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!


4. Off With the Shackles

Mr Hodge didn’t think he could continue with the deeds to his great-grandfather’s business. How could he? Slavery was wrong. Very wrong. Albert had no intention of carrying on his predecessor’s bad decisions, bad taste and just all-round bad career choice. Albert wondered how he’d managed to get out of bed in the morning, so vile a man who sells other human beings for profit as if they’re worthless, or in fact the complete opposite for the prices they tended to fetch. The slaves were people. Joseph was a person and Mr Hodge sought a way to show that to the world. Unfortunately, it seemed his family were having none of it. Albert insisted they knew of his great-grandfather’s secret and chose not to act upon it and this made him angry. The fact that they could sit by and let others suffer as long as they needn’t listen to the cries and the moans of the captive. Slowly, he began to distance himself from his family and towards Joseph, with whom he then mostly spent most of his time.

   He began by simply talking to Joseph, merely simple phrases that the slave rarely replied to. That was, until Albert Hodge brought up the subject of Joseph’s family and former life. Hesitantly at first, Joseph began to speak of his time in Africa; over the plains as the savannah sun bore down and streaked across the sky with orange tinted hues and beautiful pink that illuminated the clouds that meandered slowly, to and fro. He spoke of his wife and children, for whom he cared very much and wished to see again. Then he would tremble and seethe with rage and despair while detailing how he was taken by the White Man on a journey, away from all he loved, to Britain with it’s cold climate- the complete antithesis to his African homeland. He spoke of Albert’s great-grandfather with a sort of half-fondness, half-loathing which Albert thought very hard to navigate in terms of what to say about him that wouldn’t set Joseph off the edge. But he didn’t need to. Because Joseph often had his own idea of where he wanted the conversation to go.

   “I have this recurring dream,” the lonely moor told him, “of my home. Of Africa. It’s me and I’m running. And I haven’t the slightest idea why that is. I run across the plains and across the place I once knew, ravaged by famine and disease. But, in my mind’s eye, I see it the way it was when I was a boy. I see the eucalyptus trees and the cool, mint scent wafts to my nostrils, so sweet; I run through the clear, refreshing puddles that would sometimes form on the rare times it ever rained; I see the sun rising and setting, the broad strokes of sky so magnificent to behold that to see them one last time, I am sure, would make me feel so, so… alive. Yes, that’s the word- alive. Finally, I look down at myself and my shackles are gone. These clothes are gone too and I am completely naked but for a few stray garments of clothing. I am free. Free as the birds whose songs I seldom hear any more but will never forget. I am free.”

   Albert did not know what to say to this. He wanted to help Joseph, to free him. But he knew he couldn’t. He definitely wouldn’t sell him. And he definitely wouldn’t treat him as a slave. He would treat him as the human being he was. And that’s why he got the key. Rusted and old, Mr Albert Hodge didn’t want to, but passed Joseph the key to his shackles one day when they were conversing over Joseph’s dreams of freedom. Albert wished he’d stay with him for a little longer but knew it was the right time. It was only fair. Joseph’s face lit up with surprise and delight and quickly unlocked the manacles that bound him.


   They fell to the floor with a clang. But Joseph remained seated. Albert Hodge raised his head as if to enquire why, why he didn’t wish to be free. To which Joseph’s response was that he was free. The shackles were gone and there was nothing to stop him doing anything he wanted. And he wanted to stay. With a soft voice, Joseph recounted his dream once more, though this time Albert closed his eyes and behind them he saw the birds and the plains and the sun, such a beautiful sun. And, finally, he too was free.    

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