9Mobile Prize for Literature
Barry James is detained in a quarantine facility in the blistering heat of the Great Karoo. Here he exists in two worlds: the discordant and unforgiving reality of his incarceration and the lyrical, snowy landscapes of his dreams. He has cut all ties with his previous life, his health is failing, and he has given up all hope. All he has to cling to are the meanderings of his restless mind, the daily round of pills and the journals he reluctantly keeps as testimony to a life once lived.
And then there’s an opportunity to escape. But to escape what? And where to? Can there be a life to go back to? Is there still a world out there in the barren wasteland beyond the fence?
I was sitting in the train looking out at the falling snow. I knew then that I was not going home … I was going to an unknown place on a train full of unknown people. And even though I knew I would not be coming back, that the factories that whooshed by were instantly hundreds of kilometres behind us, that the train would not deliver us anywhere where we’d want to be, I still felt grateful for the snow, the impossible snow. For it seems to me that even in the most bleak of worlds we’ll find something to hold on to … even if that is something as impossible as snow in this god-forsaken wasteland.