written & illustrated by Chakriya PHOU
It was like a dream. I can still remember it.
Early of January, I was on the plane. I finished my mission and came back to my homeland. New year already passed; I could not celebrate new year with my family but I wished to celebrate Lunar New Year with them.
I bought a lot of gifts for everyone including my friends.
It was a long trip. I could not help, I was tired, I slept.
I did not have dream. Just slept.
Chatting sound awoke me. I opened my eyes slowly. The people sitting next to me were talking. I did not understand. It was not English. I did not know any language besides of English. Their faces showed worry.
I did not notice. I wanted to go to bathroom.
My jacket was on my legs. I took it. Before I got up, I checked in jackets' pockets, my cell phone, passport, money were in there. OK, good.
I pardoned the ladies and walked cross them to the walking path. I went along the path to the back of the plane where the restroom was located.
It was lucky. No one in there. I went in.
When I was doing my job, a plane started to swing. I finished then I stood up.. the plane swing again. This time it was strongly. I tried to open the door but I could not. It swing so strong. Then I heard BANG...
The wall was tore and opened up. The strong wind pulled me out of the rest room.
I did not know. I just knew I fell down from the sky. Then splash...
I was in the water.
Oh, Buddha help. I don't know how to swim.
I thought I would die. But like a flash, something pushed me up. I was on the surface of the water. It was a soft and smooth skin.
What is it?
Oh Buddha, it is a dolphin.
I embraced it and it swam with medium speed. My mind was blank, I did not know what was going on. I just hold tight to the dolphin.
After a while, the dolphin slowed and it removed me from its body. I could feel the land under my feet.
It left me and I walked through the water. There was a hill before me. I walked toward it. I lay on the rock. Then I sat and looked around. All around me was water. Clear crystal water.
It is sea. Or is it ocean?
Well, it did not matter a sea or ocean.
Oh Buddha, what was going on with the plane? What happen to other? What was it? Air crash?
My head was full of question.
What's going on?
I wanted to know.. no one could answer me.
My whole body was wet. I took off my jacket. My passport was wet but it was fine.. what's about my phone? I opened the cover, took battery, sim card out and dried them on rock.
It was a tower, made by brown stone. It should be abandoned tower.
I stood up and looked around. The hill was small enough to see it was only me, alone on the hill, in the sea, under the sky. The sun was 60 radian circle. I was not sure it was day or night.
Let's wait then we can find time.
I sat on the rock. I was quite sure that the plane was crash. I thought about people on the plane. How were they? Die or alive?
Then I thought about my family. They did not know I was on this hill. They might think I was dead. They might cry. What should I do? I needed to give signal to them.
I looked at my phone. It was my only hope. I checked it. It was still wet. I continued dry it.
I was thirsty. I was hungry. Nothing could find on the hill even a grass. Only rock and sand.
I could not do anything besides of sitting and waiting.
The horizon became dark purple.
It is night time.
The wind became stronger. Later, the darkness would cover the world. What should I do? Where should I go? Tonight, I slept where?
Only tower. It was only a shelter to me. But I was scared to enter it. Furthermore, I did not see the door.
I was worried. Perhaps I needed to stay under the sky.
I checked the phone. It was dry. I tested. I put battery and sim card to the phone. It worked. My phone was fine.
Well, my smiling was gone. The signal was x. I wanted to cry.
Why? What should I do now?
I tried to calm down.
I must have hope.
But I felt it would rain. I begged heaven not to make the sky cried but it was late. The drop of sky tear fell on me. One, two, three, four, five...
Soon, the rain would come. I had no choice. I needed to go to the tower. I carried my things and walked to the tower.
I walked around to find enter-door. I thought it had no door but...
There it is.
I hurried approach it. It was free-door that had no cover. I was hesitated. Should I go in?
The rain came. It was strong rain. I went in through the free-door. It was dark. I used phone light. It was not big size. There was a stair up. I decided to stay in the basement of the tower. I found a place, sat, face my back to the tower's wall and used jacket to cover my body.
The rain did not stop.
It was very long. The phone-light was used. The battery remained 60%.
Should I continue using the phone light?
The battery might die. I needed to use it. Perhaps the next day, I could find signal to call my family.
No choice. No choice.
I switched the phone off.
The world was dark.
I embraced my body. I cried. I was afraid of the darkness.
I had no idea how long I stayed in the dark. I just knew the sound of rain became use to me. I listened to it and it became like a song in my ears. I looked at outside through the opened-door. I could see the line of rain. It was beautiful.
Well, I could see the outside. It had color. Blue color.
It was amazing and my fear was gone.
I placed my head to the wall and watched the blue color outside the tower. I fell asleep.
I opened my eyes. I heard sound of sea wave. I saw the sea and the sky
It is morning.
I got out the tower.
Yes, it is morning.
The night was passed. I quickly switched on my phone. The signal was x. I walked around the tower, the hill. No sign of phone signal.
What should I do then?
I looked at the top of the tower. Perhaps. I did not know but I should give a try.
I went back into the tower. I looked at the stair. I had to go.
I used phone-light. Walking slowly.
The stair had no handrail. I walked on the step. It was dark. There was a window. The light came through the window brightening some part. It saved my phone-light-battery.
It was long step. There were about five windows but I did not count the step.
It was so scary but I told myself to be brave.
I reached my destination. It was opened-door too. I got out to the narrow balcony
Oh Buddha. So beautiful.
The blue sea was before my own eyes. It was really, really beautiful. I took photographs and also video.
There was no signal. I was sad. I thought my life would end at with this tower.
I sat on the balcony and looked at the sea.
What should I do next?
I missed my family. I really missed them. I saw they were crying when they learned about air crash. I saw they cried and cried when the in charge-person told the news, 'All are gone.' I cried along with the imagination.
I wanted to go to my family. I wanted to hear my mother yelling at me. I wanted to see my father serious face. I wanted to hear my sister mumble. I wanted to hear my brother calling me to serve him water while he was playing game. I wanted to argue with my friends. All the things I thought it was boring, now I wanted.
Yes, I want. I want them. I want them.
I wiped my tear away. I stood up. I shouted, 'Help. Help.'
I needed to survive. I did not care of anything. I needed to be alive.
No sign of ship.
OK. Let do it later.
I was hungry. My stomach was empty since yesterday. I walked down. I got out of the tower. I checked on the hill. I found a small young tree in the crack of the rock. I pulled it out. I looked at it. Nothing to think. I put it into my mouth.
It is not poisonous.
I continued finding food. No more.
I looked at the sea. Yes, I thought of catching fish. 100 % I could not fishing but finding shell-food was fine.
I walked in the water. I found only empty-shell.
OK. One tree is enough.
Water. I was thirsty. The sea water was salty. I drank little bit. Now I thought about the rain. I wished the rain coming today. I wanted to drink the rain-water.
For the whole day, I ate only the tiny tree. I stood on the balcony and shouted for help. I hoped my voice would be aloud to the ship nearby.
The night fell. I sat on the balcony. I looked at sky. It was amazing that I did not scare of darkness. Opposite, I enjoyed the view in the sky.
I felt I had not seen such beauty so long.
When I was young, I lived in a flat and the roof was like balcony. My family usually sat and watched the sky. They showed me the stars and told me,
'It's chicks-star. It's morning-star.'
As I grew up, I was busy with my work. Not only me but also all members in family. We were busy with our career. We met or chat less.
In our free time, we were sitting in front of TV. Sometimes, we were busy with our iPad or iPhone. We rarely sat together and watched the star.
I took photo of the stars.
Tonight there was no rain. But the heaven had a pity by giving me some dew. I could reduce my thirstiness.
The second day was passed.
Then the third day was passed too.
I was weaker as I did not have food or water. I sat still on the balcony. I did not have strength to shout. I sat and waited and wished the ship would pass my hill.
The fifth day arrived. I wanted to find some food but my feet were weak. I closed my eyes. The sun light was lightening right onto my face but I did not feel. In my head, I thought of going home.
In the fifth night, the rain fell. I drank the rain. Then I went into the tower and went down stair.
I tried to keep myself from falling. I wanted to go to sleep at the basement.
When I arrived at the third window, I saw something on the step near the wall.
I went close. I pointed my phone light towards the object. It was a necklace with a pendant.
How can a necklace stay here? Why I did not notice it?
The pendant was a round box. I opened it. There was an image of a girl, black and white, about 7 years old.
The girl was cute. Her smiled was sweet. As I looked at her smile, I smiled without knowing myself. Then I felt something. It was not my feeling. It was from someone else. It was sad feeling.
I checked the pendant box. I thought it was silver.
It is precious thing. I should keep it at old place for the owner to come.
Then I walked down to the basement and sat and fell asleep.
There was a smell coming to my nose. I could not describe the smell. It was stronger and stronger. I woke up. As I opened my eyes, I saw a man, in middle age, wearing soldier uniform. His eyes were light green. His hair was bronze. He had white skin. He looked so sad. He stood in front of me.
'Who are you?' I asked him.
'I am soldier.' He replied.
'Where are you from?'
'I'm a Russian. I am soldier of Light House 11.'
'Light House 11?'
'It is where you are now.'
'Why I don't see you?'
'Because I am not human.'
'I don't understand.'
'I died during World War II.'
Well, I met a ghost. Why I was not afraid. I had conversation with him like normal person. He was Russian. He did not know Cambodian nor English. It was amazing we could talk and understand.
'You died. But you still here.'
'Can you help me?'
'Your body is in this light house? You want me to take your body to your family?'
'No, my body was already taken but the necklace...' He showed me the necklace I saw last moment. 'It's the gift my daughter gave me before I went to war. Please give this to my daughter.'
'I don't know your daughter.'
'I will tell you how to find her.'
'But I stuck in here. How can I help you?'
His face was so sad. I saw tear inside his eyes. I nodded, 'OK.'
Then I awoke.
I had a dream. No, it is not just a dream.
The sun rose. It was already morning. I walked up to where the necklace was. It was still there. I took it up and put it into my pocket.
After that, I went out of the light house. Perhaps it was because of the rain last night made me have strength to seek food. I found same-tiny-tree I had on my second day. It was the same size. I ate it. The same taste.
Then I walked along the beach. I found some shells. I cooked them by placing on rock under the sun heat. I had much more food than days before. I felt better.
I went up to the top of the light house. I looked for the ships. No sign of them.
As the night covered the earth, the rain fall with small amount. I drank the rain and went to sleep at the basement.
Seventh day, there was a sound awoke me from sleeping. I went out and found something in the sea. It was dolphin. The dolphin who saved me. It jumped in the water pointing to the same direction. I felt something. I went up to the top of the light house and looked. It was a ship. Yes, a ship. I shook my hand and cried, 'Help. Help.'
My heart was beating. I was both happy and scared. I was happy that they came. I was scared that they would not see me and left.
The appearance of the ship became clear to me. It was so big. I saw the flag. It had three colors. Top was white, middle was blue and last was red. Russian flag.
I waved hand and cried, 'Help. Help me.'
The ship was closer and closer. There was a voice from the ship, speaking language I did not know.
I cried, 'Help me.'
Then a voice in English, 'Who are you? Where are you from?'
'I am Cambodian. My plane was crash.'
I was so happy. At last, I survived.
The ship stopped and there was a boat coming from the ship toward the hill. I ran down. I stood at the beach waiting the rescuer.
They took me on to the ship. They informed to the headquarter I thought. There was a person who could speak English. I was asked during my stay on the ship. I told him. And I asked about the plane. He said the plane was crash and fell into the sea far away from the hill. The world was informed that all passengers were dead. I was the only survivor.
The dolphin escorted me from the hill. I took photo with it and it was so happy when I arrived at the port. I said bye to it. It jumped high and swam away.
I was taken by helicopter to the city. The English-speaking-soldier told me that he would bring me to embassy of Cambodia.
I was surprised with the crowd of reporters as I arrived at the embassy. They took photos and videos of me when I walked into the embassy.
I am famous.
Inside the embassy, the ambassador of Cambodia welcomed me. I was asked to tell the story and I did giving them detail.
I was given permission to call to my family. They were crying as they heard my voice. Crying with happy. They had believed I had died.
The embassy organized my travel back to Cambodia. I would go in 2 days. I stayed in embassy. I remembered about the necklace. I said to the staff, 'I want to find a lady name Marina Lisitsyna.'
The staff said there were a lot of people with such name. I begged them to help. They agreed. I gave information to them: Marina Lisitsyna, born in January, 14 1938, father was soldier at Light House 11.
Tomorrow afternoon, I would travel to Cambodia. Still no news about Marina Lisitsyna. I sat in my room and looked at the box of necklace.
Perhaps she died already.
I was thinking what I should do with the necklace. I thought of giving it to museum.
A staff knocked on my door and told me they found the lady.
I went to the living room.
In front of me, an old women sat with her daughter on the sofa. I sat before her.
'Are you Marina Lisitsyna?'
'A rabbit is running on the hill at night. She sees a star in the sky. She asks the star. Do you know what does she ask?
I asked her and she replied, 'Can you show me where to find my father?'
I smiled. She was real.
'Yes, you are Marina Lisitsyna.'
'How can you know this story? Only me and my father knew it because he was writer of this story and he told the story everynight when I went to bed.'
'Your father told me.'
'He's already dead.'
I did not answer her. I took the box from my pocket, 'Your father wants me to give it to you.'
I handed the box to her. She received and opened it. She cried when she saw the necklace. She opened the pendant box.
'It is the gift I gave him on the day he went to the war. I had waited for him to come back. When the war ended, I could saw only his dead body. The necklace was disappeared. I cannot believe I got this today.'
She hold the necklace to heart and cried.
Two minute after, the voice of crying was lower and lower. She asked me how I got this necklace and knew about her father.
I told her that I found the necklace by chance. I was asked by her father to bring it to her. She opened her eyes big when she heard the story. It is unbelievable, I bet. Even though, father returned to his beloved-daughter.
I came back to my family. We had a crying-joy-reunion.
I was famous. TV and newspaper, both local and abroad interviewed me especially my seven days on the hill and the story of necklace.
I took a chance to message to the world sorrow the war was, especially towards the child.
No one want war. War creates misery. Please love all kids as same as love your child.
I showed the photo of beauty of the sea and stars. Also, photo of dolphin. I expressed via the media to human to treasure the nature and the animal. They are our best friend.
Three months after, I got news that Marina Lisitsyna passed away. The night before she died, she told her children that her father and mother were coming to bring her home. She left with smiling and holding the necklace in her hand.