I have only just decided to start writing one. I’m not sure why one would start one 5 weeks into this journey but it’s better late than never. Yes, it has now officially been about 5 weeks now, since I have been kidnapped out of the place where I called ‘home’. The place where I was meant to feel safe. I have been shackled and forced underneath the decks of this ship. These shackles seem to be made out of a thick, dense metal, probably iron.
They are heavy and burn my skin, to the point where it feels incinerated. My wrists and ankles constantly ache and burn due to how tight they did them up. Even my neck has something on.
It can’t be a necklace because this too seems to be made out of the same thing. As I am writing this, I lay here not even 6 inches away from the person next to me.
The smell of this ship is distinctive; a smell of human toxins – holding my breath is pointless as it has gotten to the point now where you permanently smell it, regardless to whether or not you’re breathing it in. Urine, faeces and even vomit add to this pungent smell. Once a week we are forced on deck to do exercise; and for the belly of this ship to be cleaned. What is the point of cleaning as the terrible smell still lingers? Even if I make it to the end of this journey (which feels like it will never end) I don’t think I could ever smell something as bad as this and I surely won’t forget it either…
It is sad to say, my life aboard this ship is getting a lot worse – not that i’d expect it to be getting better, given the circumstances.
So, last night the groans from other people around me grew louder by the day. At one point, it got so bad, I dug deep and pulled out all the strength and mighty I had left to cover my ears to try and muffle the sound. I even tried to sing to block it out. I think, by now, I have become accustomed to my face being forever wet with tears. Tears of sorrow for my plight; tears of despair for the suffering of others; tears of anguish for the death of the person beside meI was really good friends with Lolo. We spoke a lot, even though I didn’t know much about her. But just knowing she was there everyday to make me smile was a big distraction to the reality around me. This morning she didn’t open her eyes… You wouldn’t even imagine how I felt. To see the person who made this trip the slightest bit better, encouraging me everyday to keep strong and fight through this; had lost her battle.
She made me feel comforted like I had something to live for – despite these odious conditions, she made me smile and I had never felt any type of friendship with anyone, and to see it get all wiped away within a blink of the eye is devastating. Words will never express the pain and deflation and sorrow I feel. My heart permanently twinges, as if God took a piece from me with her. I love you Lolo, it was fun while it lasted. You had a special gift and there was never a moment you didn’t make me feel like I was anyone less than these people constantly pushing us around. I’m glad you went away peacefully as a person like you should never have to suffer for anything. You will always have a special place in my heart and I will never allow myself to forget you. See you soon.
I think yesterday was the most terrified and anxious I have ever been. The weather was beyond oppressive. We had hit a storm. And not just the little ones that everyone says is a storm but really it’s just heavy rain. This storm was out of this world. It almost seemed unnatural – as if a witch had cast an evil spell on the waters of the ocean. The storm clanged our boat and vigorously shook us. It felt like there was a massive giant who picked our tiny boat up and constantly shook it to discover what was inside. The motion of the boat was alarming at first. Tossing forwards, backwards, side to side I have never experienced such a sensation.
The constant motion of the boat made my stomach churn and my head spin. I felt weak and I couldn’t take my mind of this excruciating pain. It was killing me. I don’t think I have ever felt that incapable of controlling myself before and that made me feel worse. Gritting my teeth and closing my eyes seemed pointless. At one point, it got so bad that the water splashed up on deck so strenuously that some seeped through the gaps in the deck and sprinkled onto my mouth. The taste of it was salty. Nothing I have ever tasted before could compare. Quite unpleasant I think. Needless to say it was quite refreshing. During the storm, a message had been passed on that someone tried to jump overboard – with the intentions to commit suicide. I wouldn’t blame them, given the circumstances and the inhumane treatment we were receiving. A couple others got dragged in too. Their lucky. At least they are free again.
I would love to go back to 5 weeks ago when I had so much hope, ambition and aspirations for my later life. I could run free and wouldn’t have to worry about anything or even imagine myself like this. Cooped up like a chicken and chained like a prisoner in a dungeon. At the moment I have prayed so many times, maybe more than once a day. Begging God to help me get through this. Nothing is improving. I feel nothing but sorry for myself. Saying I feel helpless would be an understatement. I have never felt this sorrow before and I would never have dreamed about this. Today, I was fed for the first time in what felt like forever. Everyone’s hands were stretched from afar. I felt stifled as everyone was stretching over me to get even the tiniest amount of what was meant to be porridge. This made me realize how much people were actually down here with me. When I got my share, which seemed impossible, it was cold and thick and felt like a ball of muck. I was put off by the texture and smell of it but I was so desperate for food; even my stomach spoke to me. As bad as it smelt, I grabbed the opportunity to eat by taking it. I don’t know when or what my next meal will be, so I tucked right in. It was slimy and chewy but for me I was grateful. I looked upon this food as a gift from God and not as a gesture to stop us from dying, because I knew they didn’t care about us. Well nobody did… Apart from God.
After I managed to ingest this unbearable food, a man came in. It was hard to tell what he looked like at first, due to it being so bright when the hatch was opened and my eyes hadn’t been given the time to adjust to the direct sunlight. My jaw dropped. He had a complete different skin tone to me. He was the complete opposite. I have deep, dark, skin, and he had pale, light skin. I have never seen anything like this before and honestly it looked really strange. He too came in with a bucket, this time it was filled with water. The same routine was followed, starting from the back and working his way forward. I was given a small cup with water in. It was infested with maggots and a bit of dirt were lingering in the bottom. As I peered into the cup, I was interrupted by some shouting. Someone had failed to eat their porridge. He had been detached from the shackles and tried to get taken somewhere else.
Due to the lack of cooperation, he got whipped. Right there, in front us all. His dignity, and everything that made him human was is lost behind the crack of that whip… The red, blistered, bleeding slashes are everlasting memories of our journey and our master’s cruelty. I couldn’t watch. I closed my eyes and started humming. All I could hear was that sharp lash against his back. The sound of it made me skin crawl. Blood splattered everywhere, you could hear it pound the deck planks. I blocked my ears and waited until it stopped. I presume they were going to force him to eat it. Deep in thought, I remembered that I have been given a half-empty cup filled with water. I peer into it again. I sigh deeply and think to myself if it could get any worse than this. I tried to pick out the maggots that were floating on top and the specs of dirt out the bottom. I took some of it out, the best I could and it started spilling on the floor. Quickly stopping, as I don’t want to waste the water. I closed my eyes and drank it. Some dirt that I didn’t manage to successfully extract from the cup, gritted in between my teeth. I spat it out and wiped my mouth with the back of the hand.
This morning, I was woken up to a bright light shining on my face. The air was warmer that it had been down here and I felt a subtle breeze. I slowly opened my eyes. They were watering because again of the sudden bright light. Suddenly, one of the masters came down and started ordering us to stand up. Shouting and screaming we started moving up onto the deck. As we made it up onto the deck I thought they were going to make us exercise again. I was dreading it. I looked down at myself. My arms and fingers were as thin as sicks and I could count each and every rib I had – something I couldn’t do before. I looked around. My fellow people looked a lot like me too, with their ribs and hips poking through them. I ran my fingers over my flaking skin. I was thin, weak, and feeble – I felt so fragile. If anything was to happen to me I feel like I would just snap. I felt as if I was bone and nothing more.
Looking into the distance, it seemed like there was some land. I looked behind me and all I saw was water and nothing else, but in front me was land! it had hilly terrain – it was a miracle! All of a sudden, they burst into laughter and started clapping. How could they be laughing at the way they have treated us? My face boiled up. How could they be proud of themselves? At first I was puzzled but the idea struck me like a lightning bolt. They were congratulating us for making it this far into the journey. I couldn’t even like about that. I was mortified, humiliated and disgusted. I would rather die than spend another day on this ship. We spent the rest on the day on the deck of the ship. We were all unshackled and were allowed to move around. I was given a larger portion of food. A decent amount that I would call a meal. I was rubbed down with oil and sprayed down with water. The water against my skin felt cold, I didn’t mind, it was refreshing.
My skin seemed to be locking in the moisture from the oil and it wasn’t peeling anymore. I wouldn’t say I feel happy, because I’m not and I would be lying to myself. But I felt better, refreshed and well-fed. My stomach was full – almost too full. As we got closer I noticed the land a bit better. It had lush green vegetation and it reminded me so much of home. It brought tears to my eyes knowing I didn’t even kiss my sister goodbye. I would love to go back to 6 weeks ago and tell her how much she meant to me and how much I loved her. If only I knew this would happen. My parents? I haven’t seen them in weeks. Who would look after my sister? How is she? Will this happen to her? Memories come back to me like a flood.
By now, I am sobbing. I miss her so much. Again I close my eyes and prayed hard and prayed longer than I ever have. I prayed to God asking keep my sister safe and happy. I can’t imagine her going through this, and I hope she wouldn’t have to. Again my heart burns with anger and sadness. But I do remember one thing. She always told me that no matter how hard things got, you must always hope and pray that it will get better – even if the level of doubt in my mind was sky high. I wiped my tears and looked away. The journey ended when we hit the shore. There was a sea of people and I couldn’t see clearly; my eyes still tear-filled from thinking about my family and how I am going to be treated now.As much as this reminded me of home, it was needless to say it was going to be very different.
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