HerStory

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Chapter 4 – She is Different

Later that night, Yellow Feather returned with Imani. “How is she?” asked Great Eagle.

“She is lying down and she is not speaking to anyone,” said Imani. “What do you think she will do?” asked Yellow Feather.

“I think she will run away... You say she has many spirits around her,” Imani paused in hesitation. Great Eagle nodded, concerned.

Imani continued, “Many things happened on that ship. I met Ayira at the port where they held us before they put us on that ship.”

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Six months earlier at Port Luanda in Africa, the women were contained in a large cell with bars on the doors and windows. They looked scared and nervous. Some sat on the ground, while others stood. Just a couple of feet from the window, Ayira was on her feet watching a slave ship that had just pulled into the port. Imani sat in a corner, staring at Ayira. When she turned her head and sadly returned Imani’s gaze, Imani quickly looked away. Ayira returned to analyzing the slave ship.

One evening, after a couple of days passed, all of the women were either sitting or lying down asleep. Ayira stood up, stepped over a couple of the women, and returned to the window to stare into the darkness. Terrified, she slowly started to tremble. Tears started to fall from her eyes and she ran to the cell doors, crying.

“Let us out – Let me out!” yelled Ayira, scaring the women out of their sleep. They all began to stand up, bewildered.

“Let me out!” yelled Ayira.

Two guards raced to the cell and started hitting the cell doors, as one of them shouted, “Shut up – shut up!”

“Please let me out – let me out. Let us all out. You do not know what you are doing – please. Let me speak to your leader, please!”

One of the guards opened the cell door and Ayira tried to run out, but the men caught her. She tried to fight them off, but the guards hit her and she fell down to the ground. The women who were watching screamed out, crying as the men beat her.

“Kill me – kill me!” yelled Ayira.

Imani leaned against the cell door, scared and weeping. “Stop it – stop hitting her – please!” yelled Imani.

The men did stop, and then they dragged Ayira away as she kicked and screamed.

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Great Eagle thought sadly to himself. Yellow Feather appeared saddened as well.

Imani started to cry and said, “I met Ayira at the port. She was so different from the other women. She said nothing, but I could see more. I just did not know what it was – until... She trembled every time she looked at the slave ship. One night, she started screaming for them to let us out, but that made the men angrier and she fought with the men over and over again. She would stop fighting when she was too tired, but then later start all over again.”

Yellow Feather looked upset at Imani’s words. She hesitated before she said, “The day they put us on that ship, she looked different. She looked horrified. As we were led to that ship, Ayira whispered to me. “I don’t know any prayers, any real prayers.” She had tears in her eyes. I taught her a prayer, and then every day afterward on that ship she said it over and over again.”

Imani’s eyes were still full of tears, as she continued, “There were many of us – many of us at the bottom of that ship. There was no room to move. It was very dark and the smell – the smell I cannot describe. There were many days that went by, day upon day upon day. I thought I would go mad, but I hoped I would go mad – anything to take me away from that horrible ship.”

Yellow Feather sadly looked down.

“Ayira started changing; she spoke to herself and she started speaking to me differently,” said Imani.

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Four months before, only the light from a torch near the bottom of the stairs was visible in the blackness of the slave ship’s crowded hull. The dim light reflected off of hundreds of sweaty bodies, piled one atop of another. There were so many slaves, it was hard to tell where each body began or ended, and the only audible sounds were of moaning, crying, and sobbing. Ayira was buried among those piles; she could barely move her head and could only freely move her eyes. She faced the stairs, terrified, her eyes moving frantically from side to side as tears fell down her face.

“Imani – Imani.” “Yes, Ayira.”

“I see something.” “What do you see?”

“There’s someone there. Someone is down here with us.”

“Is it the white men? Ayira – please. I am too tired to speak.” “It’s coming over here. Imani; it’s getting closer.”

“Who is it?”

Ayira started whimpering, and said, “It’s getting closer.”

She closed her eyes. Moments passed before Ayira finally opened her eyes. When she did, she instantly started screaming and shaking.

There was terror in her eyes.

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Back at Great Eagle’s hut, the men stared at Imani, stunned, as she continued, “I thought she went mad, and after that, I stopped answering her.”

Great Eagle sounded concerned as he said, “Who do you think it was?”

Imani appeared confused as she looked down and replied, “I don’t know, but there was another night she said something that scared me.”

“What?” asked Yellow Feather.

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On the slave ship, only Ayira’s eyes were visible as she whispered nervously, “Imani?” Ayira waited in vain for a response, so she asked again, “Imani?”

Imani sounded sick and weak when she finally said, “What, Ayira? I cannot speak much longer.” Ayira trembled and replied, “I see it again. I see it. It’s coming to me.”

“Who is coming to you?”

Ayira whispered frantically, “No – no...” and then screamed. Only the sounds of the creaking ship and the waves hitting the ship could be heard.

“Ayira – Ayira!”

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White Hawk suddenly burst into Great Eagle’s teepee, startling everyone present.

He stared at them suspiciously and said, “They told me you were speaking to the slave woman.” They glared at White Hawk, annoyed.

“Please go on,” said Yellow Feather to Imani. “What is going on?” asked White Hawk.

“Something that might help us – you may join us if you please,” said Great Eagle. “I am speaking to the others about the food for the winter,” said White Hawk.

Great Eagle nodded. White Hawk looked at Great Eagle curiously and said, “I will speak to you later.” Great Eagle nodded again and White Hawk left.

“Please go on,” repeated Yellow Feather.

Imani looked down and continued, “What scared me the most–” she stared at Great Eagle, “–She spoke differently.”

“Differently how?” asked Great Eagle.

“I didn’t know if I was going mad, but I think she started speaking in different languages – languages I have never heard before... Once, I thought I heard a man’s voice and...” she stopped, and turned away.

Great Eagle, worried, asked, “And what?”

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Three months earlier, Imani‘s eyes were closed when she suddenly heard Ayira coughing and moaning. She had no energy as she struggled to say, “Ayira – Ayira.”

“Imi – is that you?”

Terrified, Imani fought to turn her head toward Ayira. “Imi – Imi?”

Imani was hesitant and said, “Ouma?” “Imi – Imi... I missed you.”

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In Great Eagle’s teepee, Imani wept and said, “She called me Imi – that is what scared me.” Confused, Yellow Feather asked, “What does that mean?”

Imani wiped her tears as she said, “Imi was a name that my grandmother called me. She was the only one that called me Imi.”

Great Eagle leaned back, stunned, as Yellow Feather said, “Maybe Ayira knew she called you that name.”

Imani shook her head. “Ayira is not of my tribe; her tribe was far north of mine.”

Great Eagle thought for a moment before saying, “You have helped me with what you have told me. I believe that there is more to your friend. I believe that I won’t help her unless she helps herself and she needs to accept her destiny. Your friend also needs your help; she trusts you more than anyone. She is very troubled and she might hurt herself.”

“Why do you want to help her?” asked Imani.

“Because I see her sadness and anger and she is lost. I have spoken of her before, and that is why I want to help your friend.”

“Thank you – I thank you for helping us.”

“Do not thank me – it was meant to be,” said Great Eagle.

They both smiled as Imani said, “I will go now and check on Ayira.”

Great Eagle and Yellow Feather nodded. Imani left the teepee, and Yellow Feather looked at Great Eagle, concerned.

“If what you said is true about Ayira – I do not understand.” Great Eagle said, “For her to be your wife, it is much to take in.

Yellow Feather’s thoughts were sad as Great Eagle continued, “I have dealt with many, but this woman is different and I know she is a good person, I can feel it.”

“What do I do?” “Wait – wait.”

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