Amara opened her eyes slowly. She wakes with that momentary feeling of forgetting where you are. It takes several blinks this morning, for her post-dream reality to set in. The 9 year old girl is dreery, and so it seems is her world.
The unbearable heat, and humidity seem to sap her of energy more and more, as days pass. Amara is made fully conscious of her surroundings when the smells start to hit her. Her mother couldn't afford fancy accommodations for the long trip. Everyone shared one big room. "It's just ship rules" her mother would say.
Amara wishes to have stayed in her dream. A dream she, already, couldn't recall the details of. Just the feeling of being home in the dream remained in her memory. Eventually only the warm, smiling face of her father was all she could recall.
Amara's mother notices that her oldest child is stirring to wake.
"Good morning, Ama"
"Hello, ma" Amara spoke in a yawn.
"How do you feel? Did you sleep peacefully?" Her ma asked.
"Yes, ma'am" said Amara.
Amara stood up and stretched. It was time to face the next long day on the ship they were on. To Amara it seemed like they had been asea for eternity. In reality, it had been nearly 6 weeks since they boarded. Amara's days on the ship would consist of her meals, and chores like cleaning and mending garments, and keeping up with her two siblings, and whatever else the ship's crew asked of her. Her mother said the chores being done were their payment for the ship ride. Amara didn't mind the duties. Actually, she liked keeping busy. Even still, she always ended up with plenty of free time.
The boredom would allow homesickness and despair to set in, and Amara dreaded that. In fact, she only liked one part of her days spent on the hit, crowded ship. Every night, after darkness wove its way into the hull, Amara's mother would tell her three, young children fantastic stories. The stories were all about the new home they were all headed to.
She would whip the children into a joyous fervor with tales of endless green fields to play in, and of abundant food. She'd go on and on about the house that was waiting for them, and with descriptions of the rooms that their father had built for each of them. Amara loved all her mother's stories, but most of all the ones that mention her daddy.
Amara hadn't seen him in a year. Not since he left, suddenly, to secure land and build a home in the new place. He didn't even say bye. Ma said there wasn't time, and that he had to rush to secure our future home. Amara missed him desperately. She couldn't wait to get there and see her dad waiting and waving to them on the beach.
Amara thought endlessly about what she would say when she saw him. She would ask if he missed them. She force him to tell all of the tales of the new land, that she was sure he would have. Like her mother, father was an excellent story teller. And unlike mom, he would do voices to match the crazy people and animals in his tales.
Amara couldn't wait to hear about the new world they would be inhabiting... especially the animals there. Back home she had her favorites, like the big noisy black birds she loved, and the family of porcupines that she would see by the river. She wondered if the dangerous animals would be at there new home. Like lions, or cross. Or maybe there would be new dangerous ones... like huge monsters!
Amara's mother would assuage her worries, though. She would tell tales of only the sweetest, cutest animals. Animals that talked even! The two little ones hung on every word. They took their mother's word as the absolute truth & they both were convinced that their new home would be a fantastical world full of adventure.
It was a bit tougher for Amara to buy into all of her mother's attempts at raising the children's spirits. Especially considering the environment that they found themselves in currently. She was just a bit too old to live in the fantasy, full time. All she had to do was to take a look at the faces of the other "passengers".
They weren't the faces of happy people, headed to a paradise of abundance.
She could also see the malice in the faces, actions, and words of "the crew". All of the evidence told Amara that they weren't in a nice place, and where they were headed might be worse… maybe much worse.
But Amara was just the right age where she could make an effort to give in to her imagination for stretches of time. So she let her fantasies take control during her mom's stories. Amara's mother put her all into those stories. She knew the kids could let go during them, and she'd do anything for those kids. She would give her life for her children, one thousand times over. She desperately wanted to see them happy and hopeful, especially now.
I'd love to tell you that the bad guys on the crew were stopped and the passenger's made it back home to their villages and families. But I can't. As you may have guessed, the trip wasn't a good one. They weren't going to start a new life with their father. Mayhaps they'll never meet again, unless Heaven is real. He had been taken by these same strangers while he was out hunting. Taken and forced on a ship, just like his family was now. There was no happy ending for him nor would his family get one. Not an earthly one, in any case. No heroic savior, and no reunion. Amara's mother just wanted to hold it all off, as long as she could. Just two more months of seeing the innocence in her children's eyes. It took many years for Amara to understand why she would lie to them. Even longer for her to forgive her mother for it. She never saw her mom again after the ship docked. Never saw her brother and sister again either. They were purchased like cattle and ripped apart. All headed to different Hells. Hells all the same though.