As I stated in my previous post: Moses The Singer EXCERPT 1: First Beginning, my new novel releasing July 1 is at first told from two perspectives. First by a group of talented teen musicians (Excerpt 1) and second by Musa “Moses” Marbun. When the two stories converge, everything changes.
In this excerpt, we get to see the tragedy that occurred which brings Musa to the island of Penang.
CHAPTER 2 of MOSES THE SINGER:
Twenty-Eight Years Before Any of Them Were Born
He stood five-foot-two from the top of his forehead with his chin held high—short enough to lean against the side of the boat without any of his wiry hairs sticking over the edge. Twenty people crowded in a space that would have made ten sardines uncomfortable. A man’s elbow wedged into the side of his neck. A woman holding a crying infant straddled across half his lap on the opposite side. He shifted his legs in constant motion to ward off fatigue from the two others who had come to rest on his bony legs by no will of their own. The boat rocked on the waves, causing many episodes of voluminous vomiting from the souls trapped under the harsh moon of midnight. He wished for pitch blackness, so he couldn’t see their expressions. But the moonlight played its cruel tricks and exposed the true emotions of the weary travelers.
He moved his neck away from the elbow of a man as the woman on his other side couldn’t hold it any longer and threw up across his face. He lifted his arm out of the human traps surrounding him and shimmied it high enough to wipe the vomit from around his mouth. But it didn’t prevent the taste from seeping into his lips. He did all he could to stop himself from joining the grotesque scene. He closed his eyes and waited. What he waited for wasn’t important. What could be worse?
Seven hours. His body cramped in several locations. He had fallen asleep for a time, which coincided with the infant’s lungs finally exhausting themselves to such a degree that the child itself fell asleep. So did the mother. So did he.
A loud voice stirred him from his restless slumber. He glimpsed over the edge of the boat at a few flickering lights in the distance. They had neared the shore. But the two men at the helm argued. Violent words. Panic amongst the cowered passengers ensued. He pulsed upward for a second look, and that’s when he heard the engine approaching.
“You’re in violation of our sovereign waters.”
Lights flashed. An alarm sounded. Additional claims of rights and ownership echoed from the approaching boat, which prompted a first person to jump into the water. Someone screamed. A large shot trailed across the sky. The entire boat shifted back with the men at the helm yelling for everyone to stay down. But no one listened. A rising sensation. A quick shift. Bodies tumbled on top of each other. The side of the boat lifted into the air, expelling body upon body into the dark waters until it was complete. The boat capsized and trapped many under its turned-over belly. Darkness encompassed him as he sank. He looked once at the faint glimpses of skin and bones falling below him. He gasped and hit his head on the edge of the boat, ripping open the side of his cheek. It would have been easier not to fight it anymore—to glide slowly into the deep.
But the light had not yet faded, not at the young age of twenty-two, so he dove under the edge and around three bodies next to him, reaching upward towards the light and the chaos above. He broke through the surface into the air and flailed his arms and pumped his chest for breath once more.
“Help,” he cried in his native Batak language. No one heard him over the roar of the engine and the panicked voices of the few remaining on the surface. The loudspeaker continued to announce its presence.
“Help,” he called again.
He had never swum in his life, so he clung his fingers to the edge of the turned-over boat and waited.
They grabbed him and plopped him over the side of the railing and onto the deck as he panted for air and laid flat on his back. Blood dripped down his left cheek, and a drenched shredded rag clung to his body like the initial layer of mummified cloth. No one spoke to him or even looked at him. He rested in the open space on the deck of the ship and noticed three others on his right as weary as himself. The rest had vanished into the place that no one imagines. Gone. He looked straight into the sky. A flag with a crescent moon, a sun, and red and white stripes fluttered above him. He mumbled a few words and closed his eyes.
They brought them ashore and placed them in a vacant room with cement walls and a fluorescent light illuminating a wooden door. They didn’t bother searching him for identification. He had no possessions on him other than the ragged clothing—thin cut-offs for pants with nothing underneath—a ripped shirt that showed a large burn scar across his chest. He wasn’t only short, but also thin, gaunt. His ribs revealed themselves on each side. The blood had ceased to drip from his dark-skinned cheek. He asked for water, but no one paid attention to him or the three others. The room had no windows. The stale air hung thick and humid like a second layer of wet clothes. Nothing dried, so he sat in the dampness and waited.
Hours passed. They put all four of them in the back of a truck—open air yet caged in with wire-netting on all sides of the frame. His clothes had dried, but he hadn’t been given anything to eat or drink for hours. His pasty mouth clicked when he moved it. Nobody talked. The seventeen missing souls did the talking for them.
Dawn broke through the dark-grey shroud of night as they cruised along a modern divided highway. After an hour, they exited and weaved through the early morning traffic until they stopped in front of a detention center. They separated him from the others and placed him in a blank room, stripped him of his rags, and gave him a light blue cotton pullover shirt with matching pants. They spoke, but not to him. The words swirled around him like a strong wind that turned his head in every direction and left him nothing but confused. One man grabbed his arm and placed his right fingers one at a time on an ink pad and blotted his prints on a square cardboard stock. They spoke again, but he gazed in silence into the wall. One took him by the shoulders and pushed him into a molded plastic chair and left him alone. Again. And he waited.
Thirty minutes passed when a man in a blue decorated uniform, with a badge hanging off his left side, entered with a woman, also wearing a suit. She wore a hijab over her head. She spoke words he could understand, and he glanced at her and provided the answer to her question.
“Musa. I am Musa Marbun.”