Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: INDEFATIGABLE (02/11/16)
TITLE: One More Mile
By Jack Taylor
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“Refugee, wrap yourself,” he commanded in Arabic. “Never give up. Only one more mile.”
The five year old snaked out her shaking hand and wrapped the material over her dripping wet shoulders. A discarded deflated life jacket huddled at her stocking feet.
“Who else is out there?” The sailor leaned over the rail and probed the hull of an overturned dinghy with a long pole and a flashlight beam. “Where did you come from?”
“Aleppo,” she responded simply.
The white-clad navy man turned away from the choppy waters and crouched down before her. He tugged the blanket around her and pushed the useless life jacket to the side. “How did you survive the bombing in your city?”
She shuddered and her shoulders convulsed. Tears streamed down her face.
“I am Stephanos,” the sailor said soothingly as the ship dropped into another ocean trough. “Where is your father?”
Benezir searched the sailor’s face. “He covered me when the bombs came.” She pulled the blanket tighter. “The walls fell on him and not on me.”
“Where is your mother?” Stephanos probed.
“She couldn’t swim.”
“How long have you been walking?”
“Seven nights,” she whimpered.
Stephanos stood and looked out over the railing at the raging sea again. The dinghy was out of sight. A chilling fog covered everything as dawn probed through the darkness. The desperate cries which had drawn him to the site of the tragedy were no more. Only a howling wind filled his ears.
Another sailor joined him at the rail and looked back at the small girl in her blanket. “Only four,” he said in Greek. “There must have been a hundred trying to cross. We only got four.”
“Joseph, it’s been three years, three times a week,” Stephanos responded in Greek. “It seems we are losing more than we are saving. We can’t give up. I won’t give up.”
“You’ve done all you can.”
Stephanos turned his back to the rail and hung on as the ship lurched again. Another wave splashed over the side, soaking him and dumping over the huddled refugee. He nodded his chin toward Benezir. “I tell every one of them that they have to go one more mile. If they have to go another mile, so do I. We cannot quit.”
“Where is she going?”
“They’re all going to Germany.”
“How will such a little one go over three thousand miles on her own?”
Stephanos handed his pole to Joseph then stepped over and scooped up the little girl. “Joseph, I will help her. She has no one left. It is up to me.”
Joseph shook his head. “You will walk with this girl through Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, and Austria all the way to Germany?”
“Someone must. There are trains along the way. I will keep travelling one more mile.”
“She has her own people,” shouted Joseph above the wind. “The Turks have pried every penny out of their pocket just to dump them in the sea. There are millions more out there.”
“I am her people now.”
“But there is razor wire, tear gas, angry people who don’t want these refugees.”
Stephanos moved toward the cabin door. “Watch the sea. My God found me when I was lost and he calls me to walk his path. I am now a refugee.”
“You are mad.”
Stephanos stopped halfway through the open cabin door. “You’re right that ‘I am mad’,” he shouted. “I am mad that the world powers play their games with children’s lives. I am mad that evil and insanity rule.”
Benezir reached up and poked his gristled chin. Stephanos swung her in out of the cold spray and settled the five year old in his own cabin. He pulled out a warm sweatshirt and some socks. “Put these on,” he said in Arabic. “I will go for just a minute to get you some tea and something to eat. I will take care of you now.”
In the galley the captain leaned back against the counter. “Stephanos, I know your wife and daughters died at sea in that ferry accident. You cannot replace them with this refugee.”
Stephanos lifted his cup. “Captain, I am only doing what I hope someone else would do if they had found my daughters dumped in the sea. She needs peace, hope and family. I will take her one more mile until she finds what she needs.”
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