|The Immigrant Experience: 1818 to 1855
Author: Azrik PM
A written account, in historical imaginative format, on the elements of trans-Atlantic travel circa 1827. The Immigrant Experience: 1818-1855.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Words: 2,449 - Published: 10-26-10 - Status: Complete - id: 2859252
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
This here is an assignment that I did for school. We had to draft a written account on the elements of trans-Atlantic travel around 1827. It may not be very long or as interesting as my other stories, but I thought I should upload something. It's also my first time writing in first person I believe. (At least I don't remember ever writing this way before. :b)Hope you like it!
The Immigrant Experience: 1818-1855
It has been almost a month since the ship has set sail and my family and I are nearing the end of our voyage. My name is Lynne and I am the eldest of seven children at age seven. My father's name is Felix and my mother's name is Hilda. Their ages are fifty three and thirty eight respectively. I have three brothers and three sisters. Their names are Alfred and Devon, twins at age six, Elda at age five, Loretta at age four, Shelley at age three, and Kent at age two. My family is travelling from Southampton, England to Quebec City, Quebec. My mother's older brother and his wife are living over there and after telling them of our decision to settle in Canada they have kindly offered to let us live with them until we get everything sorted out. I hope they received the letter we last sent telling them of our plan to stay with them and our hopes to build a nice farm soon. It's a good chance for us make a better living than we did before. In England my family made and sold shoes, but it brought us little money and it was time consuming work. The place we lived in was small and cramped for nine people, and nine was a large number of mouths to feed. We've been told that we can get cheap yet fertile land in Canada and we're looking forward to the possible business it will bring. Though I should be grateful that we can even get to Canada, I'm not finding this trip to be as exciting as I thought it would be. Because we can't afford to stay above-deck, we're stuck down in steerage. My parents have previously mentioned that it wouldn't be an extremely pleasant journey, but this is far worse than what I had expected. It's not fair that only those who are wealthy can travel in nice cabins.
The journey started out fair enough and wasn't too bad, but it got worse as the days dragged on. There are no restrooms for us staying below decks and the overloaded cargo vessel quickly began to stink. The small room houses too many people and it's tremendously crowded, causing the air down here to be stuffy. In the first place, the cargo left the place musty. Almost right after the cargo was removed, people were piled in, leaving no time for the hold to air out. The cargo that was on the ship before wasn't all clean either, some of which were probably animals, for there were animal wastes in here when I boarded. There are also piles of hay which several of us passengers use as beds, but they were most likely food for the cargo. There are no proper beds for us to use, so many end up sleeping on the floor, which is made of cold, hard, uncomfortable wooden planks. The wood is rotting from urine and other liquids that have been spilt as well, which causes it to emit yet another putrid odour.
That's not the only problem. The meals that we are being served consist of some slimy mess slopped on an unclean dish made of clay. It really is unappetizing, as flies are always hovering around the brown sludge. I should also mention that no one knows what it really is. From time to time we notice what seems to be the stink of raw fish. I can swear I've seen bits of rotting flesh and blood. The sailors just shove in trays of the bacteria-ridden dish twice a day and leave. We have to eat with our hands for they give us no utensils to use. The bowls leave the vessel for washing only once a week. We normally don't get drinks, and our better feasts reach only the standards of stale, mouldy bread and murky water. Sometimes and somehow, we discover the warm contents of someone else's rebellious dinner in our own food. We'd rather not eat, but we must if we wish to reach the other side of this vast expanse of seawater without starving to death. We eat, however we end up with aching stomachs and green expressions each time. No longer than half an hour after eating and you'll feel the urge to let everything come sloshing up again. Not five minutes after that and you'll hear viscous juices splashing on the decaying planks, men fainting in their sick, and children moaning in pain. Women will be clutching at their stomachs making terrible gagging noises. From time to time you'll see a passenger crouching in the corner trying to relieve their stomach pains, perhaps retching at the same time. Very soon the room is filled with scents, none of which are friendly in the least.
There's the suffocating odour of sweat and dirt, the sour stench of vomit and drool, the salty smell of urine, and of course the repulsive reek of feces whether it be from three weeks ago or just this morning. You can also feel the thick, sickening film of disease in the air. The smells only make me want to puke again as they keep me awake every time I try to sleep. It's all so familiar now that I cannot differentiate between them. Elda always snuggles up close to me when it's time to rest, telling me that even after so long without washing myself I still have a familiar fragrance of family on me and that it makes her feel safe, helping her fall into slumber. That's probably the only nice scent in this place and I am unable to catch a whiff of it myself.
Something else that deprives me of my precious sleep is the deafening noise aboard this wretched ship. I can be almost certain that my sense of hearing has deteriorated over these past weeks. There is an intense rumbling that I think may possibly be from the pressure of the water. It leaves me feeling dizzy and lightheaded. The screeching of the vessel's engines can be heard coming from deep within the abyss of the ship's stomach. The creaks echo loudly and sound like a ghost; perhaps there are spirits of previous passengers who have been left behind even before their dreadful journey has ended. The shrill cries of weakening toddlers and babies pierce my eardrums. Occasionally I hear someone screaming in extreme pain. Just now there was another familiar sound of the booming cacophony of the ship's horn. Mothers grieve for their dead husbands, sons and daughters. Victims of severe illnesses cry their eyes out, praying to their God, shrieking for mercy and pleading to be embraced by the safety of his arms. My ears had started ringing before even one week of the trip was over.
There is no light provided and only those who have brought their own lamps or candles and matches will have their own illuminations. Even so, the lighting is dim and one often steps in unidentifiable substances, always feeling the sometimes cool, sometimes warm slop underfoot. It is also hard to avoid having to sleep in the same revolting matter. A rather frightening thought, but every now and then I trip over what feels like a cold, dead arm or leg. The ocean currents beyond the old and worn walls of the cargo hold are harsh, and the ship rocks back and forth, back and forth, causing one to fall several times a day; of course, landing in whatever may happen to be on the wooden floorboards. My family did not bring very much luggage, as we did not own a great deal back in England. Therefore, we do not have many sets of clothing and are unable to change out of our dirty clothes often. Though we made shoes back in our old home, we could not afford to use the material to make our own shoes. It was all for money for our living expenses.
The filthiness is the cause of sickness in many passengers, many of my family being part of that group. They're health is steadily declining, and I can only hope we manage to get off this grimy ship in time. The smells and sounds on the ship lead to lack of sleep and makes one weak, and the privation of clean water and healthy food contribute to frailty as well. We don't get any chances to wash ourselves and the bacteria grow every day. We don't have medicine and disease has spread very quickly in less than two weeks. I cannot remember how many times I have sliced open my skin on any rusting nails protruding from the floors and walls, creating gaping wounds which I am unable to clean. Scars of recent bloody gashes from sharp splinters still remain and are visible on my parched, chapped skin.
My father, Devon and Shelley have started showing symptoms of disease. Shelley has started to break out in smallpox, Father is weak and can barely move, and Devon has been coughing nonstop. Father's condition is quite poor. Each time he eats, he throws it up again and now he couldn't be skinnier. His breaths come in shallow gasps; I fear for the worst. Devon's coughing is terrible. He's constantly hacking and he tells me he has trouble breathing as well. Shelley's smallpox is rather frightening, but as the oldest and with Mother taking care of Kent all the time, I must stay by my sister's side and comfort her worries. Her numerous pustules cover her arms, legs, face, almost everywhere. Several pop each day and the yellow, foul smelling pus spurts out, forming crusty layers on her bumpy skin. I can only pray that she will get better soon. I hope I don't catch the same virus; it looks terrifyingly painful. Loretta has refused to eat multiple times during our trip, but I've forced her to eat. Despite the hideous condition that the food is in, if she doesn't eat she will starve to death before dying from severe illnesses. There are several others throughout the room that are in a horrific state. Some lay around on the floor with puffy, red eyes and swollen joints, high fevers, and other injuries of all sorts. Others are bleeding from burst smallpox pimples, and inflamed infections cause them relentless itching. Every passenger is suffering from malnutrition and dehydration. This cargo vessel is hot and stuffy due to the great number of people, but the depth holds an unusual chill.
At the beginning of the voyage there was quite a bit of chattering with everyone excited and discussing their plans for when they arrive in Canada, but now what used to be their eager words have quieted down to rasping murmurs. Although the people have stopped, the ship itself continues to burden us with its wide array of voices. There have been quite a few people who have passed away due to sickness, and the remaining passengers don't look well. The corpses are littered throughout the cargo hold. They aren't taken out of here until the sailors come in to take away the dirty dishes, which is once a week. By then, the bodies have rotted well, giving off the horrid stench of death. Bugs and flies have swarmed around them, eating at the putrefying muscle and tissues. I can only imagine what the deck hands do with them after hauling them from this cell, but I highly doubt that the captain would allow having fetid, half-devoured corpses lying around on his deck. He most likely gets his men to throw them overboard, and the only thing I can do for their pour souls is pray for them to rest in peace. Our spirits are low and I'm not sure if anything can lift them. Perhaps a wonderful life in Canada would be able to make up for it.
I'm feeling worse with every second that goes by. It's hot and stuffy here; I want to get out. I'm exhausted but I can't sleep. Elda has been seasick for over two weeks. The twins hate being in crowds and are complaining about headaches. Kent wakes up no more than twice a day from his slumber now. I feel dizzy and I'm sweating but I'm freezing at the same time. My limbs are shaking and my hearing is getting dull. I can't see straight and everything is blurry. Ah, a sailor just came in; he says we're docking soon. This is brilliant, now my family and I can start our lives anew. I feel so tired though and I can't stand up. The ship is bumping into things and I can hear lots of noise outside. We must be landing. All the passengers are getting up and walking out the door before me. There's Loretta, Alfred, Devon, Elda, Shelley and Mother. Why is Mother crying? I don't see Kent or Father. I'm glad; finally I have reached the end of our journey.
A/N: I hope that wasn't too bad; personally I thought it was pretty good. :) If it grossed you out at some parts...it was supposed to happen. XD My teacher said "The grosser, the better!". I actually don't think I made it gross enough. Sorry about that though!
I apologize in advance for anyone who may be following my story "Seven Teardrops", for I'm not quite sure when I can get my next chapter up. I haven't been able to find a good time to sit down and write, so it might take a while. And of course I want to be able to write a good chapter even if it takes longer rather than producing a really bad one in a shorter amount of time. So, bear with me please! (I am a slow writer. :P)