This next paragraph isn’t really relative to the story, so you can skip it if you’d like.
So...a grade 9 passed away at my school last night. No, I didn’t know him personally. I knew OF him, and I’d seen him. Friends of friends. He was a shy guy with a cool beanie. He liked photography, and that’s all I got from him. But do you know something? He was happy. We don’t know why he passed, but he isn’t the first one this year. So here’s what scares me--we humans are COMPLETELY oblivious to those around us. Think about it. We don’t know what anyone’s thinking or feeling. What they’re going through. We have friendships, relationships, call them what you will. But what about the people we DON’T know? Just faces in the crowd we see everyday. What about them? I’m not asking you to be friends with everyone, or even to like them. But respect them. If you see anyone who looks like they’re going through a rough time, try to reach out. Smile in the hallway. I do it all the time. They won’t always smile back- may even think you’re crazy, but so what? Just remember, we’re all humans. Act like it. Don’t let anyone be forgotten, or left behind. And if you ever personally need someone to talk to, if you’re feeling down? I’m here, even if no one else is. Writer’s honour. Message me, I’m happy to talk, alright? I may just be a teen, but I care. :)
I don’t know why he influenced me so much, maybe it just scares me how easy it is to lose people we love. That could’ve been anyone.
So... I’d liked to dedicate my next chapter to you, Liam. Hope it’s good enough.
Before now, walking was easy. I knew that every step I was taking was farther away from the plantation, and all those who tried to enslave me. Sure I was sore and hungry, but I was walking to freedom, and that kept me going.
Now? I wasn’t so sure. The farther we went, the more depressed I was. I was leaving Tom behind. Sick, injured Tom. I would probably never know what would become of him. I just wanted to spin on my heel and march right back to the farm, and tell him I would never abandon him because I knew he’d never abandon me. But I had.
“I hate you” I spat at no one in particular.
“I know” Isaac responded fittingly.
“We left him behind.”
“It shouldn’t have been him.”
I turned to face him in disgust, and I saw a tear roll gently down his cheek.
“He was my brother, you know? My twin. We’ve been together our whole lives. Ever since my mom died, Tom’s been taking care of me. Protecting me. You know; our dad didn’t give a rat’s ass about us. It’s Tom who got us out of the Jensen plantation. He worked it out with Walter and Lucien; the whole thing. Snuck out once to get the information he needed. He didn’t HAVE to come back. Hell; he’d probably be safer if he hadn’t. But he did it for me. He didn’t abandon me and now I left him. You think I don’t feel like shit right now?”
That silenced me.
I didn’t know how to respond, so we continued to walk the muddy trail through the forest. It was a swampy place, that was for sure. But they planned it that way; so the bloodhounds wouldn’t follow our scent. The problem was, it slowed us down. Mary Lou had little legs, and she was easily tired.
“Please, can we rest?” she’d whine, and we’d always stop for a minute or two until finally, the sun began to rise.
“We can’t do this anymore; we’re losing too much time” I sighed, “we should have reached the river by now.”
“I’ll carry her,” said Isaac immediately. And he did. For the next three hours, with no breaks. I think he felt like he owed it to us, to someone, to lift the burden of leaving Tom off his shoulders, and replacing it with carrying Mary Lou.
The mud was thick and it clung to our legs, as if it didn’t want us to leave. Like it was helping the slavecatchers get to us faster. To tire us and make us use up our food. But we know hunger. We’ve lived with it; it’s always in the background. You could say we’ve been acquainted with one another our whole lives. And being tired? That too. It’s just something you learn to deal with. As Tom used to tell me : “Suck it up, princess”. I smiled at his memory.
“Stop! Do you hear that?” whispered Isaac.
“Water...” said Abigail greedily, and she ran toward the sound, plunging her hands into the rushing river; Isaac and Mary Lou joining her.
I wasn’t so hasty. I remembered my last time being on a river, where I first saw Lucien and Walter. It was a large river, there could be people on the banks.
“STOP!” I yelled after them, “WAIT!”
I surveyed the scene from both sides, but no sign of anyone. It was dark though, for all we knew..atleast it was loud. I hoped no one had heard me.
Cautiously, I approached the river. I was thirsty too, but my fear was greater than my desire.
“We need to cross, to lose our scent.” I said, “we should rest on the other side.”
“Right. Do you see a bridge anywhere?” Abigail spat, annoyed. I think the fatigue was getting to her usually gentle persona.
“We should look for one, it’s too deep to walk through. And quickly; the sun is rising.”
“We could jump the rocks?” suggested Isaac.
“None of us can swim. What if we fall in?” I asked. It was true; growing up on the farm, we’d never had the opportunity to learn.
“Well, I don’t know about you but I’d rather drown than go back there. I’ll take my chances,” said Abigail, and she began hopping stones.
Nervously, we sat and watched from the cover of the treeline. After about a minute, she made it across.
“Come on guys!” she yelled.
“Mary Lou should go with Isaac,” I said, “carry her.”
He picked her up gently, and I watched as they made their way across. The sun was almost fully visible now, it was probably 8 in the morning. People were awake, and they might be here for water soon. I breathed a sigh of relief when they crossed safely.
I looked down at the stones uncomfortably. I could see the path they’d used, but suddenly the other side of the bank seemed much farther. I took the first few steps, gaining my confidence. If you omitted the rapid water rushing below my feet and the pressure of being seen, it really wasn’t too bad. I decided to try looking up so I wouldn’t notice my situation as much, when out of the corner of my eye I saw a white man staring at me, pointing and yelling something inaudible.
“Shit!” I yelled, and in my effort to hurry crossing I slipped on a rock and tumbled into the river.
Cold. That’s what I feel at first. A bitter, numbing cold biting away at my skin. It was dark too, and when I looked up all I saw were shadows. I tried holding my breath, but I wasn’t lasting too long. Slowly, I fell deeper and deeper as the current carried me away. It wasn’t so bad down here, I realized. No living man could get me here. It was probably the safest I’d ever been.
A small part of me wanted to just close my eyes, and drift away. Be taken to my brother in heaven, or wherever I was supposed to go. It had to be better than here, right?
But then an image of Tom flashed into my mind. Then Ezra and Hugh and Oscar, everyone who had been left behind. I couldn’t die now...I’d promised I’d make it to Canada. For all of us. To live a free life. I was being selfish.
My eyes fluttered open, and I tried kicking toward the surface relentlessly. I couldn’t tell if I was making progress, but I kept trying, using every last ounce of my energy. The corners of my vision were getting blurry.
The next thing I saw amazed me. Tom swimming down to get me, reaching his hand out. I grabbed it, confused. Tom was back at Brooke’s farm. How? A hallucination? Maybe Tom had died too, and he had come to take me to heaven.
Then I realized. It was his twin Isaac pulling me. Together we made our way upward. The light was getting closer. The relief was enough to get me out and I let out a huge gasp of air. We clung to a large nearby rock, both panting heavily.
“You saved me,” I whispered.
I find reading this chapter is easier with dramatic violins, you feel me? :)
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