Day 263: The Grave

The Grave
Matt Zurbo


My name doesn’t matter…
I was a convict, from England,
sent to Van Diemen’s Land, in 1812.
(Haunty, shadowed person in rags, standing in the mist.)

Some of us were bad. A lot were just unlucky, poor.
(Skeletal ghost under ground, watching image of convicts being lead off of boat.)

Van Diemen’s Land was extremely cold, harsh.
(Man head down, pushing mine trolley, while being abused by guard.)
They worked me in the mines of a penal colony.

Convicts sent here knew they would die here.
(Man huddled in TINY sandstone cell with no windows.)

And I did.
(Grave in graveyard by big bay, one sailing ship in the background, hills and island of bay all treed.)

Eventually Van Diemen’s land became Tasmania.
(200 years later, most graves gone, those that remain, most fallen. Small tree now big and old. Man’s grave has almost no tombstone, and is split in two. Some of hills in background now have farms.)

Now, there’s a child playing on my grave.
(Man, underground, looking up at surface. Small baby smiling, playing on his grave.)

It won’t stop!
(Mum and Dad holding hands, looking out through trees at jetty remains. Kid dancing on grave.)

The other ghosts aren’t happy at all!
(Ghosts bending higher than main convict, towards baby/surface, screaming and shouting at it.)

The warden, the gaol’s doctor and wife… A lot of the convicts…
(Row of angry ghosts. We can make out the sort of roles they played on the penal colony by their clothes.)
They say it’s disrespectful!

The baby doesn’t know any better.
(Baby, bum in air, happily climbing over tombstone remains.)

I’d get whipped if I lied down like that after hard work. Good luck to him.
(Dad lying on back, wife sitting love him, looking at sky. Baby playing.)

I’d love to give them a tour.
(Other ghosts looking at main convict furiously.)

Nobody cared about scenery in my day, so the cemetery got the best view!
It was right next to the logger’s railway, which we had to build. Often in rain and sleet.
(Cemetery in foreground, a grave being dug, in background, main convict working on railway, as horse-drawn train of wood passes. Raining very hard.)

Their wood and our coal would be taken to the colony’s little jetty.
It was the only way in or out.
(Plenty of movement on old jetty, with sailing boat at end, behind it, grave digger stopping to catch breath.)
Well, that or death.

Some of us served our time and became farmers.
They were the lucky ones. There was no returning home. This was now our home.
(Farmers looking at reader, while convicts with guards build stone fence around farm house.)

I wonder if that baby knows very few of us even got a tombstone?
(Baby waddling across ground. Under it skeletons everywhere. Only one or two skeletons are straight and under a grave. )
That most of us had unmarked graves?

It’s been walking over our bodies for a while now.
(Baby arms out, leaning to pick up a pine cone.)

Our graves and the Aboriginals. We pretty much declared war on them.
Slowly took their land.
(Army shooting at falling Aborigines.)

They were hard times.
(Ghost, sad, bowing. Aboriginal ghosts either side of it, showing no emotion. Other ghosts gravitating towards baby who is playing on another grave.)

I dunno.
(Baby playing with parents, very happy. Other ghosts/skeletons all angry now.)

The other ghosts are all wrong.
(Baby running away from parents back through other tombstones.)

All the baby sees is something to climb on.
(Baby climbing over grave edge.)

Look at it dance! My tombstone is a stage!
(Baby dancing on grave.)

I died almost 200 years ago.
(Mum and Dad scooping baby up from grave, lovingly.)

Who I was, how I died is all that’s left on my tombstone.
(Baby in Dad’s arms, pulling at his beanie, while Mum and Dad try to read faded details on grave.)

Nothing else matters.
(Ghost underground, shooing off other ghosts who are fleeing.)

Trees grow,
jetties fall,
babies fill a cold place with life!
(Baby smiling as it runs away, Dad doing monster walk after it, Mum smiling, gravel now behind them.)

Thank you! I could not be happier!
(Convict ghost now above grave, smiling to self.)

Now I can fade…
(Grave all alone.)

The End

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