Because Of Me

This is a historical fiction about slavery. Warning: there is dark and brutal things in this story. It teaches about the horror that was black slavery.

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3. Nayra

Once our coffle finishes walking to the white box that the men had named “Cape Coast”, we finally get a rest while one of the slavers talks to the guard. We aren’t allowed to sit down, but at least we don’t have to move. But they yank us forward before I can catch my breath.

 

We are pulled into a massive square. There are people, both pale and dark, walking around. The ground feels strange, like rocks compacted into squares that are all next to each other in a pattern. The pattern is repeating, like some of the patterns on a kente cloth. It looks foreign, like something that only the gods could make so exact.

As the men push us through the square, some of the black people stare. A few of their faces are full of hatred, even though we’ve done nothing wrong. Some of their eyes show that they pity us, but if they’re going to feel bad, then they should help us escape. But most of them just ignore us, like we aren’t as important.

We move on, and are shoved toward two doors. Before they push our coffle in, they start separating us. I realize that the males are being taken into one of the doors, while the women are going into the other. I let myself be pushed away, and as they shove me toward the left door, I think that this is the door to the underworld.

Above me is the only light in the entire cell, a little hole in the ceiling. It doesn’t help by much. I realize that the gap is actually for ventilation. This is probably because it stinks. It smells like rotting flesh, vomit, and urine all mixed together to make some sort of evil voodoo. Outside of this form of hell, other africans roam free, while I’m trapped in here. And their looks of hate? What could I possibly have done to have deserve that? Their icy stares emitting from their narrow eyes had made me want to throw up. It’s almost like they knew what I had done to my village.

There already are dozens of other women in the dungeon. Some of them are laying on the ground, with bruises all over their bodies. I don’t think they’re sleeping. Many women are rocking themselves, holding their legs up to their chest. They have wide eyes, and blood on their hands. I lay down in a corner, crunched up on the ground, and first the first time since the walk here, I cry.

I just can’t take it anymore. I’m not ready for this. I can’t deal with whatever these people had in store for me. I’ve lost my village, my people, and my family. My beautiful kente cloth dress has been ripped to shreds during the walk here, with not a single thread left. But at least I have the necklace. But it reminded me of my betrayal. I start crying harder.

After a long time, I finally stop crying. I try to think about something besides the day of the attack, but it’s seared into my brain. I decide to think about the happy moments in my life, instead of the invasion. But all I can think about is what I’ve done.

“It- It was my fault. All my fault.” I whisper. With that last thought, I black out.

When I wake up, a few of the very same pale men that captured me are poking and prodding me. Once they see I’m moving, they continue on to everyone else. They poke and prod everyone that isn’t moving, and when they find a woman dead, they drag her out. Once all of the dead women are taken away, they return, throwing small loaves of stale bread at us. I run to get a piece with a stabbing pain in my side. But the other women are savages. Some of them even try to rip my throat out. I quickly realize that this isn’t the way to go, so I step back.

By the time it’s calm enough to go and get a piece, all of the bread is gone. I know that if I don’t eat something soon, I’m going to die. But maybe that’s a good thing. It was my fault that my village lays in ashes. And that’s going to be on me forever. But I know that even though I deserve to die, I can’t give up. I’m going to have to be forceful, or even violent, if I wanted food. But I just can’t stoop down to their level. I’ll have to get food another way.

The next day, I’m starving. I need food. But I’m too weak to even move. It hurts to breathe. And I need help. But I have a plan. When the men come in to take the dead, I know what to do. Slowly, I crawl to the place where they had thrown the food last time. It was a long shot, but was my only hope. They pull out the dead women out and two of them come in with the bread. Without even noticing me, they both throw all of it into the room, and half of it goes straight into my lap! I grab about six or seven pieces, leaving enough for everyone else. With a jolt of energy, I run back into my corner, and start stuffing myself. It’s disgusting and hard as a rock, but it’s food.

Multiple woman come over to try and wrestle some of the loaves from my fingers, but with a screwed up face and crazy eyes, I hiss as loud as possible. They get the picture and scramble off.

I eat until I am full. There are still a few pieces of bread left, so I decide to save it for later. But there is one girl, about my age, who is laying on the ground, obviously in critical condition. I slowly walk over to her with the remaining of the bread, and sit down next to her.

“Hi. I’m Delana. If you would like, I could give you some of my bread.”

“You- you were the girl who took all of the bread.” She whispers. She’s from an Ewe tribe too! That’s good, because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to understand her.

She looks weak and vulnerable, and I could easily count her ribs if I wanted to.

“Yes, I was. But I don’t want the rest of it. You can have it, if you want.”

The girl’s expression quickly becomes cold.

“I don’t want your pity food. If I am destined to live, then I will do it on my own.” I don’t understand why she’s denying something that could help her survive, but I want her to live. And there’s no way she’s going to do it by herself.

“Ok!” I say with a fake smile, “I guess you can just not get any bread at all. But….” I lower my voice to a whisper, “I don’t think anyone else is going to give you anything. Everyone here only cares about themselves.”

She scowls, and says, “Fine. I’ll eat it. And my name is Nayra.”

What a beautiful name. It has a beautiful meaning too.

“Your name means bless.” I tell her. She obviously knows, just maybe we can bond over that or something.

“I’m not stupid. I even know what your name means.” She switches her voice to a higher, mocking one. “‘The Savior Gives.’”

Why is she being so mean? I haven’t even done anything wrong, at least not to her. I decide to just stop talking. Minutes pass, and maybe ten minutes later, she finishes the bread.

“Listen. I- I’m sorry for being so mean. I guess it’s just how I’m dealing with- whatever this is.” I open my mouth to tell her off, but then decide against it. It really wasn’t a big deal at all. She apologized, so there’s no reason to hold a grudge.

“It’s okay. And you know, you weren’t that bad. Just a little feisty.”

“You sound like my mama- ‘Don’t you take that tone with me daughter’- She was absolutely insane.” But Nayra obviously misses her mother. If she’s dead, of course. And judging by her expression, she is.

Over the next while, Nayra and I talk a lot about what is to come. We realize that the pale men are probably going to take us somewhere. We can’t just stay here forever. Otherwise at least some of the women that had obviously been here before us would still be in the dungeon, just much older. So it is all we can do to wait and see where we are going.

And we do see. More men come one morning, and kick many of us outside. We are shoved into lines and one by one, are inspected by more men. A specific man look at me and Nayra. We all touched all over. It is all I can do  not to hurt him. But I know that if I lash out in any way I will immediately get beaten.

After the man finishes looking me and Nayra over, we are pushed forward into another line. At the front of it, a man is holding a black stick that curls and flattens at the end, making some sort of shape. The shape is an orangish red, and the man holding the creepy stick is pressing it onto all of the slaves’ skin. From the looks on their faces and their attempts at screaming, I can tell that it hurts. I realize that it is red because it was put into a fire to make it hot. They are branding us! My people wouldn’t even do that to cattle! I do not want them to have one more thing to make others think I am their property. So when the man gets to me, I turn to run. But he grabs my arm and yanks me back to him. When he pushes the red shape to my skin, I try to scream, but a man next to him presses his thumb on my throat, and somehow, it silences me.

The stick fries and blackens the skin around the burn, and the burn itself looks as if someone has scooped out my flesh. Once the man with the torture stick has finished, another man comes up to me and puts some sort of salve on the burn. It feels greasy, like some sort of oil.

After getting branded, Nayra and I are both pushed to a beach. It is so beautiful! I have only ever been told stories of the ocean, and it looks even more amazing than I can ever imagined! Clear water through which I can see the sand underneath stretching out and changing slowly to a navy blue. I observe minnows swimming around in the shallows, and every now and then I think I see something my mother called a dolphin. I watch it majestically jump out of the water and glide back in as if in slow motion. As I watch, the sun is shines onto the water, making some of it a glimmery white that dances across the top.

Even when the men push us to the ground and start hitting some of the women for going too slow, no one could keep their eyes off of the sight. I wish mama could have seen this. I think. She and dad probably would have made a dress for everyone in the village. I start to tear up. My mom. Gone. My friends. Gone. The elders, my home, and my village. All gone. That place was my whole world. And now everyone, everything, is gone. And it’s my fault. What have I done?

As tears drip down my face, a slaver notices my crying. He comes over and stands in front of me. I expect him to slap me, but instead he wipes away my tears. I just stare at him in shock. I thought all white men were bad! I think.

He walks back over to the other men, as if nothing had happened. I don’t get why he was so nice just now. It was obvious that white people hated us and thought we were lesser than them, but why should he be any different? I didn’t get it. I just didn’t get it.

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