• White Lines.

    In my rear view mirror, my life is getting clearer, as I absconded from my home town – my obliterated town on February 10th, 2009. The desolate landscape of Marysville, north-east of Melbourne, was a supplementary eyeful of the past, but not how I had recalled it. Colour riots in spring, a cool haven in summer, a frozen paradise in winter and golden leafy canopies in autumn. In spring, cottage gardens came alive with blossoms of dogwood, azaleas and rhododendrons. The main street boasted an avenue of century-old oak trees, show casing a golden canopy in autumn. Summer brought a patchwork of wild flowers and temperate warm skies. The valleys, rivers, cascading creeks, ferns, rainforest, exotic trees and gardens retained their scenic beauty beneath a thick blanket of snow in the winter. That was before the bush fires began to sweep through Marysville as if all the wonder was drained and the past only became a vision. I guess the sunset can only sigh then slowly disappear into the midst of the skyline and wait for another dawning.
    My trinkets once were treasures...now barely even trinkets. Smouldering cinders were the remains of the white spacious cottage, with only the substantial brick chimney breast standing broadly in a conspicuous extensive area. This white cottage – with trellis flowing around the front door as if deposited by angels – was an extract of my family heritage for the past ten decades, and now, the smouldering ruins brought a lump to my throat as I was glaring back through Marysville as if driven by some evil spirit not long before I had arrived at what used to be my childhood recollection. Now, to me, what was my childhood home was a ghost town. All communication I had formerly with my relatives were abolished. Memories I had kept for 31 years were fading rapidly. As I kept glancing back in my rear view mirror, it seemed like there was only one way out of the terror and torture of my mind – to hit the broken road. So I drove, whilst watching white lines pass by, as the blazing fire prolonged, the sky briskly turned into a thick blanket of charcoal leaving only a horrible orange incandescent skyline. The blanket of charcoal seemed to be caving towards me, nowhere to escape, and no way to help. I could see this vague figure ahead, staggering left to right across the broken highway.
    I could distinguish a bewildered face and a petite body covered with soaking towels for protection against the heat. As the physique approached, I could make out that it was a teenage girl. Just at the first glimpse of her, I could sense she was looking for some shelter, with a suitcase full of dreams. An orphaned teenage girl, full of aspirations; it was instinct to see this. All I could do was lift her lifeless body into the back of my car for her to recuperate. The only sound I could hear was the roar of fireballs, racing through the forests whilst I sat and watched over the intriguing girl. You see, no one wants to be themselves these days, and now, also nothing to hold on to as memories fade. Stars seem out of reach, days are slow, and love doesn't last in these desperate times. It just feels like there isn't anybody left but us these days. But then, my priority was to keep this young girl secure as she was slowly awakening. This is where she unfolded her story to me.
    “My name is Karina. Yes I am 17, still a teenager.” Karina seemed to be whimpering when she spoke. Her voice sounded so delicate. My words were failing me drastically.
    “Marysville, which was one of the loveliest townships in Victoria, if not Australia, has just been wiped out. I feel distraught. This has been an emotional day. My life was there; I lost my life. I have never seen anything like this, not even in movies.”
    Words continued to fail me. She was pulling me down into the Earth's core as tears made me sink further into the ground. Something told me Karina hadn't even got to the distress of her recollection yet. Her eyes were shimmering pools and her hands were shaking at 3.4 on the Richter scale.
    “My parents even spoke to me and my brother about heaven. That's where I wish I was!”
    Now the tears were sliding down her face just like melted metal swerving down hills from the intensity of the fire. At a wild guess, I had already concluded that her parents must've perished in the devouring fire.
    “My brother was the first one to get caught. Mother tried everything. She dampened towels and threw them around him. Father put his hands over my eyes. I can't remember anything. I just have this screeching sound piercing my ear drums, over and over again. I can barely hear anything else. My brothers last sound.”
    She became hysterical. She began to scream, no longer whimpering. The traumatic effect this already had on Karina would undoubtedly affect her in later life – and I'm no psychologist. I felt it was best if I drove her to a safe haven.
    So I drove, whilst watching white lines passing by. Inadvertently the radio turned on. 'There's only one play left I want to go, who says you can't go home.' Karina had calmed down, but now, her tears started to flow once more – gushing as if her eyelids were a rivers mouth. I had no tissues; all she had was the damp towel. Distracting images were in my mind, floating around like airborne bubbles. Karina hadn't even concluded her story. As I drove, I noticed the blaze rapidly spreading through the forest either side of the broken highway I was driving on. I still hadn't spoken to Karina. Her recollection had brought me to rack and ruin.
    “Mom and Dad told me to run. Run for my life. I could. They st.. started to scream: 'I will see you very soon. Hold your head high. I will watch over you.'”
    She was holding together well. She was overcoming her emotion. It was that, or hiding it until finally she would break down. Myself...I was not holding together. I needed to comfort her, but this was a race I was determined to win. Man against fire. No need to elaborate. Karina was my concern. I had no destination planned.
    “My father was so horrifically burnt. Skin hanging off him at every possible place. He was wailing. Mother was holding him closer to her heart. She repeatedly screamed 'till death do us part.'”
    “Karina, you are a courageous girl. I promise I will get you out of here. If it's the last thing I do. You need to rest. It's hard. Try for me.”
    I needed her to rest. The fire was creeping behind us as I could feel the heat pulsating around the car. The tarmac was became sticky, which was making the road awfully uneven. I dreaded the worst. The car tyres were turning into melting ice-cubes. Hiroshima was stuck in my head. The sky that I seemed to be driving towards was swallowing me up. The oxygen was limited. Everything was lifeless. The orange glow was growing hastily behind me and Karina. It was unrealistic of me to ask her to try and rest. It was blatant she wouldn't be strong enough.
    Through the charcoal sky, I could see gushing water. Crystal clear water; shooting from out of nowhere. It brought a glimmer of hope to both me and Karina. Her facial expression changed. A daunting look appeared. I was watching the white lines pass by when I saw a glimpse of my nightmare: bodies, blood, clothing, metal, glass, brick, animals. This is where I began to scream and started to shake uncontrollably.
    “Karina, cover your eyes. Now!”
    I was only a few yards from safety. The fire engine was in focus. I could see the water hoses bleeding water. However, something didn't want me and Karina to stay alive. My car was dying. As I was in the process of opening the door, it melted like ice-caps. My foot touched the tarmac lightly and instantly began to sink. I had to tread lightly.
    “I am as light as a feather. I am as light as a feather!”
    I ran round to the passengers door; the glass shattered. The sheer force of the heat had compressed the glass to breaking point. That sound was my wake up call. Like a flash I gently lifted Karina over my shoulder. I had tu run. There was no other option. Firemen seemed to be run towards me in hoards. A wet fog sprayed onto my brow lightly. I seemed to be treading on ash. Terror trembled through through my body as I knew I was running on people. Lions – roared past my ears. The firemen took Karina from my shoulder.
    “Who do I hold a funeral for my family? What do I wear? Who will look after me? Where do I life?”
    Karina's shrieks were eating me from the inside. I was hearing her sobs continuously. Helplessly, I was standing still. I was turning around to see how much damage my car had taken; only to witness a molten catastrophe. I had to face the fire-fighters again before I broke down. My tears had started top run down my patchy skin turning into boiling water streaming down my face. The feeling of deception was around me. I could see body parts surrounding me. I was standing on squelchy flesh. Burning muscle gave an aroma similar to rancid meat. Burning skin smelt of charcoal, whilst hair smelt of a sulphurous odour. The smell was overwhelming. You could almost taste the limited oxygen surrounding me. I could hear the blaze creeping up behind. I swivelled round to face the blaze. Engulfed in a fireball is when I hit the ground like a subsiding cliff. My blistered hands started to feel my face; I could not see. Fragments of sediment felt lodged in my eye socket, scraping away at the skin of my eye. In the midst of feeling my face I was pondering. I couldn't panic. Something told me to relax. My body was shutting off as if my brain was a computer with a virus. My hands were finding it hard to find my facial features. My hands were sticky. I felt naked. My hands fell to my side where I could feel debris around me. I could hear 'how do I hold a funeral for my family? What do I wear? Who will look after me? Where do I live?' screeching through my ears. And then, I seemed to be lying in a pool of liquid...

    Marysville is the town that disappeared. Once known as Melbourne's honeymooning centre, with it's pretty guest houses and century-old oaks, the town, about 60 miles from the Victoria state capital, is now a smouldering, post-apocalyptic wasteland.