Death on an Island

By Dana Affleck

By Dana Affleck

I think about the life this man was fleeing. I imagine what he was fleeing from. I think about the hiding, the terror, the fear, the desperation that drove him from his home. I think about the journey he would have taken to Indonesia.

I think about the life he faced there. The hiding, the terror, the fear, the desperation that drove him to risk his life on a boat. On a boat he thinks will deliver him to safety, shelter and protection. I think about his fear stepping onto a wooden fishing boat not made for the high seas, not made for storms, not made for crossing vast bodies of water. I think about his despair that this is his only real option.

I think about his mother and father. I imagine their terror, fear, desperation, imagining their son in a small wooden box floating in a body of water, expanding out so far that all land seems to have disappeared under the ocean, unreachable. I imagine their visions of his drowning. I imagine their sleepless nights.

I see his first vision of Australia, speeding out on a navy boat. I think about him being frisked with latex gloves. I think about his refused request to wash before they interview him after countless days exposed on a boat. I think about him registering their obvious perceptions of him. I imagine his immediate understanding of their rejection without a word being said.

I think about his delivery to Manus Island. I think about him reeling when they say he will never be settled in Australia. I think about him circling the yard. I see guards leering at him. I imagine him witnessing abuse, assault, desperate attempts by men around him to take their own lives. I imagine bleeding wrists, “code red” crackling over the radios. I wonder whether he was hopeful or whether he had given up hoping. I wonder when he last laughed.

I think about his wasted months. I think about days being buried one after the other, piling on top of each other. I think about sleepless nights piling in after. I think about his personality, his spirit, his hope, his mind slipping away from him. I think about the deep mental torture he endured. I think about his final days.

I think about the night that violence and chaos descended on the detention centre. I imagine his heart beating in his throat as the gravity of the scene around him sinks in. I imagine the first blow to his head. I wonder how many blows it took for him to stop feeling the pain. I wonder if many people were thundering down upon his skull, flesh and brain or if it was only one person unrelenting. I imagine the sound of his skull cracking. I wonder if in such a situation your mind allows you a moment to think about the people you care for or if his last thoughts were enveloped in blinding pain. I wonder if he knew he was going to die, that he had come to Manus to die.

I imagine what he would have looked like in the back of the van. I imagine his head mashed to something fleshy, bloody, unrecognisable, speeding to a hospital he wouldn’t reach alive. Only in time to call the time of death.

As all these thoughts race into my eyes, my mind, my heart, my throat, the Immigration Minister is on TV saying, “the centre will be able to resume operations as it has this morning. Breakfast has been served.”