The topic of refugees has been in the news quite a lot the last couple of weeks. As such, I thought it might be topical to post an excerpt from a short story I’ve been working on which deals with this issue in, I think you will agree, a sensitive and nevertheless thrilling manner. And so I present:
Emric set out at midnight.
The night was mysterious. There was mist on the ocean and the twinge of something sinister in the air, or it could have been jasmine. Emric moved under cover. He wore a cowl over his head, and a long black cloak that flapped around him when there was a strong breeze, which there wasn’t.
“This is a dangerous night to be about,” Emric said out loud to nobody. “I had better be quiet.”
Just then shots rang out.
“Great Scott!” Emric said. “I had better get moving. Those shots sounded a lot like they came from the guns that other ethnic groups use.”
Suddenly a search light fell on Emric. “Stay where you are, Emric!” called the voice of a guard. “Where do you think you’re going anyway? It’s after dinner time.”
“I think he’s seen me,” Emric muttered. “I better run for it, with no delay!”
Emric turned and ran for the waterfront.
“Hey, stop Emric!” the guard called. “Come back here.”
“I don’t think I will, actually,” Emric called back as he ran. He laughed at his comment. Zing!
“Now’s not the time for levity, Emric,” he said to himself. “I’ve still got a long way to go to get to the sea and to possible escape from this horrible horrible country.”
Just then he saw the sea.
Sarah was a student at Flatland Tertiary Ivory College, the pre-eminent University in Greater Flatland. She was only in first year, and so was still pretty naïve. She had just moved out of her parents’ house, in fact. She had nondescript mousy features and generic hair. People often overlooked her and ignored her because she was so normal. “It sucks being so naïve and young,” she said out loud to herself, sitting in the quad, eating some kind of sandwich, whatever sandwich students eat. “Some days I wish I would have an adventure. But I guess I’m too ordinary for things like that to happen to.”
“Hey, Sarah!” It was Hibiscus, one of the artsy girls who there always are at universities, probably. She wore her long red hair down to her ankles, and she had a long flowery dress on which looked like it was made out of some kind of natural fabric. Sarah thought Hibiscus would probably be quite pretty if she made some effort.
“Come to the protest with us!” Hibiscus said. “We’re going down to the wharf to protest the government’s treatment of workers.”
“I dunno,” Sarah said, eating her sandwich nervously. “I reckon workers have a pretty good deal already. Do we really want to tip the scales away from struggling small businesses in favour of greedy unions?”
“Hahaha yeah,” Hibiscus said. “You can say that again. But I forget what you said. I have short term memory loss from smoking too much pot! Hey do you want to come to a protest?”
“I can’t,” Sarah said. She nibbled at her sandwich much like a mouse, which as previously mentioned, she resembled. “I really need to study. I want to do well at my course, whatever it is I’m studying.”
“Haha yeah,” Hibiscus said. “You’re right, studying is for squares! I can’t believe some people come to Uni to study. Not when there’s dope to be smoked and partaes to be had! Amiright?”
“Right,” Sarah said helplessly.
“Hahaha yeah,” Hibiscus said. “Anyway see ya!”
Sarah sighed. She felt like she had established her character, to Hibiscus, as a naïve and traditional good natured girl. She wondered what would happen next.
The boat was tumbledown and ramshackle. It looked like a small cottage on the deck of a boat, that had then fallen over a bit. Emric shook his head. “That doesn’t look that safe,” he said.
Just then he heard a voice in the distance. “Emmmmmriiiiiic,” it called out.
“The guard!” Emric said. “He’s still looking for me! I better get going without any more ado!”
He approached the boat. There was a faded sign on its mast. The People Smuggler, it said. “Hello?” Emric called out, hesitantly.
Just then a fat man emerged from the cabin. He was very large and he looked a bit oily, like he’d been rubbed in bacon. He was rubbing his hands together like they were covered in oil. He was laughing at something then he saw Emric and stopped.
“Oh hello there,” the man said, his jowls wobbling frighteningly. “Come for a passage out of here, have you?” He took out a large sack which was on his back. “Here,” he said, “Put your money in here.”
Emric looked in the sack. “Great Scott!” he said. The sack was full of dollar bills. There must have been millions!
The man laughed and shook his head. “I see you’re new to this,” he said. “Emric was it?”
“I was once like you, Emric,” the man said. “But then I bought a boat, and now I’m rich. I’m glad we had this talk. Now, that’ll be eight thousand pounds for you and all your family.”
“But I only have two thousand pounds!” Emric said. “I thought that would be heaps.”
The man laughed again. This time he looked a bit sinister.
“That’s all right, Emric,” the man said. “You can leave your family here. You can send the money back to them for them to come later, right?”
Emric nodded sadly. He didn’t want to leave behind his wife and two children, but he supposed it was for the best. That explained why he hadn’t brought them with him, he supposed.
Reluctantly, he dropped his money in the sack. The man whipped it shut with such ferocity that Emric had to whip his hand out, lest he lose it.
“Phew!” he said. “I thought I was going to lose it. My hand that is.”
“Ahhhhhaaahaaa,” said the man, laughing. “Emric, my friend, you make me laugh. Here, have a cigar.”
“I don’t smoke,” Emric explained. It was something other people often teased him about, but he believed in doing the right thing regardless of what others thought.
“Now get on board,” the fat man said. “We’d better get sailing before any of the authorities see me and ask for my boating license!”
“You don’t have a boating license?” Emric exclaimed. “What?”
“Hahahaaaa Emric,” the fat man said. “Just pretend you never heard that.” Then he gave Emric a wink that chilled Emric to his very soul!