Hi, gang! Took me a while, and it’s getting late, so the intro here will be brief. This was my response to this week’s Write at the Merge prompts. The prompt image had a lifeboat… Alesander could have used one. 😉
(If you missed it, the first prompt response featuring Alesander is here.)
It’s now 1804, somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. Enjoy!
The elderly governor’s physician had not recommended he embark on this mad journey from Jamaica to England. Thus, as far as anyone knew, the governor was resting in his cabin, complete with stertorous snoring and untroubled by the rocking of the ship or by the fact that his personal slave—personal sodomite, said some of the looks he’d received—stood on deck, looking out at the darkened water. It was a moonless night, and the skies were finally clear after the recent storm. He’d needed air and the chance to shed the persona of the governor before he went as mad as his half-sister., and with the night itself providing the cover, he’d seized the last chance he might have before landfall.
He was more or less left alone; the few sailors on duty at this time of night leered at him as they went by, eyes flicking at the hoops in his ears, the braided and dreadlocked hair that fell past the small of his back, the fine cut of the clothing. Ignoring their mutterings was easy enough to do, his mind already looking forward to landing in England and meeting with this Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade. The trick he would play was an easy one he had done before: he arrived sans disguise, informed the Society his employer had been taken ill from his journey, and presented them with a sealed letter from himself. There was no real challenge to it.
Behind him an extra loud creak alerted him to someone behind him, even before the wind changed and the reek of unwashed bodies reached his nose. Careful not to be too defensive, he turned and was startled enough to step back reflexively, bumping hard into the rail.
The men surrounding him wore nothing but skin dark as the night around them, the only light coming from the faint gleam over damp eyeballs, the flash of teeth from those who grinned horribly. The one in the lead did not grin, only spoke in a very deep voice. “Awful nice clothes for a slave, mistah.”
He would not tug at his coat. “My master is a fair one.”
“Talk pretty, too.” A rumbling chuckle, both humorous and sad. “Here how it go, mistah. You give us them pretty clothes and anything else you mastah give you. Then you gon’ have a swim. Savvy?”
He waited a moment, spoke just as they started to advance, moving in on him in a single wave of motion, forced into unison by cramped quarters below decks. “Why?”
Ink black eyes holding a people’s history of slavery met his. One bony, muscled shoulder shrugged. “Mastah’s ordahs, suh. Nothing personal like. We can’t all have the fair ones.”
In the moments before he hit the water, he imagined he could hear his sister laughing and wondered if she had known all along that he would champion what seemed a doomed cause—and had let him do so.
Word limit: 500