• Tahri Phillips

The Passage

Her feeble legs could barely hold her body as she took her first steps. Her eyes were blinded by the sun. Had it always been this bright? She couldn’t recall. It had been months since she had seen land or sun. Months since she had stood upright.

“Move faster!” a deep voice boomed.

Her eyes shifted to the irate fair-skinned man. She stood still as she gazed upon him. Everything about him was unfamiliar, from his dress to his skin to his language. His mouth still moved, but she heard nothing.

Suddenly, she felt two hands on her bare back pushing her forward. Her shackled legs gave out underneath her, and she collapsed on the dock. Loud voices surrounded her, but she did not have the strength to see who spoke. Her brown body laid on the grainy wood,feeling the needle-like impression of every loose nail, while she remained a spectacle for all to see. She softly whispered prayers for strength and mercy.

She thought back to the time she had spent on the ship. These months were harrowing.She had been forced to remain supine, surrounded in every direction by her dark-skinned brothers and sisters. Their captors were merciless. Never receiving adequate care, hunger and sickness plagued them all. The overwhelming scent of blood, excrement and death was nauseating. Without the sun, day and night became one, and time slowly disappeared. She thought of the constant cries of her children, begging for their mother’s comfort. She could not see them all, but their cries echoed. She wanted nothing more than to embrace them. Yet, she was powerless to pacify them. Days ago, her four-year-old son had stopped crying. With the little strength she had, she had called out to him. She waited. No response. She called out again. Nothing. Her heart and soul ached as she sobbed. She could do nothing but pray.

Now, lying on the dock, she struggled to find the strength to stand. There is no use in trying, she thought to herself. Suddenly, she felt a small gentle touch on her back, paired with a meek voice speaking her mother tongue.The older woman felt an instantaneous sense of familiarity.She mustered her strength and slowly turned her head. She peered behind her. There stood her daughter, shackled, eyes wide, silently pleading with her mother to lift herself and move forward.

The mother took a deep breath. Empowered by her daughter’s gaze, she slowly sat up. Angry voices continued to shout at her. They turned to white noise as she focused on her breathing and her body. Her daughter reached out once more to help lift her mother’s aching body. The mother stood again as tears threatened to spill from her eyes. She lifted her arm and stroked her daughter’s face before reaching for her small hand. Chained together, they continued forward, never glancing at the crowd around them or to the ship that had carried them to this foreign land. What mattered most was their next step.

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