The Projects

This piece was written for a creative writing assessment in Year 12. It has not been edited since it was submitted. It was inspired by Les Jeunes de l'Univers by Rocca, a song I studied in my "etude approfondie" for Year 12 French. While it does not depict a real or necessarily current situation, it was written with the fear of what may come if we continue to tolerate intolerance.

In the corner of a dark, damp room on the seventh floor of the Projects lay Martine.  She could have been an exotic beauty – at eighteen she could have made a life for herself at university, educated herself into a brighter future, but instead she was just another bruised and battered lump of life in that place she called home.

The Projects were a dark place.  Seen from the outside, it represented all that was so much detested – the poverty, violence, delinquency and lack of sophistication that so marred their image – and yet these crumbling building were home to a tenth of their population.  Asbestos filled concrete skyscrapers, eroding at the edges and covered in foul mouthed graffiti were the only ‘sight-seeing’ attractions around here.  A step inside sent a waft of rotting filth into the nasal cavities – the rubbish that never quite made it all the way to the bins, empty bottles, and the faint hint of urine were all that pervaded the senses in these corridors.  A glance into the gloom revealed damp-ridden walls whose paint was so peeled as to appear flecks on plasterboard.  The elevators had long since been forgotten, seemingly out of order the day they were installed.  Instead, the doors had been forced open and three youths were huddling inside for warmth.

It was up several flights of the well trodden stairs and through the living arrangements of hundreds of families that the almost lifeless form of Martine could be found.  She had been still for several hours, but for the low groan she emitted when conscious.  She was a mess of a broken body and damaged spirit.  It seemed that her life was a reflection of the lives around her.  So many of the women had been beaten, forgotten for dead and then fed to the garbage.  They were worthless here, and no authorities would ever protect them.  Martine was just another forgotten statistic.

Her eyes finally fluttered open, and with sight came a complete awareness of her pain.  It wasn’t just the burning physical inflictions, but the knowledge that this would be her life forever.  Each punch driven into her abdomen told of a life in misery.  Each kick to the back was an assurance that she would have to bow to the rules of her family’s ideals, which somehow never seemed to live up to their integral morals.  Every blow to her body was another step she fell into the abyss of her fears.  She knew that for her to survive, she must leave, and yet there was no hope in the outside world.

Equality, Liberty and Fraternity are the three most important principles in life, and yet they are loosely, if at all, applied to the habitants of the slums.  Any hope in the real world would be quashed as soon as that invisible line around this place was crossed.  There was no way out of here, not anymore.  Social welfare was running out.  Help was disappearing.  The dreams of a small home with a partner, 2.3 children and a white picket fence had all but been whitewashed out of here.  The youths didn’t know anything other than thievery and drugs; alcohol and abuse.

And then, out of the dusty depths of somebody’s ghetto blaster came music.  There was a song and it was much more powerful than all that had come before it because this one spoke of hope.  These kids started to listen.  They didn’t even know what hope was but after three minutes of music they felt understood.  They found a little bit of hope, and with that there was vitality in life.  There was a possibility of something better.  Somebody who had been one of them had made it, and maybe they could too.

Martine, lying against that cold 7th floor concrete, heard the whispers of song coming through the ventilation.  There was hope.  She could reconstruct her life and all that had been neglected before.  She could fight, and conquer.  They all could.  That somebody out there, that singer, he was giving them reason to fight.

As the last words of the song faded into silence, she slowly creaked her body into a ball.  She rocked slowly back and forth until there was enough momentum to move.  As she crawled and hobbled her way down the levels of despair that had once been her home, she knew she could make it.  There wasn’t too much further to go.  If she could only make it past that invisible line and into the real world she’d be fine.  For Martine, nothing in the world could be easier.


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