Pepper sat in the corner of the slave house, crying. She had gotten whipped again. She winced as she remembered the intense pain of the whip cracking against her bare back. The sneer on the
face of master Dave as he brought the whip down, over and over on her. She felt a warm, calloused hand on her shoulder. She looked back and saw Everick, her best friend in this dump of a
plantation. He gave her a comforting hug and she hugged him back and sighed. Everick frowned slightly. "Pepper..." he started.She cut in saying,"Everick I know you're worried about me.
I get whipped more than you do, I know. But it's normal. You don't get whipped as much because Dave's daughter loves you. No one loves me but you, Bella, mom and dad. You know it's
He looked at her and sighed, too. "I know. It's just you get beaten harder every time." he said. Pepper nodded and wiped her tears away. "True. But it happens. We're slaves like all the other black people on this cursed country it seems." she whispered. She remembered life back at Africa. She would run in the sun with her black hair flying behind her life a small cape. Watching the lions, zebras and giraffes. Then the slave traders had come. They took her family away and even knocked dad out to calm him down. They chained us up and we were sold. She snapped back to reality as Everick asked her something. "What was that?" she asked. Everick rolled his eyes. "I asked you where you're working today." he told Pepper. She said,"I'm working in the corn fields. Not the tobacco fields today." He sighed. "Oh well. I need to get back to work there then." he said and waved goodbye. Pepper knew Everick almost always worked in the tobacco fields on Mondays.
She got to her feet and brushed off her ragged brown dress and her white apron. They had worn out long ago but she had little else. She started off towards the fields where she was working. She started picking the corn and putting them in the woven basket she picked up. One of Dave's monitors came by and she worked faster after he gave her a glare and raised his whip as a warning. He went past and Pepper slowly worked back to normal pace. She shivered as she thought of being whipped and sped up again. As she worked she thought about escaping. She wished she could be free. Just like the robins she always saw flying overhead. Free, and going North. Where slaves were not a thing. And people were free. Right then she made a decision. A decision that would change everything.
Just then the bell rang for lunch. The slaves like her started going out of the fields and back to the slave house where Rosie cooked the food. The slaves got in line and ended up with Bella behind her. Bella was her sister. "Hey Pepper." she said quietly. Pepper smile back. "Hello Bella." she said. They got a plastic plate and Rosie dished out their food. Which wasn't much. They sat down with Bella on Pepper's right and Everick joined them on Pepper's left. They ate quietly and Pepper thought. She would go like a bird, South. To freedom.But how? Master Dave hired guards to keep it from happening. She'd heard the tales of slaves who escaped. One got 75 lashes from the whip. His back was bleeding and scared deeply. What if she got caught? What would happen? She didn't know. But she had made a decision and would keep to it
Apparently she had a thoughtful face on because Everick asked,"Pepper, what are you thinking?" Pepper looked up at Everick. He was taller than her so she always seemed to be looking up at him. "Things." she answered. "What things?" he asked. Pepper sighed. "I don't want to say, ok?" she told him. She was finished so she stood up and put her plate back away. She went back to the slaves' room. She needed to think. And remember. Remember the past of others who had gotten out. Then, just maybe, she'd be able to escape. For good, forever. But she needed time to think for sure. Time to plan her escape. So she sat on her bed and memories of what had happened to the others that were caught from trying to escape slipping into he thoughts.
Pepper was a young girl then. Only seven years old but she was working like all slaves. She started work a year ago. She remembered seeing an 18 year old slave being dragged to the whipping post. She struggled and the people hired by Dave to keep the slaves in line tightened their grip on the girls brown skin. She was tied tightly to the post. Then young Pepper watched as the whip fell on her back. Over and over and over. The girl winced and cried out. Her pitiful cry was heard by all the slaves. After fifteen lashes blood was shed. The whip opened her skin and let the blood drip down her bare back and down her legs and onto the ground. Young Pepper shivered as she watched but couldn't seem to leave. The girl moaned in pain as the whip was brought down really hard. Then she was left there with her back uncovered. No one but brave Rosie tended to her. She was left in shame for a week with no food and only a cup of water a day.
Pepper pulled herself from the memory. She shivered as she had done that day. But she would take that risk. She just had too. She needed to go south. It was her dream, now at least. Pepper made a plan. She got her possessions and packed them in a little knapsack. She was ready for tonight. Well, as ready as she could be.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The night was dark. Pitch black with only the stars as light. The only other light was the lanterns of the people on watch. She shivered at the thought of being caught. But she'd go on anyways. She shouldered her knapsack. Pepper glanced from left to right quickly. Then she darted out from where she was to the next hiding spot. She darted again and again. Then she ducked as a man with one of the lanterns walked by. He stopped and looked around but eventually passed on. Pepper almost gave a sigh of relief. Then she scampered to the fence. She looked for a hole in the wiring. "Aha!" she whispered as she found one. She pushed her knapsack through first. Then she squirmed in herself. She stood up and ran as a man spotted her. She dodged the trees as the man gave chase. She looked back and tripped on a root. She had twisted her ankle.
Pepper felt a stone hard grip on her shoulder. She was shoved up but she fell again. "M-my ankle." Pepper said softly as an explanation. The man dragged her back and Pepper gave one last longing look at the forest before loosing sight of it. The man dragged her to Dave where he let her crumple to the ground. Dave sneered at her. "Trying to escape? You know what will happen." he said. He took his hand and forced her chin up so she stared into his eyes. "Bigtime beating. Come now, Ted." he said to the man. Ted grabbed her hands and dragged her to the whipping post. Pepper's hands were bound tightly to the poles and her heart pounded. Dave grabbed his whip and sneered more fiercly. He swung it back and it snapped hard against her back. Pepper screamed in agony. Dave took the whip back and lashed her again and again and again. Pepper's back was bleeding and ripped up and she cried. Clear tears streamed down her face and to the ground. The other slaves came out to watch silently.
Everick shook his head sadly. Pepper felt a surge of guilt rise through her. Then she cried out again as the whip lashes got even harder. Then Dave stopped. Pepper was heaving in pain and from all the screaming. "We'll leave her there for a few days. It ought to teach the slaves a thing or two. Esacally you, Pepper." Dave said. She just looked away from him. Dave and Ted left her there. When they were well gone Bella ran over to her. She hugged tightly onto Pepper's arm."Why, Pepper? Why leave, sissy? We love you and I need you." Bella said. Pepper looked away from her little sister shamefully. Why was also her question now.What had drawn her away? Freedom, she thought. She sighed.
"You have to understand Bella. I need to go. If I can make it out, I can help you guys get out. I can." she said. Bella glared at her now. "No you can't! Mama even said we will never ever get out! We're stuck here, forever! It's hopeless Pepper." she screamed and ran back to their mother, Felicia. Felicia looked at Pepper with a weary face and tired eyes. Pepper again looked away. She would get free. Sometime, she had to eventually. She would get out even if she got whipped a million times. It'd be worth the price to be free. Then she would free her family. She could. Then everyone slowly went back to work. Except for one. It was Old William. William hobbled over to the whipping post where she was. He looked around before whispering t her,"There are whispers that the "Moses" is coming in five days time. She will help you. Find her at the "sun's setting". Good luck."
Pepper nodded and Old William walked away again. She thought about his riddling words. "Find her at the suns 's setting." he had said. The suns setting? What was he talking about? Then an idea struck her. Where does the sun seem to set every day? The lake! She smiled in triumph. She would be at the lake when the sun set in five days time. The "Moses", Harriet, would help. The Moses was really Harriet Tubman. The state of Maine, in which Pepper lived, had a very high price on Harriet's head. Pepper shook hr head. They wouldn't get caught. Harriet had never lost a 'passenger', so to speak.
Pepper tried to get more comfortable. She ended up falling asleep well after all else had. The crickets lulled her to sleep. Her head grew limp and her eyelids drooped. Then she fell asleep on the post.
After a while the sky started to lighten up. Then the sun peeked over the horizon line. The camp started to liven with activity. Pepper's eyes snapped open. She smelled some food and her stomach grumbled. "Oh, food sounds good about now. But Dave wouldn't let me. And if anyone tried to help me get some they'd get punished." she whispered. She sighed. Everick came out from the slave house's kitchen. He glanced around quickly then sped over to Pepper. He held out a plate which she would've taken had she not been tied up. He remembered that and fed her some of the food then left. She smiled as she gulped it down. But she was happy now. Because she had a way to get out of here. And this time she would make sure she wouldn't fail.
Yesterday had gone terribly slow. Everick had sneaked her some food at dinner, too. But Bella was still surprisingly mad at Pepper. She didn't understand at all. I'm trying to help. But she won't listen, Pepper thought. She shook her head as she saw Bella walk into the slave house for this days lunch. Lunchsmelled like chicken. Good chicken, too, which was hard to get as a slave. Pepper's belly groaned in hunger, yearning for food. Delicious, tantalizing, juicy chicken. Her mouth began t water but she sighed. She knew Everick was unlikely to get food to her 'til lunchtime at least. She nodded grateful to Old William, but no one else would know it was grateful. Except for her and him. He waved back and hobbled into the lunch area to get some grub.
Pepper scraped her now bar feet across the dirt ground. She thought about how there were now only four days. Four days until "Moses" came, four days until her next escape, four days there were until she would see true freedom. A smile crept up her face despite all her worries. She'd be free. Free with a legend making person. Harriet Tubman, the "Moses" for the slaves.
Then Everick walked up and she snapped back to reality. He had some of the delectable chicken she'd smelled earlier. "Oh Everick.... Thank you so much. You could get in big trouble for this though." she said. He just smiled and gave her some of it. Then Dave came up."What are you doing, boy? You know she isn't to be fed! Traitor to me, aren't you? Yes you are. Now you also have to pay." he said. He started to raise the whip he always carried when his daughter, Evelyn, walked in front of them. "Daddy! Everick is so good all the time. Does he really deserve punishment? Besides, he said he'd do something for me today. In exchange for another thing. So you can't hurt him." she said stubbornly. Evelyn liked Everick, which was good for him. Dave lowered the whip and sighed. "Ok, Evelyn. But if he does anything worse..." he said and let the threat hang in the air.
Evelyn grinned and pulled Everick into the house and into her room. Pepper didn't want to think about what might happen in there so she turned back to Dave. He glared at her. "No more food for you. You still have today." he said and walked away in his black leather boots. Other slaves he passed worked even faster to please him. She sighed yet again today. Then a little bird sat on the post by her hand. It was light blue with dark blue eyes and a white belly. It's legs were a gray color. It chirped at Ppper and she grinned. She moved a few fingers to stroke its feathers. It stayed there and cooed. She laughed when it lightly nibbled at her fingers. Then it flew off, free like she would be. Hopefully at least. And she hoped that from he bottom of her heart. It's what she wanted the most in her whole life.
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