Short Stories

by Emma Gyde

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Flee to Freedom

The sweat drips down my forehead. The blazing sun casting my shadow over the crop filled field. My hands ache from the hard labor they have been through, some days I can’t even move my fingers. The cotton-harvesting season has begun and the expectations are high. We know all too well what the punishment is. Depending on the master’s mood it’s a stern warning or a lash. I don’t understand why my color differs my treatment from the whites. I work exhausting days just to prevent myself from drowning while they benefit from our suffering. Why does the minority rule the majority? It’s just a thought that drifts into my head.

My mouth is chapped and my lips cracked. Dirt smeared over my face. The day is coming to an end I can tell, by the orange glow on the horizon. The mere thought of freedom keeping me going, even if it’s a farfetched hope. I take the sack of cotton slung over my shoulder to the storage barn. I make my way down the dirt path my bare feet cut and bruised. I enter my cabin, which I share with 10 others.

The crammed quarters lack comfort. I sleep on the floor with a thin mattress weaved from the cotton remains I could salvage. The others that share the cabin with me suffer I see the uncertainty in their eyes, the pain they carry with them. Most of them have lost a child to the slave trade. I was taken as a youth from Maryland and placed on a plantation here in Virginia where I have spent many years of my life. I’ve moved estate multiple times, and have been here for a while now.

We all have a small garden. We aren’t given a lot of food therefore we take matters into our own hands. In my garden I have parsnips, beets, dandelion greens, and sweat potatoes. They don’t need to be tended too often, therefore easy to grow. We occasionally have beans when they can get smuggled in. They are cheap so we can afford them on occasion. I often eat what is given such as pork hocks, cow tongue, chicken feet and meat cuts the master doesn’t want. Lastly cornmeal, which we turn into pone bread.

I make a small fire and start cooking my food.  The smells of the roasting root vegetables over the open fire make my mouth water. Hunger stirring inside of my stomach, overwhelming me. Portions are small, ensuring enough food for the week. When the food is done, I sit with a group of workers that harvest cotton with me. They’re whispering in hushed voices, intriguing me. They are talking about an escape.

My mind is flooded with ideas? What if I get caught because if I do, I’m as good as dead. I listen in on the conversation; they are planning on getting on the steam train traveling only a few miles from here. Taking it up to Ohio and going from there.

“A free negro said that once we pass border to Ohio they keep us slave no more.” One of the group members said.

It sparked a thought, a thought of freedom. Being my own woman. Anything is better than the hell I’m enduring here. I agree to the plan. We set of at dusk when the overseer is changing post. I finish my food and take some scraps left around. I need the energy for tomorrow, I can feel it in my bones.

I awake the next morning at dusk. My lack of sleep due to nervousness that’s making my stomach churn. I reach for my water canteen and put it in my shoulder satchel with my other belongings. I pull my hair back and out of my face. I peak out the door to see if anyone has risen yet. I hear a whisper coming from outside. I take one last glance at the only family I have left. I lay a kiss on everyone’s cheeks, never knowing if I will see them again. I silently glide out the door. A small group is waiting outside behind one of the cabins making the final adjustments.

I jump the fence and bolt leaving my life behind, leaving my family. We arrive at the rail tracks hiding in the bushes waiting for it to arrive. We hear angry voices as the train approaches they are hot on our heels. I jump up and reach for some footing and finally get a hold. I slide the carriage door open and jump in. I am finally free.

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