Wandering the streets, searching for some different images to capture. I have walked this way so many times, that it seems pointless. Then I realise that I have never stopped for any length of time here. It is such a weird and wonderful image, how could that even be possible? So one day I did, I took the time to take it in, not just to make an image, but also to let my imagination wander. What could this be? What alternative purpose could it serve? In another world, or perhaps in this one? And, so, a story began…Continue reading “Hidden Within: Short Story”
Mr Tibbins could never understand people. They all rush around stuck in their own little world, having no idea what that world really is. They don’t know because they don’t want to. It is easier that way. Some people, like him, can see. Is it a gift? Or is it a curse? He has never been able to decide. There are certainly times when blissful ignorance seems like a blessing.
He feels tired today. An old man, out of breath and lonely. Some days are like this now, his energy reserves seem to desert him at times. Maybe they are only finite and one day he won’t be able to call on them. But, until now, they have always been there when he has needed them. A feeling like electricity runs up the back of his neck and he knows that one of them is near. Looking around he can’t see anything untoward.Continue reading “Mr Tibbins : Short Story”
At first I was worried that we would lose everything, but we were allowed to collect our few belongings before the destruction began. It was terrible to behold. What now, where? There had been talk of relocation, but there is such uncertainty. I just hope that the next move brings us closer to some permanence.
I find myself staring at the destruction, feeling numb, I can hardly breath. Nadia has her arms around Yaya and Abdo, trying to comfort them. “Now, we will go somewhere better”, she says. Please, I hope so.
The dream was always to reach Britain, we speak English and have some relations there already. At least there would be some friendly faces to help. But here, it seems like everything will be so much harder. But, believe me, even the Jungle was better than where we came from. If learning another language is the largest problem we have, the future will be bright.
The police are coming now, directing us where to go. Single men here, families there, children here. It is unbelievable how many children there are, with no families. Teenagers with no one to guide them, heartbreaking. Our processing seems relatively simple, the decision has already been made where to send us. Another foreign name with no meaning for me.
We are put on the bus, with many other families. Time to leave. Part of me is sad, how strange to think I would ever feel sad to leave this place. I guess the channel crossing was always the end of the journey, and we never made it. And now we are off, to something better. I must believe.
It is easy to forget what a beautiful country this is, once you move away from the port and the city. We have been told we are going to a large village. This seems surprising, how will we find work there? And the people, what will they think?
Now we are moving, the children are more animated. There is excitement in Yaya’s eyes, it is infectious, I am starting to feel it too. The colours of autumn glow all around us as we speed towards our destination. There is nervousness amongst my fellow passengers, but so much hope.
After a couple of hours we are told we have arrived. What a pretty place, typical old-world French charm. I am amazed, I would not have believed that we would be brought to somewhere like this. It is obviously not the richest of places but it has a warm, welcoming feeling. Nadia looks too shocked for words, but she is smiling, nervously.
Le Grand Hôtel, sounds impressive and looks fine. It maybe doesn’t quite live up to the name, but it looks clean, warm and dry. All the things we have been missing so much. The lady, maybe the owner, is very welcoming and takes us to our rooms. Yes rooms, two rooms with a bathroom.
As soon as we are alone, Nadia begins to weep. Gently, at first, but when the dam bursts she cannot stop. You see, this seems like a palace to us. Two rooms, four beds and the children are already jumping and bounding from one to the other. Unbridled joy, it has been such a long time. The feeling of my wife’s tears, running down my face and soaking into my collar. The feeling of love, of hope.
© Neil Hayes and neilhayeswriter
How could it have come to this?
They are so beautiful when they sleep. This is the only time when they look innocent and peaceful now. How could anyone feel at peace in this place? The sun will be rising soon and another day will begin. Another day to hope and survive. Hope for what? That the world will begin to care. It seems like a never ending fight, with very little to win. When the final bell rings, will we be victorious? Or knocked out.
I feel torn inside, when I look at them, and the life they have. We ran from one war, one where death was a real possibility. But now we are in a different type of war. Most people in this place are good, just searching for a better life. But some need to be watched, and these are the ones that scare me. These are the ones that scare the world.
I feel like such a failure. Did I do the right thing? It cost all the money we had to get us here, money we had worked hard for. Now we have nothing and no one wants us. Yes, we are here illegally. But what choice did I have? It is hard to apply for visas or official help when the soldiers are just around the corner. He said it would be OK, he would get us to Britain, for a price. And Britain is a modern, caring country. Right? But we didn’t make it that far and now even Europeans are being looked at with distrust. What hope for people with our skin colour?
The sky is beginning to glow through the skin of our tent, another day. Yaya is stirring; seven years old but with the eyes of one who has seen too much already. She should be carefree and playing with friends, instead she protects her brother like a wolf. I am so proud of her, but wish it was for different reasons. Now, I must be strong and not show how I really feel. They cannot see the hopelessness inside me.
“Good morning my love. Did you sleep well?”, I ask. “Like I was on a bed of feathers”, she says with a smile. But she is not on a feather bed, far from it. But she is always so optimistic, she is strong for us.
Now Abdo begins to grumble, he is more of a complainer. Maybe that is the difference between men and women. Women always seem to get on with things, especially in our culture. But he is so young, all he feels is discomfort and doesn’t have to pretend for the sake of anyone else. He is the youngest, after all. Four years old and already transplanted and transferred so many times. Yaya puts a protective arm around him and welcomes him to another day, with a smile.
These are the loves of my life. Yaya, Abdo and Nadia, my wife, their mother. A beautiful, intelligent woman who also deserves so much better. The children crawl all over her, and she awakes with a smile and a laugh. Even here, there are times to make you smile and feel grateful. But soon we will step outside and join the queues for breakfast. There are good people here, who are trying to help us. But there is only so much they can do. Hopefully there will be some fresh supplies today.
A light rain is falling, this is the worst. The dampness seems to penetrate everything here. There is no escape. I step outside, and make my way to the aid station. Everyone looks unhappy and nervous, something is wrong. There have been rumours that there will be some sort of operation, to clear some of this wasteland. And here they come. I can hear the roar of the vehicles as they approach.
In a panic, I rush back to my family. As I get there, the police are approaching. They herd us into an area, away from the tents and shacks that are our homes. We have so little, how can they take it away?
Here come the machines, on tracks, carrying huge scoops in front. Ready to pile our lives together with all the others who live here. Live, it feels ridiculous to even use that word. We don’t live, we exist. I feel sick, useless. I am supposed to protect my family, that is every father’s job; no? But what can I do, other than wipe away the tears from my wife’s face. And kiss her and pray.
They call this place The Jungle. A jungle may be dangerous, but it is beautiful and diverse. This is no jungle, this is hell.
© Neil Hayes and neilhayeswriter
What is this? How did I get here? The panic spreads through me from my fingers to my bones. Breathe, just breathe. Do I know this place? I certainly don’t remember getting here. The bed feels warm, I must have been sleeping. When I sit up my head feels woozy. Then, pain shoots up my neck. I need to think. Thirsty, so thirsty. There is a sink in the corner but I can’t see a glass anywhere. I put my mouth to the tap and gorge myself. Better. There is a desk in the corner of the room. I need to investigate. Who lives here? Do I know them? It’s a mess, papers, dirty plates, a coffee cup with a new life forming in the bottom. Jesus, who does live here? Wait, what’s that? A photograph under one of the plates? It peels off, with a little effort. Laura, it’s Laura. It’s been so long, since she left me, us, the world. What is this doing here….?
What now? It feels like there is no air. And cold, so cold. I am spinning around, trying to keep my balance. I fall, hard. More pain, but this time something warm on my cheek. My head rests on a jagged stone and all I can do is blink, blink the pain away. Until I can finally focus. How did I get outside? My head is not so bad. As the pain subsides, I realise this place is familiar. Ben’s cabin is near here. I have many memories of here. Once happy, but those memories stopped a few years ago. When she left, I could no longer face this place. A sudden surge of guilt. He had lost her too after all. And then we lost each other. But how could I go back now. But maybe it is not too late….
Not again. Is this sickness or madness. Maybe both. I feel lost in reality but so many old feelings are coursing through me. No I don’t want to be here. I haven’t returned since she left. Just the sight of the cold stone, now covered with moss, sends chills through me. When she left, I had to turn a page and not think. But now it seems I have no choice. It was never solved. We just found her sitting there, alone. Silent. I can’t look anymore….
Here again? But something is different. The room has changed. A wallet is lying on the table. I rush to open it, I must know something. This is beyond me. It’s Ben. I see his picture as soon as I open the wallet. How could he live here? How could he descend from his cabin in the woods to this? From idyllic nature to this, this filth. It must have affected him more than I thought. Guilty feelings overpower me. Could I have helped him more? There is a diary next to the wallet. None of this was here before. I open it and…. No, it can’t be. He wouldn’t. How could he….?
On the edge. Looking down. This seems like the perfect spot, for how I feel. I don’t know how I have kept this inside for so long. And now this? One foot hovers and then….
© Neil Hayes and neilhayeswriter