This was my first year taking part in the NYC Midnight (NYCM) Flash Fiction writing challenge – and what a challenge it was!
I had been hoping to write a blog post this evening about my experience of the competition but as I’ve had my confirmation early than expected I am publishing my story now and will let you all know about the process later. Any feedback is welcomed and thank you in advance if you do decide to read it.
The challenge? A deadline of 48-hours to write a 1,000 word story based on these prompts (I was group 15):
So here you have it, my first round entry for the NYCM Flash Fiction Challenge 2015.
By Donna-Louise Bishop
Two-line synopsis: A survivor of the 2016 riots in Calais, France, a young African migrant becomes trapped in Jungle Camp – a slum made-up of abandoned lorries, corrugated iron and tens of thousands of forgotten people. Love may be the last thing on Alika’s mind, but then she met Jamelia – can their relationship survive their harsh world?
Love in Jungle Camp blossomed as infrequently as flowers grew there. Alika was lucky – she had found it with Jamelia.
Lying on the roof of an abandoned lorry trailer, which inside housed four families, Alika poked at a patch of moss with her toe.
Behind her, the view of the English Channel had been tainted by abandoned Red Cross tents and shelters made from corrugated iron.
She had once told Jamelia she didn’t like facing that way because it made her feel sad. The next day Jamelia found an old metal fork and scratched their names inside a heart onto the roof.
“There. You can look at that instead,” she said.
Alika smiled at the memory and, stiff from being in the same position for too long, she stood up to stretch her legs.
Although late she could see the glow of candles from “the fence” – the name given by the residents here to the hundreds of lorries left along the carriageway during the 2016 riots at the UK border in Calais.
She remembered how, in just a matter of months, the amount of migrants arriving in the French town had increased to a level beyond any predictions made. Alika, with her mama, had arrived just before the violence began.
In her pocket she fingered the corner of an old map which showed the journey she had taken when they left Africa. On it a black pen mapped the route from Eritrea, marking with a cross the places they had stayed at along the way. Their final destination in England had never been reached.
Five years on and Alika, now eighteen, was still living at Jungle Camp where she could only guess tens of thousands of people also lived. Pictures of cars and boats on rusty signs were the only evidence left of the once popular port. The rest of the world had finally turned its back on the area just after the riots when the Channel Tunnel caved in. More than 600 people died that day – it was an incident the French and UK governments were happy to forget.
Jamelia had held Alika tight to her chest that night as she cried over the loss of so many people. Soon after the tragedy her mama joined the deceased passengers in the afterlife. Disease had eventually won the game of life they all played in Jungle Camp.
No one left anymore; they had nowhere to go. The camp’s residents, the children of the forgotten migrants, had learnt to survive the slum.
As the wind picked up Alika wrapped her arms around herself and sat down again. She was always the first to arrive at their private place and had spent many evenings getting cold waiting for Jamelia.
Usually she would occupy herself by daydreaming but even that had become increasingly harder these days. Jamelia was always the stronger one of the two, the one who wore a smile on her face no matter what. She had been the first person Alika spoke to when she arrived and even then she had known she was special. It had been easy to fall in love with her.
Thoughts filled her mind; the first time she kissed her with unexpected passion; the summer night they lay naked together in the heat; the day they held hands through the crowded warren of their home. Through the illnesses, the dehydration, the embarrassments, the loss, filth, loneliness, Jamelia had seen it all. They had lived it together.
“I love you,” Alika whispered.
An empty space greeted her.