ON THE RUN

FictionIssue Five

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by DANYELLE GUYATT

A stage play based on the fairy-tale Hansel and Gretel (1812) by the Brothers Grimm

  1. EXT. ALEPPO. DAY

Two siblings, HAMZAR (16 years old) and GULIKA (14 years old) are walking home from school in Aleppo when there is a loud explosion in the direction of where they live. They run home to discover that their house has been destroyed and there is no sign of their parents. Gulika finds their mother’s wedding ring in the rubble and puts it in her pocket.

HAMZAR

(Shouting)

Gulika, we have to get out of here quickly. We must leave, Syria isn’t safe for us any more. We have lost everything. Our home is destroyed. Look at this mess.

(Pointing to destruction)

It won’t end. It will never end.

GULIKA

(Pleading)

But what about our parents? We must look for them. Maybe they’re somewhere close, waiting for us? We can’t leave without them!

HAMZAR

(Pause)

They would already be dead if they were home when this happened.

GULIKA

(Gasps and starts to cry)

HAMZAR

And if they are still alive, then they must have left already.

(Pause to think)

I’m sure they would want us to go to a safe place.

(Nodding to himself)

It is our only chance, our only hope. There is nothing for us here but misery.

GULIKA

(Still crying)

Do you really think they are dead Hamzar? Do you really think so? I can’t believe it. My heart tells me they are alive somewhere.

(Pause)

After a few moments she speaks through her tears.

GULIKA (CONT.)

If we leave, where will we go? This is our home: this is where we belong.

HAMZAR

Yes, but our home is just rubble now. People are being killed around us every day. It’s not safe, this is no place for us. We can’t stay.

(Pause)

(Decisive)

We’ll go to Europe. I’ve heard people say that in Europe there is safety. In Europe, people live without being bombed. In Europe, people live in freedom.

(Angry)

They don’t see dead bodies on the streets every day the way we do. The way we have done for years now. No one is coming to help us, to stop this. No one. We must leave.

GULIKA

I know dear brother. I know. It’s awful.

Gulika moves next to Hamzar and takes hold of his hand.

GULIKA (CONT.)

But how will we get to Europe? It’s so far away. How will we get there?

HAMZAR

We’ll travel to Turkey, then get a boat to Greece. That’s the way other people leave. I met a man who told me that he helps people get to Europe. His name is Abdel.

Another explosion erupts a few blocks away. People are crying and running.

HAMZAR (CONT.)

Come now, quickly. We will find him. We will go to Abdel. He will help us.

Hamzar and Gulika run off together.

  1. EXT/INT. ALEPPO/ABDEL’S HOUSE. DAY

Hamzar and Gulika run through winding roads, smoke, dirt and rubble. There are dead bodies on the street and people are crying. There are loud sirens, noises and flashing lights. They come to a doorway in a narrow alleyway and Hamzar knocks loudly. The door opens and they quickly enter.

A young boy stands in the hallway looking at them both without speaking.

HAMZAR

Where is Abdel? Is he here?

The boy nods and points towards a room down the hall with a closed door. Hamzar and Gulika approach and knock loudly.

HAMZAR (CONT.)

(Urgently)

Abdel, are you in there? Open the door, it is Hamzar.

ABDEL

(Casually)

Who?

HAMZAR

(Loudly)

Hamzar! Remember we met near the school last week? You said you could help me get to Europe.

Abdel opens the door and invites them both inside. It is a small, cramped room with a single bed and a small table with two chairs. Gulika stands inside the open doorway while Hamzar sits down at the table with Abdel.

ABDEL

(Thinly veiled smile)

Ah yes, I remember you now, of course.

(Eyeing Gulika)

And who do we have here then?

HAMZAR

This is my sister, Gulika. We need to leave Aleppo urgently. Our home was bombed today. Our parents are missing. You said you could help me get to Europe.

(Voice rising)

We need to get to Europe. We must leave! Do you remember Abdel, you said you could help!

ABDEL

(Patronising)

Yes, yes. Calm down now, there is no need to get hysterical is there? Let’s all try to stay calm.

He sneers and smiles in the direction of Gulika. She looks down, avoiding his gaze.

HAMZAR

It is hard to stay calm when your whole world is being blown up around you. Hurry, Abdel, you must help us escape!

A series of sirens and explosions erupt in the background. The young boy reappears to tell Abdel that another bomb has exploded across the street.

ABDEL

Alright then, it is clear that things are getting dangerous around here. There is no doubt about that.

(Deliberate pause)

And you say that you are both on your own now? No parents? What a pity.

Abdel eyes Gulika again. He turns to the boy who is still standing there waiting for further instructions.

ABDEL (CONT.)

Please take Gulika to the kitchen for some tea while Hamzar and I talk business, will you? That’s a good boy.

Gulika looks at Hamzar who nods in reassurance. Gulika goes to the kitchen with the boy, leaving Abdel and Hamzar alone.

HAMZAR

(Urgently)

So, can you help us?

ABDEL

(Patronising)

Yes I can help you. Of course I can help. But as with everything, there is a price to pay. Nothing is free in this world, you do understand that don’t you?

HAMZAR

(Pause)

But we don’t have anything to give you. We lost everything in the bombings. I promise I will send you money when we make it to Europe.

(Voice rising)

I will get a job and pay you everything I earn. If you will only help us now, Abdel.

(Pleading on his knees)

Please help us.

ABDEL

Come now, that isn’t necessary. There’s no need to beg or promise me such things about the future. In any case, who knows what the future holds.

Abdel smirks at Hamzar, who looks confused and agitated. Hamzar sits back in his chair.

HAMZAR

What then, what is it that you want from us?

ABDEL

(Deliberate, long pause)

Gulika is a very lovely girl, isn’t she?

Abdel looks in the direction of the kitchen where Gulika is drinking tea. Saliva is forming around his mouth.

HAMZAR

Yes, yes she is. But what has that got to…

Hamzar pauses and stops speaking when he realises what Abdel is suggesting. He looks at Abdel with a look of utter bewilderment. He jumps up from the table and leaps back in horror, stumbling against the furniture.

ABDEL

Oh my dear boy, don’t look so surprised. You too will one day feel the urgent calling of a man when he sees a lovely woman like Gulika.

HAMZAR

(Eyes wide)

She is not a woman Abdel; she is 14 years old. (Shouting) And she is my sister!

Hamzar runs out of the room towards the kitchen. He finds Gulika standing with the boy sipping tea.

HAMZAR (CONT.)

(Urgently)

Gulika, we must leave now. Hurry!

Hamzar grabs Gulika’s arm and pulls her down the hallway towards the front door. The tea spills on her clothes, she is trying to keep up with her brother. They run out onto the street.

GULIKA

(Panicking and running to keep up)

What happened Hamzar, what’s wrong? What did Abdel say?

 Hamzar walks quickly, firmly gripping Gulika’s arm.

HAMZAR

Abdel will not help us. No one can help us.

We’re on our own Gulika. The world has turned bitter. More bitter than you can imagine.

(Shakes his head and looks down)

GULIKA

(Confused)

So we won’t go to Europe now? Will we stay in our home?

HAMZAR

There is no home for us now. No home for people like us. Do you understand? There is nothing. We are nothing.

(Shoulders slump)

  1. EXT TO INT. TRUCK. EVENING

Gulika and Hamzar walk together in silence amidst the chaos that surrounds them. Someone calls out to Gulika and she turns around. It is her school teacher, MRS ASIM, with her daughter who is in the same class as Gulika. Mrs Asim approaches Gulika.

MRS ASIM

(Embracing Gulika)

Gulika, are you ok? Are you hurt?

(Pause while looking around)

Where are your parents?

GULIKA

(Holding back tears)

We don’t know where they are. Our home was destroyed. Our parents are missing.

(Bravely)

But we are ok, my brother and I-

(gesturing to Hamzar).

We are both ok. We’ll travel to Europe to find them. We’ll find our parents. We will.

MRS ASIM

(Concerned)

Yes, yes I’m sure you will find them.

(Pause)

We don’t know where my husband is, but I know we will find him too.

She looks down at her daughter and weakly smiles.

MRS ASIM (CONT.)

He told us to go to Izmir in Turkey if we were separated and he will find us. That’s where we’re going now.

(Pause)

Please, come with us. I’ll pay the driver your fare. Sorry you can’t bring anything with you, there’s no space.

GULIKA

That’s ok, we have nothing.

(Holding up her empty hands)

Thank you so much, yes we will come.

(Nodding and looking at Hamzar)

HAMZAR

(Tight lipped)

We will pay you back, we know nothing comes for free.

MRS ASIM

It’s ok, please, no need to worry about that. Come now, the truck’s leaving soon.

Mrs Asim, her daughter, Gulika and Hamzar all climb into the hold of the truck. It is dark. There are a lot of people inside. The air is hot and stale. Some people are crying, some are praying. Gulika and Hamzar hold on to each other’s hands and stay close to Mrs Asim and her daughter. The door of the truck opens and some more people climb in. The driver mumbles something and locks the door before starting the engine. The journey begins.

  1. EXT. IZMIR, TURKEY. DUSK

After many days travelling in the back of the truck, they arrive in the port of Izmir in Turkey.

MRS ASIM

(Speaking to the three teenagers)

We’re here in Izmir now, we made it!

(Turning to Gulika and Hamzar)

This is where my daughter and I will stay to wait for my husband. He told us that he will find us here. We can’t leave without him.

GULIKA

(Swallowing heavily)

Yes, we understand, you must wait.

(Pause)

We will continue on to Greece. It’s safer for us in Europe. We’ll find our parents there and all be together again.

HAMZAR

(Passively)

Yes, we will be safe in Europe.

MRS ASIM

(Pause)

Well then, the driver told me there is a boat leaving soon for Lesbos. From over there.

(Pointing towards the harbour)

You could try to get on that boat.

GULIKA

Thank you, yes let’s get on the boat Hamzar. We are so close to Europe now!

MRS ASIM

Alright,

(Hugging them with tears in her eyes)

I will pray for you both. I will pray that you make it to Greece and that you find your parents there. We’ll see you soon.

(Holding back tears)

Gulika and Hamzar hug Mrs Asim and her daughter and wave goodbye, then run to the harbour towards the boat.

  1. EXT. SHORE. DUSK

A large group of people are already gathered at the harbour near the boat. They are told by the driver that only 10 people can fit. People start to push to the front of the queue. Amongst them are Gulika and Hamzar. The driver is counting people as they board. He calls out 10 just when Gulika and Hamzar are next in line.

DRIVER

(Shouting)

10, that’s 10 now. The boat’s full, no more!

GULIKA

(Pleading)

Please, my brother and I must get on this boat. We MUST leave. We won’t take up much room, please take us…

DRIVER

It’s the same for everyone, I said the boat is full!

Just as he finishes speaking he notices the girl has pushed something into his hand. It has a large diamond and looks like it might be a wedding ring. He looks around to check that no one has noticed this exchange and quickly (but silently) waves her and her brother aboard.

GULIKA

Hamzar, we made it. We’re on a boat!

HAMZAR

That doesn’t mean anything, we will die. This boat is too small for all of us.

GULIKA

Don’t say that, it’s not true. We will make it to Greece. We will see our mother and father again and be safe, you wait and see.

Hamzar doesn’t respond. He hangs his head and his shoulders slump down. Gulika looks at the horizon as the boat pulls away and the sun gives way to darkness. She notices a small rubber ring near her leg and slides it between her and Hamzar in case they need it. The boat journey begins.

  1. EXT. AEGEAN SEA. NIGHT

A few hours pass, it is pitch black. The only light is a torch held by the driver to check the GPS coordinates. Suddenly the boat engine starts to make a spluttering sound.

DRIVER

(Shouting)

Come on, start you stupid thing. What’s wrong with you? Why won’t you start?

The driver pulls the starter rope but the engine is not responding. He starts to swear and tries again. Nothing. The wind starts to blow hard and the waves start to hit the side of the boat, filling it with water. People on the boat cry out in panic. Some jump into the water.

GULIKA

(Urgently)

Hamzar, we must get off the boat. It is sinking. We have to swim.

HAMZAR

(With fear in his voice)

I’m not jumping into the sea; I can’t swim very well. Neither can you. We will drown!

GULIKA

(Firmly)

We can hold on to this rubber ring, we’ll float. We’ll be ok, we can both swim alright. Remember our holiday at the beach? We went swimming then. It’s no different to that. We can do it. Please just try.

The boat tilts and starts to fill with water. Gulika grabs her brother and hooks the rubber ring around her arm as they both slide into the sea.

GULIKA

We are ok brother. Hold on to the ring and breath steadily. Just hold on, you will be alright.

Hamzar starts coughing and gasping for breath in the water. The boat sinks quickly. They hold on to the rubber ring. There are dim lights in the distance.

GULIKA (CONT.)

Hamzar, see the lights over there? That must be Lesbos. It isn’t far, the current is taking us in that direction too. Maybe someone will come and rescue us. Let’s kick Hamzar, we can make it, we can get there.

HAMZAR

(Weakly)

I’m so tired, I can’t make it. There’s no hope for us, there is no hope.

GULIKA

(Urgently)

Don’t give up, Hamzar. Let’s pray together. God, please help us. Pray with me Hamzar, God, please help us.

HAMZAR

(Softly)

God, please help us. God, please help us.

The lights of Lesbos are starting to get brighter. There is a sound of splashing in the water coming from the other people who were on the boat.

GULIKA

Look Hamzar, God listened. We are moving so fast now. The lights are getting brighter. God, please help us. Thank you God, for helping us. We are getting closer Hamzar, keep going!

HAMZAR

(Voice getting louder)

God, please help us. Yes, dear God, please help us.

(Pause)

Gulika do you hear that? It sounds like a boat coming towards us!

GULIKA

Yes, I hear it.

(Laughing with relief)

HAMZAR

They might not see us. Over here! We are over here!

(Waving one arm and shouting)

A large spotlight shines across the water. It is the coastguard from Greece. They see Gulika, Hamzar and three others. The rest don’t make it. The coastguard gathers everyone onto the boat and takes them to Lesbos.

GULIKA

(Excitedly)

We made it Hamzar. We made it to Greece!

HAMZAR

Yes, I can’t believe we made it.

The camp is overflowing with people. Gulika and Hamzar eat and get some rest. In the morning they will start to search for their parents.