She was just seven. Much too young to be exposed to such trauma. What she witnessed changed her life forever. Her family was moving – again. Only two years previously they had moved all the way across the world to a strange new country. One where everything was different. They had settled in well. Even bought their first new home. It was exciting making new friends. There was so much to learn and do. Then her father was offered a new job. It meant moving from the island to the mainland.
It was another major upheaval in the life of the little girl. She had already spent a whole forever mourning her father. He had gone ahead to see if it was OK to bring his family over to join him. Re-united, she had healed from the gut wrenching dread of separation. This move would be different. They were all going together. It would be an adventure. Exciting.
The big day arrived. Dad drove his brand new car across the island to the ferry port. They boarded. An overnight trip, sleeping out on deck was part of the adventure. The weather was warm this time of the year. It was a cheap way to travel for the young family. Morning saw them all head to the communal bathroom towels in hand for a quick wash.
The corridor was very wide. To her eyes it seemed to stretch forever. She lagged behind her mother and sister. Dad and her brother had made their way to the male bathroom. Distracted by all the activity around her, she was absorbed in people watching. Suddenly she became aware of a commotion. Turning her head to look, she saw her mother lying on the floor. Her whole body was twitching, moving in strange ways. Stopping dead in her tracks fear knotted her stomach. Everything seemed to slow down. Tunnel visioned, all she saw was her mother. And lots of adults milling around her. Someone was yelling . “Her tongue! Hold it or she will swallow it!” This confused and scared her. Why would Mum swallow her own tongue?
Someone touched her arm and tried to pull her away. “No!! I don’t want to go! Something’s wrong with Mum!!” she screamed inside her head. But no words came out of her mouth. Hearing her sister’s voice soothed her a little. She was trying to lead her away from watching. Paramedics had arrived. They were turning Mum’s now still body to the side. Flecks of foam were coming out of her mouth. The knot in the little girl’s stomach had grown to consume her whole body. Shock was setting in.
Allowing herself to be led away, she was taken into a friend’s cabin. Told she would be safe there. They locked her in. Curled up in a tight ball in the corner of the bottom bunk, her body convulsed just like her mother’s. But her’s was consumed with impending doom – dread of what lay ahead.
Word count 497
© Raili Tanska