Amelia Roles – ‘Misconception’

“A well-executed political piece: excellent stream of consciousness displayed in each tightly packed paragraph, and a crisp ending.” – Delia Jarrett-Macauley, novelist, academic and broadcaster, and Chair of the OYP judges 2023

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Five minutes.

Five minutes to wait. Five minutes of dread. That’s what awaits you. Five minutes silently praying that only one red slash appears. Five minutes in which you decide you can no longer sit motionless on the toilet seat, waiting, dreading, praying. Five minutes in which you get up, leave your room 101 and grab  your phone, cradling it close because any comfort is better than none. Cradling it like you’d cradle a baby, just like you might have to if the white window of the plastic stick is smeared with two red strokes of blood. Like the blood spilled on the battlefields in the latest day of this cruel, constant war  against humanity.

Four minutes.

Four minutes in which you open the news, already anticipating the horrors. Four minutes where you see the yellow and blue flag dragged through the dirt by the criminals who claim to want peace. Four minutes where you read about the people who are doing this for absolutely no reason except their  own selfishness and pride. Pride that spurs these monsters to massacre innocent people, no more  than numbers to the cowards that call themselves leaders. Leaders who commit atrocities others gasp  at, yet do nothing to protect the future generations from having to witness them. Future generations  who don’t get a choice, being born into this endless cycle of misery. Misery we are taught we deserve. But other people bomb civilians mercilessly despite them not being at any fault in the causation of this war. Not a “special military operation”, a war where innocent masses are just pawns to manipulate  leaders to make the coward’s moves.

Three minutes.

Three minutes where you become wiser about thousands of spectators starving in Africa, fleeing their  seats from the encroaching desert, sprinting closer, dragging everything it can under with it and  instead of weaving through obstacles he sprints straight through them. The sea warms up on the  opposing side of the field, threatening to break dreams. When the whistle blows, the two of them will  fight for territory, each wanting more than either should have, pressing forward relentlessly. Both  want to win, to be victorious, to have the right to rule over the other. The rainforest stands on the  sidelines, watching morosely. She should cheer, she should encourage them to fight but her green  pom-poms dangle uselessly from her sides, brown sleeves pulled down to hide the vine like scars that  snake across her arms. The scars run deep and the ones creating them don’t realise that with her  silence they’ve bought their own destruction and signed the contract. They barely look at the contracts  they sign, their names on her death warrant. The death warrant so many know of and yet push her  towards the gallows themselves. After the game, orphans dig through litter bins desperately seeking  food even if it’s just a crumb of popcorn to sustain them another day. These children who shouldn’t have to provide for themselves.

Two minutes.

Two minutes in which you read how youth suicide rates have increased dramatically. Children who  haven’t had their chance to make positive impacts on the world, to teach others to be better, to not make the same mistakes that have led us to this avalanche of depression, ending their existences because they can’t cope anymore. They murder themselves with knives, with alcohol, with drugs, the  things they shouldn’t have access to and yet use to take away the pain, anything to get that clarity,  that swooping high that is wrongly given in the form of pills, drink and blades. Why are children feeling so desperate that they want to die? And why is society shunning them if they have scars on their bodies or a constant smell of alcohol or constant mood changes from withdrawal. Why are parents doing nothing, feeling disappointed they’ve been saddled with these burdens they forget they created and were supposed to have nurtured, cared for, rocked through tears. The children whose parents should have waited at the school gates, held them quietly after a nightmare, cried for them at  graduations, fed them, clothed them, loved them. The children who are shouted at, blamed, locked  away, manipulated into believing they are unworthy of love or time. The children who are hit,  abandoned, starved, forced to endure the torment they didn’t ask for and do not deserve.

One minute.

One minute in which you contemplate why anyone would want to bring a child into this world anyway. Why have a child if it will only be put through all the torture that the universe has to offer? Allowing the child’s soul to go and be at peace before it has to face these horrors would be so much kinder, so much less painful for both of you. The baby you will be forced to carry for nine long months of suffering because five judges, all of whom aren’t part of the generation of fighters, of protesters, of people who want their rights, made you the criminal if you decide that you don’t want to raise a child in this godawful world. Five judges, four of whom are men, who never have to worry about pregnancy, who have never had to wonder if one wrong move could ruin their lives, who have never had to clutch keys between their knuckles and hurry past catcalling drunks propped up in alleyways, no one to hear you  scream if the worst happened. The men who are allowed to make decisions for millions of women despite never having felt the relief at the sight of blood on a sanitary towel – the knowledge that you won’t have to worry about a child in this cruel world is the greatest relief in the universe. The woman who agreed with them because of the age old ideals people are blinded with. The ideals that people  will have to fight to change and unlearn.

Zero minutes.

Five judges and two lives.

Five minutes and two lines.

Amelia Roles is a junior winner of The Orwell Youth Prize 2023