Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Chapter 1 - Arrival


Kima arrived to the new world on a bright summer afternoon. She came up to the deck of the ship with the others, their ankles still locked and linked, right foot of one together with the left foot of the next. The sun was round and intense and she squinted, disoriented after weeks spent in the lower decks.

The men who guided them were mostly African, but they often spoke a foreign language. Kima had heard it during the trip, and she understood some of it now. At the very least she understood the orders they were given. It was a deceptively melodic language; it didn’t have the rough edges of the meanings it conveyed.

‘Move,’ yelled the overseer. He was a thin, stringy man, with long hair and a bony face. He pushed them, grabbing them by the shoulders, rushing them down the plank, down the hulking ship and unto a long wooden dock that led to the street. Kima tried to walk steadily, but the dock bobbed up and down under her. The port was bright and humid, the air smelled of salt and there was a lot of light and many unfamiliar noises. There were men shouting in the docks nearby, and crates being moved. There was the constant sound of people clambering in or out of boats and the loud cries of seagulls as they circled around fish containers.

Her hands were free of chains, and she used them to rub her eyes. Her dark hair was tangled and her dress was grubby and soiled. Her legs were stiff after being still for so long. She walked, half tugging and half tugged, but she was glad to be outside; she liked the sound of the ocean, the smell of clean air, the feel of the slippery wood under her bare feet and the sight of the seagulls standing on the planks, looking at them with curiosity.

Kima had never seen seagulls before. She walked past one of them perching on a cleat with a rope tied to it. It was not the most graceful of animals, but it was strong and unconcerned. The girl reached for it with her hand, and it took flight and then landed back without urgency. When the slave traders had come to her village, Kima had run in a panic with the rest of the villagers: she had been caught and carried away nevertheless.

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