The old world
The storm approaches. A new season upon us.
My face hits the ground and dust appears on impact. A hit to the head. I’m only seeing the grass and red dirt blowing across the plains, back into my eyeballs. Weaker and weaker, they roll into an ocean wave of sleep. Slumping into a clump, my body is smashed from side to side. Everything is black and your body groans into a deep heap; not moving.
I don’t understand how I got here but I remember the voices. Low and high voices, commanding voices, laughing and scared voices. Whispers…that’s right, whispers were the last thing I remember.
We float our dead people to the place they came from. Past the last great fire and into the ghost land.
Out of last nights darkness, the ghost land spilled a spirit. Then another. A group of spirits from the dead world rolled across the sand and stared at me. Staring and shouting like they know me and I know them. But nothing made sense. I’ve never talked to ghosts before and my jaw was locked, not able to say my thoughts. Not able to move and tell anyone about the spirits coming to visit me. I’m frozen.
A fish, that’s right, a fish.
I remember showing them a fish I caught and offering it to them. I had a basket full of my morning catch when suddenly, they moved over towards me, smiled and grabbed them. I heard the whispers, turned to grab my fish net and that’s it. Down I went. I lay here watching the wind, circle on the clearing. The leaves sing a song high in the tree tops. They chatter and swoop to each other in a greeting of the old men. The circles gather other wind over the clearing and the hills beyond. They talk and watch in one place, circling over and over then speed off to tell another that the spirits have come.
I get to my knees, slowly to my feet. Warm blood pours onto my shoulders and off to the sand. The stain is my stain. My mothers sand knows I am hurt. I hear her heart break, screeching, snapping in the forest. I hear her rumble in the water. She is not happy. I hear her in the dark forming clouds. She speaks.
My net is gone. My fish have disappeared. My spear is here and my shield still sits over on the grass where I left it. You don’t need a shield from spirits normally, or when fishing. I had no fight with them but I’m not sure.
The sand feels wet with my blood; I must have been out of it a while. I stumble back to the grass and lay gazing, gathering the spinning ancestors constantly talking in my ears. One, now ten, they spin and say I’m in danger. Doubt means danger.
I heard the cracking bang of a season storm breaker. The sound from the clouds and rain brought in by that spirit. Broken by that spirit.
I wait but there is no rain…just clouds, wind and a burning hole in my skin, the bang from the spirit.
The hole is wider and the blood spills. I burn inside. My eyes weaken and slip again.
“Its the fish, I think the spirits came back again for the fish.” My thoughts weaken.
I will not be able to catch any to take and gift them for my mothers sake. Mother will not be happy with me. Please, do not harm my mother. I can hear her still, blowing wildly through the trees and tasting my red stain as I bleed and empty my light. My mouth is dry. I search harder for the air around me…searching…searching…
The commanders gave orders and the new order was invoked. The unknown ghosts put a curse on our families. Hunted our villages, killed and removed us. They have a permanent curse.
The spirits have never talked to us. Never. Never explained why they are here. Never wanted to share with us. Never understood us. Never sat down with us. Never… and the curse remains.
This is not an chapter of ‘Hunger Games’. It is an appetite that kills Indigenous people in the millions. When Australians celebrate today, remember the first death. Remember that was multiplied a million times. Remember no one speaks to us, exactly as it was back then. Remember we should never forget that in building the modern Australia, it was on Aboriginal land that was not legally or morally obtained. It was a lie saying that the land was empty. The ‘Mabo decision’ overturned that lie but never removed the stain or curse. The curse of non-recognition. The curse of no equality. The stain of blood.
The old curse from spirits of a ghost land who refuse to talk to us, listen or meet with us. Hunger Land still divides us as it did from that first day.