Iris Mamier – ‘ “Beware of the dog!” says the man with the gun’

“A very moving depiction of the refugee crisis, emotively contrasting human experience with political rhetoric and media coverage. This story raises questions about what it means to be a “narrator of the truth”. ” – Marianna Spring, Disinformation and Social Media Correspondent at the BBC and Orwell Youth Prize judge 2023

Free stock photo of Fear1ess3, London Diversity, London Newspapers

HEADLINES: 27/06/2026 

Broken Britain!  

Rising rates of unemployment may be linked to high numbers of asylum seekers who enter the country illegally, according to a new  report which has affirmed nationwide concerns. 

“We want illegals out!” said Michael Hopkins, leader of Reform UK who are set to overtake the Conservatives in local elections next  week. “They think they can just wander over here and jump the queue! Born-and-bred British should come first.”


On Tuesday morning, Ahmed woke with a start.

That infernal dog! He had good mind to send it away, but when he heard its woeful whining he  couldn’t help feeding it. It wasn’t much, only scraps of whatever beige concoction he had gulped  down the night before, but the dog didn’t seem to mind and came back with an irritating regularity.

Ahmed supposed it must be a stray, or perhaps it was the dog who sensed the same in him.

Most likely, it was just out for Ahmed’s shoes. Three pairs had already been swiped and probably  buried under a pile of dirt somewhere. The charity had said it wouldn’t replace them anymore. He was already on thin ice.

Returning inside, Ahmed hovered in stasis by the door, suspended in thought, until suddenly remembering that he needed to write a letter. A letter to his dead mother.


Dear Mama,

Although I would never have admitted it, I will forever be grateful that you taught me Kurdish.  Although I may have scrunched my nose in disdain at the prospect of practicing my script.

As ink bleeds into paper along the curve of each letter, I feel your hand over mine, guiding the  shape of my mark. I hear your whispers, your phantom breath etches its own lines over my cheeks,  my eyes and my forehead. The guilt I carry now is an innumerable weight, which pushes down on  my shoulders and hunches my back. If only you could see what had become of your boy.

I once believed that I could leave some kind of legacy through my words, that I could sit on my  windowsill, and breathe my wishes out into the night. But here, harsh and biting gusts of vitriol whip my ears and squeeze themselves through the cracks underneath my bed. My words are  overpowered and I shiver in my sleep.


Ahmed put down his blunt pencil, there was a tremor in his fingers. Pressed into his temples they  pulsed with each processional drum of his heart. By now, Ahmed had come to expect these episodes  from time to time, especially after he’d written a letter. His legs were shaking now too.

The light above the bed flickered and twitched erratically, but Ahmed had no choice but to stare  straight at it. To gaze into the night would be to let in a memory – of dark water up to his waist and  the flashing lights of a rescue vessel, which drew close and pulled back just as quickly. Like the tide  before a tsunami.

To let his eyes wander would be to embrace the towering wave and reality of his home – a bare trailer sitting on wasteland. Of his prospects – a life of scraping the bottom of the barrel in a country which spat at his bare feet. Or of his fear.

When Ahmed stirred, the sky had soured. He crossed the floor, lifted the loose wood panel in the  corner of his room and tucked his confession deep into the floorboards.


HEADLINES: 28/06/2026 

Invasion ‘must be stopped’ says PM.  

Ahead of next year’s general election, the Prime minister has assured the public that he is committed to protecting British citizens from “economic migrants who seek to take advantage of our generosity”, promising a “total ban on small boats” by 2028. 

The statement comes following the 270 deaths on Monday after a rubber dinghy sank 3 miles from the Kent coast.


Dear Mama,

We’re taught that fear exists within nightmares.

The childish kind of nightmares that draw a vivid monster hiding under your bed. I had many of  those in Syria. You were always a light sleeper, and would appear at my side to stroke my thumb, press your forehead to mine, and whisper ‘it’s alright. it’s alright. You’re safe now.”

Then I grew up and the bombs started falling – still you would cradle my head and swaddle me in  your arms, chanting ‘it’s alright, it’s alright. I’m still here’. I didn’t need to believe in monsters  anymore to know terror.

It would be typical of me now, after all I’ve suffered, to stay up all hours of the night without the  warm hand of my mother to stroke my forehead and soothe me back into sleep. But I sleep like a  child – deeply and in blissful ignorance.

When I am awoken by fear it is not because I am reeling from a fleeting nightmare. It is when I  must leave my sleep, and rejoin the world again, that I am terrified.

Only in children’s story books are the grieving haunted under the cover of darkness by ghouls  and benevolent spirits. I had grown out of childhood by the time you were lost to the sea. What sense would it make to be haunted by you in dreams?

Instead, I am haunted by you when I hear a piano play.

I am haunted by you and I close my eyes.


The following Tuesday Ahmed was woken by distant barking.


His only view from the window was over a barren landscape, twiggy trees preceded by a vast expanse  of dark, grassy ocean, where a feeble light suddenly emerged.

Where was it coming from? It warped as if a living breathing thing, pulsing with energy. He stood,  transfixed by its frenetic beauty until registering that it seemed to be moving closer.

The light burst through his window, spilling burning embers into the room, which swarmed up the  walls and curtains. Ahmed distantly wondered what it would be like to reach into the fire and  surrender to its hypnotic charms, as it wound a snake-like trail charging towards…

His letters!

Ahmed tore at the floorboards and grabbed a fistful of paper sheets, scrambling towards the door,  when a terrible crunch poured grit into his ears and a sharp cry echoed off the walls.

An object was blocking his path. A boot.

Ahmed looked up, a blurry man caught his eyes and grinned. A second figure ripped down his flag  before dangling it over the fire. Flames licked hungrily at its edges, tasting the fabric. The men  laughed wildly as Syria’s blazing stars were at last ignited and devoured in a combustion of smoke  and fire.


HEADLINES: 04/07/2026 

Freak fire in trailer park!  

Last night, a seemingly spontaneous fire erupted in an abandoned trailer park outside Halifax. 

The fire sparks concern regarding the safety of such sites (often the residence of illegals) and risks they might pose to local residents. MP Mark Florin promises that the safety of his legal constituents is his ‘top priority’.


Ahmed felt no relief when the fire engine arrived in the early hours of the morning. The hard hat was  approaching, asking a question he knew could only lead to another, more dangerous one.

“Are you alright?”

“Yes,” said Ahmed. He saw the officer’s face twist upon hearing him speak.

“Who are you? Where do you come from?” the voice came sharper now.

The fireman conferred with a police officer whilst Ahmed sat on the steps of the trailer frame, too  broken to go on. He had become the lame farm dog, at the mercy of the men in front of him, and his  only choice now was to await the metaphorical bullet.


HEADLINES: 12/03/2027 

In the first phase of his pioneering plan, the PM oversaw the deportation of 650 illegal immigrants yesterday. Many have praised the  initiative calling it “decisive action” but others, like award winning journalist Sarah Foucault, label it “an abhorrent violation of basic  human rights”.


On Tuesday morning, I woke with a start.

Outside, a dog was barking, and chewing an envelope.

He wouldn’t give it up – even though I could clearly see my name ‘Sarah Foucault…’ written in an  elaborate script on the front.

Eventually, the dog relinquished its prized possession when offered some leftover breakfast eggs.  They were devoured with such fervour that I smiled despite myself. I stared at the letter curiously for  a couple of minutes before stooping to pick it up.

Within its pages I found the markings of an entire life. Ahmed’s words spilled from the page over the  newspaper headlines on the breakfast table. His melodic musings rose above the thunderous rumble of  my morning radio. His humanity was too wide and too deep to be ignored. There was nobody else to  tell his story or to challenge the narrative which framed him.

I hope, dear reader, that you find me to be a humble narrator of the truth.


Iris Mamier is a senior winner of The Orwell Youth Prize 2023