Cable Car Ride

cable car

At 200 feet, the car edged along the once new cables. Rivers of rust flowed unbroken through the chipped red paint of the exterior.

Inside, sheltered from the elements, a lone boy shifted his wait from foot to foot in anticipation.

300 feet. The battered car let out a low moan as it continued to shuffle skywards. The laboured cables crackled sharply in response.

The boy’s eyes scanned the interior. They hooked onto a sign, reading, “Maximum 25 persons.” His eyes swept through the cramped space in a frantic attempt to count the bodies.

As the boy continue to count, and then recount, hoping to prove himself wrong, the battered vehicle came to a halt. A light breeze, as if sensing a new target, picked up its steady rhythm, leaving the car swaying from side to side.

30. The boy had finished counting. His heart rate accelerated as he felt the nauseating sensation of the sway. With his head spinning, he tried to choke out a warning, but the words wouldn’t come.

The engines back at base, far below, began to cough and moan as they restarted the cars unsteady assent to the peak.

Back inside, there was a variety of people. A young couple were with their son, an older man with a pipe leaning against the window, a little girl dressed in pink bouncing on her father’s knee. All those people had one thing in common. They were oblivious to what could happen. All accept one. The boy.

The engines were strained, and with a final cry of defeat they faltered once more. Then nothing. Deafening Silence. The car was on its own now.

The boy realized something was going to happen. Good or bad; he’d have to wait and see. He searched the confined compartment, seeking a glimmer of hope, of rescue. A rope. It was curled up like a sleeping snake on the floor, opposite him. And he had an idea.

Outside the first of three, seemingly sturdy cables began to unravel itself, as if it believed the car was a monster and it couldn’t get away fast enough.

The people inside felt their stomachs lurch uneasily as the car fell. Realising the implications of their situation, one by one they froze, like a game of musical statues. As the car slowly steadied itself, the boy began to scream at them. They stared back with blank faces, a dullness in their eyes. Fear. There were no screams, but an eerie silence, louder than thunder, descended like a thick fog on the passengers.

A few broke themselves free from their zombie-like trance, panic stricken, they quickly followed the instructions the boy was yelling at them.

His idea was simple. There were two long ropes which would end three or four feet off the ground. Objectives: Slide down, Jump, run.

The emergency exit door groaned in protest as it was hitched open. The rope was dragged across the metal floor and dropped. They had to hurry before it was too late. Just don’t look down…

350feet to the snowy wasteland beneath. The second cable began to retreat into itself, buckling. Individual fibres snapped, one at a time.

15…18…20. The boy was helping organize the safe descent of his comrades. He was no longer afraid, as he felt optimism and sheer focus on what he was doing. His duty.

The second cable gave way. The car lurched forward, dropping once more.

21…23…25. 5 more civilians left to go. Those already down, against all odds, began their marathon run for shelter.

The car began to sway violently. It lurched forward, backwards. Again and again. There were only 3 people left: The boy and the father clutching his little girl.

They were pushed about by invisible forces as the boy helped the pair to descend. He knew at that moment, when a sharp snapping sound reached his ears, that he may be too late. Before their feet could reach the ground, he leaped after them. Panic seeped steadily, like a lion cautiously stalking its prey, through every bone in his body.

The last cable detached itself swiftly from the car with an ear splitting snarl. It quickly gained speed as it prepared for its collision with the solid earth.

The boy had hit down hard on the surface. He bent over, aiming to catch his breath. Before he could look up and see his fate coming towards him at 100 miles per hour, his instincts made him dive forward. With his last burst of strength he turned himself around and pushed back, just in time to see the car crumple on the ground, inches from where his foot had just been. The deafening sound of the sudden impact roared through the valley, up to the highest mountain peaks.

Slowly, the boy regained control of himself. He looked dead ahead. Just two more inches and… He banished that thought from his now weary mind. He had help the others flee.

He had survived.

Today.

The Warehouse

The abandoned warehouse has not been used in years. The small city windows are all boarded up. As you stare through the open door, the shadows seem to dnace menacingly, creeping ever closer towards you. As you step cautiously inside, you are hit with the smell of rotting flesh. The sound of dripping draws you down one dull, damp corridor after another. The old rusty doors on either side of you refuse to open. They feel cold and slimy. You come across a grand hall, stacked to the ceiling with cardboard boxes. Bubble wrap and other packaging is scattered around carelessly. Someone was looking for something. As you walk towards some steep steps leading to the next floor, you feel as though you are being watched. A cold breeze blows towards you, willingly you to turn back. You can hear footsteps around the corner. As you walk towards the noise, you see what seems to be red paint scattered on the floor. Turning the corner into an office, you see papers in disorganised heaps on the floor. The light bulb above you begins to crackle and flicker in anticiption. You walk down a passageway into a small room. A beam of light, seemingly from nowhere, shines onto an old, dusty book. As you open it intrigued, you discover what it is; a diary of a young girl. The last page is not finished, it end in a long line going across the page and  you notice there are scratch marks on a neaby box. You can smell smoke, as if someone has lit a fire next to you. In the adjoinging room, there is a small fireplace with a raging fire burning inside. Heat and light leads you towards the discovery of shelf upon shelf of plants in black, plastic pots, as if someone had turned the wall had been turned into an indoor greenhouse. Perplexed, you move on. The last room upstairs is completely empty except for a single bloodstained cloth. You go back down to the ground floor by a creaky lift. Just as you are about to leave, you hear the sound of smashing glass. A hole in the wall takes you to an unlit room you missed before, with a sturdy iron door. In the corner you see what seems to be a life-size doll, but as you come closer you realise it is a young girl, about 13, lying motionless on the floor. The pieces of the puzzle finally piece themselves together in your mind. You run for the door but it slowly closes in front of you. You realise where you are, and why no one dares to come here. It is the place for a murderer and his victims.

The Story of Modou – Chapter 3 – Slaves for Sale!

The monster we were on finally reached the other side of the river bank exactly 8 weeks and 3 days after it had started. I knew this as I had scratched a line on the wooden pole in front of me with my chains with every day that passed. I heard the captain shout Land Ahoy, but I don’t know what that meant. I also heard him say that this good here ship Solomon had landed safely in the West Indies, or to be exact, Jamaica. The ship then sailed north to the south of North America. The crew at the sight of land started jumping up and down, and shouting and singing strange songs to celebrate. I felt so nervous as I didn’t know what was going to happen next, yet I felt a small sensation of relief Here, though we were brutally pushed off the ship and had to walk through the water to reach dry land. The coldness of the water eventually numbed the pain in my ankles, as I had got used to the horrifying wash. We were still whipped to keep us moving all the way. There was no chance of escape as the white men were clearly holding guns. As much as I wanted the pain to be over, dying now wouldn’t be the right thing to do. We were then pushed into huge cages about a mile in land. My sister and aunt were next door, and through the bars of wood I talked to them. We kept each other going. We were kept there for three days. Then the captain took us out of the cage one by one. I was first. They dragged me over to the captain who was standing by what was called a table. They first washed off the remaining dirt I had on me. I tried to struggle free but I soon learnt there was no point as they had total control over me. They then got an oily mixture and pasted it over my wound, all the little cuts I had got. It was extraordinarily painful and it hurt the most on the biggest cut I had which I could feel was on my lower back. I screeched out in agony, and I could see the shocked faces of those that were about to have the same treatment done to them. They were scared and sad, and jumped back when I screamed out loud.  The captain then inspected me, and told one of the men helping carry out this task to put some tree tar over my wound to cover it up. He said I needed to be in an almost perfect condition to fetch his high price at auction. Now, as the man put that tar on me, if you thought that the oil seemed bad enough, the tar was much, much worse. They then forced open my mouth with their hands and checked my teeth. They said they were good. I was then given a drink, but I refused, so my mouth was once again forced open and the vile liquid was pored down my throat. Two guards by my cage then dragged me back into the cage and took another person out. I just collapsed on the floor right in front of my sister and aunt. We were then taken to an auction the next day. We were all chained together and had to march into a nearby town. Here we were all kept in cages, in groups of say five to ten. I could no longer see my family. All day we were inspected from outside the cage by potential buyers, who were looking for a hard worker, and also a girl who could give them more. After midday it was time for the sale. A man was standing higher up than the crowd of rich white people. Two guards opened the door to my cage and took me out, and dragged me onto the stage. Then lots of white people came and looked at me, really close. I was so scared yet I just felt like killing them all, but all my strength had been drained. The man selling me said I was in prime condition and would be the perfect worker on their plantations. He then started to do this weird chant, and some of the men put their hand up when he said certain words. After a few minutes of this, well that’s how long it seemed anyway, the seller said sold to Alexander Bluebell for one hundred and seventy pounds. I didn’t know how much that was, but I knew it must have been a lot. I was then dragged off stage and tied to a pole nearby where I was told to wait. I saw everyone sold. Including my aunt. She was sold to George Hooper for seventy pounds. Then it was my sister’s time to be sold. I hoped and prayed for her to be sold to whoever bought me, because no matter how much I hated all these people, if we had to go through it, I wanted to be with my sister. She was like my best friend. The person who bought me put in a few offers, but it was not enough. She was sold to Roswell King, and he said he’d enjoy her lots. I felt disgusted at what he had said, but there as nothing I could do about it. After everyone had been sold, the person who had bought me went up to the seller and told him to do something. The next thing I knew I was being held down by one of the guards, while another use a blunter knife to scrape off the tar and remove the puss from the cut on my lower back. The pain was immense, and I just kept on screaming at the top of my voice. My new owner then came up to me and asked me if I was o.k. I said yes, as I had be learning English from what I was hearing all the time, as I was a great learner, but I wasn’t really o.k. He said, wow, you know a little English then do you, well I think I’ll call you James. So what’s your name then, he asked me. I said my name Modou but now James.  He said well you do know English then. Now you better forget your old name. You are not Modou anymore. You are now James. You understand me? I said yes. He then untied me from the post, and took off my feet chains. He said he thinks he could trust me, and that he was one of the nicest slave owners around. He said he would look after me and be nice, if I showed respect back. He seemed quite nice compared to the over white men, but I was still cautious, encase he was like them really.. Well I wasn’t exactly going to run away just yet was I?  He took me over to his carriage which had a cart behind it. He sat me down on it, and told me to stay there. He then got on to his seat far in front of me and got his driver to make the two animals that looked like skinny buffalos that I found out were horses, pull the cart. It was a long journey to my new home. It took at least a good few hours. When we arrived, I was given some clothes to wear. But I was told to stick out my leg. A hot iron was placed on it. It felt so hurtful, but I didn’t make to much noise. It wasn’t to bad, not as bad as the things that happened on the slave ship monster. I didn’t want to make a bad impression on my new owner.

My dad would want me to fight. But I’m not afraid any more. They can’t do any more damage than they already have. I just accept it. I can’t help it. I’m just that rare sort of person. I don’t really mind the branding now, they need to know who I belong to, and if it means being scarred for life, to save me from a more violent owner I’m happy. I would have rather it had been something else, less painful, but it’s over now isn’t it. I was then taken to all the other slaves and introduced. I didn’t understand half the things they were saying, but for the first few days, they helped me learn, and some new arrivals spoke Mandinka to me which helped me learn quite fast. They helped me build my house out of wood. I was quite proud of it. I was then taken to see Master Alexander. He said I had to start work in the sugar fields. I had to cut down the canes, and then give them to other workers so they could carry them back. In return I would get lots of food and water, a place to live and clothes. I was a bit disappointed as I wouldn’t get any money, but at least I would survive. My first day of work was really hard. I was in the fields for 16 hours, cutting down canes. It was hard work, but I managed it. Overseers watched us and threatened us with their whip if we were slacking, but it was a more relaxed atmosphere than I expected. This happened every day for a month, but us slaves are allowed Sundays off to rest and have fun. The first Sunday I had off, there was a big party. There was singing and dancing, and I was happy to join in. I asked one of the girls I liked to dance with me and she said yes. 6 weeks later we were getting married. We weren’t allowed a proper ceremony, so one of the older villagers did it for us. We had to jump over the broom to make us together. It was great and there was another big party afterwards. By this time I was pretty fluent in English, and I felt like this village of slaves was like a huge family, and our master was really nice. 9 months later Shelly gave birth to twins. A bay girl and a baby boy. We named my girl Amie and my boy Toby. Master was very lenient in work as we had to look after them. I am so happy. Now I see them all grown up at the age of 16, about to start their own family. Amie is expecting her first child soon. I can’t believe how fast this has all happened. Master likes me and thinks I am a good worker. I am now his driver. I get to see lots of places others can only dream of. I tell my children and grand children about them and about Africa as well. Me and shelly want the memories of our beautiful homeland passed on. Master told me to drive to a local plantation. He told me it was owned by Roswell King, and that they are brothers, and when one of them dies the other gets his plantation. Roswell was very sick and about to die. I told master that my sister was sold to him, and I asked if I could have a quick look to see if I could find her. When we got there, he said I could go for ten minutes to try to find her. I asked one of the elders if they knew what Sirrah’s new name was. He told me It was Sarah-may. I called out that name, and one girl stepped forward. I told it was Modou, her brother, and my new name was James. She said, is that really you? She ran up to me and gave me a hug. I took her to my master and introduced her. As I was now earning money by growing goods and selling them at markets when I drove to one, I asked if I could buy her freedom, so she could live with me. Sarah had been told she must pay 40 pounds for her freedom. I had 100. I gave it to her, and she managed to get her freedom and her husbands too. She was expecting children too, but her owner didn’t know that. My master said they could live with my family in my house if they wanted to, and they did. Sarah gave birth to a little girl who she named Jennifer. It was a happy ending all round. I never thought of running away. I knew it would all turn out fine in the end. As I am getting older, I have been given lighter work. A rebellion would ruin everyone’s lives and what would be the point. I am happy working on the plantation even if I am a slave. I don’t care. My life is great the way it is. Now my time has nearly come, and even though I still vividly remember what happened, the nightmares have almost stopped. So this is my life story, and may this be a message that although most slavery is dreadful, sometimes it can be something really good.

James, or Modou as he was known in Africa, died on the 4th of July, happy at home, laughing until the very end, surrounded by all his family and close friends in 1805 at the age of 53, and his legacy shall live on forever more.

The Story of Modou – Chapter 2 – The Slave Ship.

After many days of being locked up in that cage, some white men came out from the belly of the monster canoe. I was astonished at this amazing feat, of how they managed to escape the monster. This soon converted into terror when the white men unlocked each cage in turn, and one by one as we walked out they counted us and took us across in big canoes to the monster, we all wanted to escape, but we knew we would be shot dead if we dared rebel. My sister was clinging on to me and I was sore from where she had me digging her sharp nails in to me for the past week or so. We were made to paddle the boat along, and when we were side by side with the monster we were made to climb up its massive sides with guns pointed at us, so we didn’t try to escape. When we were on top, I looked up and saw long pole that touched the clouds in the bright blue sky. Hanging off there were long pieces of the finest white cloth ever seen by a Mandinka warrior. I saw the native men that captured us being given pieces of what seemed to be shiny pieces of metal, gold and silver in colour. They were given bags of this each by a tall white man in elaborate clothing. He was shouting at the white men who were pushing us into the belly of the monster.  As me and my sister reached the front of the queue, we were separated. I was pushed hard into the belly of the monster. She was taken away down another part of the ship. I guess they were separating me and women as well as children from each other. I felt so upset being separated from her. I knew we couldn’t survive without each other. I walked down lots of steep steps into the dark belly of the monster. My eyes were so used to the bright light of the mid-day sun I couldn’t see a thing. A man was waiting for us. He put chains around my wrists and ankles. And then he shoved me underneath one of the shelves and made sure I was in my own small space. It was the same length of me  by the width of 3 large coconuts laid side to side lengthways. When the whole ship filled up it got really hot. I thought I was going to die right then, but I didn’t. The men either side of me scared me, and there was barely any room to turn over. I kept thinking of what could have been, of my old life, and what may happen. Many days past in that stinking belly of a monster. We just lay there all day, rocking gently from side to side. The whit people came down to feed us twice a day. We were also give a large jug of water each once a day at breakfast, if you can even call it that. They were drunk and kept bumping in to the sides of the compartments. They gave us this kind of gruel which was made of what the white people called maize. As I am a good listener, I managed to learn a few words of their language, yet I dare not speak it loud. The other men captured would think I was betraying them or that I was just like the white man if I spoke their language. Everyone had to go to the toilet where they were, and it all piled up down at the bottom. It was disgusting, and for the first few days you could do absolutely nothing about it. It was really hot down there, and there little chance of getting any fresh air at all. After around five days, the white men came down and took the chains off us and in groups; they took us up on to the top of the monster. We were forced into a big group all huddled together. I looked out at the side and there was no bank. This was some river. It was so big the banks were absolutely no where to be seen. I later found out it was called the sea and I was shocked at how vast it was. The white men then got a bucket of water from the big river and chucked it at us. We all screeched out in agony, as the salty water got into all the cuts we had got so far. Then some other white people came up to us one by one and scrubbed us briefly with a really prickly brush. It made my body hurt even more. Then I noticed one of our people being taken up towards a drum and was made to play it. They then made us jump around in a kind of way that was like a tribal celebration dance, while white men walked around us, whipping us when they thought necessary and sometimes just for fun it seemed. The whip really hurt and it gave me a bruise the whole way around my ankles. They then took us down below deck and chained us back up. I noticed that our compartments had been cleared of the majority of dirt that had piled up. It was the best thing that had happened since we entered the monster, but that isn’t really saying much though. This routine happened two or three times a week when it was dry weather. After a couple of weeks, I noticed for the first time there were rats on board. All night they bit me. They just wouldn’t go away no matter how much I pushed them back. My skin had lots of swollen lumps the next morning which were very sore. I plucked up the courage a few nights later to talk to the person on my left. He was Mandinka. I asked the person on my right, but when I tapped him gently on the shoulder, he rolled over towards me dead. I told the other person by my side what had just happened, and he said that that had happened to the person next to him a few nights ago, and the body was removed later. I felt sick. Yet I shouted to the whole of the people in this part of the monster who was Mandinka, and there were many replies. We talked for much of the day and the night, planning our escape and how we take control of the monster and kill the white men. We decided we would do it a few weeks from now, so we could teach as many people as possible our language that the majority of the captured spoke. I did not have to teach any one Mandinka, although I wanted to. Back at home I taught my cousins lots of things like talking , climbing and fire making. The next day there was what was called a squall. The ship was shaken about lots and lots, and there was a loud sound a few times a minute which sounded by a drum which was thunder. There was also a flash every so often just before the thunder, called lightening. I was quite afraid because I couldn’t see any thing where I was. It lasted 4 night and 3 days. All that time being moved violently around, making it almost impossible to sleep and the chains rubbed even more against my skin.

I overheard the captain and the first mate speaking just above me. The captain’s name was Captain Phillips, and the first mate was called Luke Collingwood. I remembered every word they said and when I finally learnt English I understood it. This is what they said from what I remember now. They said we were heading for the west Indies in America to sell their cargo, which must have meant us people in the monster, and to buy some goods at small prices to sell back home at high prices to the better off or the higher class. Exports such as coal, cloth, glass, guns and other desirable items made in huge factories in England were traded for slaves in Africa. The slaves were then sold to American plantation owners in America,  while the money made by the people on the sips were used to buy goods such as sugar, rice, coffee, tobacco rum and cotton to sell back at high prices to wealthy people back in England. You could made anything up to 3000% profit and you could become very rich, very quickly.  The captain said he chose tight pack because he wanted lots of slaves to sell, and even though there was a higher risk of disease wiping out huge numbers, if they were chucked over board he could claim back lots of cash for them, off their insurance. So if he washed the cargo and cleaned their living compartments, he should be o.k. They were dealing in slaves because they could make more money than in any other job they could have got in England. They can afford to have a taste of such desirable items such as sugar. They could also get away from the wife for around 6 months, so they could get into lots of trouble and do almost anything, and the wife would be none the wiser. Apparently there were also many perks to the job such as belly warmers that they couldn’t get anywhere else without being kicked out by the wife. Their attitude their cargo is better than other slave ship people apparently. The cargo is savage because they don’t know any better. That is what they were taught, so you can’t expect them to change instantly. They need lots of time and help. I think they are a bit like us, the captain said, but a few hundred years behind, if you know what I mean. We just need to show them we are in charge, and they’ll learn soon enough. It’s not like we would want this done to us but it s all for a good cause. They will be taken to a nice home in America and looked after. They will be fed and given shelter. Their will be better off where they are going. We are saving them from a worse off fait in Africa, where they could be eaten by savage cannibals. I felt angry at what they said. They were going to sell us, their precious cargo, so they could become rich. It isn’t dangerous back home if you are careful. And how will we be better off? And what are the perks of the job? I hope that doesn’t involve my sister or my aunt. They think they are being kind, and they even said they wouldn’t want to be in our situation. I think they’re just in it for the money. The selfish, ugly idiots. Our routine of breakfast, boredom and frustration, pain and suffering, washing and dancing then dinner continued for many days. Each time we were washed the cuts newly made from the chains rubbing against me and from all of the rats stung more and more.  That day when we were in the fresh air which burnt my throat, we saw a dead body being brought up from below. It was kicked and punched, and not even given a second of respect before being chucked over the side into the sea, where a fin of a shark was waiting.

Then about 12 young girls and women started running around the deck, trying to avoid the white men that wanted to capture them. My sister was one of them. I called out to her, but it took lots of calls for her to hear me. She managed to come close for a few minutes so we could talk. We hugged and hugged, before she decided to tell me the awful things the white people had made her do, many of which were unsuitable for a lady of her age. She was then spotted and dragged back under deck. 3 women were left, chained together. They seized this opportunity while the white men were not facing them, to jump over the side of the monster into the bright blue river below between nets of green. The captain then came up to one of the white men that should have stopped them and started to punch and kick him til he was bleeding all over. He said her would give him a severe punishment if it happened again. From what I could gather he would be tied up and dragged underneath the ship, across the whole length without any clothes. I still do not understand the painful part of this, but it meant something to the beaten whit man, so he got up and continued with his work, whipping us. The next time they brought us up, which was about 6 days after that incident it was time. Everyone was in unbelievable agony, but that wouldn’t stop us trying. 6 weeks into the journey was the planned time for mutiny.  Now nearly all of the men and older boys in this part of the monster understood Mandinka well enough to carry out our plan. That day when we were taken up when the sun as shining high in the clouds which were touched by the huge poll beside me from the monster. Everyone played along with the washing and dancing. Then we all grabbed the five white men guarding us and kicked them to the floor, and took their knifes and whips. We then tried to kill as many people that were white as we could. It was actually working. There was just the captain, his first mate, and to others left. But all of a sudden, one of the white people with his last breath shot a very big gun at the big group of us. Shards of metal want everywhere, and many of us were shot down to the floor in dire pain. Many were killed, but me and a few others near the back of the crowd survived. We were immediately taken to the side of the ship by some of the guards that were below deck at the time of the incident. They started to whip our arms and legs, and hen drew blood with a knife. They stopped the bleeding as they didn’t want their precious cargo dead unnecessarily, before being taken back to our compartments. There was a distinct lack of people around now; which was sad yet good because it would be cleaner. I overheard the captain saying there had been a break out of small pox in the younger boys’ compartment, and they had chucked many of the ill overboard so it didn’t spread and to claim insurance for them, which would be more than their selling price at auction if they was ill. The man next to me was killed during the fight, and that made me really angry, but I knew there was nothing I could do as the white men had guns, and could therefore win. So I just kept quiet and just continued with our torture for the last few weeks.

The Story of Modou – Chapter 1 – Kidnap!

Hello. My name is Modou and this is the story of how I became a slave, what it was like on the slave ship and to be sold, to where I finally ended up on a plantation. I am now 42 years old, but at the time of my capture I was only 14. I was born in the year of 1752.  I came from Sifo village, one of the most powerful in our region of Africa. My father was the Headman of our Mandinka tribe. My mother died when I was 8. My father said a white man shot her with what the white people called a gun, and I should fear the white people but also learn how to fight them. Ever since my aunt was like a mother to me and my sister, and my father always took me hunting so I could learn how to become a man and be strong enough to fight should the white men return. I first saw a white man a few weeks before my capture. I went to do some trading with another village with my father and some other men from the tribe. All of a sudden I heard a large bang when we were almost there. In front of me I watched in horror whilst a white man shot a young girl who was running away from him. I felt so sad. The whit man was wearing the most unusual outfit I had ever seen. It consisted of long green trousers with lots of pockets, and one hanging around his waist that he pulled the gun out of. He also wore a green top and a beige coloured jacket which was slightly see through. My father shouted at me to run, but I could not. Then the white man turned around and saw me. I fear he would have shot me to if my father had not come along and pulled me out of the way. All we could do then was run and run and run until we were far away from those evil people. About two weeks later my father went out hunting without me as he said it was not safe for me to follow anymore. My aunt needed some firewood, so I took my little sister with me. We walked quite far from the village as I knew where the best trees were. As I started to cut off some branches, I heard a rustling sound. I looked around but there was nothing there, except my sister picking up sticks. I told her to come closer to me, to keep safe. I started to cut more and more branches off a couple of trees that were very close to each other. That’s when I heard some more strange sounds. It was like another language being spoken. I picked up as much of the wood as I could and so did my sister, then we ran as fast as we could. The next thing I know, two strangers, that were obviously native because of their dark complexion, had grabbed me and my sister by the ankles and we were hanging upside down. A third man appeared from nowhere and loosely tied some rope around my sister to keep her still. Then the third man came up to me. I noticed the colour of his skin – it was white. At this point I was so scared I could barely move, and I was only just still breathing. My heart was racing. I could hear it pounding under the sound of the third mans heavy boots as he slowly came up to me. As quick as a flash he put these metal things around my arms and feet. I was dropped on the floor, and somehow found the strength to try to struggle free. But it was all in vein. As much as I screamed and struggled, pulled and pushed I could not get them off. I knew I was stuck. The three men chucked my sister on top of me and surrounded us, and began laughing at us, and kicking us. A short time later they picked us off the ground and forced us to walk where they wanted to go. All the time the white man kept a sharp eye on us, with a gun pointed at my head. They led us to the most horrific site I had ever seen. Hundreds of people from surrounding tribes all tied up and marching forwards, with their heads secured in place by criss-crossing branches. As they went past, I saw all my friends that had gone to visit another tribe and hadn’t returned for several days, and when I thought it couldn’t get any worse I saw my aunt, all cut and crying. I will never be able to forget her face, and the look of despair and anger she showed. It will scar me forever. They led us up to the back and added us to the line of people. I was so scared. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I tried to comfort my sister as much as I could, but I could tell from the look in her eyes we were both as frightened as each other. We were forced to march a long, long way. All the way to the blue in the horizon. Each day it got closer and closer. But each day the marks where we had been whipped to keep us moving turned into cuts and started to bleed each time we were whipped. I hated it. Yet I knew in my heart the worst part was yet to come. After about 5 days we reached a wide river. On it was the scariest looking thing I had ever seen. It looked like a monster canoe with pieces of the finest cloth ever to be seen where I came from, hanging off it. We were pushed into small cage-like structures made from wood. The white people crammed as many of us into one as they could. Luckily my sister was still with me at this point and I hugged here so tight, and I just didn’t want to let go. I looked around the crowded area we were in, and saw my aunt, holding on to a man. It couldn’t be, could it, I thought. I shouted out to my aunt but she did not hear me over all the screams and cries of everyone else. My father looked up at me. There was no need for him to speak as I could tell by the way he was looking at me how he felt. Anger at me and the white people, sadness, fright and despair, sorrow, hopelessness. Many days past and all we could do was stare at the wide blue river in front of us, and comfort my sister so she could get to sleep at night. It was hot and damp even though there were lots of gaps for us to breath through, the cramped condition meant you couldn’t move without accidentally kicking the person next to you. Out of this grew frustration, and many of the men near me and my sister looked they were about to seriously injure whoever angered him next. I spent time wondering whether other people from our tribe had been captured, and wondering maybe, just maybe if say one or two escaped. I felt like crying every time I thought about them, knowing I would never see them again. Knowing that we couldn’t even say goodbye, and that one day, if they are not careful, they will suffer the same fait as us. But I had to keep strong, well at least look it for my sister. I don’t know how she would have coped if she had been on her own. Maybe she would have ended up like that girl I saw, a few weeks back, being shot by the white man holding a gun. A single tear drop began to roll down my face, and that night I lay awake for a long time, before drifting off to sleep where I dreamt about what could have been back home.

The Titanic

I can still recall the events of that merciless night I witnessed. Where God turned his back on a small piece of humanity. Forever haunted by the eerie cries of the drowning, the horrific sight of lost souls bobbing gently on the water, and the ear splitting silence that follows death. That night I heard her gasp her last solitary breath as she slowly drowned. The same night my guardian angels were stolen from my unyielding grasp.

She was named “Unsinkable”, “The Ship of Dreams,” they said, “Not even God could sink her,” we were told. All of these becoming the unnecessary curses that sentenced her to an icy, eternal stay in Davie Jones’s locker.

Despite it being many years since that night, I still remember first seeing the Titanic sitting there. She was surrounded by a jubilant crowd of thousands. Her glorious perfection shining out light the brightest of beacons in the dullness of our humble town. She towered above us all, a true iron maiden, with a long open deck stretching out to the horizon in the late afternoon sun, a privilege besotted on the wealthy, but one we could all appreciate in earnest. Sammy and I held onto little Tommy, his hazel eyes gleaming with unworldly excitement as we boarded the “Ship of Dreams”. As we worked our way down to our room, I could smell the slight bitterness of fresh paint mingling with the sweet fragrance wafting off from Sammy’s long, wavy hair. Our room was humble in its size but it was enough. A solitary lamp glowed, lighting our faces in the otherwise darkness. We tucked Tommy into his bed on the top bunk; all the excitement had taken its toll. “A night for celebrations,” Sammy whispered to me as we later captured our own little piece of heaven, while the Titanic’s mighty engines began her maiden voyage below us.

Three more blissful days flew by my astonished eyes. Even though the entertainment poured onto the wealthy aristocracy was barred to our degraded class of workers, we still could enjoy mingling with other passengers, feasting on well-prepared food until we could barely manage to stand, and appreciating the uninterrupted time we could receive as a loving family. Yet besides all this, one night, four long, though somewhat too short days after departure, still stands out above the rest. The cloudless night of April 14th, 1912.

Sammy had just lulled Tommy off into a serene-seeming sleep. We were about to turn in for the night ourselves when a light shudder abruptly rippled through me. I gave it no second thought and climbed into bed when the shaking began. It started slowly, but soon its intensity of sharp jitters increased. An ear-splitting screech, more painful than fingernails being scraped down a blackboard, continually stung me. Unexpectedly, without warning, all subsided, and an unnatural silence fell. Not even the normal, distant hum of the engines could be heard. Sammy by my side, still dazed, I peeked through our now-open door, where a crowd of people already stood. Staff were already flitting in and around the tightly packed space handing out strange, creamy-beige coloured parcels. All of a sudden, sound found its way back through to my uncomprehending ears, and the mayhem all sunk in. From the babble of voices one thing was certain. The unsinkable was sinking.

“Edward?!” Sammy’s distressed voice broke through my guarded senses. “Get Tommy. Now. We have to go!” She did as I requested, no questions asked. That was what I loved about her; she could put all her faith in me without a second’s hesitation. But now wasn’t the time for bitter-sweet reveries. I grabbed Tommy and held him sturdily in one adrenalin fuelled arm. “Sammy, hold my hand, don’t let go.” I felt her soft, warm fingers wind around mine as I reluctantly turned from her and began to flee. Corridor after corridor flew past my vision. I paid careful attention not to look at the shocked, frightened families searching for their children, neither did I hear the shouts and screams as people were pushed over and trampled on in the rush to escape, and nor did I notice the fact the ground below my feet was forming and increasing layer of moisture.

More and more corridors blurred as they rushed past my vision. The instinct for survival burned strong within me, giving me the vital hope I needed to carry on. The only time we stopped running was to hastily pull on three abandoned life belts; we needed all we were given. We pushed on, up staircases, until we came to the main gate leading to the deck. I couldn’t believe what I saw. All of the third class was being held back. They wanted us to die. Around fifty families were huddled together in front of us. “Push! Push!” I shout, but my voice is lost in the commotion. “PUSH!” I scream, this time more people joining in, and as one the bundle pushed forward with all their might. The gate began to buckle, and on the fourth attempt we were free; spat out like a distasteful meal onto the deck. Looking around, past the anxious, crazed faces, the stern had already begun to be submerged. A large snapping sound, a low groaning followed by creaking started. The titanic was about to become two.

I turn to face Sammy. She steadily holds my gaze. “we need to jump off. Now.” She bobs her head lithely, once, in acknowledgement. Before I turn away, she leans up towards me, searching. I lean down and kiss her gently, but soon it was more. There was something more urgent in the way our lips moved in synchronisation, an unwanted, unwelcome tenseness. A last goodbye. But I pushed this thought far away, as for that one moment time stood still.

We break apart and search for a safe place to jump off. I spot one, and we move towards the middle of the grand deck while Tommy becomes increasingly restless in my arms. “Daddy!?” “Hush. Not now.” Other families are saying rushed farewells as the last of the dearly beloved women and children are separated from devoted fathers and tearful uncles. The last of the lifeboats, the final chance for guaranteed survival, is lowered as we step up onto the side barrier. In the distance there are boats with a single gas lamp revealing the location of each. Oh how I wished we were them. “Edward, I’m scared,” Sammy whispered in my ear. “Me too love. Don’t be.” And with that we embrace and together throw ourselves off the side, Tommy safely secured between us.

We hit the water with a huge splash. The shock of the biting cold hit me. “Keep swimming out or we’ll get sucked under.” Sammy leads, while I follow supporting Tommy. Each stroke pushes me one step closer to my absolute limit. Kick. Pull. Kick. Pull. At 500 m out we stop. Neither of us have the energy, nor the will, to continue. As I gaze up at the beautifully starlit sky, the Titanic begins to rise. The bow is lifted up, high into the air, and with an ear-bursting shriek it snaps away, leaving her in two. Meanwhile, the helpless left aboard, the mothers, the father, the young children, are thrown off. Others bump into countless poles and other obstacles during their descent. Those unconscious, in a way, are the lucky ones. They won’t feel the pain.

I look up once more, and now the bow is rising. 40, 50, 60 feet up. Many are still being flung off. My heart aches to save them, but my head tells my heart to only save myself and those I love. She continues to heighten, until perfectly perpendicular, and with the precise grace of royalty she slowly sank into the water to her icy grave far below.

At first there is silence, yet soon the agonising screams and shouts began. Those pulled under have reappeared at the surface, searching in desperation for their loved ones. People are fighting, somewhat pointlessly, over scraps of debris to use as a float. It reminded of seagulls fighting over crumbs of bread; there is no real need or reason.

We are bobbing there. It is so cold now. We are waiting.

Seconds, minutes, hours pass. It is impossible to keep track of time. My hands are numb. Tommy is alive, thank God, but he’s sleeping peacefully. Sammy and I are humming our favourite melody, just to pass the endless time.

Later, I realize little Tommy has left us. His chest no longer softly rises and falls with his fragile breath. Rest in peace, son. We cry silent, gentle sobs. Our hair is frozen in place. I’m getting stiff. I’m tired and I want it to end. Now. Painlessly.

Sammy is really struggling. She has become quiet; more subdued, her breath ragged from effort, and her face is tired. I try to hold her but my arms fail me. “I love you Edward, so much. Please, always remember me,” she whispers to me, as her head is submerged under Satan’s water. “Sam, NO!” I reach for her and pull her limp body to the surface. “You’re not going to leave me!” I cried out in desperation. But she already had.

So soon after I hear voices. I open my eyes. There’s a boat. They’ve come to rescue us. Me. The light swivels around directly at me, blinding me. I move my arms around to draw attention. “We’ve found one!” They shout, relief flooding their tone.

I paddle towards them with my last reserves of strength. As I reached out my hand to grab the side of the boat, I gave in. I had absolutely nothing left to give. The chilling blackness enfolded me, emptying all reason, as the cold, lifeless nothingness became me. That’s what death feels like.

Death is not your enemy. Death is your friend. He taunts you with pain and suffering. He draws you into the cold and black, and leaves you there alone, frightened. But he gives you knowledge. The knowledge that you will be reunited, that Sammy and Tommy have not permanently left me, they’re only on leave from this Earth until I can meet with them again. This knowledge is power. Power to bring me back to life.

To this day, I held my promise. The last wish of my Sammy, before the cruelness of death withdrew her. I’ve lived a long life, and I am grateful. But no-one ever recaptured my heart like Sammy did, no-one rekindled the light within me like Tommy, nothing managed to ever hurt me again.

Yet there are things I learnt, I know, and was forced to live up to. The bond between us, Sammy, Tommy and I, was forged so deep that it could not be broken by any absence, nor distance, or any amount of time.

The devil’s work is never done until no happiness destroyable survives. In the end the devil beat me:

Nothingness is all I feel.