Far-off event frozen in time

Silence.

The sun had not fully risen above the dark silhouetted mountains.

Droplets of dew twinkled in the first rays of morning light, like scattered jewels lying in the grass.

A small group of people gathered around the memorial: some friends, some strangers.

In the bitter, icy air, they fished their hands into pockets and stamped their feet for warmth.

It was chilly for early autumn.

Fog hung overhead in a charcoal blanket.

Blood-red poppies adorned each person's coat, the only bright colour in an otherwise dismal, grey dawn.

Someone stepped forward and delivered a speech; their loud, clear voice sliced through the thick air like a knife.

Two women approached the memorial bearing wreaths of flowers and foliage; made with love, not just greenery.

Placed at the foot of the cenotaph, the wreaths seemed to breathe life into the dull concrete and stone.

Silence. Suddenly, the first piercing note of a bugle rang out, a well-known tune which the crowd immediately recognised.

It resonated in the empty street and carried their thoughts to a different place.

They saw images of battlefields and bloodshed.

Waves of sadness and aching washed over them.

As the final tones faded, there was quiet once again.

No movement or sound, just a congregation of statues frozen in time.

The fog had lifted, replaced with an invisible cloud of melancholy which weighed down on the group like a cloak of iron.

They did not notice when the bugle's song ended.

They simply stared at the memorial, the lists of names, the crimson poppies, their thoughts still amidst the tragic events of the past.

Summer arrives in the small town, draping the trees in new green garments.

The memorial lies forlornly in their long dappled shadows.

Neglected, almost forgotten, even at a bustling intersection.

Its dreary, plain concrete is unable to compare with the deep expanse of dazzling indigo overhead, and the barren hills now illuminated with radiant sunlight.

The memorial melts into the tree-lined street.

It wants to retreat, to mask its ageing features.

Forgotten; chipped paint, peeling letters, weeds struggling for survival in a sea of concrete.

Tattered paper poppies flutter in the mild breeze; a fleeting sparkle of colour in an otherwise dull street.

Vehicles roar by, their only glimpse of the memorial a distorted blur of brown and grey.

Pedestrians stroll leisurely along the footpath.

Their thoughts are set firmly on the faraway hills, no spare thoughts for the lonely cenotaph.

Racing around the corner come a mob of rowdy school children.

Upon noticing it, they boldly clamber over the railings, a momentary glance of curiosity at the list of names; names barely legible beneath the layer of fuzzy moss.

Hiding beneath the cenotaph in the gloom of midday shadows, the children trace the rough and calloused stone, cool from the shade, with their hands.

In their eyes, the memorial is a mysterious object, with a significance not fully understood.

Occasionally, someone does remember it.

Overlooking the many signs of age they pause, spending just a few minutes studying the register of soldiers who never returned to the town.

They reflect, they recall the tragic events of the past.

 


• By Emily Fielding, Year 12, Waitaki Girls' High School