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  • This is a story from a family friend (name and minor details have been changed for privacy).

    Imagine. You are on a fishing boat, with your three children, the girl is ten, the boy is eight, and the baby, she is less than one years old. You are fleeing your homeland, and everywhere there is water, curving in all directions, is the sky. Everything is blue.

    Imagine. The fatigue you feel. Your fears mixed with your hopes. How you were mesmerized the first time you see a pod of dolphins skimming the waves.

    Imagine. You see a boat on the horizon. It is not a mirage. It is coming towards you looming larger and larger. At first you see only a speck but now its outline emerges, its movement, towards you.

    Imagine. The joy you must feel. The elation. At last. Salvation.

    Imagine. When you realize that the boat is not here to rescue you but for its own gain, to steal, to rape, to murder. A pirate boat.

    Imagine. You are hiding now with your children in the belly of the boat, behind sacks of rice, packets of dried shrimp, pickled onions. The children are frightened and you are near hysteria but you must keep calm, if only, for their sake.

    Imagine. You hear a woman screaming. You hear gunfire. Men shouting in some foreign tongue. Boots stomping. More gunfire. More screams. Then the silence.

    Imagine. Your palms are sweaty. You cradle in your right arm, the baby, and in your left hand, a meat cleaver.

    Imagine. The baby begins to whimper, threatening to expose, you, and your son, and your daughter, who are now huddled behind your back, clinging to the tail of your shirt.

    Imagine. In that moment, with that fear, with that panic, you decide in haste that you cannot allow the baby to risk everyone’s life and that you must silence her. You must stop her from crying.

    Imagine. At the moment you are about to smother your child pressing your palm against her mouth, clinching her nose, you hear your name being called: Mai. It’s safe now. You can come out of hiding.
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