“Don’t count yourself lucky yet, princess. Look.” he responded
And I did, to see two white men in a boat, peddling towards us. They had guns, I noticed.
“RUN!” I yelled to Abby and Mary Lou. Even if we were caught, I wouldn’t let them be caught too.
They hesitated for only a second before they dissappeared into the trees with one last fleeting glance.
“STOP, or we shoot!”
“Don’t move” whispered Isaac, “it’s too late.”
The boat rowed towards us, carried swiftly by the river that seemed to be leading fate right to us.
The men snatched us from the water soon enough, and pushed us into the boat roughly. Our hands were bound tightly by rope.
“Now where might two young niggers such as yourselves be off to?”
“To freedom, until you so rudely interrupted us. I thought you white folk were the well-mannered ones.” I said happily.
Isaac suppressed a grin, but I promptly received a slap.
“Who the hell do you think you are?”
I give only a smile as a response.
The man growled. “I’ll ask one more time, you cheeky bitch. Where did you come from?”
“You know, it’s not the time to get personal. If you wanted to talk, you didn’t have to tie me in ropes. You can’t be that boring that’d I’d try to leave.”
“Oh, just shut up Arty. We’ll let Don deal with them.” yelled the other fisherman
“You’ll talk soon enough” the man sneered, tightening my ropes so they would rub against my wrists.
Sure, I put on a brave face and talked back to them. In reality, I was terrified. I just hoped if we appeared stronger then we were, they wouldn’t use us as much.
They both sat in the front and rowed, us only sitting in silence now. I kept looking to the trees, hoping for one glance of Mary Lou and Abby, but they were long gone and I knew they wouldn’t dare follow us.
What if I never saw any of them again?
“I’m scared”, I whispered.
“I know, you won’t let go of my hand.”
I blushed and dropped it, but he grabbed it to confirm it was okay.
“Thank you. For..you know. Saving my life.”
“I guess it would’ve been better if I’d just let you die” he says.
I look at him, searching for some sign that he’s joking, but his face is solemn again.
He breaks into a grin when he sees my worried face.
“We’ll get out of this. We always do.”
I’m not so sure of that. It was our first day without guidance, and we failed. Seperated and captured by the first sunrise. Even if we do get out of THIS mess, will we able to get out of others?
The boat docks onto a small harbour, where we’re greeted by two other men. One looks like a businessman; with a fine coat and beaver pelt hat, while the other is sloppier. Probably a local farmer.
“Oi! Don! Nice surprise for ye. Found these two on the river. Or, literally in it.”
The businessman walks forward, and he seems to tower over us as we sit in the boat.
“Stand up” pushes the fisherman roughly. When we don’t do as he says, he pulls out a whip.
“UP, you mongrels! Show some respect!” he yells.
He whips me once, and I cringe at the familiar, searing pain.
Isaac whispers, “get up Alice. They’ll only treat you worse.”
Resentfully, I do.
The businessman smiles evilly at me, then he looks me up and down.
I know what he’s doing. Seeing how much I’m worth, how much he could sell me for later. He’s checking age, my health, my condition. I’m a girl--practically a woman too. And potential children mean more money. I know I should shrug my shoulders, appear weaker than I am, but my pride is too great and I stand tall, with my chin up.
He goes to Isaac next. Fairly impressed, he says “I’ll give you 600 for the girl and 750 for the boy.”
“So little? Why look at them, fresh and ready to work!” the fishermen bargain.
“You’ll take what you can get.”
“We could sell them elsewhere, you know. I’m sure they’ve got slave catchers after them who would pay a pretty penny.”
This, ladies and gentleman, is called a stick sharpened at both ends. Out of the fire and into the frying pan. Between a rock and a hard place. Call it what you will, but here’s my situation. I get sold to the businessman, and end up in some plantation where I very likely do not escape. OR..and get this. It’s really a deal breaker. The fishermen turn me into the authorities; who are obliged to return me to Mississippi because of the Fugitive Slave Act requirements.
Life gets better, they said.
Stay strong, they said.
What does that even mean? Stay “strong”.
I watch the businessman consider his options. He strokes his beard absent-mindedly.
“1600 for both then.”
The fishermen, pleased with themselves, accept the offer. Money is exchanged, hands are shaken, and they leave on their boat.
“They’re your problem now!” they laugh.
“Should we blindfold the slaves?,” the sloppier man asks
“No. I’d rather they watch. Take them to the wagon and put them in chains though; Harold. They are only animals after all, and should be treated as such.”
“Curse you both” I spit at their feet.
“A gag would do you good, young lady. But all in time.”
We’re led to a wagon that already contains about 10 other slaves.
I’m about to get in, when the man, Harold, sticks out his hand to stop me.
“You’ll be walking behind us” he sneers. He ties the chains to the back of the wagon, and puts them around our ankles too.
“Try not to drag too far behind. It’ll leave a mark and we have yet to sell you” the man smiles cruelly.
He goes to the front of the wagon and whips his horses. We start walking behind, chained to it.
It’s not so bad at first, since it’s early morning and we’re going slow, but the pace gradually increases. I begin to feel the chains grinding at my ankles more severely. The sun rises directly above us, and it’s searing heat causes me to sweat more.
I hate myself. I hate where I am. I hate being here, having my life controlled by others. I was a fool for thinking I could ever be free.
The man doesn’t seem to be stopping any time, so I look for ways to distract myself. I lift my head up for the first time, to observe my surroundings; only to several eyes looking back at me.
It’s crowded in the wagon infront. These slaves are gaunt and even thinner than we are. Who knows how long they’ve been travelling, caged like animals. Wood bars their only exits. All I can see is their eyes. They’ve given up. They’ve accepted their fate.
They are broken .
They look at me but say nothing. I feel them watching, waiting for me to crack and join them in the prison. It is the only thing that keeps me going--not wanting to be trapped like they are.
Water--I thirst for it so badly. It’s ironic that just hours ago, I was drowning in it. Dying of it. And now; it looks like I will die because of my lack of it.
It feels like a waste of water to even be sweating.
To my great relief, the wagon comes to a stop. I instantly collapse to my knees from fatigue. Minutes pass as Harold refills his canteen. He returns to the front and whips the horses to move. I try to get up, but I can’t.
I hear a crack but am too numb to feel the sting of the whip. “UP, YE LAZY GOOD FOR NOTHING RUNT! DID I SAY YOU COULD REST?”
Isaac growls and lunges out to grab the whip from him, but his hands are bound too tight and he can’t reach him.
“Don’t you touch her, you piece of shit.” he warns.
-Me trying to add humour into the story but failing desperately I’m so sorry you had to endure that. You all deserve high fives.-
-Fact: What was 800$ then could be about $130,000 now. Think about how much they were sold for. I guess for some people, you can put a price on life.
Thanks for reading :) As always, comment and vote if you liked it!