Part 3 of The Middle Passage continues:
The entire meeting was a blur. The elder’s told her that her mother was killed while trying to free some of the captured members of the ocean tribe. She was shot in the back of her head. “What cowards can’t look a soldier in her eye before taking her life. Savages! How could the white man still use such crude weapons,” she thought. Saye and the elders had unanimously agreed to complete her mother’s mission, and Kou approved.
The plan was easy to follow as she watched her brother lay out the steps on the huge holographic screen in the war room: She and Saye would take the last of the reserve troops as close as possible to the ocean territory but would stay hidden to avoid undue attention from scouts of the white people’s army. They were to infiltrate the white people camp at night, free the ocean tribe from their chains, and set fire to the docking ships.
The aim was to weaken them.
Kou passed the breastplate over her head and secured the sides completing her armor. She grabbed the titanium and steel pole, and three blades expanded at the top as it recognized her touch. A refreshing change from the dull spear she trained within the pits. The clang of steel and the fear induced gapes of the soldiers found their way into her tent as she reflected events following the meeting with the elders. The tent flap rustled and Saye entered in matching armor and spear. “It’s time, sister,” he said, snapping her back from her thoughts.
The trip to the to coast took less time than she expected. The white people were spread out in the camp, asleep and occasionally slapping themselves to get rid of mosquitoes. They had sent soldiers earlier in the evening to take care of the scouts, and they made short work of the guards on duty. Kou and her legion made their way through the camp surprisingly unnoticed, with her sentries on her far left and right and Saye directly by her side. At the opposite side of where they entered the camp, were her people in chains. The sight enraged her, but she had to keep her focus. They were few, too few.
As they got closer and started quietly unlocking the chains, a woman grabbed her hand. “My daughter! They loaded some of us into the ships already. Please don’t let us leave without them”, she pleaded. After shouting an order to her generals, she took two of her skilled soldiers and Saye into the ships. She believed it would be safer to choose the speed and concealment the few of them would have over the strength and possible discovery of more soldiers.
They found the rest of the tribe deep within the hulls of a ship at the edge of the harbor. Kou and Saye speared the guards at the entrance, and along with her soldiers, began striking the chains of women and children first. They worked hastily, wanting to clear out as quickly as possible. They unlocked the chains with the keys they had stolen from the guards. When Kou jammed the keys in the shackles on the last girl’s leg, it snapped. She resulted to using the stem of her spear, and the loud clang of steel on steel reverberated through the ship.
Saye stood to watch as the other soldiers escorted the rest of the people out of the ship. After five loud clangs, the shackles finally gave. As they were exiting the hull, a rumbling of feet greeted them overhead. The three of them emerged, with the twins on either side of the now sobbing girl to face the pale faces of the white soldiers. Kou suddenly felt a cold metal connect with the back of her skull as she fell to the deck. At the edge of her vision, the shore was ablaze with ships on fire. Kou smiled as her world turned black.
The sun blinds Patsey momentarily as she tries to straighten the permanent kink in her back that somehow never seems to unfurl. Her ebony skin glistened with perspiration in the unforgiving mid-morning Louisiana sun. Through her already soaked blouse, you can just make out the thick scars on her back as the threadbare shirt clings to her body. She shields her eyes and quickly scans the sea of cotton until her eyes land on a Jim, a towering adolescent boy still bent over the bush in front of him. Even though his rich sepia complexion was significantly darker than hers, no one could dispute the uncanny resemblance she shared with him. A name rises to the tip of her tongue: “Saye.” But then she remembers the deep ridges on her back, and the name is swallowed down into the pit of her stomach.
Patsey’s eyes quickly dart around the field, making sure the overseer’s attention isn’t on her. She would hate to be caught resting for the second time in two days. Her most recent lash mark rips slightly open as she bends over to continue filling the bag slung over her shoulder. The last lick of the whip she got was exceptionally painful. Patsey was no stranger to pain, her mangled back told it all, but the lash had sliced through the last piece of a mosaic tattoo that she once wore with pride. Now, all that’s left of it is twisted scar tissue dotted with dark ink. She shakes her head as if to physically clear the thoughts of another land, another place, another time. A time when she was called Kou, first daughter of her people… a time when she was destined to rule an empire with a brother whom she had shared a womb with.
Authored by Whitney Okujagu
Featured picture by LiGerian Optics