Recently I was part of a group of writers asked to share our thoughts at an event to raise awareness of refugees, although I don’t have any direct connection or involvement in such things, one can’t help but feel for their plight, refugees that is and not just economic migrants trying to ride the same road.
The water, flashing over the collapsing roundness of the rubber boat, was dark in the Mediterranean night. Tiny fingers, grey with cold, had been hanging onto the thin safety rope for what seemed like days and now showed red at the raw edges of wet, wrinkled, skin, ripped away at the joints.
He had stopped blinking against the stinging salt from the crests of the waves, his dark eyes had settled into hard beads, frozen in their stare at the beguiling depths of the black and green water, that sparked hypnotically with the reflection of the stars above.
An indistinct shape bobbed into the boy’s narrow field of vision, but it was hard to focus, in the fight to keep awake. A larger wave boosted the object into the softening outer skin of their sinking ride, but he was unable to make any move to investigate it further. Some others hand swept into the picture, and the sodden piece of wool and straw, pushed its one-eyed face into the grey brown cheek of the boy. He let out a muffled moan, a mixture of fear and discomfort, but it was lost in the general hubbub from the 400 other souls squeezed in a space made for just a quarter of that.
Blinking away the initial fear, if his mouth could have smiled it would have, at the recognition of what might once have been, the familiar comfort of a toy camel. He just leant his chin on it, and continued in the fading hope, of the dream he had been dragged into.
His recognition of the figurine was a timely distraction, from the mop of black hair that weaved and floated with the swell of the water, as it passed by. This singular piece of flotsam that had very recently breathed with life, would soon sink to the depths and be crab food. If the boy had been just eight or nine years older, he might have easily joined the many innocent teenage boys that were quietly but callously smothered and slipped into the vast watery grave, a concept no one wanted to acknowledge it seemed. Young girls were assured safety by the value of their virginity, but boys?
A slim, familiar hand gripped the boys arm as he stared into the dark, but even for his mother’s comfort, he was not going to give up his place to the promised land of peace and plenty, despite it being nothing he could possibly know. If he could have seen a few feet below their barely floating escape, he would have been more inclined to seek out this familiar warmth, as a better place to die. The grey shark fin was an unknown terror in his sort lived world but, could so easily be the method of his departure from it.
The background noise rose noticeably and a piercingly bright light blinded the scene. The boy’s shivering body stiffened at the unfathomable intrusion and he didn’t have the choice of resistance this time as he flew into the air, his free arm trying to hang onto the sodden remains of the now lost toy.
There certainly wasn’t time to see it crushed against the black hull of the rescue boat.
The strange white face that flashed past his bewilderment, offered no smile, but the firmness of the grip, and the crackle of alien, shiny foil around him, was the beginning of a whole new world, one he hadn’t asked for, and certainly couldn’t comprehend.
Not yet anyway
There is a poem that was written at the same time on a similar theme, you can read it here, ‘Refugee’