The Freedom of a Bad Dream
A deadening sensation overwhelmed Yuan’s nerves as he allowed his body to mould to the cold steel. All felt numb with the exception of a monotonous beating in his chest similar to the ticking of a clock. His eyes gently pealed open. He quickly examined the room realizing that there was a diminutive number of objects to examine, which included a cheap laminated table, two hyper extended steel folding chairs, and the emptiness of the small, dim, white room. This emptiness was suffocation him. Every breath he took began to feel more empty than the last.
His suffering continued for only a few long minutes before a white man in uniform suddenly appeared in the chair opposite him. “Hello,” said the white man with an almost Negro deep voice, which echoed through the small room. ” Your name is Yuan June Beck, correct? ” Yuan stared blankly at the large white man. He was certain that the man was speaking English, but growing up in a small Chinese village the only English terms he could recall learning were the basics of the dialect that of which, foreign backpackers had taught him as a small child.
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With his primitive understanding of the English language, he was able to recognize his own name, as well as, the words ‘hello’ and ‘name’. Yuan politely nodded his head and grunted in an attempt to verbally greet the white man. The white man squinted curiously, but continued,” very good. Now I have been informed that you have escaped from a group of Yakuza traders involved in the smuggling of Chinese men, women, and children. ” Yuan’s eyes widened as another wispy grunt was released from his throat upon the mentioning of Yakuza.
Yuan sat back as his mind suddenly erupted with memories of confinement and imprisonment. Yuan could still hear the weeping mothers and the cries of young children. Images of people crowded together within the large steel box like sardines in a can, began to fill his mind. Knock! Knock! The white man quickly knocked twice on the table, the second knock, much louder than the first. The white man began to lean over the table shifting his weight onto his forearm. His eyebrows curved in toward the centre of his face and his lips pursed momentarily before assertively saying, ” sir please stay focused. The white man returned to his stiffened upright position with the palm of each hand resting roughly an inch before the end of the table. The white man inspired and expelled a large breath of air and then continued,” Sir, I don’t think you’re fully aware of the seriousness of this predicament you’re in. You are the only survivor of approximately five hundred people who were smuggled from Singapore to South America, in a ship which went down more than two hundred miles off shore.
We need to know how you escaped and managed to survive the two hundred mile swim to the coast and within two days ended up here on the east coast. ” The white man paused then smiled and nodded his head in a moment of realization of Yuan’s physical inability to verbally respond, let alone, comprehend a language he was unfamiliar with. “Mr. Beck can you understand me? Do you understand me at all? ” The white man stood up and walked to the corner of the room. The lights went out as the man tranquilly muttered, “I understand. ” Yuan could hear it again.
The monotonous beating of his heart. He felt anxious, confused and scared, but his heart rate maintained its clock like behaviour Tick Tick Tick… The dark room and the cold steel of his folding chair reminded him of the never ending night within the dreaded container, where the only way of telling night from day was when the temperature in the container went from hot to boiling. Yuan could clearly remember the hot sticky container, where the breeze was created by the lungs of the person who’s legs were laying horizontally across his own.
He could remember that by the 13th boiling hot day the container began to undertake the thick overwhelming smell of rotting corpses, which he soon discovered were slowly piling up near the back of the container. Yuan had assumed these to be the people who were cut and bruised prior to entering the container, since they were undoubtedly the weakest . It was by the count of the 21st day that he noticed the bodies of the unharmed and healthy people were beginning to contribute to the mound of corpses, due to starvation.
These bodies were of the ones trapped in the back like a fenced in heard of cattle. The container was supplied with food approximately every two days, but most of it was gone before it could reach the back of the container. By that point every man was in a struggle to live, and they did what they had to, to survive. The incandescent bulb above began flickering, and Yuan could see flashes of the white man as he walked towards the table. By the time the light bulb had completed its sequence of flashes and found its peace in lighting the room, the white man had already seated himself at the table.
On the Table the man laid out a piece of paper with printed symbols, which Yuan could identify as a simplified Chinese language that was clearly the output of a computerized translation. The Text read: English : We need you to draw out how you escaped. Otherwise we will assume you are responsible for shipping container full of people because you are the only one who lived. Chinese Translation: Yuan didn’t completely understand the poorly translated statement, but he understood well enough. Suddenly the Ticking stopped.
Yuan’s mind began racing frantically for the memories which would supply an answer to the question of how he ended up in this room. Every image that arrived in his mind relating to the container Yuan quickly drew out with an array of shaky lines and warped circles. Yuan started with small comic like pictures of stick people being forced and herded into the container like sheep, and continued to pictures of darkness and shadowed human figures which were vague and barely visible. Yuan continued drawing out his pictures, but began to slow down as he felt the air developing a dense embodiment.
It was no longer the air he had been breathing for the past half an hour . Within seconds the images in his head became distorted and he could no longer recall his memories of being in the container, even though, he knew he had been within the treacherous confinements of that oversized tin can. His head began to spin. Yuan dropped the pen as his eyes began wandering the room for a moment before focusing on the white man who was now wearing a mask. Yuan’s eyes became heavy as if they were weighted, and as they shut he heard the white man’s deep voice muffled by the mask utter ,”It’s done.
He knows nothing. ” Yuan’s eyes peeled open slowly allowing the warming rays of the sunlight to revive his eyes. As his mind regained consciousness he could feel the soft touch of silk sheets and fluffy pillows. The air was clean and a joy to breathe with its refreshing salty scent. As he sat up to admire the beauty of the room, Yuan, noticed a brass alarm clock, which had seized up. He examined the clock and gave it a gentle tap on the back as if it were a baby, and just like a new born taken from the womb it’s endless and monotonous cry once again began Tick Tick Tick…