PARADISE

Name: Josh Feldberg

Name Of Main Character You Want And Gender: George

Genre: Drama

Character Description: George is a toddler who's home country the UK has been ravaged by war. 

Special Info: George and his family are trying to flee the UK to anywhere with peace. They only have a tiny boat and can't swim. 

Below is your story Josh. Apologies if it is toilet. 

 

George crawled out of bed. He looked over at his baby sister, Amy, sound asleep, her mousey brown hair covered her eyes. He carefully walked out of the room. He poked his head around the living room door. His mum watched television. It was pictures of London but not the same as usual. There was fire, and buildings were broken.

A voice came from the television but nobody was saying the words. “It’s the fourth month of attacks since Britain decided to launch air strikes on Syria. People feel unsafe amid increased terror attacks and retaliation from sympathetic nations, and now people are concerned only with their own survival, so have turned on each other,” the voice said. “Authorities recommend you stay indoors, and if you see rioters, stay well away.”

George didn’t really understand. “When is daddy coming home?” he asked.

His mum muted the television. She turned to him, smiling, but George could tell she had been crying.

“Soon, darling. Soon,” she said. The images of destruction in London still flashed on the television.

George hadn’t seen his dad since he left for the shop three days ago. He’d promised to take George for a ride on the bike they had bought him for his third birthday, but George had been indoors for over a month. 

George’s mum ruffled his bowl cut blond hair. She picked him up and took him back to his bed. "Little George is stronger than an elephant," she sang. "Little George is cuter than a sheep. Little George is faster than a cheetah. But Little George needs to put his head to sleep." George loved that song, and she'd sing it and stroke his hair until he fell asleep. 

 

George woke up curious. He wanted to look outside the window. The curtains had been shut for weeks and he wanted to see if London was broken. He snuck into his dad’s office and stood on his chair. He climbed onto the desk and peered down from their tenth floor council flat. He was a good climber and was often told off by his parents for getting up onto dangerous places.

The few working street lamps illuminated hundreds of rubbish bags piled all over the pavement, and some burst open in the streets. A group of people smashed the window of a Victorian house across the road.

The sound of an explosion startled George. He ran back to bed and put his head under his pillow. George’s mum burst in the door, breathing heavily, carrying a rucksack and wearing a jacket.

“Honey... Me you and your sister are going on a trip. What would you like to wear? Anything you want?” she said. She picked Amy up and bounced her up and down to stop her crying from being woken up.

“Batman,” George said.

 

George’s mum led them to the car park. She opened the dented garage door and unlocked the old, grey car. She strapped George into his child seat next to her, and secured Amy in her papoose to her. She handed Amy her penguin teddy, and gave George her phone to play with. She straightened his Batman mask so he could see better. She turned the radio up to drown out the outside world. What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong played. She put the car in drive and they left the garage.

“Where are we going?” George asked.

“France,” she replied.

“What’s France?” he asked.

“It’s a place where your auntie Claire lives, and we’re going to visit.” Amy stirred. George’s mum stroked her hair. “It’s a paradise. With loads of toys, friendly faces, and lots of sweets.” George smiled. “And if you’re lucky, the real Batman might visit.” 

They stopped at a red light, and George's mum looked around, nervous.

“Will daddy be there?” George asked.

“... Once we’re there... I’m sure he’ll join…”  she said, flat. 

A bang on the window. A man tried to open the door. Blood on his teeth. George’s heart quickened. He trembled. The man stared right at him, banging harder. 

George’s mum drove through the red light. The man chased them for a few steps but couldn’t keep up.

“Just keep looking at me, Batman,” George’s mum said. She held his hand.

 

George could tell they were near the river, because it was more open and George could see Big Ben. He looked to where the London Eye would be but it wasn’t there anymore. Maybe they moved it, he thought.

“Shit,” his mum said, before apologising. George had never heard her swear.

She reversed the car, but there was a truck behind her. She beeped, but a car drove straight into the side of the truck. Both a crumpled mess, now blocking the way.

George looked at his mum. She stared dead ahead, struggling to decide what to do. She unbuckled them and got out of the car. Westminster Bridge was no longer a functioning bridge. Half of Waterloo Bridge was in the water, and George could see pods from the London Eye floating in the Thames.

George’s mum looked around. People in masks raided a shop. One in a Scream Mask, one in a balaclava, and one in a Spider-Man mask. George thought they could be friends, but the man turned and pointed his baseball bat at them.

“Her. Get her rucksack,” the man said to his fellow masked men. 

George’s mum lifted George onto her shoulder. She ran down some steps to the muddy, sandy shore. George could see the man and his friends chasing them as his head bounced with his mum's steps. 

George’s mum stopped by a crusty, tiny, wooden boat. It was barely big enough for George to lie down in, and the planks for seats looked rotten. There was a reason nobody had bothered to take this particular vessel.

“Sit here,” George's mum said.

“No mummy, I can’t swim,” George said, tears filling his eyes. He remembered when they went to the pool once and he swallowed water. He never wanted to go swimming again.

“It’s ok. You’ll be safe in the boat.”

“I don’t want to.”

The men were at the bottom of the steps.

“It’s ok baby I’ll be with you the whole time.”

George held her tight, but she eased him towards the boat.  She placed George on the boat and sat him down.

“See. You’re ok as long as you’re in the boat.” George’s mum put Amy in his arms. “Now keep her steady. We’ll be off in a second.” She grabbed a nearby stick and laid it across the boat as a makeshift paddle. She pushed the boat off land and stepped onto it, but it couldn’t hold the weight of the three of them. She put the rucksack on the shore and tried again. The boat still wouldn’t hold.  

She stepped off. She noticed the men were closer. She looked at her children and cried. She took her phone and purse out of the rucksack and handed them to George. “Keep these in your pockets, and call your aunt Claire when you get somewhere quiet.” She put the rucksack on the boat. “Your sister’s bottle is in there.”

“Where do you think you’re going?” the man said, behind George’s mum.

George’s mum kissed Amy and George on the head. “Be brave like Batman,” she told George through her tears. She pushed the boat away. "I love you."

“Mum!” George shouted. He wanted to get off the boat but it was too far away from the bank.

"Oi! Get them back here!" the man said. 

“Paddle with the stick.” She motioned holding the stick and running it through the water. “Turn around and don’t look back. I’ll see you in France!” she shouted.

George’s mum put her hands up. "You can have anything on me, but you're not touching my kids."  

The man searched her pockets.

George hugged Amy tight and wiped her eye. He heard shouting and turned around. The man swung the bat. It hit George’s mum on the head. She collapsed to the floor. Motionless.

Amy cried. “Shh. Shh. Mum will be ok. She'll be with us later.”

George cried quietly. 

 

George used the stick to paddle around the wreckage of Waterloo Bridge. He used the stick to push off London Eye pods and sweep debris out of the way. In one pod, the body of a woman floated. Her head bumped against the glass every couple of seconds as the windy waters moved her. George wanted to look back at his mum but didn't dare. 

 

George looked through the bag and took out Amy's bottle. He put it next to her. He looked through his mum’s purse and took out her driving license and a photo of them all. He showed Amy. Her eyes flickered with joy. He put the photo and license in his pocket. 

George fed Amy from her bottle. He looked up as they floated towards Blackfriars Bridge. The middle of it totally destroyed. A car teetered on the edge of it.

George paddled away from the car. A rock smashed some wood on the side of the boat. It knocked George onto his back. He looked up as more debris from the bridge fell but luckily missed.

 

George paddled along the Thames, taking in the destruction of this once energetic city. Tower Bridge was missing one tower, and rubbish was everywhere. He paddled until the Thames opened up into a huge sea. George was amazed by the blueness, the openness, and the size. He looked at Amy. This was his family now. A couple of fighter jets flew by overhead, towards London. George could hear the explosions. He covered his ears and closed his eyes. 

 

The sky darkened. George's arms were tired from paddling, so he put the stick down and sat back for a minute. He felt the cold, so took one of his mum’s jumpers from the rucksack and put it over his Batman costume. It was huge, and the smell of his mum made him sad. He could see his sister was cold so he laid his mum’s jacket on top of her. He then used two pairs of her trousers to tie it down and around the rear seat to secure her.

George took his mum’s phone out. He tried to call aunt Claire, but the signal was weak. He kept trying and it connected, but nobody answered.

"Auntie Claire. It's George. Mummy said we're coming to France... I don't know what time the boat gets there," he told the answering machine. 

He hung up and set the phone down.  He shut his eyes for just a moment. He fell asleep.

 

George was woken up by heavy rain beating against his head and wind freezing his ears. He was rocked by the water smashing against the side of the boat. Amy’s crying was drowned out by the rain. George tried to get to her but a huge crash of water knocked him down. He tried again, but was knocked into the sea. He thrashed around, grabbing for anything, trying not to swallow water. He kicked, and clawed with his hands, feeling himself sink. He thought a sea monster would eat him. His hand brushed the side of the boat. He looked towards it as his head was consumed by the water. His fingertips grabbed the part of the boat that had been broken by the rock. He pulled himself back on. 

 

George coughed, in agony. He lay himself under the plank Amy was tied to and held on with one hand, using the other to prevent water from going in Amy’s mouth, as another wave hit. Amy cried and cried. George held on and hoped, as time after time their battered little boat nearly capsized. He thought the boat would shatter. He fought the pain and the fear.

 

When the storm died down, George held his sister. He took out the photo and his mum’s driving license. Drenched but still in tact. No stick, no mobile phone, no bottle, and no rucksack. These were all they had left, and Amy needed changing.

 

George removed his mum’s soaking jumper and used it as a makeshift nappy for her. He wasn’t sure he tied it right but it was on. They both sat, shivering, only warmed by being close. There was nothing they could do now. George rocked Amy to try to get her to sleep. He thought to himself that she was being so brave. He looked at the vastness. He wanted his parents. he thought about what Batman would do, but then he'd never seen Batman stranded at sea. He was mostly in his cave, or in his Batmobile. This boat didn't even have a steering wheel. George tied him and Amy to seat. She was really struggling. He stroked her hair. "Little Amy is stronger than an elephant," he sang. "Little Amy is cuter than a sheep. Little Amy is faster than a cheetah. But Little Amy needs to put her head to sleep." Amy calmed, and they both fell asleep...

 

“Hey!” a voice boomed. “Hey! Batman!” 

George stirred. A bigger boat was next to them with loads of people on it.

“Come on, let’s just leave them,” a man said.

“No. They’re kids. Come on,” another, skinny man argued. George didn’t like the look of him. He reminded him of his neighbour that his parents hated.

“We don’t have the space,” he moaned.

“Yeah, I’ll happily swap you for those two, so don’t be a dick,” a red haired woman added.

George, his lips dry, pained with hunger, stood up. His legs could barely hold him. He didn’t know how long had passed. But he’d slept, woken up, and had to rinse Amy’s jumper in the sea eight times before putting the same soaking garment back on her.

“Where are you heading?” the skinny man asked.

“France,” George said.

The woman smiled as the boat neared. “Welcome aboard. What’s your sister’s name?”

 

George ate a sandwich as the red haired woman asked him his story. He told all he could, about his mum, his dad, and his auntie living in France. The woman mentioned there are sympathisers in France who take children somewhere safe, and she will get them to them. The skinny man watched on, listening intently.

George was excited to get to the paradise his mum described up close, but he was worried about Amy. She needed formula.  

When they got to shore it was just crowds. Crowds as far as he could see, and police keeping them back behind a fence. Some people tried to climb and had their hands and heads beaten through the fence.

"Where's paradise?" George asked. 

"Compared to home, this is it," the red haired woman said.

“Let us in!” people shouted. But they were beaten back.

The red haired woman held George’s hand and Amy in her other arm. “Stay close to me, she said.”

The skinny man punched her in the back of the head. She dropped Amy, who cried. He scooped her up and barged through the crowd.

“You have to let me in. My baby. You gotta let me and my baby in. She's sick,” he said.

The police officer thought about letting the man in, but the red haired woman caught up.

“He’s lying. She’s his sister.” She pointed to George, shivering.

“Ah, my son,” the man said. “There you are, I thought I’d lost you.”

George held the red haired woman’s leg. The policeman took Amy from the skinny man and clubbed him in the leg. He buckled and took another hit to the head. The red haired woman gave him a kick for good measure.

The policeman handed Amy back to the red haired woman.

She stepped forward but the policeman stopped her.

“No.”

“But the children. They're not well. She needs formula.”

“Nobody comes through.”

 

Amy struggled. Her skin was pale and she coughed more frequently. George wished he were the real Batman. Then he could beat everyone up and take her somewhere safe. On the other side of the fence there were sympathetic people pleading with the police to let some of the people through, but they wouldn’t cooperate.

 

The red haired woman walked the kids to the roadside. Cars were let through once checked. She stood in front of a van.

"Get out of the way," the man yelled in his French accent.

"Please. You have to help them. She's sick."

"She's not my sick." The man beeped and drove on.

A police woman approached the red haired woman. "You're making a lot of noise."

"She's not well." 

George held his arms out to hold Amy. She stank. He gave her a kiss on the head and held her close. George was scared for them, but at least they had a friend. 

The skinny man stuck a knife in the red haired woman's lower back. She collapsed to the floor. "Bloody bitch," he said. 

"No!" George shouted. 

The skinny man turned to him. "Shut up." He kicked a leg out, but the police woman struck his ankle with a baton. A colleague joined her and they beat the skinny man. A third police man handcuffed him and dragged him away.

A police woman checked the red haired woman's pulse. She shook her head at her colleague. She turned to George and gestured for Amy. "I'll take her somewhere safe."

George smiled.

"But I can't help you."

George's eyes filled with tears. 

"She will be ok. And there are people helping the sick so go to that hut." She pointed to the medical hut with a huge queue. 

"What do we do about the body?" the police man asked.

"Leave it as a sign to the others," the police woman replied.

George watched as they walked away. 

"Wait!" he called. 

They stopped and turned to him. He ran up to them and handed over the picture of his family and his mum's driving license. "We came to visit my auntie Claire."

They nodded. 

George watched as his sister was taken beyond the fence and put in a car. He smiled, knowing she would grow up safe, hopefully with auntie Claire. Amy might never remember the people in the photo, but at least she was safe. 

END