‘The Changing of the Wind’ by Ruby Buetefuer: Gawler Short Story Competition; Second Place, Junior Section

I ran as the fire raged behind me. Well, not really, but it felt like it. I sit on the couch as tears run down my face. I bite my lip and it starts to bleed. I imagine life when we get back home. The tears grow heavier as they roll in a steady stream. Everybody is fussing over us like a new animal at the zoo. I feel like Wang Wang. People don’t understand, when something like this happens we just need space. Sometimes there are storms. You cannot stop these storms. You merely need to accept them. Do not make rainbows in the rain. Sunlight comes when sunlight comes, patience is required. So when the rain has dried and the clouds have gone away, you can shine your light on me. I have not said this to anyone, though I wish to do so in the near future. Mum comes and puts her arm around me and I shove it away. I know I shouldn’t have but I did. I run upstairs in embarrassment. I know I shouldn’t be embarrassed but I am. I know crying is good in times like these, I like to do it in private though, so I drop down on my bed and cry.

My pillow is wet now but I don’t care. I’ve only been in here for half an hour. The room is small, and most of it is taken up by the double bed I have to share with my sister. We each have a set of draws and a lamp on our side of the bed. I rub my eyes dry and pick up a book. I lie there and read for a long time, various thoughts running through my head. What will be there when we get home? What about my goats? And Rory? And the chooks? I stop thinking about them, I care about them too much. I cry again. I imagine cats doing stupid things to cheer me up, and it messes up my thought process. I’m going crazy! I’m dying! I throw my book at the wall, my head spins. I see a light. I see a wall, it’s closing in. I grab great chunks of my hair and pull. I start to hyperventilate. In, out, in, out, quickly, quickly, quickly, quickly. I rock, back and forth, back and forth. I’m scared. I don’t know what’s happening to me. My eyes whirl around in my head. My head throbs. I’m sinking into the bed, down, down, down, down, farther, deep into the pit of sorrow. I close my eyes and I’m back in the forest, running for my life. I hear the pop and crackle of the fire chasing close behind me. My heart beats faster and faster as my legs thud down, one after the other. I open my eyes and it all goes away. My breathing is heavy and quick. I lie there for a minute before I open my eyes.

I get up, one leg after the other, falling off the side of the bed. My hands reach down and I pick up my book. Well, it’s not even mine, it’s the library’s. The hard surface of the book falls down onto the soft bed as I release my grip. I go to the bathroom to wash my face. As I look in the mirror, I see how gloomy I look. I splash the water on my face and dry it off with a towel. My feet carry me downstairs. I’m sitting on the couch when mum gets a phone call.
“Hello”, she answers. There is a pause “So there’s nothing?” Another pause, “Just a trailer?” And another “Well that’s a relief!” And one more, “I’ll give them a ring. Thank you. Bye.”

My heart is racing, the words whirl around in my head, so there’s nothing? It echoes in my head nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing. I feel tears welling up inside of me. Don’t cry! Don’t cry! I scream in my head. Mum turns to my brother, sister and I.
“The neighbours’ house is gone.” I am relieved that it’s not our house, but then I try to make myself feel bad because of the neighbours. “We have a house and the pets are fine,” she says. “Dad and I will go up tomorrow, Nan will look after you.”
I have never felt so relieved in my life.

Tomorrow comes. Nan gets here at about nine o’clock in the morning. Mum and Dad leave soon after. I dump myself on the couch, spreading myself out so no one sits next to me. I reach out to the coffee table, and unscrew the lid of the jar of mints Nan gave us. I take a couple and put them in my mouth. I feel the heat of a city summer. I close my eyes but I think of mum and dad. The fires are still going, all it would take is a change of wind. I make myself breakfast while Nan reads the newspaper. I put some toast on, but I don’t know what setting to put it on, all toasters are different. I put it on low, like at home. I try to look busy so Nan doesn’t try to make conversation, it works. The toast pops and it’s perfectly browned, I’m glad something has stayed the same! I usually have cinnamon toast but we don’t have any cinnamon so I settle for just sugar. Everything changes for a reason. I tell myself, you just need to find the good in it. There is no good though! Sugar on toast is boring. It sticks to the roof of your mouth and it’s too sweet. I think of how my life has transitioned from being fun and exciting to now, being traumatic and depressing.

The wind changed. Mum and dad get home after facing many road blocks. They tell us that they got in eventually and got to the house. They say that they stayed there and fed the animals, but then they had to leave because the wind changed and a fire started heading in that direction.
“We probably won’t let you guys come for another couple days now’’, Mum tells us,” It’s too dangerous”. I’m disappointed and still sort of relieved, I’m not sure if I’m ready to see it yet.

In a couple days we head up to see it. I have butterflies in my stomach and a lump in my throat as the car drives through the hills, and we see the destruction and ash. We reach a road block, and Dad has to show them his driver’s license to prove that we live there and aren’t just tourists or looters. I think it’s sickly wrong to loot. I can’t believe people would steal from those who have just been through something like fires and floods. We go through two more road blocks before we get there.
When we get there, a news van follows us up the driveway. When we get out the car they go straight up to Mum and Dad and start asking questions. Mum’s not very happy about it.
“You know what. This is the first time the kids have seen the property after the fires so can you just go away?”
The news guys try to keep asking questions, but Mum makes them leave eventually. I go straight to my goats and they go straight to me. I sit with them for a while and we cry. Well, I cry, but I know they’re crying on the inside. I hug them and scratch their bottoms, then I feed them some sultanas I got for them. They love sultanas. They snuggle up close. Dad calls me inside, and I say goodbye to the goats and kiss them one by one. I trudge inside and wipe the ash off of my shoes. It kind of crumbles off like dirt. We all have something to eat and go on a walk. I noticed how bad the house smells; a variety of off food and smoke mixing together spreading through the house like butter on bread, smooth and thick.

It was no use wiping off the ash. My shoes got covered as we walked. Poor kangaroos with burnt feet slowly hopped away from us. Lots of things died or got destroyed. The caravan melted down the driveway, the shed collapsed, the contents burnt, all the trees lost their foliage and the shipping container burnt and peeling. I walk, my feet kicking up dirt and ash. Mum and I stop to put some food out for the kangaroos. I stand in one place for too long. Soon there are bull-ants climbing all up my legs. One thing that sadly didn’t die. I jump up and down arms and legs flailing everywhere, desperately trying to get them off. They bite me all over. Great, so now I’m: sad, depressed, lonely, anxious, bored, angry, afraid, distressed and covered in ant bites. It doesn’t feel like home.

About two weeks later we move back in. We don’t have power so we run off of a generator. It’s getting colder and we found out that we can’t use our indoor fire because it’s not safe. The generator doesn’t generate enough power to heat water, so we can’t even have a decent shower some days. A few months later we finally get power. In April we celebrate New Year, again, with some of our friends. Life has changed a lot for me, but I know transition always happens for a reason.

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