Saarah Survé, Stellenbosch Department of Journalism
Nicholas has bags underneath his eyes even though he has just woken up. His unwashed hair and greying beard make him look older than he is. He stretches one muscular arm across the crinkled sheets and onto the empty space beside him. He frowns, confused, and then dismayed realises that it wasn’t a dream. He sits up, unable to go back to sleep. His mouth is parched.
He hears the window panes rattling and the neighbour’s ducks quacking. Brown dried up leaves crack in the wind. Longingly, he looks outside of the window, to another place and time.
Someone is watching a young boy clad in a navy sweater and knitted cap walk carefully through the rustling reeds.
A young girl, wearing a maroon rain jacket, guiltily turns her face downward, as her long, mousy hair blows into her eyes.
A different memory; in the sunshine Nicholas carries his daughter on his back. Her cheeks are flushed pink, and she smiles, her hair out of her pretty, pale face.
A new memory; her brother follows her and together they crunch over the autumn leaves. The wind howls, crickets chirp and somewhere far away chimes ring.
The three of them laugh together, as their father runs a small black lizard between his fingers.
The sun disappears and birds squawk as if they are warning the family of something to come. There is a feeling of unease in the air.
She sees her brother on top of a mossy-green rock, breaking twigs into smaller pieces. She decides to join him. Now it is only the two of them, surrounded by leafless trees, in an abandoned forest. The air is crisp.
Her brother collects small, silver fish. His pudgy fingers pull out each one’s slippery eyeball and then he knocks its head onto a tree trunk. This action causes a pool of blood to congeal on the bark. The smell is overpowering and forms a metal taste in his mouth. He scoops out any leftover goo, and wipes his finger onto the ground. He leaves a gaping hole in the fish’s head.
Their father seems to be consumed in another world as he sits on a rock, throwing bits of reed into the water.
With nobody, besides his sister, watching him the boy defiantly rolls up his jeans, pulls up his socks and ventures into the shallow waters. Balancing on some rocks, he reaches for another fish. Just when his fingers are about to touch the surface, he slips and plunges into the icy cold water, which is much deeper than he expected.
He screams for help as he is submerged, his arms flailing and his legs kicking underneath the water, but all that comes out is bubbles. The water burns his throat and he can’t breathe as it begins to fill his lungs.
His sister looks on paralysed, frozen to her spot. Her lips are blue from the cold and she’s lost her pink glow. Now you can see that she has a little mole on the top of her lip, not noticeable at first glance.
Inspired by the short film, Waterfall, by Charcole. Watch the film here: