The Song Over the Hill

2013 Years 7 & 8,  Joint Winner:
Drew Ireland-Shead, Balmain Secondary College

The sunset over the hills was breath-taking Amber thought, as she sat at the base of a huge tree staring out at the hills bathed in the warm glow of the evening autumn sky. This was her home now. These hills were her playground; the fluttering orange leaves were her friends dancing around her. The tree, she thought, as she looked up, was probably thousands of years old. This had been its home for a long time, it probably knew all the secrets of these hills and seen many peaceful autumn evenings, but Amber had never seen one quite as beautiful as this.  She was glad that the tree was willing to share its beauty.

“Amber …Amber…Amber…” the word echoed around the hills as if they were trying to remember her name, repeating it to each other again and again. Amber turned to look at her mother, the intruder into her peace, who was calling her from the farm house. She stood up; brushing the leaves from her skirt, but some of the leaves clung on as if begging her to stay in her sanctuary. Reluctantly she shook them off and ran towards her mother, but as she looked back through the trees she saw something. A flicker of dark skin and deep brown eyes, the smell of wood smoke and the sweet lyrics of song which hung in the air.  But as she blinked, it was gone and her mother was calling her inside.

“Amber!” Amber stopped, one foot over the threshold, her whole body itching to explore the hills in the early morning glow. “Amber, wait!” It was her mother, hovering above her like a hawk. “Before you go, I just wanted to talk to you about…, well” nervously, her mother looked out the window, as if checking there was nobody there listening. “There are certain people I do not want you to communicate with. So I think it’s best if you don’t talk to anyone, don’t receive anything from anyone and follow or go to any place with anyone.  Is that clear?”

Amber stood stunned at her mother’s piercing words. “Why?” she whispered. Her mother sighed. “Because… because there are people around here who are different to us,” she finally managed, seeming to choose her words very carefully. At once, Amber remembered the glimpse of the first other life that she had seen around here. The dark eyes peering out at her and the echo of a song which was long since over. The ghost of a child.  Swallowing hard, Amber nodded and left out the door into the morning, which somehow seemed less safe and beautiful and more complicated, and even slightly dangerous.

Her mother’s words still rang through her ears as Amber walked down the path towards her tree she had shared the sunset which last night. “Different, different, different. What did it mean? Did it mean something frightening? Weird and sinister? That’s what her mother had seemed to mean.” Amber couldn’t understand it. She had never thought being different was a bad thing!  The wind and the leaves were different but the wind still roared with laughter as the leaves danced with it.  The sun and the moon were different but they still took turns looking after Earth, working together to ensure the world went round.  The dog was supposed to be man’s best friend but dog and man were completely different!!!

It didn’t make sense! As Amber came to this decision she turned a corner and saw something that made her gasp. The ghost of the child she had seen last night was sitting at the base of her tree, giggling and playing with the leaves.

Of course the child was no longer a ghost. She was living, breathing and laughing with the wind.  She was slightly younger than Amber but her eyes echoed the scars of struggle and maturity. They were dark brown and so deep that Amber felt, as she looked into them, that she could see the child’s inner soul.  The child’s skin was very dark, thought Amber.  Much darker than hers.  It echoed years of sun and fire.  She was fire, the child.  She smelled of wood and smoke and her face was alive as she played with the orange leaves. Amber knew at once, that this child was what her mother had referred to as “different”.  She was about to back away when the child began to sing.

Her voice was so gentle, like a soft breeze that washed away anything her mother had ever said from Amber’s mind.

When she sang it didn’t matter that her skin was a different colour to Amber’s.

Though she had never seen her before, Amber stood staring at this small child who could evoke such meaning in her heart. It was this more that anything that made Amber step forward into the sun and say “Hello, my name is Amber.”

The child started as she saw Amber. She cowered and Amber could see in her eyes what the child was thinking. She could see that in the child’s eyes, she was the hunter and the child, the innocent getting ready to be slaughtered.

“What’s your name?” Amber said gently. “That was a beautiful song.”

These words seemed to calm the child down. Her eyes no longer echoed a storm but sailing through unknown waters. “Rose,” she whispered. “My name is Rose. That song is the lullaby my mother used to sing to me every night.”

“It’s beautiful,” said Amber, and in that moment the two girls connected and the sun seemed so much brighter again.

Rose not only knew all the secrets of the hills, Amber quickly realised, she was the secrets. A wild brumby, that roamed the hills and trees. Amber knew that her mother would disapprove of how ‘different’ Rose was, but she did not care and pushed the thought to the back of her mind as she ran down hills with Rose.

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