I saw ships in the horizon. They sailed close to the setting sun. I could see the ships’ wake grazing the sides of their companions’ boats. Hoisted sails sent the fleet of boats sliding across the surface of the sea as fast as a cheetah dashing after a zebra. Closer and closer they came, until the bow of the leading ship bashed into the miles and miles of sand that surrounded the island.
I was afraid. “Hide!” the chief of our tribe yelled. “Run for cover! The British, they have come to enslave us!”
Everything was hectic. I tried to run to the pond behind our village – I can hold my breath for a very long time and the murky water would make me seem invisible. A man grabbed me by the shoulders, I turned around and kicked him in the shin and started to run as his grip loosened. Another white man caught up to me and held me with my arms behind my back. I was walked up to a ramp leading up to one of the boats.
“Help me! Help me please! Ma! Pa! Subezo!” I shouted to my parents in the language we spoke in Seychelles, French I wanted this to stop. I wished it had never happened. Subezo is my brother, and best friend. We did everything together.
Not many other people from my tribe had been captured, we were resourceful people and when threat came that we can’t overcome, we hide. And when a threat comes that we have to face, we kick their little, insecure butts.
It seemed like they had been to other islands on the way to their homeland. “What’re they gunna do to us?” I asked a person in the cell next to me. My English was okay, my parents taught me, they said it would help if this ever happened. I used to always talk to Subezo in English, so we did not forget it.
“English non,” he replied. I sighed and sat down with my head against the bars of my human sized cage. I knew he knew French but couldn’t bother asking again.
A man in the cell on the other side of me tapped me on the shoulder. He had perfect English, “They are going to sell us. To rich Englishmen and women. We won’t earn any money, no. No money, just work.” He then sat with his back to mine, the cage bars in between.
“I don’t wanna be a slave. Is there anythin’ we can do?”
“I am afraid not. They’ve captured us and we are not going anywhere...” his voice faded away as he said the last few words.
“Where did they come from? Why would they be in Africa, let alone Seychelles?”
“I over-heard them talking. It turns out that they were in Madagascar, building something. I’m not sure what – they had lowered to a whisper by the time this was said.”
Suddenly there was a loud bang on the cage door, a man with a large beard threw in a small piece stale bread. “You expect us to eat this?!” I screamed at him in Swahili – another African language that I learnt from my grandparents - , hopefully he did not speak it.
And he didn’t, the man just looked at me, puzzled and angry. I glared at him and picked up the piece of bread that was thrown onto the ground. I turned it around and around in my hand, observing the mould that grew on it; found the place with least and bit into it. Then I just plopped the whole thing into my mouth.
“We need to escape,” I told the man beside me in French so the men would not understand.
“How? I have no idea where to start... I didn’t catch you name, I’m Jacque.” His French accent ricocheted off the walls and to my ears.
“It’s Alarice, and I think I have an idea. Eat all the bread, specially the mouldy bits. If it makes us sick they’ll have to get us out of these cages... right?” I said this with up most uncertainty. I had already eaten my food, so we might as well try.
“I’m not too sure... I guess I’ll try it.”
The boat started to rock, back and forth, like a pendulum swinging on a grandfather clock, back and forth. My stomach started to flip. It felt like butter was being churned in one of those big stone – or wooden – bowls inside in-side my tummy. A bucket on the ground served its purpose. The food I had eaten for dinner looked back at me. A stench so fowl worked its way up to my nostrils.
One of the crew looked at me and unlocked the door. He demanded that I take the bucket up deck and wash it.
I had only been down there for half an hour, yet the sun burnt my eyes as I stepped outside. I threw the contents of the bucket over the side of the ship, then made a break for it. I tried to jump in after my vomit (I didn’t want to but I’d rather that then being stuck on the boat). The man with the beard tugged me back and brought me to a sink. I washed my face and went back to my cell-like-cage.
“Didn’t work,” I inquired to Jacque when I sat down again rubbing my temples.
“That’s half good. I’ve been holding it in and it’s seems to be paying off.”
“The other boats are starting to leave our island. I saw no signs of this boat leaving. I wonder why... I could be wrong though.”
Soon an even greater darkness engulfed us. It meant the sun was setting, and we still hadn’t left. I hoped that my brother had not been captured, but how could he have been, he’s the greatest hide and seek player I know!
I heard a bird singing. It’s not usual to have birds singing when the sun goes down on my island. My brother and I used to communicate in bird call whenever we didn’t want anyone to understand what we were saying. “Are you there Alarice?” he was asking.
“I’m here, yes. Can you help me?” My call was not at all as good as his and under pressure it was even worse. My heart started to beat faster and louder.
Then I heard the reply, “No, I’m so sorry. There are guards all around the boat. And some are still searching the island.” His voice was far away. No one was paying any attention to our conversation in ‘bird talk’ so no one noticed my shouting out random hoots and whistles.
“I’m scared. I don’t want to be a slave. I would rather be dead.” Our sentences weren’t this detailed so if it were a direct translation it would be, ‘I scared. Slave don’t want be. Dead rather.’ I know it doesn’t make any sense but I grew up on an island and don’t get a proper education.
He replied, but I couldn’t make out what he said. A loud slamming and clashing noise echoed through the ship. Lights flew on and I could see once again. I looked around me. Everyone else was staring at an empty caged jail. When I was first thrown in here there was a young girl, about the age of six who was crouched in a corner of the cage. She was gone. But how, nobody knew.
“Where did she go?” I asked Jacque.
“She must have escaped, but how is that possible?” He inquired.
“WITCH!” Someone yelled out from a cage in front of us. “SHE’S A WITCH!”
Pandemonium broke out. It’s hard to say this because everyone was locked in a cage, but somehow cages were being opened and people were running around trying to get off the ship. The Englishmen were holding them off and forcing them back into their cages. My cell was never unlocked. I was one of the few people who were kept inside. Was it a sign, or just bad luck. I had yet to find out.
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