This week on Words, Pauses, Noises, we are pleased to present our first winning entry from our 2015 Creative Writing Competition in the Flash Fiction genre: ‘Name for Peace’ by Charlene Edley.
This piece offers a snapshot of a country on the cusp of change, and a narrator struggling to reconcile a dark past with a bright future. The sense of a shifting tide is strong, and the voice is effective in conveying a sense of uncertainty, and a mingling of fear and hope.
Name for Peace
Why hello there. You must be new to this place. How did I know? No it’s not from your dress, you dress like a native of this land. What gave it away was your eyes my friend. Yes, I can tell from your eyes. You see they are still full of joy and hope, they are not experienced as mine are nor are they filled with knowledge. Please forgive me, I did not mean to startle you. Here, take a seat.
It all started several years ago. I was simply a new-born of this country. Unbeknown to me, the generation before mine was to be the last to experience the divide. My birth and countless other children that began to breathe the sweet air of the nation for the first time was the mark of the end. We were brought up with the idea of endless possibilities and change.
The law of the land had finally changed and new prospects for the nation was on the horizon. For a brief moment we were one, or so I am told by my father and his father before him, but I digress. You see in the beginning of the new start, as it was sometimes called, it was harmonious. Those that weren’t able to work were able to do so, the shackles of confinement were finally taken off. People of all races were intertwining. We were finally a rainbow nation. Many people would argue, however, that this was the start of the downfall but I am getting ahead of myself.
My mother recited the new laws to me as if they were poetry.
For the next few years many laws were put in place. The schools became integrated and the children of the Townships finally had opportunities that their parents could never have even dreamt of having. I was one of these children, unaware of the real importance behind my education. Being in education is what I knew as normal, the older children had more reservations about the change and made life difficult for the other kids now attending the school. Prejudice was still very much in place even though many of the adults chose to deny it.
It was only in later years that the truth became clear. The man that had started the equality had stepped down from his presidency, only to be replaced by a person who would soon divide the country once again. To appease his predecessor, this man kept the current laws of integration in housing, the workplace and education but things happened behind the stage curtains of parliament. Crime was on a gradual increase at first but then the atomic boom of violence exploded around the nation. The roles were reversing. Many believed that history would soon repeat itself with an ironic twist on the once dominant race.
Children joined forces behind this man and their chants filled the streets. ‘Kill the farmer, kill the Boer!’ I’m sure you heard it on the news. The hinges of the country became loose. Blame had been casted and it shifted depending on who the accuser was. Chaos clouded everyone’s judgement.
I do not recognise my homeland now. The beautiful memories of my youth, when everything was prosperous is all I have. It is all that keeps me loyal to this place. I know, or rather hope, that it will be glorious one day.
My friend, please do not fear my story. I told you this to teach you of our history.
About the Author
Charlene Edley was born in South Africa and moved over to the UK with her family when she was fourteen. Growing up she often heard stories about the country but she never took any true notice of what was happening. She just assumed that the problems South Africa faced was no worse than other countries. She only really starting taking notice of how bad South Africa was after moving to the UK and also only after speaking to others that had moved over from there as well. Her grandparents often tell her stories of how things were during apartheid. She never knew the true extent of the segregation as she grew up in post-apartheid times. Her schools were integrated and that was normal to her. She did hear stories from people older than her and what struggles they faced when it came to combining race in school. She fully admits that she had a sheltered upbringing in SA and that’s where she thinks her idea for this piece came from. She writes from a fictional perspective that is also her own.
Join us next week for the winning entry in Poetry!