My Name Is Nahila
Kate, Age 13, Hervey Bay, QLD, Australia

I am fourteen, and this is my story. Before the war, things were peaceful-like. I was a ten  year old girl, and the year was 2039 when war broke out – I attended school, had several friends, life went on. You know how it goes – going to the markets, weddings… and funerals. We were a diplomatic family – that is, my mum, dad, Cassie and I.

But then there was war. My dad and older sister were sent to war – women over forty were unable to. Women over 40 and men over 50 could be enrolled as nurses, but in the state the world was beforehand – lazy teenagers with their erratically coloured baseball caps, older businessmen with their silver belt-tops flashing pointedly in the sun as they walked across the road to KFC or OzzieBeef – not many volunteered. After two years of war my mum volunteered – I caught a ferry with her to a city in Sri Lanka with a name I am always forgetting and can’t remember anyway. From there I was taken into a small city called Clodagh Eastern Colony for shelter. War broke out in the small city – us kids worked hard to escape the rapid gunfire, hauling wailing younger kids and dragging the dead or wounded. Sisters and brothers and cousins wept for the fallen; a clap of lightning in the storm that night revealed a small toddler standing in the blood-splattered mud, crying, looking around, lost and scared. The leaf-shaped stream of fire from the guns lit up the night. Another clap  of lighting revealed more horror – a young woman lay in the mud, a terrible wound from a ricochet shot embedded in her leg. I ran and grabbed the toddler, screaming for help for the woman. Two kids – one that looked about nine, the other thirteen or so – came to help. We dragged the woman down the road, but we lost her on the outskirts; if I had had my current range of knowledge, I would have known to stem the flow of blood with pressure around the leg. Now every day I say a silent prayer for her and curse myself for my stupidity.

I headed North with the 13 year old boy, who was called Hakim – the other boy was taken by a gently crying older girl, who graciously took the toddler as well. Hakim and I became great friends – same interests, same favourite colour and favourite food etcetera – but we also depended on each other to survive. Hakim found food by killing chickens or gathering food from veggie patches in abandoned towns, while I made the fire every night and chose the site where we would stay. Mostly we broke into vacant houses – it was warm there, and we could each get our own room. We did not wash – we became quite smelly, after a while. After nine more months of war the country settled; the war was over, victory won. People began returning to their homes, and on what was to be my and Hakim’s second last night together, a squadron of soldiers came along gathering up the refugees and taking them to hotels or hospitals, and we had baths for the first time in who knows when. I was given some clothes by a small lady with a machine gun poised under her arm; her male partner lent some to Hakim. Planes and ships carried refugees home free of charge, to Adelaide and Brisbane and New Zealand. I booked a plane to Brisbane, Hakim a boat to New Zealand. We had an emotional goodbye, as for months we had been keeping each other alive – I told him what I would call my e-mail when I got home, so we could stay in touch. I shed some tears as we gave each other a hug before I deported.

Now it has been a year since the end of the war and I sit before my touch-top, playing an off-line card game. With as smile, I finished the level, and was about to go onto the next one when a bubble appeared on my lower screen. At first I ignored it, but then my eyes were drawn back to the name of the person who had sent it.

From Hakim, it said, and I gasped in amazement. Forgetting the game, I moved to the bubble and clicked it.

You have no idea how long it took me to find you, I read.

You are a hard girl to track, Nahila. I breathed in so hard my lungs hurt. My eyes widened in shock.

“Mum!” I shrieked. “You’ll never guess…!”

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