Running, I looked up at the sky. Light was fading as I raced on. Before long, it was night, with only the moon and stars to guide me. They twinkled above, seeming to light up the entire world. The stars...Momma had told me about the stars. Hearing the man again, I burst out of my sudden flashback. I hated that despicable man. He yelled, the sound blaring through my head like a trumpet. Gasping, panting, I feared I had been spotted, although I did not stop running. I had no time to think, not time to grasp the image of my white master, rifle in hand, chasing me. I ran from him, but not in just any direction: toward the North Star. I remembered what Pa had told me--that the North meant freedom. My eyes started burning; tears welled up inside them. My nose wrinkled, and I grimaced. NO!! Not this second, I scolded myself, I have to get to the North. Where my people can be who we are and who we want to be! Not now! But despite my objections, a tear spilled down my cheek, leaving a wet, salty streak down my face. Oh, how I longed for Momma, and Pa.
Suddenly, I felt my master’s firm grip on my shoulders, shaking me. My eyes widened as big as saucers and my muscles froze. I was overcome with a wave of panic. His ferocious growl shot terror through me. I couldn’t move. Shocked and stunned, I could not move. No matter how much I hated those awful cotton fields, my resistance in this moment was more from fear and terror than hate. He pushed me down, to regain control of me, to take me back to those fields.
And I fell.
With only a moment’s pause, he flung me over his sweat-soaked shoulders, tossing me like a sack of potatoes--a bulging sack of unwanted, moldy, rotting potatoes. With every step he took, bumping against his back and legs, I felt the promise of freedom slipping away.
And he walked...
Back. Back to the sweltering days in the backing hot fields. Back to the frigid, restless nights in our overcrowded rundown cabin. Back to the bleeding, calloused fingers picking and sorting cotton. To the rations of water and stale bread with a stomach growling for rice, beans, and milk. To the merciless demands and unspeakable punishments. My mind swarmed with guilt for not making it farther, with hatred for my brutal master, with fear for my impending punishment, and with confusion for feeling and feelings, some unexplainable, until I could think no more.
I tried to pick my head up, with all my might. I could lift it some, enough to see the beautiful North Star. I wondered what slaves did there. Did they play? Did they dance, knowing that they did not have to live like me, like they were a bulging sack of unwanted, rotten potatoes? The continuous thud, thud, thud, thud droned on. Exhausted and exasperated, I finally fell asleep to the beat of thuds and the continuous chirping of crickets chastising my capture...
Waking when my head hit the dirt floor where he dropped me, I knew I was back. A low moan escaped me. I felt like rolling over and sobbing. But I couldn’t. He was standing over me, staring hard. I worried he would pierce a hole right through me with his harsh, cruel stare. Looking through me, seeing only a moldy sack of rotten potatoes, he seemed to be contemplating what to do. With a menacing grin, he seemed to be deciding, “Should I crush it? Should I kill it?”
That despicable man greedily stroked his beard, his gravelly voice booming.“I shall decide your punishment tomorrow.” With a hard swift kick that left me doubled over in pain, he turned away.
Broken, I finally gave in to the tears I’d been fighting.
Alone again in the fields that held me captive, I gazed at the twinkling lights overhead. Staring at the glow from the North Star, I remembered I was not alone. I had the collective wisdom, courage, and guidance of all who had risked everything before me to find their way to freedom.
Newly resolved, I made my vow: “Tomorrow.”
© Maya Hunter, Campus Middle School, Centennial, CO