Congratulations to Woodford local Bayli Robinson, the winner of the Hinterland Times Young Writer of the Year 2023. Her story was inspired by her work with Kids Against Plastic (kidsagainstplastic.co.uk), where she is Chief Climate Education Officer. “Thank you so much for this amazing opportunity,” Bayli said to us, “it’s great to have a writers’ competition specific to the hinterland, and that so many local businesses have supported it as well.”
by Bayli Robinson (age 15)
I blinked sleepily and looked up at mum’s grey face peering down at me in her pouch. Morning sunlight filtered down through the green-grey of the eucalyptus leaves. The bush around me was hazy with morning heat. A loud beeping noise rang through the trees, mingling with the bird calls. I felt mum tense as she craned to look around. “Humans,” she said, her voice trembling. “Machines.” With shaking paws, I scrambled to peek out of mum’s pouch.
Below the shady canopy of eucalyptus, the honey-coloured sunlight cast down onto an empty forest floor. I couldn’t see any humans or machines, but I could hear them. Mum’s fearful gaze had fallen to a huge yellow beast, making an awful beeping sound. The humans were much smaller than their hideous machines. They carried heavy tools that they swung at each other, laughing carelessly as they trampled the undergrowth and spat on the ground. I felt mum shiver knowingly. “Stay in my pouch, Ginger.”
I heard the awful crunch of wood splintering. Followed the agonising crashes of the tree as the machine slammed into it, shaking the leaves, and splitting the branches. The first tree fell with a horrible, deafening crack. Mum sobbed and I clung onto her plump, grey tummy. “Mum, what’s going on?”
“It’s ok, just stay in my pouch,” she said in a broken voice. I felt her begin to move slowly down the trunk of the tree. She was panting with effort. I struggled to peek out, terror had gripped my body and made it difficult to move.
“Ginger, stay where you are,” Mum said. Her voice was distracted but firm as she stared out at the humans. They were laughing and shouting as they milled in a circle watching the progress. Would they cut down our tree, the whole forest?
I was distracted by a crack, and then the tree shuddered beneath us. I peered down at the ground in alarm. The noise was very close. The humans shouted at each other excitedly as the huge head of the machine swung into the tree. I felt the whole tree shake, Mum clung onto the trunk. I heard her heart rate speeding up, until it almost drowned out the gravelly shouts of the humans below.
I felt the tree lean sideways. Mum shuddered and forced my head inside the pouch. “I love-” crash “-you.” Her voice broke. I felt a final tremor as the machine slammed into the trunk. Crack. I felt like I was floating. In the darkness of the pouch, I couldn’t tell the direction of the ground. There was a huge shudder as we hit the ground. I heard the tree crash down nearby.
My limbs ached from the impact, but mum didn’t say anything. “Mum?” I whispered. She didn’t reply, or even stir. I tried again, my voice breaking. I felt something sticky pooling at the bottom of the pouch, and the metallic smell of blood scratched the inside of my nose. Was that my blood, or Mum’s? My whole body shook with sobs. Mum didn’t comfort me. She was cold and still, but I was too scared to crawl out before the humans took their noise and destruction away.
Long after the last shout had faded through the forest, I staggered out of the cold pouch. Mum lay motionless on the dirt, her neck folded under her body. I flinched and looked away, my eyes clogged with tears. Around me the landscape was unrecognisable. There wasn’t a standing tree in sight. The ground was covered with branches and the setting sun silhouetted the sharp stumps of felled trees. This wasn’t home. Where was home? I realised I was lost.