August 12, 2022

The darkness wrapped around them like a warm blanket as the salty water splashed over the boat’s edge; they had started their journey. The cool air and building breeze failed to sap the excitement among the passengers as the boat felt its way through the waves. The blackness of the midnight sea rippled like a moving oil below them; it held them on the surface. “Blood appears black in the moonlight”, one of the passengers said as they stared almost hypnotically at the water.

“Will you cut that out” another called back, “you are frightening the children!” the boat rocked steadily with the waves. The man, the strongest among them, grabbed the oars and started to paddle. He held his knees up tight to save room, but his upper body strength was enough to do the job. He lifted, pushed, and then pulled. Soon they were building up some speed as he worked in a steady rhythm.

The boat see-sawed up and down on a few waves, and they could catch brief glimpses of the light on the far horizon. The boat soon tilted back down, and they were left with only the void of black that was the open sea. The saltiness of the air flooded their nostrils, and suddenly there was a splash. “Shit, shit, she has gone overboard”, a voice shouted from the darkness. Tens of hands reached over and started to wrestle with the black tar. Grabbing and grasping for anything but coming back with only water, the boat drifted forward with the current. The screaming of the suffering eclipsed into the darkness and eventually fell silent.

The man continued to row, pushing the water with each hefty pull. He knew they could not go back. You can only go forwards both in life and on this boat. “Hold on”, he shouted as the waves got rougher. They battered the boat from both sides, and it rocked violently. Two more were lost in the violence of the sea. The screams eking out to nothing as the splashing water replaced the noise of their yelps. The man could now use his legs to give him more pulling power. There were only the three of them now.

Turning back would not have been an option, even if he were the only one left. They had to be closer to the opposite shoreline now. They just had to be. They had nothing to return to. Go back to the camp? Fuck that! Back home? Fuck that even harder. The war had taken their lives, taken all they had. What was left for them was rubble and memories. The rubble was bearable; the memories of what they had seen would never leave them. It would travel with them like a shadow or the smell of a mass grave in the afternoon sun. A smell that would forever be a part of them. The rotten sweet smell and the buzzing of the flies.

Another had fallen, and he had not even taken the time to notice. He was lost in his thoughts of those he had once had and those he had once loved. What could he have done? The boat was being beaten on both sides, and he could not have stopped. The rowing was becoming futile; the current was taking them where it wanted to go. “I am sorry”, he said to the final passenger as he lay the oars down.

The sea grabbed the oars and pulled them from the boat like a spoilt child grabbing at sweets. It pulled the oars, and soon they were gone along with the other travellers. Left to drift in the open sea until discovered. The man prayed to his God as a tear ran down his cheek. He had tried; lord knows he had tried. He knew it would be hard, and it would be difficult, but he had done what he thought was right. He threw himself overboard, and the young woman, no more than a girl really, was left on her own. She screamed into the darkness.

The girl sat on the boat alone. This was meant to be her new life. This was supposed to have been a fresh start. This was intended to end a sad story and start a new happier one. She looked up at the moon, and the moon looked down at her as the boat drifted. It drifted in the darkness until neither it nor the girl could be seen.

 

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