Internally imprisoned

Connection embraced the soul. It echoed through the ages in everlasting cycles of time. It could be felt through sound waves, strong smells, visual stimuli, taste buds and the touch of nature itself. It was possible to have experienced multi-layers of connection concurrently. I had heard nature echoing through the valley. The birds chirped away from the wind rustling through the gum trees. I had smelt the freshly cooked bread wafting over the rotten stench of existence formed in cavities of the ruins. I had seen the earthy colours of an Australian landscape orchestrating beauty with a darkness sweeping across the land. I had tasted true love and fear simultaneously that squeezed the life out of me. I had sensed cold-hearted brokenness. I had felt the loss of human touch and the end of connection. Like the wild animals coming to terms with their enclosure, I had to come to terms with my imprisonment. 

Time waited for no one. I never knew back then how precious time was until now. We were such young lovers. I recalled his warmth and tenderness that loved me no matter what. I remembered our first kiss. He chased me around a tree. My giggles echoed through the valley. He caught me and we ended up rolling down a hill on the damp grass. Our eyes met and we were drawn together in a daze with each look we drew closer until our lips engaged. Every day I longed for his soft embrace. We lived as if no one else was watching. Young love would do anything for one another. Those days were magical in the green rolling hills of Ireland – now just faded memories. 

I opened my hand and looked down. I clutched onto a small piece of cloth; it was all I had of him to hold onto. Life seemed so much more complex compared to our simple life; though hardship existed across generations. The freedom to live was buried along with the selling of one’s soul. No matter what direction I looked across this land it was built on the absence of the spirit of freedom. There was no choice. Thousands of humans suffered on this land. Man or woman were treated as scum and made to feel shame. The choice was to either be battered and broken or bend to the wind having conformed. Isolation was part of the story. It grew stronger each day. Loneliness engulfed life when connection ceased to exist. I stood up from the grass looked across the land as if I was searching for my long-lost love. Our connection was diminishing. 

I longed for a cup of tea in my hands to warm my soul. It was late April, Autumn’s chill started to hit this part of the world. I had not known peace since those days of young foolish love. Being here gave me a calming spirit that joined all that I had lost as I sat down in the café. I noticed, around me various groups of people; family and friends, children, grandparents and groups of adults mingling together. Perhaps they enjoyed the peace here and felt separated from the hardship that was the foundation of this stonework. Their innocence abounded, particularly in the children; it was such a wonderful moment to be part of but I could not hold it for long. It ripped me apart, a reminder of the lack of love that now existed in my heart.

Silence filled the atmosphere like the calm before a storm. Loneliness erupted the core of my being like I had never felt before. It was like someone had torn my veins out from under my skin. I shuddered. This emptiness inside continued to spread. Being in this place seemed to worsen the disconnection I felt. Was darkness rising beneath my feet turning the lights off within? Some days I felt relief that life had moved on; on other days I felt the torture of the past engulfed all I had left. Today it was the latter.

An eruption to the tranquillity forced its way to be heard more than anything else. The birds reacted first, flying out of their trees, then the kangaroos poked their heads up from the grass and jumped away. The rippling effect of the first booms echoed through the valley. Was it gun shots resounding through the headland bouncing off the old stone buildings? It took a few shots to be fired before the people started to realise then panic. The thunder of death appeared. My back slid down a nearby stone wall. I felt defeated. I held onto my legs as though I could protect myself, but in reality I could not move. I froze in terror. Others around me screamed and ran in all directions. 

I then recalled his eyes, distant and cold, unafraid. I had experienced that look before, captured by men who stood over me and taunted me, breaking my spirit long ago. Had this man felt that desolate isolation of no connection as well? Was he that cold-hearted that he could shoot innocent beings? His pain externalised outwards, while my pain internalised inwards. The past haunted me. Grief stricken my soul but I had no choice. I was here. There was no escape, only to fight for survival. 

The shots slowly diminished in the distance. I sat down on a cold rock near the jetty. I felt the gentle cool breeze across my skin. I watched the water slowly flow in and out along the shoreline. It reminded me of my journey here long go, the cursed wind rocked the ship from side to side. The lower decks creaked in the waves as if they were about to break apart. The rats ran wild, scurried under my hammock at night, and spread diseases that caused the first deaths. 

Many had suffered in this place. All who were present carried the darkness. I was haunted by the past. It lived on. For those of Port Arthur, before and now, young and old, changed the country forever. Lives were taken away for no credible reason. As for me, Catherine, life continued internally imprisoned. I was sent to a distant land long ago from Ireland like the wild geese, but unlike the geese I never returned. All because I stole a loaf of bread. 

Short story, by Mel Baker, 2020

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is old-fading-away-1024x512.jpg
Transitions of time, watercolour & digital art by Mel Baker 2019