2AM Tuesday morning. New moon and clouds obliterate any starlight. I don’t believe in new starts. I can’t.  And yet …

Mara sleeps next to me. Her dream-kicks woke me again. The only time she ever cries is in her sleep. None of us tell her, because she’s not the only one.

I remember the little party my parents gave the night before I left. We laughed, and told stories, and they let me drink a little. For strength, my father said. Like he knew. But no father would send his daughter into this life. Not willingly. My mother gave me a small bag of food for the journey, hugged me, hope lighting her eyes.

“This is your one chance for freedom,” she said. I nodded, kissed her cold cheek.

Some freedom. I climb across the sleeping bodies to the ladder. I stand on a hand, but dare not whisper an apology. They know my voice. Sofia is at the ladder, holding her teddy bear. She’s too young to know to hide her tears. Some men like her better for that.

She reminds me of my sister.

Don’t think, just act.

I push her upwards, step by step. Below, bodies sprawl across the floor like corpses. It may not be much, but we understand each other. It’s still a home, of sorts. But the lady at the clinic slipped me a card yesterday. And Sofia deserves better. We stop at the door.

No more delays.


And we run.


I wrote this piece for a flash fiction (fiction of up to 250 words) competition, and I won. It’s the first time I have won anything for my writing (even at school, I used to come second, no matter how hard I worked). But that’s not the point.

This piece was inspired by the continued efforts of charities such as The A21 Campaign and Hope For Justice, in their ongoing efforts to end human trafficking and sex slavery. This is neither an easy, nor a comfortable topic for discussion, and it’s not supposed to be.

The reality is, I don’t know how many thousands of people are trapped in this trade. I don’t know how many have tried and failed to escape, or worse. I don’t know anything about what it is to live through that, or what it is to try to rebuild your life afterwards.

But I know that this trade exists, and that it is evil, and that it must be stopped. So this is my little contribution – my attempt to raise awareness, provoke a response. If this piece has moved you in any way, take a look at the charities, and see if there is anything you can do to make a difference.

No more delays.


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