This is my second attempt at a short story.
Darkness. Dampness. Despair. My present state of existence. It has not always been like this. I once had a life, not much compared to others, but I did have my freedom. No more. I am alone, yet surrounded by hundreds who are being dealt the same cruel fate as me. My name is Akinyi. I am 21 years old. I am African. The year is 1781 and I am onboard a ship. There are voices above me but I do not understand them, these men do not have my skin colour, they are white, as white as the surf on the breaking waves. I call them the ‘others’. I scarcely have room to turn, lying on my back within inches of the next person. Chains connect our wrists and ankles, clanging together like the rattling of bones. The stench and heat are intolerable. The ‘others’ have left buckets for us to relieve ourselves but I cannot reach one. I try to restrain myself but cannot, and many others are the same. I’m in a dark place in my mind, an abyss, no end, forever black. The young girl lying next to me hasn’t spoken or moved for a while. The ‘others’ come and lift her to take her away. She is still and motionless, her body limp as I now realise her soul no longer occupies her body. I begin to wonder if my fate will be the same and then I think it wouldn’t be so bad to die. I have been stripped of who I am, who I was, who I wanted to be.
I fall into a semi state of consciousness and hope that my journey into the afterlife is finally here but I am jolted back to reality with a searing pain though my leg. One of the ‘others’ is pressing down on my thigh with his foot as he mumbles and motions with his hands for me to sit up. The chains on my wrists are undone and a bucket is thrown down in front of me and a few of the other people of my own kind with what looks like food in it. I barely touch it. I have pains in my stomach that makes me want to scream but fear grabs my throat and my voice is submissive to the silence. I begin to question my own sanity. Is this Hell? Did I pass over in my homeland and awake to find my souls journey to Heaven had been sidetracked? Sunlight appears from above and begins to smile at me, blinds my eyes momentarily, like a sudden flash of lightening. Parts of the ceiling of my prison have been lifted to reveal what I haven’t seen in what seems like an eternity. Am I being freed? Have the ‘others’ taken pity on us? There is a flurry of activity going on. The ‘others’ are shouting at each other and making hand gestures as commands. I hear one word repeated several times although I can’t quite grasp what it means. Slave. I and many others that are still alive are ushered above to the sunlight and lined up along the ship. We have no dignity left, no sense of being human beings, the stench and filth that oozes from each one of us is horrendous but no fault of our own.
I stand there, faceless amongst the amount of people the same as me, wondering if we are to be freed. I am washed down from head to toe with fresh water and then rubbed down with oil. I still cannot understand what is going on. Then a sudden burst of activity between the ‘others’. They are pointing at me and whispering amongst each other. I look down and see I have small red spots in patches over my body. I am immediately taken away from the rest of my people and put into a cage with a few others. I feel like a bird with her wings clipped, never to be free again.
Imprisoned by the solemn bars of the cage, I don’t have the energy or stamina to cry. I am worn out as I gaze around at the ‘others’ continuing their duties as they were before. What is the difference between us and them? We talk, eat, and breathe the same air into our lungs but we are like chalk and cheese. Is it me that is different or is it them? Who is the odd one out?
I am slipping away progressively as I faintly hear that strange language from the ‘others’ again though now there is one that looks different from the rest. He is wearing different clothes and handing something to one of the ‘others’. I am taken from the cage and transported to a place that seems hopeful. It is warmer and I feel lighter, like everything has been lifted from my shoulders. I am weightless, as I glance down and realise I am lying on a table, as still and motionless as the young woman the ‘others’ took away on the ship. I am free. My name was Akinyi. I was 21 years old. I was African.