Different but the Same
(~ 1200 w)
They weren’t like me – the people who came out of the lake. I’ve never seen anyone like them, not even in pictures or holo-tales. I should have run home straight away, but I was curious – I wanted to see. My parents always say that curiosity killed the cat, and that’s why they’re extinct, but everything’s a-a-a-always so samey in the Dome, so anything new or just different is cool, so I hid by a boulder and watched.
After the crash, when they waded ashore, they looked small and bedraggled and weak, like the newly hatched chicks in the Habitat Dome - staggering, dizzy and dazed. I had to get closer – to get a good look. I couldn’t see weapons, just frightened people – grown-ups, children and elders – they all seemed as scared of me as I was of them.
The strangers came closer and started to talk, but not in a language I knew. I’m not supposed to talk to strangers, but some of them were hurt, and somebody had to help them, so I brought them back to the Dome - to the grown-ups in the Square.
My parents came – running! They took hold of my hands and squeezed them so tightly, scolding me for being outside with no suit. I think they were scared too, as if I was the one who’d been hurt.
We watched as the crowd of strangers grew. They were making odd noises and holding each other. We looked at them and they looked at us, and nobody knew what to do.
Then the Medics and Peacekeepers came in a big, loud hurry – with sirens and shouting and pointing, and took the Lake People away. Some of them were broken and bleeding, I think. My parents wouldn’t let me look.
Soon, the Wise Elders came out and talked to the crowd about who the strangers might be, and where they could have come from. Everyone’s eyes were so wide. There were so many questions, but not many answers. Not at first. But soon ‘They’ were all people were talking about – mostly in whispers, in huddles, in corners, in each other’s ears so we couldn’t hear. But kids hear way more than grown-ups think, and I heard them muttering about the strangers’ differentness, about what did they want and how many more might be coming, and what would happen now? Grown-ups all chattered at once - there were a lot of words I don’t know. One word I heard a lot, but nobody would tell me what ‘Invasion’ means.
Our Teachers came and sat us down, and with serious faces and serious voices they said we mustn't be scared, but also that we shouldn’t use the mean words that we were hearing in the crowd. They said the strangers are not Mutants, just Refugees, and they can't help the way they look because their families must have been poisoned by a ‘New-Clear’ something and the poor things were probably born with those terrible defects.
The next day came and, at Recess, Raska Fisherson said out loud - reeeeally loud - that the Strangers SMELL funny and they're all far too PUNY to last very long, and even if they do, the WEIRD way they talk will get the freaky freeloaders chucked out of the Dome and good riddance, and he drew a finger across his throat and made a funny noise. I don't know what that all meant, but Raska was sent to the naughty corner.
The Capital Dome News came on and absolutely everyone stopped and was quiet and watched on the public viewscreens. The Announcer said that only a few hundred of the strangers had survived, and that ‘public fears about resources being over-stretched are untrue, and rumours of protest riots are exaggerated.’ But why would they say that after the shouting and chanting and banging at night-times? Don’t they hear it too?
Then, even the President came out and gave us a speech – about all staying calm and remembering our duty to help those in crisis. But the President usually has two minders, and I definitely counted six. I didn't hear much of the next bit – there were lots of long words about segregation laws and detainment zones, but I forget what, coz that's when the scary protestors burst in and interrupted the broadcast. They were very loud and said some VERY bad words! They did a lot of angry pointing and shouting - that the refugees may look like us, but they're not! They're not just escaping immigrants, they're actual real-life aliens! That Divers found their ship, sunk outside the Habit Dome, but it's not a water ship, it's a space-ship, and the government are trying to cover it up!
When the Peacekeepers came, the protestors chanted - about charity starting at home, and ‘the weirdos should be sent to different Dome’, that ‘we don’t want them here, they should all just go back where they came from’. As the protestor spoke, small blobs of spittle flew out from their mouth, like the pictures of predators in one of my books. They carried on sneering and shaking their fists until they were cuffed and taken away. I thought grown-ups knew the right way to behave, but that was like fights in our playground, but worse! I think they’ll be put in the naughty corner for a very, very long time.
When dinnertime came, I asked my parents why some people don’t want to share – the teachers all make us take turns and be fair. We have enough and they all have nothing. Like one of us having everyone’s dinner all piled up on their plate – more than they need, just coz they want it - and the others at table having nothing. Why teach us ‘be kind to people’, but only if those people look the same as us. It doesn’t make sense to me. PLUS, if we crashed somewhere far from our home and were frightened and hungry and hurt, wouldn’t we want someone to help us? To be kind? To just be fair?
So, I came here, to talk to you, coz though I’m only a child, this is Public Platform is for everyone, and my parents said that you need to hear the stuff I have to say.
So, what I want to say is this…
If these strangers are aliens, and their home is all poisoned so they can’t live there anymore, well our planet is ginormous, so surely, it’s plenty big enough for everyone?! I don’t understand why some grown-ups are scared of the New People, just coz they’re not exactly the same as us. They didn’t come here to hurt us – they came to escape a bad place where they might have died. They just want to be safe and together and not be bullied or go hungry. Just like us. Different doesn’t mean bad!
We shouldn’t care that they have two genders and no telepathy, and it shouldn't matter that they only have two arms - it's enough for their greeting. The new child in my class showed me. It's called a hug and it makes you feel nice, and I like it.
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I love the twist in this story. Only at the very end does a human act of open greeting reveal exactly Who the refugees are. The attitudes of the dome dwellers to refugees prompt the anticipated attitudes of intolerance and distrust and yet the childs mind cuts through the trash and brokers friendship. A powerful message, political, social, humane. Loved it