‘Over the Border’ by Maria Wakeham, Age 16, Downlands Community School

The border. Just make it over the border.

The words are a command, a force pushing me on, a drumbeat to the fear twining inside me.
Twisting through my ribcage, bitter and cold, terror constricts my lungs, my breaths shallow and fast.
Behind me, I can hear their shouts. Their cries of rage and fury, chasing their prey.

Make it over the border. Run.

My legs stumble, body weight tripled by exhaustion, blood lost every step… Red splatters on a barren
ground, a trail marked for the huntsmen. A path across empty space, another attempted route.

There. The wall. A patrolled expanse of grey stone, vast and insurmountable. The border. The only
escape. Built to keep them safe; to keep us out.

I can’t stop, can’t falter –

Loose stones rolling down the hill, freed by my feet, patterned by my blood. Ahead, the sky
spinning, stars colliding, a spiralling kaleidoscope of colours pocketed with blank spaces, nowhere.
But I mustn’t fall; can’t let it all be for nothing.

Through a vision mostly gone: the hope. The top smashed by some earlier skirmish, a tiny stretch
only shoulder height. Possible.

“Please –”

Wordless, soundless, the barest susurrant of a desire. Make it to the border. Make it over. So many
before have failed.

The black-iced voice of desperation, the rushing of blood, the shouts… The world falling away, time
reducing, the very air stilling – to this single chance.

Then – the border. Just there. Touchable. Calling and crumbled, blood in the cracks, shoring up the

They mustn’t catch me.

My shoulder aching, my stomach screaming from the impact, crawling clear as the first of my
pursuers makes it over. As the next one comes, my back against cold stone of an old ruin. Another
takes the jump, lands, stalking forward.

Despair and sorrow seize me; what cost is my survival?

Suddenly – the voice echoes out. Across the deserted fallacies of a dead past, it coldly clarifies:
“This is your warning. You have trespassed.”

Silence. Then another comes over the wall, and they resume their relentless pursuit.

The arrows fly, then, swift and sharp, death on feathered wings. I wish I could cover my eyes. More
blood, more broken bodies, more death.

Silently, they emerge from the ruins, through the bodies, making their way forwards. Towards me.

Blood from my shoulder soaks my hair, the wall behind me, puddles on the floor at my feet. I
breathe. I made it. Past the wall. Over the border.

They are closer than they were, now picking me up, taking me away with them. It worked.

Why was the price of survival so high?

The scattered bodies are the last thing I see, remorse and regret clouding my vison.

I told them not to cross the border. That they didn’t need to die for this to succeed. That I would be
collected soon enough.

That the deception would be good enough; that I would be trusted soon enough, well enough, for our purposes.