I remember taking refuge in the deep fear that filled everything. Me, my surroundings, the sounds of the wind and water splashing up to the dock. The movement of the wooden boards as I walked them. Being a machine. Amidst all the fear I could only be a machine.
I was doing the dishes. Water for some coffee had almost reached boiling temperature. When I picked up the dishcloth I heard footsteps on deck. Leather soles. Donncha appeared from the front of the boat. We looked at each others faces. There was something… “Shall I leave now?” I asked. If Donncha had someone visiting the boat, he did not like me being around too. “Or would you rather have me finish the dishes first?” I added full of hope. There was some torrential rain outside. Donncha shook his head. “There is no need to leave.” said he. “You just finish those dishes. It’s fine.” That was new but I did not think much of it. I just took to finishing the dishes.
The hatch of the cabin opened. Some cold draft and rain came in. “Hurry it!” Donncha said. The shoes with leather soles belonged to a man in jeans and a hooded wax coat. When he let the hood down, a Chinese face appeared. He glanced at me and then walked up to Donncha. They embraced each other in a warm welcome. Shook hands and then sat down at the table. Their talking was inaudible to me. And anyway I had learned by now not to get involved unless I was explicitly invited. So I just took my mind to putting away the dishes, pots and pans and cutlery in the right places.
“Anna, come sit for a moment.” said Donncha. I turned around and sat next to him. “Say hi to Lok.” said Donncha. I did. Lok never replied. He just looked at me. “So,” he said to Donncha, “Deal done. Pleasure.” He got up. Donncha pushed me a bit so I got up too.
Then Lok took hold of my arm. “You come with me.” I was startled. I looked at Donncha, wanted to ask him what was going on, resisting Lok’s pull towards the hatch. But he just started to push me out, away to the hatch. “You go now.” he said. “Go with Lok.” I looked back at Lok but he was not paying attention to me at all. He was just pulling my arm. Panic got hold of me. What was going on here? What was happening? I tried to grab on to the side of the cupboard and hold on. Donncha beat my vingers real hard, so I had to let go. This was going wrong.
I struggled not to get up the four narrow steps to the hatch. The hatch was open already and I could feel the wind and rain coming in. I struggled and wanted to free my arm. I had to get away from this, but how?
Then Lok turned around and pushed me away from him. This was so unexpected that I fell backwards to the floor, flat on my back. Lok jumped and sat down on me. He smacked my face. Left side. And again. And then on the right side. He put his forearm over my throat and brought his face down to mine. I could not breath. I struggled with my legs, but then Donncha kicked them real hard. I stopped struggling. I could not breath!
“You calm down. You come with me.” Lok shouted. “You calm down, you live.” he added. Okay! Okay! I was quiet real quick. He lifted his arm and set up. I gasped. “I paid good money.” Lok said. “You are mine and you will do as I say.” My eyes filled with tears. I could not help it. I cried. Lok got up. “That’s better.” He moved to the hatch. “Now you come. Be calm.” I sat up. I looked up to Donncha. He just looked back down at me. No expression in his face. “Go!” he all of a sudden said and kicked my legs once more. So I got up and moved towards the hatch. The leather soles of the shoes of Lok were hardly walked on yet. I lifted my face to the wind and rain and got up the steps.
Lok had a firm hold of my arm as he closed the hatch. It was tricky and slippery out in this weather on the teak wooden deck of the sail boat. My shoes were still inside. I did not have my shoes. I stepped over board on to the planks of the floating dock besides the boat. There was someone else there, waiting. He grabbed my arm as Lok let go. As if they handed over a grocery bag to each other. Then I noticed the small gun in this man’s hand. Gun. Gun. He had it pointed at me. “You behave?” this man asked. I nodded. I think I nodded. He let go of my arm.
The three of us walked towards the high stone quay. It was low tide. I climbed up the gang board going steeply up to the quay. Underneath my bare feet the wet planks were slippery with rain. There was a lot of cold. I was so scared.
That was all that was left, fear. All was fear. I could barely breath accept fear.
I reached the top of of the board at the edge of the quay. The two men were behind me. I noticed how busy it was around the harbour. I noticed the wood disappear from underneath my feet and turn into stone. I stopped thinking. In that same instant I ran. I did not feel my feet on the cobblestones. I never knew if I was still breathing. I just ran. I knew this area well. Behind the dock there was the fish auction hall. There was always activity over there. I had to move to where people were. Where are you all? There was still some daylight, but the rain, the reflection of light coming from lampposts, trawlers bustling with activity landing their catch; also the noises everywhere, the flapping and ticking and singing of masts, ropes and rusty cables and chains, the sounds of heavy machines, voices and radio’s. It all mixed in with sounds and movements of the gusty wind and the torrential rainfall. Within a few steps it hid me from perception.
I kept running. I heard the men behind me shout. I guessed they would follow me, but I never cared much to find out if they actually did. I just ran. Running was me.