The sun is rising over the bridge, lifting itself up slowly into an early autumn sky. But the morning is already ugly. The ugliness started before the sunrise, almost before any sign of daybreak. On other days I wake at first light to the sound of tentative bird calls. I lie with my dreams and listen to birdsong building till light and the birds seem to join in a glorious irrepressible matins. But not this morning.
It was dark when I woke: a low, dull drone had been boring into my dream. Disturbed, it took me some time to know this menacing sound as motors. The motors of shallow boats. Sliding with stealth through the darkness. I drifted back into troubled sleep, the sound of the motors unremitting. Haunting.
Then gunfire woke me. I lay in my bed, unnerved, compelled to listen. First light but no birdsong. Only gunshots. Piercing the morning. I got up and dressed and came to the bridge to witness, and now I see the sun rising. But the morning not beautiful. There are boats on the water, khaki green, the same colour as the river. Their rego numbers hard to decipher. The figures I see in the boats are khaki clad, stock still, gun barrels erect. I hear the crying of ducks and see some are winging away in search of safer waters. Watching them go, I whisper a wish or a prayer.
I know the onslaught will ebb as the day goes on. Birds not downed will be frightened away. But tomorrow it starts up again. And when I go walking, later, beside the water, I could well find wings – wings severed, discarded – the purple and teal of their feathers still catching the sunlight while never again to catch air. I might even find a creature unmutilated, wounded but fled from its hunters, escaped to die a slow death, alone. An almost weightless lifeless body bumping against the shore with each wash of the water which was, till today, its closest relation. Blood on the water. Blood on our hands. I’ll walk home without consolation. And anger and shame will surely follow me.