Ngurrun – The Sun
The paper is bygone. Dusty and fragile it shakes in my hands, the ink diluted, words pale and scarce. Regardless, I can make out the faded lines spilled across the page, words written by my own mother. Do I want to know the truth? I begin to read.
Warratjja means dance in Aboriginal language. My language. Fridays are warratjja nights. Today is Friday, so today is a dancing night. Everyone in the community is here, all families, even the elders, for a night filled with love, good food, endless music and quiet stories about the dreamtime. Under the eucalyptus trees friends sway, arm in arm, hand in hand, the didgeridoo’s singing into the darkness. The mood is warm, faces beaming with contentment. I feel calmly elated, the warm summer breeze, rippling through the tree tops, tingling my skin. The Ngurrun went down long ago, but the moon is gleaming and the stars light up the red dirt under our bare soles. Time passes slowly up here, when you’re not dancing, and I hum along to Guddas tunes.
A faint noise suddenly makes itself noticeable behind me. It is vivid and loud, but muffled by the music. Tat, tat, tat.
My head swirls around. Someone is running in the distance. It is dark, but the moon casts a silver path of light over the land. I squint, pushing the tree branches aside. The person is inching closer, running faster, and suddenly I can see them clearly. It’s a man, with white skin. I swallow. More and more men appear behind him, running. I look back to my people, they haven’t noticed, still dancing, oblivious to the feasible danger. As I return my glance to the men, one of them draws a black object.
I want to scream, to warn my family, my friends, my Ngala, my Natjja, Jedda and Tarni. But I am held back. Fear refuses my mouth from opening, paralysing my body.
Three gunshots dash through the branches under me. I don’t dare to breathe. The music has stopped now. People are screaming. Seven more bullets tear through the darkness. I try to imagine them burying themselves into tree trunks, but the screams of my friends are not my imagination. The white men yell, commanding people to get on their knees. Some people have taken to their feet, running towards the bush, but most are hunched on the ground, covering their heads, pleading. Others are already lying, face down, red streams tracing down their dark skin.
Still I am paralysed.
Then I hear a familiar voice. My Ngala, screaming my name. I see her, back against a tree trunk. She is on her knees, a white man standing over her. I close my eyes, my body shaking. He won’t do it, I think. He wouldn’t dare to. He is not so cruel.
The gunshot that followed ripped apart my heart. Adrenalin sets me free. Pressing my hand over my mouth, I scream, looking up to the sky, in devastation.
Twenty-eight more gunshots are fired until there is silence. My eyes are still shut.
“Is that all of ‘em?”, a deep voice grumbles. “Yeah. It is.” Another replies.
“Some of the bastards got away, Jack.” Another man says.
“So? It don’t ma’er. They won’t survive out there anyways, bloody bastards!”
“Bloody they sure are now, ha! Let’s get outta here fellas.”
Hard leather boots stomp on the earth, fading with dread.
From up here in the tree I watch the men walk away, until they are nothing but ants on the horizon.
I breathe heavily.
“Is anyone there?” I whisper, my voice shaking.
“Please. Ngala? Jedda? Tarni?” I climb down the tree, getting faster the further I go down.
My feet hit the dirt, tingling, the blood rushing down.
Around me my people are lying, a red dot-painting of death. I tiptoe around them and spot her, in the white silk dress. It is stained with blood. “Ngala!” I scream. “Ngala, NO! No no no Ngala, NO!” I shake her body, but it is cold and lifeless. I wrap my arms around her, my screams muffled, crying uncontrollably. I smell her scent, so familiar, until I become accustomed to it, and can’t smell it any longer. I try to imagine her dancing, her smile, the last time she laughed that contagious laugh. Oh how I love her so dearly, even now she is gone. I lay with my mother all night, sleeplessly sobbing.
I am awoken the next morning, with light and warmth, but I am stone cold, dread compressing my chest, no tears left to cry. I look at my lifeless friends and family. The death that was dancing only a few hours ago. The life that was stolen from me, the life I helped steal.
I place the paper down beside me. Mother is in the room now, looking at me, sadness sagging down her face.
“The stories I heard were bad, but this is terrible mother. I’ll never forgive white people”, I declare. “Never!”
Mother looks at me. “Not all white people are like that.” She says.
“So you forgive them now, do you!?”
“I – It’s a terrible thing that happened. It haunts me like it was yesterday!” She declares.
“But yes, Kirra, I forgive them” she says quietly.
“Do you forgive yourself?” I interrupt, looking at her now. She avoids my eyes.
A long moment of silence begins.
Finally mother breaks it.
“Look out there, at Ngurrun.” She says.
I turn back towards the window, my eyes wet, and I look towards the horizon. Ngurrun is sinking, tiny rays of last light shining over the ribbons of colour in the sky, slowly fading.
“Ngurrun is leaving now, like she does every night.” she says. “But she will be back tomorrow. She’ll be back every day, no matter what. No one knows why, but she comes, and that’s all that matters. No matter how the cruel actions of humanity, the sun comes back every single day, giving us light to continue living. Forgiving us.”
She pauses, then continues.
“If Ngurrun didn’t forgive us, we wouldn’t be here. We would never continue on. You see Kirra, the only way to start a new day, to move forward in life, to love again – is by forgiving.”
There is silence.
I look out, through the dust-stained window, over the red earth, at Ngurrun, the fire that is almost out. When finally she has fallen asleep, I know she has forgiven the world today, and I sigh reassuringly, knowing she will be back tomorrow.