There wasn't any sunblock for the journey. Not that I worried much about sunblock anymore. When I was a child, we were always reminded to slather on that white, wet cream by parents, at school, at church if we ever went outside. Ever. I heard that at the worst of times, people drank their sunblock. Hard to believe. But then when your mouth is always dry, anything will quench your thirst.You don't want to know what I've drunk on this trip. What I've eaten. Did you ever see any of the Crocodile Dundee movies in the 1980s? People really loved those films. Seems a long time ago now. People loved Australia then. They loved the crocs, loved the koalas, the kangaroos. They wanted to come to our lonely beaches. To see the vastness of the oceans. Surf. The tourists stopped coming well into the drought, when bottled water seemed a ridiculous idea. Now even the animals are gone. It's too hot for most of them. No more eucalyptus leaves for the koalas; the leaves can't even take the heat. I guess the crocs might have gone out to sea since there's no more water on land. No rain, no water. They understood it pretty quickly. Took us a bit longer. I used to live in Darwin, before the voyage. I'm pretty lucky I wasn't from Adelaide or Perth. Too far to travel. Not enough fuel. But Darwin is close enough to water. I'm not talking about the sea of course. All of Australia's cities are close to the sea. I'm talking about fresh water. The kind that falls from the sky and gives forests that smell. You know it, the smell of dampness. It's there waiting for me just across the ocean. In survival guides that I read after university, I learned that you can go without food for weeks, but if you don't have fresh water you won't last more than a day or two. And in this heat, good luck. So I had to go. When the power plant in Darwin stopped running, the air conditioners were already a distant memory. We were on rations and most of the power went to the desalinization plants and to pump that liquid salvation to all our homes. My parents had an orange tree which they managed to keep alive by giving it some of their water ration. Man cannot live on water alone, my father had joked.Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to say that we in Darwin had it worse than in other parts of the country. In the centre of Australia, people just left or died. We were all on the coast by the end. And it still rained on occasion in Darwin. We're tropical. But when it rained it poured. We had no rain for weeks and then floods. But I'd rather have that than the slow burn of South Australia or New South Wales. At least then you can save water. When the power failed, God only knows what happened to those poor bastards. I managed to save enough water for the journey. Filled up all my plastic bottles. Memories of better times. Squandered times. I set out by myself. I didn't have any brothers or sisters and my parents were dead along with their orange tree. They wouldn't have enjoyed the journey but I guess if they had wanted to survive they would have left with me. Maybe they wouldn't have been able to leave. Old habits die hard. But I had nothing to lose. I could have stayed, I suppose, near Darwin. Played uncivilized. Gathered food, ate insects, learned to find water in the parched land. But that's not for me. I belong in a city with buzzing electrical wires and lights that shine day and night. Where you can get everything but have nothing. I can't live in a cave like bin Laden.So to Indonesia. A generation ago it was a backyard Muslim country with nothing to offer us Australians but beaches and hashish. And we bullied them and got our way like spoiled children. We abused them and they were happy for our Australian dollars. It was an ideal relationship. Master and servant. White and brown.Now it is my destination. Once they wanted to come here. For our human rights, for our economy, for our superiority. I bet the asylum seekers that made it and settled in Sydney and Melbourne regret it now. But white or brown, we all need water. Before the power went out, I heard about Indonesians being targeted in Sydney. Lots of blame to go around and few mirrors.The journey was long and I'm not there yet. After trading water for a voyage by boat across the strait between Australia and Indonesia our boat was intercepted by the Indonesian Coast Guard. I didn't think they had one. Lots of extra soldiers on board. They must have been expecting us. They were pretty harsh with all of us. Many of us were too weak from dehydration. We didn't put up much of a fight. They had fun with some of us. The exceptionally weak were pushed overboard. Lots of sharks to clean up the evidence. Not that the UN is going to order an investigation. They never did when we boarded Indonesian vessels enroute to Australia. Besides the UN has bigger problems. Some of us got off lucky with a few bruises or concussions. Some of the women were raped. No news there.
I lost a few teeth but managed to pick them up. Maybe if I make it to Indonesia, a dentist will put them back in. I heard that if you knock out a tooth you should keep your it on ice and see a dentist. The soldiers didn't understand my laughter and they just hit me harder.But I'm still alive. Human rights don't mean much anymore. They never really did unless you had the power. Australia used to have power. But we messed it up. Thought we were in charge of the climate. Thought we could save ourselves with an election and a few voluntary actions. I think ever since the first prisoners were dumped on a beach that our fates were sealed. Australia was never meant for me or my family. I'm as white as a ghost. Does that sound like a good defense against the sun and heat? I guess my white skin reflects sunlight like polar ice. Until I turn pink. We were a people of sunblock. Without it, we were gone. Now the soldiers are deciding what to do with the rest of us. All of a sudden one of them is pointing to something on the horizon and shouting. I don't dare look up over the rail. Maybe it's Bali. I've always wanted to see Bali. Mangoes, durian, rivers, waterfalls, beer. I can taste them all in my dry mouth, on my sandpaper tongue. A dream.What are they looking at? What's coming? I wish I could stand up and see for myself.
Labels: Climate Change, Fiction