For quite some time now, I have been feeling anxious. I worry about everything that is happening in the world. Concern about the environment and our future is all we ever seem to hear in the media and at school. I lie in bed each night trying to sleep but my mind is busy worrying about the future world I will be living in. Will there be any forests left? How will the cities cope with the pollution and the increase in population?
My mum is so concerned about me. She says I look so troubled and frown too much. She is always suggesting ways to help me sleep like yoga, breathing exercises and counselling. To date nothing has worked. Tonight mum has given me a small bottle of oil. Apparently the smell of it is supposed to calm you and make you less anxious. I’d certainly like to see that happen, but won’t be holding my breath for that.
I think I’ll have a bath as that always helps relax my mind somewhat. I tell mum that I will be having a bath and I’ll have dinner a bit later. Once in the bathroom I dim the lights, turn on some soft music and run the water. After adding some bath salts, I open the little bottle of oil and put a few drops in the warm water. Wow, it is different smelling stuff! Strongly herbal, but quite nice. It smells like my grandmother’s herb garden.
I was in a hallway that was dimly lit by a huge chandelier. In front of me were three similar closed doors. I felt drawn to open the left hand one first. As I entered the room I saw a large bookshelf full of old classics that covered one entire wall. The other wall had a mirror and I saw my reflection. For a moment I didn’t recognise myself. Yes, it was me with my brown hair and green eyes, but I looked much older. I moved deeper into the space and saw the window. The view to the outside was breathtaking. There was a jungle out there. It was so vast and green. It was alive and crawling with a life of its own. The air looked so clean and fresh. The leaves and branches were deep green and glistening with moisture. Animal and insect life scurried around. The jungle stretched on as far as I could see and looked untouched and not ruined by mankind. I felt at peace knowing that such a magnificent place still existed in the future. My breathing slowed and I felt some inner tension slowly begin to wash away. With a smile on my face, I stepped back out the door and it closed behind me.
Now I looked to the middle door. Hesitantly I turn the handle and see what is behind this one. I find myself in a room with sleek furnishing. New age appliances and technology are on the desk and shelves. It looks a bit futuristic and is definitely a snapshot of what an office could look like in the future. Behind the glossy white desk is the most spectacular view of a city. I can’t quite make out what city it is but it is very modern and different. There are plants growing down the sides of the buildings. The air looks clean and fresh. People have this seemingly invisible and noiseless way of moving from one place to the next. Everyone on the ground looks well dressed and happy. The city is vibrant and alive. I feel relieved to see so many people living in this big city harmoniously. There is a prosperous feel and the people are proud and walk with purpose. As I shut the door to this room I am feeling uplifted that this city of the future is so clean and can sustain so many people.
Back in the hallway again, I turn to the right and face the last door. I am a little worried as I wonder what this room will be like. When I open the door, I am happily disappointed . The dimly lit room is very ordinary with a small stained glass window next to a massive four poster bed. There is no jungle or city view to gaze at. As I step further into the room, I become aware of this strong aroma of herbs and can hear the faint sound of music coming from the window. Slowly I walk up to the intricately designed window and try to see what is on the other side but I can’t quite make it out. Slowly as my eyes adjust I begin to make out the shape of a young girl in a bath. I realise with familiarity that I am looking at the younger version of myself. Suddenly a wave of tiredness overcomes me and I stumble over to the bed. As I lie down, the herbal smell becomes ever so strong and then my world dives into darkness.
The next thing I hear is mum’s voice urgently calling to me and there is a knocking on the door. I awake with a start and realised I must have fallen asleep in the bath because the water is as cold as ice. As I slowly come back to the present and my dream fades, I retain the overall feeling that the future is going to be ok. The world will survive and in fact prosper. Humanity will find a way to preserve all that is good, like the rainforests. We will develop cleaner and environmentally friendly cities. Society will continue to advance but in a sustainable way.
Later that night after dinner, I said goodnight to my family. Calmly I prepare for bed and for the first time in many many months, I drift off to sleep with ease. I feel safe and sure that my world will be ok.
THE COLOUR OF WAR
by Alfie Miller-Sharp
It was the year 1989. The war was still going (it had been in motion for 50 years, you see; why stop now?), and times were harder than ever.
(Walks into a shop) “Hello there. Could I buy some bread please?”
“Sure, that would be 70 dollars for a loaf,” says the store owner. “Times been hard?” he asks.
“Yeah, you know how it is,” says the woman.
The woman walks out of the store and into the colour grey. Grey sky, grey pavement, grey faces. She hoists her shopping bag (which is light as a feather) onto her shoulder and sets off down the street. She had no idea of the catastrophe that was about to happen.
One moment, there was life.
The next; death.
But I won’t go into that now. No, I’m going to explain how the woman got to that street, to that time.
Margaret Thompson was born on July 15 1935. A dog, two parents and a sister were part of her upbringing. She liked to eat doughnuts with the sprinkly side down, and when she laughed, the world was a little happier.
“Marg, hurry up, you’re going to be late”. That was her mum.
“Okay Ma, I’m coming”, she says, hurrying out the door with her books half-out of her bag.
“Oh, and Marg?’
“Please be safe.”
“Margaret Thompson?” asks the assistant. She’s just entered the room, clutching a slip of paper in her hand. Her face has a ghostly tinge to it, and she looks like she’s about to pass out.
“Yeah, that’s me”, says Marg.
“Please come with me, this is extremely urgent”.
“Your mom’s dead.”
They all come rushing into her head, one by one in their thousands until her head could explode. After that, they sort themselves into order, settling down so she could access them easily.
She remembers the car ride home, seeing her mom lying on the kitchen floor. She could be asleep, for all the 12-year-old girl knew. “Oh please, Mom, please don’t be dead, please be asleep”. But the little girl knew that her mom would never wake up.
Memories. She searched so hard for the good ones, trying to find a slice of happiness in her life, coming up empty, nothing but grey…
She remembers the three years of unimaginable grief, the relief of getting her first job, surviving at the age of 15, orphaned, alone.
There are lots and lots of memories rushing through Marg’s head as she opens her eyes for the first time that day.
Marg finds herself in a hospital bed, surrounded by machines beeping in time with her broken heart, keeping her from slipping away… But the pain, oh, the pain in her face. It’s too much to bear!
A nurse walks into the ward, each step an agony to her emaciated ears. "Margaret Thompson?" she asks. "Can you hear me?"
"Yes". Marg tries to speak, but all that comes out is a dry croak. She tries again. "Yes, I can hear you".
"You almost got hit by a bomb", the nurse says. "By all rights, you should be dead". Oh, she remembers all too clearly what the planes sounded like, the hum of the propellors, the whistle of the bombs falling and the terror of impending death. That moment where up is down, and time doesn’t exist, when you don’t know if you’re dead or alive.
"Can you take me outside?". Marg has to ask several times before she can be heard. Once she is, however, the nurse agrees to take her outside. "But only for a little while", she says.
As her bed is wheeled through the dingy hallways of the hospital, Marg tries to remember what the sun looks like, and finds that she can't! She can't remember seeing a blue sky or the feel of the warm sun on her face as she's lifted up by the earth at her feet, buffeted by the warm breeze, caressing her, holding her. Everything was grey, had always been grey, will always be