He came into view as we got closer. I could see his features coming out of the dark. We kept moving towards that little orange glow that moved up and down. I could see his smoke getting dragged away in the wind. The voices behind me were like whispers in the trees now. My legs weighed us down, every step dragging. My chest came out of the water. I felt the cold wind rush against my body. It burned for a second. My bra stuck to me like a cold second skin. I started shaking in the wind. The goose bumps burst out of my skin. My heart thumped harder and harder. I looked at the man. I could see the shape of his face. I pushed my jaws together and pushed and pulled the air in and out of my cold thumping chest. My stomach came out of the river. Sooki started to cry, quietly, in my ear. His weight came back as he came out of the water. I almost fell forward into the water. But I kept pushing my legs forward. There were only a few more meters until we’d be out of the water and into China.
As we took the last steps together and Sooki slid from my back, the man came into view. He reminded me of my uncle. He was a short man in an oversized jacket. I started cry when I saw him open up a blanket for us. I couldn’t feel my skin as we came out of the water. I could only feel the aching bones under it. I took a few steps on the dry land. I fell into the blanket.
“Do you have what you were told to have?” he asked. I almost didn’t hear him in the wind. I nodded my head as I shook.
I held my brother in my arms, drying him, warming him, shaking in the cold piercing wind. I pushed my head against his. I felt the heat from our skin push into one another, seeping into our bodies. Our hearts beat together, against our chests. I looked back to where we’d come from. The light from the moon shone on the water, shaking on the surface. I looked up at the moon. A cloud passed slowly across it. I thought about everything that we’d left behind. I curled my toes inside those big shoes. A tear came from my eye and rolled down my cheek. It felt so warm.