We sailed from Muhii to Cloijo then on to Iglan Porto, picking up what was left of the Lete people. They were overjoyed to see us. Heroic survivors, they all had stories to tell – tales of betrayal, lies, theft, promises, brutality, suffering….how they had managed to avoid/outwit the rogue soldiers left behind from last year’s failed rebellion…. how some of the soldiers were mere children but children with guns…how it was their own people who had robbed and betrayed them….how once the traffickers had your money that was it as far as they were concerned.
One of the Lete people, in overalls and tennis shoes, tall, well-spoken, said she was blind, and to take them to Iglan Maché she had hired a guide who had abandoned them as soon as they left Trasmont. It had taken her and her son a year to get as far as this.
And cost her all the money she had, no doubt. And you’re not there yet, lady, I thought. Not by a long chalk.
” We’ll soon be there, ” I told her.
She was accompanied by a small boy, ten? eleven? who held her hand in both of his and looked fiercely up at me whenever I spoke. Who was looking after who it was difficult to say.
” We’ll be in Mervidia in a couple of days, ” I told her.
” I have some money, ” she said brightly, producing from her overalls for my inspection a thick wad of notes.
The old currency.
” Take it, ” she insisted, almost pleading.
I closed her hand over her valueless money. “What’s your name?” I asked the boy who turned away from me and pressed himself against his mother’s legs.
” Take it, ” she insisted. ” If it’s not enough, tell me. I have more. ”
” Put it away, ” I said quietly, aware we were being watched. They all put their faith in money, these people. Money was their rock. With money you could escape to freedom. With money you could bribe the soldiers, guards, inspectors, drivers, police. With money there was nothing you couldn’t do. Without it you were at the mercy of the evil people who wished you harm. That was the way their thinking went.
The final crossing from Iglan Potro to Mervidia was the tricky part – if the pirates didn’t sneak up on you then the weather would. Luckily it seemed the pirates had other fish to fry and the black storm clouds hovering over Muhii finally made up their mind to deprive us of their company for a bit and vanished South. Blown off the map. Our map anyway. But there is always something new, something unexpected to grapple with on that particular crossing either in the treacherous, turquoise waters of Iglan Potro or the deceptive cerulean blues around Mervidia. When the strong eastward current rushes through the Mervidian gap and encounters an opposing east wind, this has the effect of building up monster waves.
The wave that got us wasn’t 100 ft. tall but it was tall enough, tall enough and steep enough and fast enough. Suddenly from nowhere we were confronted by this roaring glistening wall of green water.
Nothing I could do except shout warnings just before it hit us, shout out orders that were immediately drowned in the water’s roar.
Down the boat went at first into a deep deep trough that preceded the wave then everything went quiet and we were being lifted up then just as quickly thrown back down, such a long long way down…..
The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was the startled face of the little boy close to mine. As soon as I opened my eyes he was gone. I sat up. He was standing close to his mother who was facing out to sea although being blind it wouldn’t matter in which direction she was facing. He was tugging at her hand and saying something to her but she didn’t move.There were others strung out along the beach but not too many, not more than half the number who had set out with us from Iglan Porto.
After a bit I got to my feet. No broken bones. No cuts. No bruises. Even to be still alive was a miracle.
I walked slowly along the beach to the woman and child. ” Are you all right?” I asked them.
The little boy looked up at me then pressed his face against his mother’s legs. Without shifting her sightless gaze from the sea, she gently held him against her and said dully, “It’s all right. I have some money.”