Dannielle Viera

For We Are One and Free   
(Pop Up Zine 2024: Somewhere Else Theme)

She whispered the word, and his heart-dove fluttered its wings. Stretching his neck above the sea of sleeping bodies, he searched the horizon with eager eyes. In the distance, crowned by the silvery wreath of dawn’s early glow, cliffs rose from the ocean like noble champions. A gasp escaped and curled misty white into the ether. They were so close.

Agonising shrieks and groans emanated from the decrepit vessel as it seesawed on the waves. The sound prickled along his skin, as memory wrestled hope. In another place, shrill screams battered the atmosphere. Rifle fire burned across the city, the savage pop of shots echoing day and night. Fear seeped along his veins, slowly poisoning his soul. Laughter had left his lips long ago.

Sometimes even the stars turned their faces from the place. His father and mother held him close in the darkness, their gentle warmth warding off the demons that stalked the shadows. When silence fell, heavy with menace, they struggled to breathe. He stroked his father’s beard and prayed.

One evening, thunderous voices boomed around them. A storm of sable-clad claws rained down, dragging his father into the dusty gutter. Slipping from his mother’s shaky grasp, he ran and reached out a pale hand towards the kneeling form. Two cracks tumbled across the landscape. Milky fingers dripped scarlet. He knew no more.

How much time passed, he could not say. Benumbed by grief, his eyes barely registered the changing scenery. A stifling cellar, a rickety wagon, a raft on the river. Movement driven by barely contained dread flickered on the edge of his perception. Hunger soon sharpened his focus. His mother’s meagre supplies did little to allay the stomach pains.

The further they travelled from the place, the more curious he became about their destination. His mother would say nothing. She perceived the danger that prowled nearby, preparing to pounce. Many had made the journey in the past, only to be devoured by the ferocious deep.

But as they bobbed on the sapphire swell, beholding the sunlit serenity of the new land, he understood. Here, they would find the means to draw the toxin of terror from their bodies. Seeds of happiness would be planted. A future brimming with peace and possibility opened up before him like a blooming flower.

Shouts shattered the crystal clime. He turned, and a howl froze in his throat. Ebony-dressed devils swarmed the craft, revolvers raking the air. Confusion rippled across the scene as drowsy passengers stirred and stumbled to their feet. He backed away, images of the past piercing his mind. Soldiers. Guns. Father. Blood.

A powerful hand gripped his shoulder and tried to pull him towards the waiting patrol boat. He twisted round, extending his thin arms towards the shore. As his heart-dove hid its head beneath its trembling wing, he wailed the word – the only one he knew in English. ‘Freedom!’

Dannielle Viera is an author, editor, proofreader and photographer with almost 30 years’ experience in the Australian publishing industry. https://www.dannielleviera.com/