Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Arrival page 2


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Once they reached the street, they were split into groups of around a dozen each, and separated. The thin overseer took her group to a wagon. It had bars around the walls on the inside, and they were chained by the ankles and wrists to wooden stalls. They were crammed inside, shoulder against shoulder, the heavy chain between their feet. A thick cloth was used to cover the wagon, and then it creaked and shook into motion. Kima fell back into a familiar dark, crowded and humid world; one where she fell in and out of sleep, where all she could feel was the close proximity of the other people. Over a third of the original captives had fallen ill and died during their journey, her father among them.

The heat had been unbearable in the ship, the air very rare. The day her father had died, she hadn't been able to be near him. She saw it and she felt it, but from a distance, shackled as she was to the wrist of another sick man who couldn't move. The moment after her father died she hadn't cried, but every breath she took had been a wheezing, rasping sound and she had felt a sharp pain in her chest. Her limbs had become numb and even in the heat of the crowded deck, her feet became icy cold. She drifted out of consciousness then, maybe for a long time, and after she came back to, she found that she knew how to ignore the sounds and the presence of the others, and to spend her time in a dozed state, making time thin and soft, waiting.

She woke up again once they reached their destination. The wagon was uncovered and a bright curtain of light splashed her face. They were led out, and a soft green, sweet smelling earth welcomed her bare feet. Another wagon was behind theirs, and more slaves where coming out of it. The day was still warm, although the sun was close to the horizon. The thin overseer guided them across the field. She could see drops of dew in the grass, and wild yellow flowers growing here and there, and in the distance a wall. The rusty chain held her ankle tight, pressing and pulling as they took their synchronized steps. They followed the man until they arrived at a door standing in the middle of the tall brick wall. It had intricate flowing patterns carved on light wood. Their guide shouted a greeting and banged on the door with his stick, three times. They heard quick footsteps approaching on the other side.

‘Who’s there?’ came a voice from behind the doors.

‘Ghero,’ replied their overseer, in Bantu. ‘I’m here to deliver the next lot of slaves. Open the door’.

There was a sound of the door being unbolted, and the doors were open wide by an old black man with white curly hair and a slightly bent back. He closed the door after them and instructed them to follow him, his jaw quivering slightly as he spoke. He led them across a path on the green grass and around a tall white house with arched windows, into an inner patio at the back of it. There they waited.


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