She’d always lived next to the dock. And for years her dad worked the docks.
She would wake up well before dawn with him and take the short 3 block walk down to the port where all the shipping containers lived.
He would tell her to sit quietly in the booth and play her video games while he’d walk the walls of shipping containers working security.
She used to do as she was told. Even though it wasn’t her style. But two months ago, things changed.
She stopped sitting quietly.
It wasn’t her style, anyway.
As soon as he was out of sight she’d sneak out of the booth and begin on the opposite end he traveled.
Her father was a perfectionist. He had a method to his rounds and he would start on the south end, moving west, and turning each corner moving easy and rounding down to the north end.
She knew this.
So she would begin at the north end, run down to the east side, and move south.
She knew she had at least 20 minutes before she would run into him.
There were miles of shipping containers in the docks and she wanted to check all of them.
She had a feeling about it.
As much as her dad was a perfectionist she knew he didn’t take his job with purpose. It was a paycheck. Something to help fund his family. Her and the two younger sisters who were still in diapers. He wanted to provide for all of his family.
It was just his job.
For her, it was a mission.
Anna was 15 years old. Smarter than her years. Not interested in the day to day drama happening at her school. She felt there was something bigger she was meant to do in the world.
She read a lot online, and 2 months ago she’d read an article about a sex ring that was captured after a young girl escaped from a shipping container in England. It wasn’t in a port city like hers, she lived in Denmark, but she re-lived the story daily knowing where her father worked.
She was confident that not every shipping container in the port held goods and merchandise that weren’t human. After reading that article she’d made it her daily purpose in life to check every container.
So for 2 months she’d been practicing this routine.
Her father would leave, she would wait, then she would go the opposite direction checking each container.
She had a very solid method. She’d knock lightly on each container and say quietly in the two languages she knew,
Are you okay? I’m friendly. (English)
Har du det godt? Jeg er venlig. (Danish)
She would wait for a moment and listen for any rustling. If nothing she would move to the next container and methodically repeat her system.
She’d been checking containers for 2 months and felt relieved every time there was no reply. She’d almost started to believe that her port, the port of her city was impervious to human slavery. After all, every one she encountered was lovely and pleasant.
People were kind and attentive. It might be possible that the beautiful place she existed didn’t fall under that horrible article she read. Maybe it couldn’t happen here.
Tonight was a full moon. She stopped to enjoy it. She also thought maybe tonight would be her last night checking containers. She felt secure in her father’s work, she felt secure in the integrity of her city.
She felt like maybe she could start sleeping soundly in her bed knowing nothing tragic was happening at the docks close to her home.
As she looked happily at the moon she felt grateful for her loving father and her sisters and mother. And then she heard a small whimper.
She quickly turned and saw a young girl, covered in bruises and blood.
“My dear, oh my dear, let me help you”.
She ran to the young girl, and as she moved forward, the girl retracted.
“Oh no, it’s okay. I’m so sorry, I won’t hurt you I promise”.
The girl trepidatiously moved towards her, Anna reached out a hand, as you might for a nervous, stray animal. She waited there with her palm face up, not moving.
After a few moments the young girl moved closer. Since Anna wasn’t sure how to communicate with her, she spoke in English first.
“What container did you come from? I will help you get out of here.”
The young girl didn’t seem to understand so she asked in Danish.
The girls’ answer was astonishing.
“Jeg kom ikke fra en container. Jeg kom fra lageret.”
Anna moved quickly.
She knew it was important. Even though it would implicate her father. And in that most important moment, she had a fleeting thought, wondering if it was possible he could be a part of it all as well.
Her fleeting thought quickly became a knowing horror.
He always told of his break times in the warehouse, bullshitting with his buddies, playing games after things were quiet, and the security checks were done.
The warehouse was a safe space for him and his guys.
Away from his daughter knocking on container doors looking for pain and suffering.
A way for him to inflict his pain and suffering on others.
Anna grabbed her by the hand and ran into the dark with her.
She didn’t know what else to do.
She had at least 15 minutes before he came back.
The girls words rang in her ears.
“I didn’t come from a container, I came from the warehouse.”