I believed we were going to die.
The storm was getting worse, as were the screams. The screams of the ocean. The screams of the people. Beating against my skull like the waves against the wood of the boat. Reaching out, I clutched my thin little girl close, the boat moaning threateningly as if it disapproved of the intimate gesture. Please God, help us, I thought. This wasn’t fair, not for her, my little one. Her three years of life on this earth had not yet provided her the joys of being alive, only grief and tears. There was so much I wanted for her, so many possibilities: her first day of school, her first kiss, her wedding. But she’d never get that now; we’d left one war only to be thrust into another. Was God truly this cruel? As if provoked, a profound screech grated against my ears as a large rusty pole collapsed onto the deck. A man screamed. I froze, a vile liquid swelling up my throat as I watched blood ooze down the man’s cheek in large clumps. I’m going to be sick, I thought, as I swept my daughter behind me and violently hurled over the edge of the boat. The dark waves mocked me below.
Shaking, I turned and stumbled over to the old man with the bloody face, the mass of people around me clutching their loved ones, others clutching anything on this broken ship that resembled stability. I still held onto my little one.
Jane Mitchell is 16 years old and is from Dorset. Firsts is beautifully structured story of displacement told through the voice of a mother battling to escape the country of her birth to find a life of hope for her daughter; Firsts shows the desperation of the refugee and the prejudice that comes as a price of freedom.
This is the fourth year of the BBC Young Writers’ Award which invites all 14 – 18 year olds living in the United Kingdom to submit short stories of up to 1,000 words. The Award was launched as part of the tenth anniversary celebrations for the BBC National Short Story Award and aims to inspire and encourage the next generation of writers.
The five shortlisted writers will attend the exclusive BBC Short Story Awards ceremony on 2 October 2018 at Cambridge University, when the winner will be announced live on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row and they will have the chance to meet high-profile authors, publishers, agents and broadcasters at the award ceremony.
The winning story will be available on the Radio 1 website after the award ceremony on Tuesday 2 October, and will be available to download on the Life Hacks podcast from Sunday 7 October at 6pm. The winner will also receive a personalised mentoring session with an author to enhance their writing skills.
Follow the BBC Young Writer’s Award 2018 on Twitter: #BBCYWA #shortstories @BBCR1