Winner May 2013 TED Writing Competition
The old boat rocks nauseatingly from side to side as the unforgiving waves smacked the boat setting loose the rotted panel wood making up the hull, pulling all a hundred and ten of us closer to the water.
In my mind’s eye I see the distressed faces of my loved ones and neighbours. My grandmother says in Swahili, ‘Sisi ni kwenda kufa hapa si sisi?’ (‘We are going to die out here aren’t we?’) She shivers to herself and grasps my grandfather’s pocket watch in her hand as if it were his fingers she were holding.
I can feel my mother’s heart beat on my shoulder, the rhythm should be comforting but her heart is set at a frightened pace as the pirates have their guns trained at our writhing clump of people desperate to be safe and at peace.
The trafficker’s voice reaches a panicked octave when the head pirate demands our treasures that brought us on this god forsaken boat, his precious loot will be gone, ransacked by the man with a million bullets at his disposal.
The pirate’s right hand man gathers the most valuable things us passengers owned and the throws them on the pirate’s boat, my mother’s wedding rings and diamond encrusted candle sticks, my grandmother’s emerald hair clip and my aunties ruby brooch were all in the loot, they paid for our ‘safe trip’ to Australia, priceless and sentimental, now gone.
Gone, like the eight children the pirates also take, all girls of course to be grown into the men’s toys, the leader finally looks satisfied for the first time upon his terrifying arrival on our boat, until he spots me that is.
My mother tried with all her might to mould my form to hers, but I was already spotted under his eagle eye. He ripped me from my mother, the cloth hiding my long curly hair now gone and I was in the spotlight of the world at that moment as he twirled me around inspecting my boyish attire, in a dangerous dance, that may end my chances of freedom.
From the sounds emitting themselves from my mother’s mouth, I was done for; the pirate chucked his head and signalled for one of his men to step forward. I willed the tears not to overflow my vision but they did not acknowledge protests like the pirate dismissed my mothers. I was led from the mass of people to the boardwalk that banded the two ships together.
From there I was thrown like garbage onto the hard icy deck of the pirate’s boat, composing myself just in time to see my mother gather several of the million bullets in her chest, keeping them there but letting her soul flow out onto the rotted floor. The darkness surrounds me and all is quiet.
That is the last memory I have of my family, I have been a slave on this boat for six years. I was ten then, now at sixteen with my three children fathered from the pirates that took me, we are finally reaching the destination I was meant to so many years ago.
I have not returned to my war torn country but I do resent how six years of my life were battered, bruised, assaulted and tortured by the pirates, all I wanted was freedom. All I wanted was safety. All I wanted was peace.
Now I’m being sent to Nauru.
Bio: Maddison says that she loves reading books, any genre, any length and if it has a good cover she’ll read it. This story came to her after watching ‘Go Back To Where You Came From’ a reality TV show that sends ordinary Australians on a journey to follow the lives of refugees. She wanted to show her view of a life of a refugee and the horrific struggles that they face in order to have peace and freedom.