Paul Duong
Bi Dong, Memoir of an Absent Minded Exile

On the fourth night, the monsters arrived. With the loud, and pounding of our engine, we couldn’t hear them. They were quiet and elusive. We startled awake by a loud shout and a high-beam of light shone at us. They were large and dark, with infuriated eyes and fire screeching from their mouths, and smelled like rats: rotten eggs with a dead scent. There were five of them, each carrying a machete ready to use; except one, the darkest and foulest of them all, who carried a hand gun. They spoke in foreign a language but from their actions they wanted to pillage, to rape and to kill. They picked us up one by one like we were toys. When the young man who traveled with the white bearded man, resisted and fought back, he immediately had his throat slit. Lying on the floor, he bled to death. They rumbled and grunted with eyes that saw only destruction. They rampaged through all of our belongings, looking for gold and treasure. When they finished searching, they ordered us to stand in line, shoulder to shoulder, across the deck. One by one they took all the gold rings, necklaces, and anything of values that we had on us, including Mr. Toi’s gold tooth. He didn’t put up a fight for he knew that his life would end if he did.

Brother, with his quick thinking, snatched my necklace and placed it under his foot. When one of the beasts came to check me out, the flashlight shone at me, his breaths gave me the chill like being in the present of Satan. The monster picked up my arms and popped open my mouth, but seeing nothing of interest grunted in dissatisfaction. It left me alone and moved to Hoa. He aimed the flashlight at her and stood there, mesmerized by the young girl. They gathered to look, and debate what to do, then the darkest fiend loudly growled, sent the group into excitation. Together they burst out laughing in agreement. Without bother to search Hoa, they picked her up and carried her to their boat.

She screamed and fought to get away. At the top of her lungs, Hoa yelled; begging for some deities to come to her aid. She pleaded to Buddha, she screamed to God, asking for protection, appealing for some greater beings to take her away from these evils.
Unable to bear the cried, Tan ran toward Hoa, but the monster quickly knocked him out of consciousness.

The screams from Hoa shivered our bones, stirred the ocean, frightened the fish, but no Buddha or God ever came to her rescue.

When Hoa’s screams subsided, I could hear the fiends laughing out loud in satisfactions. Moments later, Hoa returned to our boat with clothes spattered with blood between her legs, and her hair clumped together. The monsters stood in their boat convulsed at their accomplishment, their animal urges satisfied. They burned incense and put it at the front of their hull, as if asking God for forgiveness, they chuckled and pulled away. My brother came to Hoa, helping her to sit down. But she just stood there. I looked at her, and in her eyes, I knew Hoa was no longer the person she was before, just a shell. She had died the moment they took her. In a blink of an eye, Hoa dove out of the vessel.

Screaming her name, I rushed to her but the ocean had taken her body to her ancestors. I looked down into the deep black ocean; the glimmering of the moon had turned the water into silver glow.

I sat back next to my brother, trembling in fear. How could such vicious monsters exist in this world? It so cruel, the darkness that took Hoa, it was unspeakable. It took a shape of a man, but it was no man; it’s the devil of the sea that seeks to destroy anything that represents beauty. Its only survival was a means to an end: To destroy the beauty of creation, the human’s soul. The picture of the Sea Devil kept appearing in my head, I trembled uncontrollably, in helplessness I prayed to ancestors.

It had been a five days at sea. My mouth hurt, my tongue ached and my throat felt like it was on fire. I lied destitute next to Tan, who seemed to handle it all a bit better. The engine kept on ticking away in the same direction. I lost hope that we would eventually land anywhere. My lips cracked and bleed with dryness. I hadn’t relieved myself in the last two days. My skin was dry and stiff. I lay under the scorching sun, and closed my eyes. Sleep came and went, but the Sea Devil appeared every time I awoke.