Dinh's Journey

by Andrew Passey

Chapter 2

It was dark when I woke up. Something was wrong. Very wrong. I could feel like we were moving but I couldn't see anything. I moved my leg and it kicked up against metal. I used my hands to realise I was in some sort of metal box. Then it all became clear, I was in the boot of a car. How I ended up here I had no idea. Had An been attacked? Why hadn't I woke up I thought? I then cursed myself as I realised it was almost certain that An had clearly not been everything he claimed to be. Well I suppose it's possible that he was a successful businessman but due to the transport of boys like me to who knows where. Maybe it wasn't him involved but I couldn't work out any other scenario.

But what happened now? Was I on my way back to trouble in Can Tho? Did he know about me escaping? It seemed unlikely but if I was heading back there I could fully imagine I would end up floating face down in the Mekong by the end of the day. I felt light headed and very woozy and I realised I'd been drugged. But when?

Ah, the water. How could I have been so stupid? In my naivety I forgot that evil doesn't always wear an ugly face. An had been so charming and his story about dropping his son off sounded so true but also clearly designed to make me trust him. Now I was completely regretting it and I was off to who knows where. The drugs in my system clearly weren't all gone as I started to feel myself drift off to sleep again despite how uncomfortable it was.

Eventually the car stopped and I was taken from the car boot groggy and disoriented. I was then transferred to a lorry with other kids, some younger, some older but all Vietnamese like me. Whether they had families, lived on the street or were just in the wrong place at the wrong time I didn't know. What I quickly found out though was that all of us were on a long journey towards pain, humiliation and slavery.

The days and weeks that followed were horrendous. When I had to tell the story of what happened on that journey to the police it was the only time for a long while I felt able to tell anyone everything that transpired. It was important to get the truth out there but in doing so it left me feeling more broken and battered than I could ever have expected. So after that formal statement to the police when people asked what happened to me I tried not to tell them.

Eventually when I got close enough to somebody who I trusted and wanted to tell the truth too I found the words too hard to say. So I would make it into a story to convey the pain I went through without having to relive every moment. By becoming the hero in my own story of suffering and pain it helped me to pretend that it all had happened to someone else. I can't completely remember the exact words I used that first time but it was something fantastical. I can remember how it began for sure....

Picture a dark and dangerous world, inhabited by demons and monsters. Our hero must travel all across those treacherous lands to face the final showdown against the ultimate evil in a far off land. Along the way he finds allies and enemies, fighting his way through everything that evil throws at him until he eventually triumphs and banishes the evil bringing peace and happiness to the world. That's the way it always worked in stories but the reality for our hero this time was different. Yes he had to travel across treacherous lands which were certainly inhabited by demons and monsters but there were to be no allies on his journey though. Just boys and girls taken from the country of their birth like he was and transported in awful conditions across the world to who knows where.

Sometimes on the journey our hero would travel squeezed in with other boys and girls. Other times he would have to walk long distances and risk being beaten if he didn't walk quick enough, The journey would involve stopping off in filthy hovels where they were all crammed in together while monsters would watch everyone closely. Sometimes they would just beat our hero or someone else up just for their amusement. At times the monsters would choose one of the group to be taken off to a room where the noises made it clear what was going on. Tears would flow and hope had long gone. Our hero knew there was no escape possible or rescue coming. There was just the evil filtering through into the lives of everyone, insidiously destroying their souls little by little.

As for our hero, well he fared better than some, worse than others. He was chosen a number of times to be taken into the rooms where monsters could do monstrous things to him. Each time it happened a bit more of the hero inside him died to be replaced by a dark void of pain. He progressively got more and more withdrawn. He no longer cried out in pain or shame when it happened. He just lay there wondering when it would all be over and why this world was so dark and destructive. It wasn't like our hero wasn't used to pain and suffering. His previous life in the distant land of Can Tho had plenty of that but he'd also found fun and pleasure and the joy of life in between all the mistreatment he suffered. On this journey there was to be none of that. Just the pain and suffering of a dark world that cared nothing about boys like him. Our hero was a commodity to be used and sold to whoever the evil wished it to be. The journey left him exhausted and broken until one day he eventually reached the far off land. There was to be no final showdown with the great evil though as the evil had already taken over the hearts and minds of everyone he met.

So that was the story I told. I didn't feel like a hero but it helped deflect the question of what happened to me. It was certainly easier and more palatable to say than the truth that I'd been beaten, raped, humiliated, tortured and generally suffered worse than any boy ever should.

As I think back to that journey at times it did feel fantastical, like a dream, well a nightmare anyway. Half the time I didn't even know where I was in the world and it could have been a different planet given how alien some of it was to me.

Walking through the cold of an Eastern European night with the unfamiliar noises of forests was a far cry from my time on the Mekong Delta. I'd see the great natural beauty of this world but also the great depravity and evil of humankind. I'm sure not everyone was horrible but certainly the people I ended up meeting were all monsters.

I'd lost count of how long we travelled for and I wasn't even aware that I'd reached the "far off land" until the freezer truck we'd been bundled into stopped and we were told to run into the woods. I'd picked up that our final destination was the United Kingdom and I realised we'd finally made it. As we stood there in the woods in a new country I realised yet again there was no point running. So I waited while one of the people in charge of us phoned a contact and then we waited for them to arrive. We were picked up in a minibus before we stopped again and were split up into singles and pairs. I imagine we were distributed all across the country but I didn't really know. I never saw any of the people in that lorry again so anything could have happened to them.

As for me, well for my journey I was transferred into a van on my own and kept in the back of it so I couldn't see where we were going. Not that it would have made much sense to me. Outside of football teams and the little bit we'd studied in geography I didn't know much about the UK. I knew it was colder than home but then again I'd been in some very cold places on my journey. The freezer truck being one of them. In retrospect I guess we were put in there to help avoid detection but I seriously wasn't sure how much longer I could have survived in there before I'd become frozen solid.

So now I was in the van and we were off to who knows where, My journey seemed to go on for many hours but maybe the boredom and fear of what was coming made it feel more drawn out. We stopped for a toilet stop where I was closely watched and then it was back in the van again. Eventually we slowed and stopped. It was nighttime and I was taken out of the van and walked a couple of streets away from it before I was manhandled into a terrace house. I was roughly pushed into a tiny partitioned room with a mattress on the floor and a bucket in for going to the toilet. I was then locked in and told to go to sleep.

My mind was whirring wondering where I was and what happened next. At least I was alive although at times I wondered if that was a good thing or not. One thing I had learnt from my long journey was to sleep when you could, particularly when they told you to. So I lay on the mattress fully clothed and closed my eyes. Sleep came surprisingly quickly to me and soon I was fast asleep.

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead