Sunday 28 November 2021

Nerd Church - Dunkirk Spirit


'Dunkirk Spirit' with an artsy ocean-waves background

I don't know whether this counts as creative non-fiction, or a short story, or what - but it was something that I kind of needed to write, y'know? Anyhow, here it is:

(Warning: this post contains discussions of refugee status and journeys, war, the danger of drowning, and related themes)

dividing line

He's tired.

It's night - the difference is hard to tell sometimes, the gloom, mist, murk, makes day like dusk. But now it's night. Full dark. The sound of a large number of people trying hard to be quiet. No lights - must not be seen.

His mind has hidden, in a holding-place inside his head, where he can stay and pretend that none of his body hurts, that he is not hungry, that his feet can take him anywhere he needs them to. He holds back tears, because if they fall he doesn't know if they will stop. He looks through eyes like windows.

They are waiting in the sand. 

He recognised a few people - before the light went - some he knows from home, some he met here, in this strangest of in-between worlds where all are waiting. 

Somewhere along this beach, in the dark, is his friend - almost his brother - from a childhood that seems so distant now, at the grand old age of 20; an odd reminder of life before the war.

He doesn't think about the journey. He cannot think about the journey. If he thinks about it, he won't get into that little boat. And he knows he must - he can't stay here. Here, where they take turns to sleep at night with their backpacks as pillows.

His brother is waiting for him in Kent. 

Warmth and a real bed is waiting for him in Kent. A bed that no-one else has slept in - a bed that is just his in a safe place with people he loves. 

A quiet place where, once he gets his papers, he can settle down, get a good job, maybe meet a girl, get married, have children - a place where he can find peace, and try to forget the things he's seen.

The boat comes.

It's small, and he tries not to think about it. He tries not to imagine the waves turning them over, long before they see the English shore; he tries not to think of this weighty water as his tomb. 

At this point, he's not sure whether it matters, either way. If he stays here, he will die sleeping out in the open of the French countryside - his family may never know.

They line up to get on.

A scuffle breaks out at the shoreline as someone tries to jump the queue. The splashing seems loud enough to wake the dead; if only that were true - then those they had left behind would be with them.

There are hissed words and maybe a threat or two, some gun-waving, and then order is restored. 

They all clamber, unsteady, up onto the boat - so many stumble with tiredness, so many bite lips to stop from making noise as they move limbs which have not rested for so long.

He gets onto the boat.

He feels unsteady, as they all do. He grips the side of the tiny vessel, trying to ground himself in a world of water.

The shore is behind them. France is behind them.

He doesn't know whether he is laughing or crying; perhaps he's doing both.

Kent is ahead. His brother is ahead - his sister-in-law, his little nephew. 

They are waiting for him. Family and love are up ahead.

Perhaps now, he can rest.

- Dunkirk, May 1940 and November 2021

dividing line
To support refugees in Dunkirk and Calais, find ways to help on the Dunkirk Women's Refugee Centre website, and the Care4Calais website

Nerd Church is going on break in December, and will be back on 9th January 2022

You can follow me on Twitter @CeeDoraReads, on Pinterest, and on Dora Reads @ BlogLovin. For more ways to support me, check out the Support Me page

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