wide river. Then he saw it, a cluster of trees with birds fluttering in and out of the trees and the river's reeds rustling in the afternoon breeze. Something about this place made him feel something he hadn’t felt since his family had, had him in calling distance: he felt safe.
He went over to the river, sparkling in the sunlight, the bird perched on his shoulder. He sensed the currents would protect him, like the trees protected the birds. He could feel the life within this place, a peace that could outlast any war. It was sure and strong, it was something to hold onto, and for now he was content with that. To wait and hope that War would leave, and they could live once again.