Counting Days

February 23, 2017
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“Skrrreeek,” went my fingernail across the moist wooden plank, scratching a line for the first day at sea. I tried to cover my mouth to keep myself from throwing up, but the length of the chain I was tied to allowed little to no movement. All around me were men, children and women of all ages wasting away below deck. Sitting side by side, rocking with the waves in silence, we endured the hardship of the journey at sea. Brutally forced out of our homes and into a strange man’s ship, we now waited for the end of the sea journey and the beginning of our new lives. Little did I know, this would be no life worth living for.

By the tenth day, my nail was covered in cakey, dried up blood from counting the days I’ve suffered. Sometimes it was hard to keep track, as no daylight reached below. Oxygen was scarce as we lay next to each other, packed like sardines, often gasping for air. The few times we were taken upstairs for what they called “exercise” was a bittersweet relief to the suffering underneath deck. By the fifteenth day, my wrists were rubbed raw from the constant scraping of the chains against my skin. I could count my ribs, but to make sure I remained alive, they fed me the bare minimum of oatmeal and water that was required to keep my body functioning.

I wanted it to end. Every time I saw the sea, I saw freedom, if only I had the opportunity to jump. However, they kept a close eye on us, as we were valuable cargo. The stench of dead bodies and human waste burned my nose and was a punch to my stomach every time I was pushed back into the dreadful crammed space below. We were piled on top of each other, like goods stacked on a shelf. On the fifteenth day, I was positioned next to a bucket that functioned as the bathroom for some of us. The smell was so unbearable that I gagged every time I caught a whiff of it.

This is when I made a decision that would change my life. The next time they pulled us onto deck, I was determined to end all of this. The moment they detached us from the main chain for our daily exercises, I saw my chance. For a split second, I noted the sound of the waves and singing of the birds and then I bolted. I ran as fast as my weak legs would let me and used my final reservoir of strength to leap of the side of the boat. Rejoicing at the icy water, I attempted to stay afloat. I could make out figures above, shouting and waving over the railing but they couldn’t reach me. Then suddenly, a wave swallowed me up and forced my head underwater. I panicked, as I was too weak to fight my way back to the surface. My lungs were screaming for air and my arms had given up. To weak to fight it, I stopped and started to sink. I closed my eyes and in my final moments, rejoiced in my freedom and escape, from the ship that had taken everything from me.

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