Chapter 2: The Terror of Night
For almost two hundred years, she enjoyed serenity on the hill where she lived. All around her, the world changed. She watched the comings and goings of the creatures she now viewed with distaste. Their ways were everything opposite of hers. She longed for long days in the sun and quiet moments in the solitude of night.
They longed for conflict it seemed. All around her, they fought with weapons that became more sophisticated as time passed. Soon, cannons roared and created more destruction than ever. Multitudes of these selfish creatures died under the explosive output of the weapons, yet still more came. It seemed as if years passed in war and then suddenly there was silence.
Once again, the years passed and she found her solace again. She continued to grow and continued to learn everything nature had to teach. She found joy in the soft fluttering of birds as they flitted about her. It seemed as if the short periods of war gave way to many years of peace and yet the creatures found no comfort in them. No sooner had one conflict ended than they would begin complaining again until those complaints grew from words to weapons.
For now however, it was a time of peace and in the valley below she watched as a new building was forming. This time, it was being built with brick and mortar and wood was mostly decorative. Around the dwelling, smaller buildings went up. These were made from wood and were not nearly as grand as the big house. Soon, vast fields sprang up and plants called cotton covered them in a green, lush blanket spotted with soft white tufts.
Workers in these fields seemed tattered and torn like the clothes they wore. They were the same as the other creatures and again, different. They were dark in color and their language was different. They sang as they worked, but not the joyful sounds that the birds sang. Their songs were the songs of the oppressed, dreary and yet hopeful that one day they would be free.
It was in these times when she was made to witness even more horror. She could hear the whips scream as they whistled through the air to punish one of the dark ones. Punishments for them wanting basic things that the others took for granted. She could hear the others demeaning them, calling them names and worse. The white ones took the dark women and used them without permissions or mercy.
At times, the night would see one of the dark ones try to escape. They would run to her hill to see the land and possible ways to get away from the place. When they came, she would stand still and quiet. She wanted them to succeed but she could not be involved. If she gave sanctuary, the others would come for her next. Still, she looked down with pity at the frightened runaways and gave them her silent blessing.
One such night, a young man stood at her feet. His chest heaved from the climb up her hill and he now reached a hand out to steady himself. She felt his terror as the shaking hand touched her and in an instant was gone. The man turned and saw her, feeling the life that coursed through her. He reached out again and smiled as his hands circled her.
“You knows what bein’ free is,” he said softly. “Now I’s gonna know too. The Massa gwine be here soon an’ dey gonna set me free.”
She smiled at the man momentarily, happy that his wish would be fulfilled. Of in the fields below, she could hear the baying of dogs and the lanterns that followed the trail of the man up the hill. The young man slumped to his knees as he held her and began to sing softly. It was a song about redemption. He abruptly stopped singing when the white men entered the area.
The dogs continued barking and began snapping at the young man furiously, all to the great enjoyment of the others. Then one of the men took a rope from his bag. He complained that the young man was more trouble than he was worth, that he was inciting the others and was now an unbridled liability. As he did all his complaining, he created a noose from the rope with an elaborate knot. She watched in horror as they threw the rope over one of her arms and then tied it off. They made the man stand in a cart they had taken up and affixed the noose around his neck. She tried to scream out in protest but her voice was silent as always.
Moments later, the cart was pulled away and the young man’s neck snapped from his weight pulling against the knot of the rope. The others watched with no remorse as his body twitched and moved spastically as his life left him. Her heart broke as she watched his spirit leave, guided by a spectral light towards freedom. She understood what he had meant now.
For seven days, they left him there. The smell of the rotting flesh filled her senses until it became unbearable. Finally, several of the dark ones came and took him away but the white man that supervised made them leave the rope.
“Y’all jus’ keep lookin’ at that rope,” he said to them, “an’ think about what happens to runaway slaves. That’s where ya gonna end up!”