I flipped the snake over the fire and made sure that it was well cooked before offering
Sandra a piece.
She recoiled in disgust. “That’s gross Mago. I can’t eat that.”
“Sandra, you have to eat something or your body will get weak. Fruits and vegetables are
healthy, but you also need some protein.”
“I’m good,” she said casually. “You go ahead.”
I shook my head at her then took a hefty bite. “Tastes like chicken,” I said aloud for her
benefit. She pretended not to hear and waited patiently as I devoured the slithering creature. But as soon as I was done, she jumped to her feet and extended a hand towards me.
“Come on Mago, its time!”
I groaned for I had expected this from her. It was her every night routine and she was relentless about the ritual.
We climbed up the tallest hill on the island and lit a huge bonfire.
“That’s enough!” I yelled above the crackling noises.
“Almost,” she said as she threw in a huge log.
A few minutes later, we cuddled by the fire and
stared expectantly into the dark
“Do you think someone will see the fire?” she asked.
“Eventually yes,” I replied as I kissed her
forehead. “A ship will have to come by sooner
or later.” It was the only way I could get her to sleep. As long as she had ‘hope’ she was happy. Hope was our only light at the end of the tunnel.
“You know the first thing I will do when I get to New York?” she asked.
“A hot bath. I will soak myself for hours and then go on a shopping spree.” She sighed and turned to look at me with her dreamy eyes. “What about you Mago? What will you do?”
I didn’t want to reply but I didn’t want to lie to her either. “Honestly,” I said. “I stopped thinking about it a long time ago. I used to think about it during our first year here but now, five years later, I don’t.”
It was painful watching the expression on her face fall, and so I quickly added to humor her. “You know what I’ll get? A large burger and a keg of cold American beer.”
Her head slowly dropped and rested against my athletic torso. She turned away before I could
see the tears. “What happened Mago? What happened to us?”
She knew the answer but I indulged her jaded heart. “They said that it was the greatest ship to ever have been built on this earth … the ship that can never sink.”
Sandra sniffed. “Its not fare Mago. Its not fare for this to happen to us. How have you managed to stay so collected? I miss home so much.”
I sighed and felt like a pessimist. “I miss home too Sandra but I have learned to count my blessings in life. It could have been worse. We could have died like everybody else or I could have been marooned alone like Robinson Crusoe with nothing but myself to talk to.” Pause. “I have you with me Sandra and I thank God for that every day of my life. Every additional day I get with you is a miracle.”
We sat in silence on the ‘fortified’ land and stared into the dark ocean. The soundtrack was that of the high crackling fire. Her breathing dropped and I knew that she was falling asleep.
“Sandra?” I called. “Do you want to go back to the cave?”
“No,” she replied. “Let’s stay here. Maybe someone will come along.”
The unexpected fever came a week later and I
writhed on the ground in pain. My
joints and head hurt and I felt my entire body burning. Sandra ran back and forth from the ocean bringing back cold water which she dubbed over my body and forehead. Nothing seemed to help and we had long since ran out of the medicines that had been washed ashore.
I started hallucinating on the fourth day and I saw London as though I was back again. I saw Sandra with me and … we were talking about something very important… our wedding. Sandra looked happy as she described her dream wedding: flower banquettes, music in the background; foods and delicacies from all over the country; hundreds of guests to witness the big day. “It will be the biggest wedding the world has ever seen!” she said with excitement.
My vision turned suddenly and we were on board a huge ship, on its maiden voyage from England to New York. The ship was full of some of the wealthiest folks in the world, as well as hundreds of emigrants from Great Britain, Ireland and other European countries seeking a new life in North America. The sky was a perfect blue as we made sail in a morning tide. She had been designed to be the last word in comfort and luxury, with an on-board gymnasium, swimming pool, libraries, high-class restaurants and lavish cabins.
“It’s beautiful.” A voice beside me.
I turned and saw her: hair blowing in the wind; smiling eyes and a content look. I knew that she was happy, just as I was.
“I can’t wait to get to New York,” Sandra
“I’ve heard so much about it,” I replied, my hands
around her waist, vast waters bobbing
Close to midnight, and four days into the crossing, the ship hit an iceberg and we awoke to stamping feet and
eerie screams. I cracked the cabin door open and almost got run over by a
frenzy of passengers.
“We have been hit, the ship is going down!” someone screamed.
“Nonsense,” another voice said. “This ship was built to stay afloat. It can never sink!”
I closed the door and turned to Sandra. “Get dressed. The ship is sinking!”
Sandra hurriedly pulled into a pair of blue jeans
and reached for her bag. The ship
suddenly shook like an earthquake and we were thrown to the floor.
“Forget the bag!” I yelled. “We have to go now.”
Every passenger had gone through the evacuation drill but
very few of us had actually
listened. Nevertheless, we all knew where the life boats and jackets were and so we headed in that direction.
“To the boats!” I yelled and simultaneously grabbed Sandra’s hand as we zigzagged through stumbling objects and people. Water was slowly filling the deck and we constantly slipped.
It was tough getting through the crowd because
everybody was trying to get to the
boats while others demanded to know what was happening. The commander got on the intercom and explained the gravity of the situation.
The boat had been designed with advanced safety
features such as watertight compartments and remotely activated watertight doors. The glancing collision on the iceberg had caused the ship’s hull plates to buckle inwards along her
starboard side and five of her sixteen watertight compartments had opened to the seas; the ship was gradually filling in with water.
A murmur of panic arose on the deck but the commander’s voice killed it with his next mind shattering words.
In a ship carrying a capacity of 2,234 passengers,
there were enough lifeboats to
only carry 1,178 people—slightly more than half of the number on board, and one-third her total capacity. And now the passengers really panicked and started pushing.
A man stepped into my path. “Sorry son, only women and children. We don’t have enough
My face turned white as I absorbed the meaning of
the words. I struggled to make a
brave face and then turned to Sandra. “You have to go,” I said sadly.
“Noo!” she screamed and quickly turned to the man.
“What are you guys doing here? Look
at those boats over there!”
The officer’s burly shoulders turned to watch a boat being cast into the sea.
“What about it?” The man was going through great pain to sound polite.
“It’s half full. You would rather send out a half full boat than save a few men?”
“Sorry ma’am. I’m just following instructions.”
He was a uniform with no brains and arguing was
hopeless. The crew members were
poorly trained on evacuation procedures and passengers ill prepared for an emergency. The officers were not sure of the carrying capacity of each boat thus sending out half full boats and dooming the rest of the people.
I pushed Sandra forward. “Go now honey before it’s too late.”
She turned on me like a snake. “Don’t you dare
touch me! Go where? I’m not going
anywhere without you Mago. We do this thing together, until death do us part.”
I knew that look all too well and so we turned and ran in the opposite direction, not knowing exactly where we were going. There had to be another way. We would not go quietly into the night.
“The stern!” I suddenly yelled as a bulb lit in my head.
“What?” Sandra asked.
“The rear of the ship. It will be the last part to sink,” I explained. And while people ran towards the crowded boats, we ran in a different direction: bolts and fasteners flying around us, the sound of wood breaking guiding our movements.
The forward deck of the ship suddenly dipped underwater and the sea poured in through open
hatches and grates. The sinking rate accelerated and the ship suddenly groaned and snapped into half. Huge floods of waves rolled in and while folks were washed into the sea, Sandra and I clung desperately on top of the stern gravely aware that we and hundreds of other folks would be the last to sink into the freezing waters. Our short lease on life was about to expire and the words in the clause did not have any terms of renewal. The end was rushing to meet us.
My eyes suddenly opened and
sand underneath my body. Sandra’s face appeared above me.
“Come on honey,” she said.
Fight the fever!”
I thought I saw her crying but I wasn’t very sure. It felt like we were moving and it took a second to realize that she was carrying me.
“You are going to make it Mago,” she
said. “We have been through worse than this.” I tried to smile but suddenly felt the cold water around me, and I knew that she had carried me into the sea. An IV and a feeding tube could have done the job but this was definitely another
way to go. It felt good but the sudden change in body temperature did me in and I closed my eyes again.
We were bobbing on the water, the huge waves slapping at our faces and threatening to sink us… our attempts to swim an effort in futility.
“Over there!” A voice yelled and I turned and saw Sandra swimming towards a glowing light. It was a boat! I quickly did a double take and followed her. We reached the boat in the nick of time and heaved ourselves aboard.
The occupants must have been washed into the water and to think that they were probably women and children was depressing. We lay on our backs and gasped for breath and for the briefest moment entertained thoughts of surviving.
“I’m so co…ld,” Sandra said in a quivering voice.
With the roaring sea around us, we were facing a new threat; hypothermia… body
temperature dropping below normal required temperature resulting in shivering, mental confusion and sometimes cardiac arrest.
The emergency boats were well furnished to accommodate life on the sea and so I searched around for supplies. The oars, compass and flares were gone, but I was able to find a blanket and a water beaker.
We wrapped ourselves tightly under the blanket and used each other’s body heat to warm
ourselves up. All around us split wood and dead bodies floated in the waves. We strapped ourselves in the lifeboat and prayed that we would survive… if only to see another sunlight.
I woke up with the sun and a look of confusion on my face. The fever was gone and I felt strong in the bones. My attention flickered and I turned and saw her cooking something over the fire. “What’s that Sandra?” I asked.
“Mago!” she screamed and threw her arms around me. “I thought I lost you. Don’t you ever scare me like that again! How are you feeling?”
“Hungry,” I replied.
She laughed. “Good. That means that you are okay.”
“That smells good,” I said as I sniffed into the air.
“Oh,” she said with a grin. “I caught a rat. I had to make a living while you were gone. Would you like a piece? It tastes like chicken.”
Present day Haiti, June 2013
On a beach in the North Atlantic Ocean, a little girl pulled something from the water and ran over to her parents yelling frantically, “Mummy, daddy, look what I found!”
“What is it honey?” The parent’s leaned over as the girl sat on the sand to inspect her find. “It’s just a bottle honey.”
“No,” the girl said, “there’s something inside.”
The little girl unscrewed the lid and pulled out an old piece of paper. “It’s a message in
a bottle,” she squealed with excitement.
“Do you want to read it aloud?” The parents asked as the small family settled on the sand.
The little girl in a soft voice started reading.
“If you are reading this, we are probably long dead, but before you shed a tear on our behalf, we
want you to know that this is not a letter about how we died. No. This is a story about how we lived.” Pause. The girl inhaled deeply and then
continued. “So, there we were like animals separated from our herd…”
The parents quickly interrupted. “Honey, what’s the date on the letter?”
The girl scrolled up and down the page searching
for the date. “1912 mum. The
letter is over 100 years old!”
The parents looked as excited as their daughter.
“They are already dead!” the girl said sadly.
“Oh no,” the dad replied. “They are not dead.”
“I don’t understand daddy.”
The dad turned and looked into the sea. “Honey, to
kill someone, you have to first kill their name. When we die, we live through our children and they through their own. Don’t you see honey? Mago and Sandra now live through you. Because
you found the bottle, they will now live forever and their story will be told from generation to generation. In the midst of a storm and a deserted island, the miracle of love found its way. Remember child, love always outlives death.”
That night, the little girl sat by the window and stared into the diamond sky. And she wondered whether Sandra and Mago were staring down at her. Everybody has a star up there, her grandma had told her. When you miss me, just look up and know that am shining down on you.
Off to AFRICA
My book A Whisper in the Jungle has been picked by a publishing company and approved by the board. It has been scheduled for release soon.
The music is all around you, all you have to do is listen
Without God, what are we? What do we have? What is life...