Gurpal Sahota (UK)
The waves splashed against the hull of the boat as it crept its way through the Mediterranean Sea. The stars that filled the dark blanket of the night’s sky bounced off the murky water, creating a never-ending firmament that encapsulated the land. We were all standing and crammed together, many of us towards the edge of the boat, as it was so full, and we all held on tight to some thin wire and hope, as it was the only thing many of us had left.
We had all heard stories of this malevolent sea, how it was like a monster, swallowing up our brothers and sisters and spitting them back out onto the shores and beaches of Europe. But nothing compared with the horrors of our homeland.
The relentless bombing, artillery strikes and gunfire had been engraved into our brains, poisoning our minds and slowly becoming a part of us. Many of us had lived in Halab or in English, Allepo, but were forced to seek refuge after many of our homes and families were ripped apart like a simple stitch being pulled into two, by powerful, god-like hands. That’s what we were fleeing. Something so controlling and deadly that god was the closest thing to it.
Then, an old woman, with striking emerald-green eyes, shouted in my mother tongue, “kanuu aminin!”, Making everyone turn around. It was stunning. Beautiful in fact. She had just said that we were safe. We all gazed upon Europe’s shores, thunderstruck . All stunned into silence by knowing that safety, and hope were within our grasp.
Suddenly, a colossal wave slammed into the side of the boat, sending us up into the icy, bitter air and making the boat capsize. I crashed violently into the water, my head disappearing into the depths for a moment and then re-emerging, soaked. I turned in the water frantically, searching for people, for my brothers and sisters, for my homeland, for hope. But I was greeted with nobody, silence and despair.
Swimming, I grabbed onto the blue hull of the boat, scratching the blue paint off as I tried to claw my way up out of the unforgiving water. I tried screaming for help, but only muffled sobs came out, alongside my tears. There I was, so close to hope, but closer to death. All I wanted, all we wanted was hope and safety, and this ocean had crushed that, just like the tanks that rolled over my homeland.
So, as I lay there, on top of this sinking boat, close to certain death, I wondered why we had been dehumanised, demonised and persecuted. Not only by Europe, but also by the world. Closing my eyes, I thought of my homeland on a bright sunny day, drenched in sunlight and happiness and wondered what we had done to deserve this fate.