Before long, the silence that once covered the village is broken by bloodcurdling screams from women and bellows by the men.
It’s petrifying. Large men with white faces and red palms drag and heave me away from my house, along with my brothers and sisters. My pregnant mother is crying so hard her eyes turn red. I know the only reason they’re being easy with her is because she’s expecting. The men don’t yell at her as much, unlike the rest of us. They speak in a language foreign to me as they pull and tug on my arms and legs, chaining me to links alongside faces I’ve seen; neighbors and friends. We share a few words of comfort, but it’s useless. We know there’s no happy ending. We don’t bother believing the lies we tell each other; “It’ll be alright. We’ll get through it.”
From where I stand, I can see my father fighting against the man chaining him. This earns him a yell and a punch into submission.
I can’t watch. I look down at my feet, the salty tears dripping onto the dry land. The constant shrieking and crying is too much to bear.
Years have passed since the raid. At the auction, I was separated from my father, but a few of my siblings work on the plantation with me. Why can’t we at least stay slaves with our family? Why separate us?
Brutal beatings occurred from slaves attempting to run. By now, they should have figured out it’s pointless. There’s no chance of escaping. Fellow workers tell me to keep hoping, keep spirits high. But I can’t. Hope died the second my skin touched those chains.
I was auctioned off to a ruthless man who gives no mercy to his slaves. I didn’t expect mercy, but at the same time I wasn’t expecting such a barbaric owner. One might be lucky enough to fall over and die right then from overworking. Or maybe it’s because of poor working conditions. Either way, death is the only true escape.
A sudden shuffle of feet catches my attention. Temptation is begging for me to peek. Just a glance. Luckily, dare I use the word, I can see my owner sitting in his chair. He’s watching us, cigar in hand. That defeats any temptation I’ve had.
It’s a runner. I can tell just by the noisy patterns he’s molding in the dirt. Not too long after, a loud boom rings throughout the field. We didn’t need to peep to figure out our owner shot him down.
I’ve become use to the thunder of his gun and his shouts when he’s angry. What I’m not used to is the screaming and wailing of the girls he uses. He’ll set his eye on a female every week. Treat them to a fancy dinner, allow them to sleep in the comforts of a real house, handle her almost like a human being.
Nonetheless, the girls are smart enough to know it’s a trap. They count their blessings and take advantage of what they can, while they can. Eat as much as they can, sleep as long as they desire.
This week, his eye is set on me.
“Gigi,” My owner calls from the porch. “Take a break.”
Over the years, I’ve learned a few words of their language. I’m not at all fluent, but I knew this meant to stop working for a bit.
I puff, sitting on my knees. I don’t have much time.
A woman working next beside me shoots a glance in my direction. If words were never created, I would still be able to understand her; “be careful.”
I give a small smile. I’ll escape.
Two nights later, I’m being treated to a feast. My owner sits across the table, smiling maliciously at me.
“You haven’t touched your food.”
I swallow my last bit of pride. “Ain’t hungry.” Did I say that right? I have been practicing some words at night while most of everyone was sleeping.
Something in his smile falters. He’s losing patience. “I prepared all this food. Aren’t you hungry?”
I shake my head. “Never asked you t’make much food.”
The smile is wiped from his face as soon as the words leave my mouth.
Come on, get mad. “But thanks.”
That evil smile plasters back on his lips. “Have as much as you’d like.”
I eat as slowly as possible, ignoring my yearning stomach. While it’s begging for food, for me to eat faster, I ignore any urge. Eating faster means dinner will be over.
I’m not ready yet.
I tuck the broken piece of mirror beneath my leg even closer to me.
He tries to make small talk, but I’m not interested. What could you possibly have to say to a slave you own? “Hi, how are you doing? How’s your life going? Eatin’ good, sleepin’ well? How’s your family?”
I swallow the mashed potatoes I stuffed into my mouth so I couldn’t speak.
It feels like an eternity has passed by. My stomach can’t hold any more food.
No, not yet.
“Full?” My owner’s hyena-like laugh echoes in the room. “Come.”
As he stands, I quickly shove the broken mirror slice in the pocket of the dress he’d lent me.
He walks over, holding out his hand. As much as I’d prefer not to touch his filthy hand, I know I have to. It’s the only way that leads me to an escape.
I follow him as we walk through the house, up the stairs. Through the hallways, round the corners. My stomach begins to feel like a black hole. The nervousness is suffocating me.
He leads me inside the room, closing the door behind him.
As soon as he pushes me onto the bed, I slide out the mirror slice I’ve kept hidden and slash away at him. I scream, kick, but never stop slashing. All I can hear are his shouts and yells.
He curses at me, throwing me to the side. The mirror piece is still in my hand, covered in blood. His blood. I hold it high, ready to fight back.
I wasn’t ready for the real knife he grabs from the bed’s nightstand. “You wanna fight, huh?”
He darts at me. I scream, running, trying to find a way to evade and kill him.
“You’re a feisty one.”
As I move from his grasp, he runs into the wall and collapses. I can see the other end of the knife bulge from his shoulderblade.
For a moment, I feel accomplished. I feel like I’ve won.
All those feelings of victory wash away when he starts to move. At first, I think my eyes are playing tricks on me.
He’s still alive? This wasn’t part of my plan...
He says quietly, “I didn’t want to have to do this, Gigi. I fancied you.”
All I hear is a single gunshot. That’s all it took. After that, my whole world went black. There’d been rumors on the field of seeing all your life’s memories flash before your eyes, I don’t know how they’d know that. I didn’t see anything. Maybe because I didn’t care if I died or lived, so I didn’t care to make memories. Living was the same as being dead. At least in death, you’ve finally escaped.
I did it. I escaped.
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