“Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.”
― Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Mum always said there was nothing a good night’s sleep could not cure.
I remember waking up in the middle of the night crying from a nightmare and she’d rock me back to sleep saying ‘Sleep my darling; you’ll be fine in the morning’. I lived my life like everything was always better in the morning.
So you see why I fell asleep in the midst of the entire ruckus. I mean, who else do you know goes right to sleep in the midst of a storm?
I get up and scan my environment; I’m standing in a life boat right in the middle of nowhere. I never thought that was a valid expression before now; “middle of nowhere” but there are no words to describe my present location. As far as I look, all I can see is water; clear blue water.
I burst out laughing. Wow! I have no idea where I am, an ocean perhaps but I’m lost and alone. Oh dear, I’m alone.
The mirth disappeared from my lips and the fear from last night returned.
This is for real?
The ship really sunk?
So last night, wasn’t a dream?
But it had to be a dream…
Where’s mum and Stella?
Where were my mum and sister? Where’s everybody?
I looked around in the boat and searched for them. Somebody. Anybody. Like you’d search for a missing car beneath leaves or among grasses hoping that someone was playing a really sick joke on you. Sick, but a joke regardless.
I had searched for far more times than I could count when I sat down and began to cry. For the first time since last night, I really cried. I had gone from shock, to denial and the acceptance stage was the hardest.
The boat my mum and sister boarded had sunk and with probably everybody else.
A storm had started in the night as was predicted during dinner but it would be the second storm during the journey so to everyone, it was one of those things. When it seemed to get out of hand, members of the crew went around waking everyone up to get us into the life boats. My mum had insisted my sister and I got in first and while my sister was being lowered after me, a lightning struck and hit the ship. The sudden movement distracted the person holding my sister and she was thrown off into the water. My mum screamed and was going to jump after her but she was held back. She struggled to go get her daughter and she was told that someone would find her but we really had to get into the boats.
I was all too shocked to process everything that was happening around me. I had been woken up from sleep you see, and I’m a really deep sleeper. I was still very surprised at being dragged out of our rooms and the events since then were going by too fast to entirely comprehend. My mum was lowered into the boat and before the next person was, a pole fell and hit the railing of the ship, crashing into the ropes that held the boat to the ship and the boat was thrown into the water. The force of the fall threw my mum who hadn’t secured her life jacket and wasn’t much of a swimmer.
I called out for my mum. Was she going to leave me here all alone? The boat floated away from the ship and I looked up to see the ship sinking fast. The three lower layers of the ship were already covered with water and at that point I got really scared.
This ship is going to sink, I thought.
I screamed louder for my mum. If she heard me, she’d be able to know where I was and come for me but the boat floated further from the ship. I looked into the water and shouted louder;
“Mummy! Mummy I’m here! Mummy!”
I heard screams and looked at the sinking ship where I saw people jumping into the water, I thought of going back to help them unto my boat but I couldn’t move the rows and the boat kept moving away as if it was telling me to get far away from the ship.
I picked up the paddles of the boat and tried to manoeuvre it but I couldn’t handle the waves. Rain was falling hard and fast into the boat and it was filling up with water. No, I thought, this boat isn’t going to sink too!
I turned back to look at the ship and it was as though time froze. Over the next couple of seconds, I watched the entire ship get submerged and at that point I was convinced that it was all a horrible dream. I sat in the boat and held myself. I thought of mum and Stella; they wouldn’t leave me alone, with no one to take care of me. How could a whole ship sink? It just wasn’t possible. I was going to go back to sleep and by morning I’d feel better.
So I thought.
The waves were calm so I picked up the paddle of the boat and started to row, still crying, searching for a signs of the wreck from last night. Hoping I would see someone else. Maybe Mum and Stella. Then I thought, I was probably moving farther from where it all happened last night. How does a fifteen-year old survive alone after a ship-wreck on an ocean, with nobody to talk to or no food to eat?
My stomach groaned and then I realised that I had so many problems to handle and being alone was the least of it. I started to look around the boat, and voila, I saw cans of soup, biscuits and water. Apparently, it was a survival boat and there were some other materials to help me get stay alive, for how long though?
That was the question.