The story parameters for the month were: 500 words or less, the story was to be set on a train of some sort, something had to be frozen, and there had to be three sentences of three words in a row.
CRAMMED by Denise Newton
The stench is terrible. I know my faeces and urine are
mixed in with the rest. But that’s hardly my fault. Rounded up, taken against
my will, crammed into this carriage with dozens—no, hundreds—of my fellows.
I’ve stopped counting the sunsets and sunrises, so I can’t tell how long I’ve
I don’t care about the hunger but my thirst is
ferocious. The roof of my mouth feels as if it’s lined with gum and my tongue
is stiff, almost frozen in place. When I look at the faces of my companions, I
can tell they’re suffering in the same way. Hot and thirsty. Deafened by noise.
So terribly frightened.
We travel in what seems to be an endless straight
line, in the heat of days, with orange sunlight slipping in like razors through
the bars, and then through tunnels of night. Sometimes we stop and I hear
crunching footsteps and muffled voices outside. I don’t know what they want
with me. What their plan is. Or where they are taking us.
In the dark, I close my eyes occasionally and try to imagine I’m somewhere else. I do try. I think about the lush grass at the edges of the house paddock, the cool of it beneath my legs. I think about the river and the blue bowl of the summer sky. But then the dark presses in against my face and I open my eyes wide in terror, open my mouth to cry out, but shut it again because really, what use is it? There’s no one to hear my pain and fear except those squashed in here with me. So I remain silent, listening to the complaints and groans and snuffles of those nearby, and the roar and rumble of the engine up ahead. We hurtle on through time.
Wait…are we…? Yes, I think we are slowing. Gradually
the speed drops and the engine shifts down with a whine. It takes a long time
but eventually my companions and I lurch forward, then settle back as we come
to a halt. We look at each other. What’s next?
There’s a clang of chains and the dull thud of ropes
being unfastened and dropped to the ground. A metallic clunk and the sun spears
through the back door as it is lowered. Men appear, shadowed against the light.
Men with hats and boots and dusty trousers. They move us out, two at a time
down a ramp. The air trembles with their shouts and our cries. I blink in the
harsh light. The road train stands there, all three trailers with their high
bars and many wheels. Our prison, for however long it took us to arrive here.
One man calls to the others. His words carry across the thick dust to my ears. ‘Load ‘em onto the ship,’ he shouts, ‘this lot are headed to Indonesia. Good lot of beef rendang here.’