Author : Lydia Devadason
The whirr of the surveillance drone broke the silence. Georgie looked beyond the mountains of waste and makeshift huts housing her family and the rest of the excludes; she scanned the sky above the perimeter fence to try to locate the sound.
‘Quick, pass me the spanner.’ Tommy’s words fired from his mouth as he worked on the plane.
Georgie moved the mechanics book and scrabbled through the box at her feet. Spanner in hand, she ran through the piles of discarded metal. ‘I’ll take it from here. Move over.’
Tommy stood his ground. She shoved him in the arm.
‘Come on, I’m quicker than you. Shift!’
Georgie’s heart punched her ribs as Tommy crawled away. The spanner was too big and it took a few attempts to grip the nut. Finally, despite her hands slipping on the handle, it turned. And tightened. The metal buckled from the strain.
‘How’s the glue?’
Tommy prodded the tail with his finger. ‘Still sticky.’
The wind picked up, swirling rubbish in their direction.
Gripping the metal, Georgie tugged. ‘The cockpit’s sturdy. It’s fixed!’
Or at least, it resembled a plane once more.
‘Do you think we can do this?’ Tommy’s eyes widened. It was his turn to search the sky.
‘Yes.’ Georgie couldn’t look him in the eyes. ‘The propeller and controls work again. We’re almost there. This is it – our ticket out.’
‘Tommy, we have to get help. Suppose we find houses, where people aren’t forced to eat the others’ leftovers?’
‘B— but what if there’s no such place? Or what if the others don’t want us? Mum said the prisons were full so they dumped grandma here.’
‘No, that’s not right, people wouldn’t leave us. Something’s happened outside the fence – a disaster.’
‘But – then who’s operating them?’ Tommy pointed at the metal object buzzing towards their position.
‘Not now, Tommy, get in.’
The boy stopped. Tears streamed down his cheeks. ‘There’s no time, Georgie, we won’t make it.’
She looked up. Two hundred feet tops.
She punched the ground. ‘Arrgh! We won’t get it back in the den. Quick, help me hide it.’
They rushed around, piling wood, metal, bones – anything within their grasp – over the conspicuous shape.
‘Georgie, come on, we’ve got to get out of here.’
‘Wait.’ She covered the wings.
Georgie grabbed Tommy’s hand. They ran and dived into their hole. She pulled the metal sheet across, but left an inch so she could watch the drone, as it hovered over the place they’d been. She felt Tommy tremble against her leg. Her heart skipped in protest as she held her breath.
A flash lit up the sky; a loud bang.
Tommy jumped but she didn’t react. Smoke billowed from the ground where the mountain of waste had previously sat.
There were no tears this time. Instead, heaviness dragged her stomach and head down, down, to the bottom of the hole, and her lungs ached with every breath.
Tommy squeezed her hand. ‘It’s OK. We’ll try again, tomorrow, with one of the others.’
Georgie turned her head. She watched the drone fly across the rows of wrecked planes and into the distance.
‘Yes, Tommy,’ she said finally. ‘We’ll try again – tomorrow.’
She wasn’t sure there’d be a tomorrow.