Freedom

It was on a visit to Bristol during the summer holidays that I was inspired to write this story, Joseph’s story. After reading the history of some slaves, who travelled from the West Indies and Africa etc. only to be enslaved by the “White Man” who separated them from their families and everything they loved, I felt so angered and saddened by the conditions they endured and hardships they faced that I had to write something about it. The idea for this story came to my mind again recently, after getting an assignment set by my English teacher about freedom. So, that night, I sat down by my laptop and just wrote and wrote and wrote until I’d finished with a story about a dead man, a will, a feud, a family secret, a recurring dream, a journey, a lonely black slave and the nature of freedom. Hope you enjoy it!

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3. Jospeh

He planned to pick up the deeds as soon as possible, therefore he left for his great-grandfather’s workplace early the next morning, while the dew was still settling and the world was fast asleep. But for him, that was.

   It felt strange to walk through the halls of the place again, to feel the suffocating effect it had had on him from his time as a young boy on visits come rushing back to him. It somehow felt disrespectful being there, while the man he hardly knew lay in his tomb and he had everything he’d ever held dear in his time on the earth all to himself. Trespassing, almost, or thievery. But if this was what his great-grandfather had wanted, then it was his duty to keep up the good work. With newly-gained confidence, he strode over to the desk which stood in the corner of the office, covered in dust and cobwebs from the absence of any form of cleaning. There, amongst the piles of documents and other miscellaneous work-related things, was a crumpled piece of yellowing paper, signed with his name on it. Tentatively at first, he opened it to reveal the spidery scrawl he associated with his great-grandfather and a note. Four words.

Please look after Joseph.

He did not know the relevance of these words, nor the consequences they would have on his life in time to come at this point. He simply scratched his head and pondered the possibilities, in the way that one generally does. Later on he would often wonder how he hadn’t pieced everything together by that point, but at the time he was blissfully unaware, giddy at the prospect of owning a business, an undoubtedly successful one, all to himself. This faded fast. From behind him came a small cough and Albert turned to see who had been behind him all along. It made him feel uneasy to think that someone had been watching him, scrutinising his every move and now he could feel the pair of eyes on the back of his head as acutely as ever. He spun to see a figure in the shadow of the room, his face masked by the darkness that surrounded him. Mr Hodge didn’t know what to do, so he did what he did best- he bluffed.

   “Oh, hello. Didn’t see you there. It seems that I’m the new owner of this business- dreary stuff, won’t bore you with the details…”

“Where’s Mr Hodge?”

“Ah,” Albert faltered. “Haven’t you heard? Well… Mr Hodge is gone. He’s dead. I’m the new Mr Hodge.”

The man seemed bewildered by this, unsure of how to react. Hesitantly at first, he stepped forward from the corner into the light so that Albert could get a better look at him. It was a sight he had not expected. In front of him stood a stooped man, in ragged clothes although his most obvious feature was the hue of his skin, a contrast to the pale pallor of the room around him. His black skin was so startling and foreign that Albert had to disguise his surprise, which was easier said than done under circumstances similar to the ones the new Mr Hodge found himself placed in. Around the man’s hands were manacles, restraints in both the literal and metaphorical sense, like proof of what Albert had already begun to suspect. This poor creature was not a servant. Suddenly, Albert realised what it was exactly that the late Mr Hodge’s job had been and it disgusted him. Slavery. The very mention of the word sent uncomfortable shivers dancing up and down his back. And Albert knew who this strange man was and the meaning of the note made sense at last.

   “Joseph.”

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