• As I walk along the beach, water tickling my toes, looking for some thalassa shells to string together I reflect on my life. From the day I learnt to walk, the day I first tasted Maize, the day I opened my jewelry stand, I had the perfect life and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. My thoughts were pulled from me when my sister came to the beach. “Malkia! Are you done yet? It’s time to eat!” screamed Nadira. I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of regret leaving the beach, leaving my thoughts. “Malkia, you really shouldn’t spend all your time on that beach. Just because Zaire is on the coast doesn’t mean you spend every waking hour there.” This was my mum. “Ye yo you know it’s for the shells. Just because I don’t cook or forage doesn’t mean I don’t do any thing.” I explained. “Well come and eat, we have some Etia from Lake Kivu. Let us all be thankful that they have traveled that long way to bring it to us and please join me in the blessing of our meal.
    O great and heavenly Ọlọrun, thank you for giving us our meal of bountiful Etia. Thank you for giving us food everyday. We ask you bless our meal and that we continue our way for as long as you have power of your kingdom. Ashe.” “Ashe.” Everyone replied. As the sun dwindled on the horizon filling the blue of the sky with beautiful colours I wove some reeds into string and threaded some heart cockles to make a necklace watching the sun set. My sister came over and sat next to me. “This is my favorite part of the day, the colors in the sky stringing shells. Nothing could be better.” I told her. “Yeah, if only it were like this all the time.” She said. “ No, then it wouldn’t be special.” I replied.

    “Thalassa? Necklace? Thanks, Kwaheri.” This was a normal day for me, I own a little stand were I make jewelry out of shells to give to the people of our village. The Thalassa shells give luck to the people at sea so before the men go out on a voyage they come to get them to wear, just like our ancestors did. There’s one boy from the village who comes to the stand every day to order a different string of shells but he doesn’t talk to me very well, I don’t think he likes me very much but he’s the only person my age so I’m normally with the younger ones or on my own. One day, however, instead of being all weird he was talking to me as if he’d been my friend since we were babies. He was so casual and it surprised me from his usual get and go attitude. “So which one will it be today?” I asked. “Well do you have anything I don’t?” replied Adjatay. “Well, I don’t know. I think you have all of them but I did see some nice shells on the beach that I hadn’t seen before, I haven’t gotten them yet though.” I answered. “So you want to go look for them?” The question was quite a shock but I didn’t see what harm it could do so I said “Sure.”

    Oh it’s funny how harmless things turn around so quickly. Walking along the beach with Adjatay I really had fun. He always seemed so busy that it was hard to believe that he was so carefree but he showed me his other side that day on the beach. “Why haven’t you talked to me before? I mean you seem really different when you’re not working.” The answer was a surprise to me, “Well I guess it’s because I never really had the courage, in truth I really like you.” “Wow, I thought you didn’t like me at all I don’t know how I was so wrong!” And down came the net. I wasn’t even really sure what had happened but one moment I’m laughing with Adjatay and the next I’m on the ground with a net over me. I’m surrounded by what I thought were ghosts but later found that my captors were very human, just very different. Adjatay tried to stop them but it was useless, they would hit him back before he got anywhere near me and before too long he was lying on the sand unconscious. The strange men dragged me away screaming but I don’t think anyone heard, they would have been to busy. They tried communicating with me but I didn’t understand them nor was I paying attention. They hit me with one of their big sticks and by the time we stopped blood was oozing from my head and running down face.

    When I got to the boat a strange man in a black suit said strange words while more white men threw water on me. They dressed me in rags and literally threw me bellow deck. The smell was so foul that I was close to fainting. They pulled me to the floor and I was chained to the person next to me and as the rest of them came in I was squished against the wall. Barely a minute was by and I was already sweltering. To make it worse I was constantly spitting out freezing salty water.

    I don’t know what time I past out but when I woke up the person I was chained to was coughing uncontrollably and his skin had blotches of red all over. The person next to him was completely limp, I think she was dead. Seeing the living and the dead chained together was sickening. I’ll never get the thought out of my head, it will haunt me forever. When the white people came in they began grabbing all the dead people, pulling them up the stairs and throwing them overboard. I was disgusted. They kill our people with their brutal, inhumane ways and then throw them overboard, that’s what they did, kill them to throw them. These people could not be human, to be able to do that everyday and not go mad they would have to have no heart. Every human has a heart. They were heartless ghosts.

    In the next hour I was completely covered by filth. Covered with blood, vomit, human waste. I was coved in sewerage in freezing cold water and I was boiling hot, with anger and temperature. To make matters worse not only were they throwing dead people overboard, they were throwing live people overboard. The person chained to me, the one who was sick, was thrown overboard because… well that’s just it. I don’t know why. It could have been because he was sick but it wouldn’t have been because they could of just given him medicine. I think they did it for fun, for pleasure, but how could they? How could any person do that? There are no humans on this boat. They are not humans, they have no heart, they are monsters. We are not humans, we are animals, and we have not truly been alive since we first got on this boat.

    We were fed once a day, if we were lucky. More like twice a week on average. I guess I should feel lucky that I’m getting fed at all but the foods not nice, a far cry from it. It’s dry and flavorless at best. Fish, no. Eggs, no. Rice, no. Meat, no. Fruit, no. Vegetables, no. Bread, no. The food we got was a disgusting paste made from who-knows-what that was shoved into our mouths. We only got one handful every time we were fed. Oh, how my taste buds longed for ye yo’s cooking. How I would trade anything for one last taste of Etia. How my taste buds would dance and my stomach rejoice if I could only have a lick of Canistel. They memory of the food I had at home was running around my head like a movie made just to torment me, just to tease. I’d give anything to be back home.

    I couldn’t talk to anyone on the death ship because no one with in earshot of me spoke my language. I remembered the games I used to play with the little ones, how I talk with everyone in the village but the thing I missed most was Adjatay. They took me the first time I’d ever really talked to him and I missed him, I missed him dearly. What I do to hear his voice again instead of the memory. My heart ached for ye yo and Nadira but the largest ache was for Adjatay. I rode for the next six weeks in silence, silence and silent tears. Every tear was a memory in recognition, a cry for help and longing for home. I will return home some day, I know I will. I became sick about three times but luckily it wasn’t very bad. I don’t know how I survived but by some miracle I made it.

    Once free of my chains and off the boat I realized just how bad I looked. The odor of the boat had clung to me and the excretion had made me smell worse than a knee-high pile of year old fish that had been left in the sun. They threw a bucket of water over me and rubbed my whole body with soap and threw another two buckets of water on me. To be rid of that grime was a wondrous feeling. They put me in a dress and sprayed some smelling water on me out of a tiny bottle. I was shoved over to a line and then walked onto a stage. All around me there were screaming white maniacs yelling at the man beside me and waving odd pieces of paper in the air. Finally I was moved to the edge of the stage and one of the yelling maniacs pulled me down and handed the man some of the pieces of paper. I don’t know what they were saying but I heard the word Loretta and that was used whenever the man wanted me.

    The man tied some rope around my hands and guided me back to a big house. The man had a wife and three children. I found that the mans name was William, his wife was Annabel and the three children were Edward, Caroline and Melinda. They had such strange names, I wondered what they meant because I hadn’t heard them before. Everything in this place was strange, strange language, strange clothes, strange names, strange food, strange songs. I tried teaching the children one of my favorite songs but the man hit me for it. I don’t like it here and I wont be happy until I’m back in Zaire with my family, my songs, my food and my name. I don’t know why they called me Loretta, it wasn’t even close to Malkia. It was pretty close to Lorato meaning love but I was Malkia meaning queen. I wanted my name back.

    I guess they treated me nicely enough, I got three meals a day but the food was mostly a small amount of strange tasting meat and a small roll of bread with a cup of water, I slept in a nice enough bed in reasonably sized room, they gave me clothes to wear and all I did in return was look after the children. There is one time that I’m not aloud with the children, it’s when they learn to ‘read’ and ‘write’. I don’t know what they are but what ever it is I’m not aloud to know. I have a nice enough life but I can’t sing unless it’s their strange songs, I’m not aloud to walk around their village, I’m not aloud to use my real name, I’m not aloud to talk of my past, I have to speak ‘English’ (which I’m learning from them, it’s their strange language) and there’s no beach. I miss the way I was free to walk along the beach and not be disturbed for hours at a time. The beach reminded me more about Adjatay and my heart longed to be with him once more.

    There were other people from Zaire there but not from my village and I talked with them occasionally but not very often. When I talked it reminded my too much of home and it would make me awfully sad. Every night I would tell myself I’d see them again, I’d be back home someday and it always makes me cry but I know I will. I know I’ll be back in Zaire. I’ve been away for almost two months but I know I’ll be back there one day. I’ll go back to the village and never leave again. I’ll eat ye yo’s food and stay with the same people forever. I’ll never leave them and they will never leave me, that’s how it’s going to stay.

    I’ve been in the house for six weeks now, the same time I was on the boat, and I’ve been listening when Mistress Anna has been teaching the children. I’ve learnt how to write and I can read everything in the house, not that there’s a lot to read since I’m not aloud to read the books. One night I dressed in my warmest garments and climbed out my window. While I was walking through the deserted streets I found an empty wooden crate. I thought it would one day be useful so I took it and as quietly as I could brought it back to my bedroom and toyed with it a while. I found I could comfortably fit inside, close the lid and look through an odd little circle in the side of the crate. I hid it behind the dresser and changed back into my nightclothes. I wriggled under the blankets and fell asleep with a happy heart, I would soon be home.

    The next day the other slaves woke me and told me to meet them in the back yard in five minutes. I got dressed in my working clothes and climbed out of my window into the cold sunlight of the morning. “Malkia we must talk with you, it is important you know of this and you are free to make your own choice.” One of the men told me, I had no idea who he was or how he knew my name. “What? How do you know my name?” I asked. “We have learnt from Master William that they call you Loretta but we found out that ‘Loretta’ was Malkia. I am Uchi.” He replied. “Oh OK, what was it you wanted to tell me?” I had to stifle a laugh as I asked, what sort of person would name their son Uchi? It means nakedness! “We are going to escape from the home at night and are going to Canada but not all of us can go, we have already nominated five people; myself, Dinari, Lindani, Elon and Kya. Kya has offered to take your place in the house and stay behind if you wish to go. If you just leave they will know that we have gone because you are the only one with a room but we feel that you should have the chance to go if you wish. Will you join us?” Uchi made it sound as if I had to go with them but I didn’t really want to, I had my own way of escaping. “I’m sorry but I feel it’s just to risky, I shall stay but Elon and Kya can wear some of my dresses as to not look so suspicious. Thank you for offering though.” I answered. “Oh, well thank you for the dresses.” I know Uchi wanted me to come but what could I do.

    I gave both Elon Kya two of my working dresses. “I know they’re not the warmest dresses but they’re better to move around in so you’ll cover more ground. You two will probably be able to collect food in certain areas without getting in too much trouble if you wear them. Voorsped! Good luck, too all of you.” I know I should have told them I was going to escape but I couldn’t tell them about the crate. They will be searched for and it’ll be my fault but I need to get home. I don’t want Canada, I want Zaire - I want home.

    The next night I climbed outside to wish them good luck once more before they go, they were waiting just outside my window. “Have you changed your mind? Are you coming with us?” Uchi said as soon as my feet touched the ground. “Um, sorry no. I just wanted to wish you good luck one last time.” I replied. “Oh. Well it’s OK I mean you don’t have to. Uh, quick question; do you know how to write, in English?” Uchi asked. “Yes, I do. Why?” I replied. “Well, none of us do and I was wondering if you could come along to help us.” He enquired. “U-um I-I-I do-don’t know. I still think it would be better, better off if I stayed here. I’ll write down the alphabet on a piece of paper so you might be able to work out more of the words.” I answered. “Oh.” I knew he was still trying to get me to come but I didn’t know why he wanted me so much. But I did as I said I would and while I was writing Uchi came into the shed. “Uchi, can I ask you something?” I asked. “Yes, of course.” He replied. “Why do you want me to come with you so much?” I think he was a bit taken back by the question because he stuttered a bit at first. “Weh-well if you don’t come this will be the last time I ever see you again and I think you are most beautiful. I was hoping we could start our new life together.” Uchi explained. “Look, I don’t know how to tell you but I barely even know you and there’s this other guy back in Zaire and I sor….” “Back in Zaire? Look, I don’t know how to tell you this but you’re not getting back. It’s impossible. You might as well just forget him.” I couldn’t believe that he would say that. That was one of the lowest, filthiest, meanest things I’d ever heard. “Might as well forget about him?! You are a monster, a demon of the land! I never want to see you again! Start a new life with you, I don’t think so!” I stormed out of the shed and climbed back through the window, pushing it down behind me. I returned to bed and fell asleep with tears of rage streaming down my face.

    I couldn’t care less if he was searched for and I was leaving. I would prove Uchi wrong, I would return to Zaire and I would have a happy life with my family. I would be with Adjatay once again and everything would be perfect. I will leave tonight. I still got through my job of looking after the children and while getting the children some pencils I got myself a piece of paper, a permanent texta and a pen. I heard Master William talk about a couple of missing slaves but I couldn’t of cared less. “Have you been hearing any strange talk with the slaves recently?” Mistress Anna asked. “No, not really. I don’t talk to them very much.” I replied. I should of told her but if I was escaping I’m going to be decent enough to at least give them a fighting chance. “Very well, carry on.” She said as she walked off, probably to test the other slaves.

    That night I put on my warmest clothes and tucked two blankets, a working dress and my best dress into the box. I pushed the box out the window and placed it gently on the grass so I wasn’t making any noise. I got out the paper and pen and wrote a message for any who came to wake me and saw. I place it on my pillow alongside the pen with a solitary word. ‘Sorry.’
    I climbed out the window and landed with a slight thud. I picked up the box and slowly walked away, slowly but determined.

    By sunrise I was almost at the auctioning place but I’d read on the sign that it wouldn’t be until tomorrow when the next ship came in. I got into my best dress and I looked around until I found a fabric umbrella. I didn’t really see the point in it, the rain would soak right through the fabric but the woman are so worried about getting wet that they carry them around all the time. Someone should tell them that it wouldn’t keep them dry if it rains. Back in Zaire we went under trees or in our houses if we didn’t want to get wet but most of the time we let the rain soak us, if we weren’t cold. If we got to cold out in the rain we would get sick and it would take many days to heal. My father died from being out in a storm, Mzazi became very sick and he was in bed a lot longer than most people but one day he just wasn’t alive. Me, ye yo and Nadira cried for a long time and we were very sad. After that the village took care of us, helping ye yo while we were growing up. I’ve taught myself to go out while it’s raining and now I love the water but for a long time after Mzazi died I wouldn’t get wet for or by anything, only my tears. I still miss him but I don’t think Nadira remembers, she was too young and we don’t talk about him. It would be terrible to have your father die when you were only very young, she was only one but I was seven. It doesn’t hurt so much now but I’d rather live in pain with the memory than not remember at all, she doesn’t know what she has to remember so her pain is gone.

    I sat on a log by a creek with my back to the town and the fabric umbrella propped up so no one would see my hair or skin. I left the odd hat behind because I didn’t see the use of it but it probably would have helped me and I wouldn’t of needed this pointless fabric umbrella. While I sat I watched the water running over the rocks and listen to it laughing as it played I started to wonder if it was really possible, there were so many things wrong with my plan. I could be found as easily as someone lifting the lid off a crate, I could be shot before the end of the day, I could be found and taken back were I would probably have to live like the rest of the slaves and get beaten. I saw all the flaws but yet I was still so sure that I would come out on top, that I wouldn’t fail, that I would get back to my family. “Hey missy, wha cha doing all da way ou here?” I almost dropped the umbrella in shock and fear. I didn’t expect to be talked to, just left until I moved. I expected no one to take any attention of me. “Oh, I-I’m just admiring the creek.” I put on my best accent and hoped they wouldn’t come any closer. “Dat righ? Uh, well your un me properey.” The replied. “Excuse me. Your propery, what’s that?” I asked. “It’s me land. The land I paid for to own. A prop-rer-tee. An you’re un it.” He answered. “Oh, your property. I’m very sorry, I didn’t realize. I’ll be moving along now.” I got up off the log and brushed myself down to get rid of the bark and dirt. “Missy, you dun hav tuh go. You cun stay if yuh wan. I dun mind.” There was something about the way he said that, something that made me not trust him. “No, It’s OK. I’ll leave.” “No, you won’t. You’ll stay. You’ll stay and be mine forever. HAHAHAHAHA, HAHAHAHAHA!” I dropped the umbrella and turned around, he wasn’t even human. He was some sort of odd and scary ghost monster with black bloodshot eyes. “No, no! AAAAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!”

    That’s when I woke up. I was still on the log but I was collapsed over it with the umbrella still blocking my head from view of the town. I lifted my head slightly and the umbrella fell but I picked it up straight away so no one would see I was an escaped slave. I got up and, like in the dream, brushed myself down to get rid of the dirt and bark. When I straightened up the odd little hat fell out of my dress. It had been tucked into the ribbon and I hadn’t noticed it. I put it on and tied it around my head. I searched around the forest thing until I found a termite’s nest and I smushed a handful of them on a piece of bark. I rubbed them on my face until I looked relatively white, checked myself in the creek and went into town.

    “Look, there she is. Loretta! Loretta! I know it’s her, that’s my old dress. I know that dress.” They can’t catch me now, not after I walked all night. Not after all the pain I’d gone through. It wasn’t fair. I ran back to the creek and hid the box where only I could find it and ran back through the trees to the house. I got there at about midday and knocked on the door. “Loretta. How could you run away?! We treat you nicely enough, don’t we? We feed you three meals a day! You’re ungrateful, you disgust me! You will never see that room again, you hear me?! Never!” After the talk I got ordered to take the dress off so I went outside and climbed through the window of my room and put on a work dress. I secretly took the good dress and put it in the back of the shed where I had written down the alphabet. I went back to “Master’ William and expected the worse.

    I never thought people could be treated so badly. I was beaten not only by hand but also by whip. They whipped me. That was the most painful, torturous, inhumane thing that I’ve ever felt or seen. A big long piece of string with a bit of metal on the end swung through the air and smashed on to human skin. The agony and aching, throbbing sting is unbearable, insufferable, unimaginable. The sheer pain alone was too much to handle. I was deemed to the old hut outside with the rest of the slaves. I was to start picking cotton the next day. I wasn’t aloud any food for a week and then only one small meal a day. I am now at the bottom. I am the lowest slave in this family and I’m treated the worst. If I even live I’ll be lucky.

    The floor is frozen and the air is hypothermic. I doubt I’ll make it through tonight let alone escape. I covered my self with the dress I took but I don’t think it did much good. Every pore and every fiber of my body was frozen cold, my blood turned blue. I was about 1000 times colder than I had been my entire life. I didn’t understand how one person could be so cold but not understanding didn’t make me any warmer. It’s as if my body was wrapping it self in the cold to make it warmer, as if I was sucking in the cold with every breath and expecting it to warm my insides. How one person could be so evil as to put someone in this situation was beyond me. I wanted home before, I was unhappy before. That was nothing, that was the good life. The best I or anyone else was going to get in this situation. I reluctantly fell into a frozen sleep, not sure whether I would wake up again or not.

    I awoke in an incredible heat. I was drenched with sweat and saturated with steam. The door was open and the world outside was a haze, it was overwhelming. I got up and moved to the back of the hut but it seemed to follow me. I was in the haven of the shade and it was sweltering. I waited to be called for, to go out into the unmerciful fireball of pure sunlight but as I waited I remembered last night. I remembered the glacial cold of the air and the frosted ground. A world of ice melted into this inferno of heat. I felt as if I would melt. My clothes stuck to me but I pushed the extra dress off when I woke. I peeled my hair off the back of my neck and heaped it in a bunch above my head. “Ay Malkia, it’s time ta work. Workin fa me un me propery! HAHAHAHA!” That voice, that monster, no… “Please, no. No! What do you want from me? NO!” All I could do was plead, I was utterly defenseless and to make matters worse I was drained and weary from the heat. “Oh ho! I luv it when they struggle, exhausted little fings.” I twisted my head in the direction of the door and pale figure was already moving towards me. I could feel myself choking on nothing but I didn’t care, those eyes. Those evil eyes. Staring into the endless black of them, totally overpowered. I could feel myself gasping for breath, for my last breath. I felt him squeezing my throat from the door. I felt him tearing at my insides and yet I still couldn’t look away. He had me, I was helpless. My soul cried out for deliverance, a cry no one would ever hear.

    And then it was gone. The voice, the monster, the pain. I opened my eyes to nothing. I couldn’t of been too early since there was no light. The black void of the hut had a certain air to it, of loneliness and emptiness. Of depression and gloom. Of rejection and isolation. Never before had I felt such a thing, it was then when I was truly alone that I’d felt the most homesickness. I decided, tired as I was, that I would escape again. Everyone would be too busy to see me go and the boat would come today. I would return to wearing the good dress and I would escape while everyone was working. No one would expect me to leave then and they especially wouldn’t expect me to leave after how they treated me. I couldn’t think of a better way to leave so I settled the matter, rolled over, spread the dress a little more over me, noted that the temperature was quite nice and fell asleep again.

    Picking cotton is a dangerous thing. There are lots of thorns sticking out and they cut your hand like it’s their destiny. My hands were cut but if the blood got on the cotton I was picking I got hit, there was no sense in it. My hands were tender and irritated after about three hours and that’s when I got my chance. The ‘supervisor’ was called inside and we were, well unsupervised. I ran to get the dress and hastily dragged it on. I pulled the hat thing on and ran around the property until I was able to get out into the streets with out them noticing. I ran all the way back to the box and crept up to the dock through the trees and shrubbery. I hitched up the dress and stood under the pier. Once the boat came in I marked leather on the box, put it with the trading cargo, got inside and waited. I heard cries of my people as they were soaped and splashed and squirted. I listened closely but none of them were in my language, in a way I was glad but I longed to hear it again. Hear it in a voice other than my own.

    The box was picked up and jostled around until being dropped onto the boat. I looked through the hole to survey my surroundings. I was with a bunch of other boxes all marked the same way I was but with an assortment of other names. The ones closest were tobacco, cotton, leather and sugar. I couldn’t believe that people, living, breathing people, were being sold for this. How could no one have stopped this? This was repulsive. Being taken, put under the barbaric conditions, sold, made to work, all for this?! Sugar, cotton, tobacco, we were working to pick more slaves away from their families. I refuse to believe it, but, I know it’s true. The proof is all around me. When I get back to Zaire I will assure that they will never come to my country ever again. I don’t care what it takes but this can’t keep happening. It’s merciless, ruthless, pitiless and simply inhumane. Do they actually know what they’re inflicting, what they’re doing? Do they have any idea what they put us through what we do once we’re there? No, they’re too busy worrying about their clothes and their tea! Personally, I’m disgusted.

    RRRRRrrrrrrrrrrr……… don’t you just love the sound of your stomach grumbling for food, as if it’s upset with you. As if it wont talk to you, just grumble in protest until you give it what it wants and the longer it has to wait the louder and more painful it gets. I’m surprised it didn’t give me away. It was dark and the boat was rocking gently. I could hear the crew laughing at the other end of the ship. Oh, if only I could be sure no one could see me. Now would probably be the best time to go and I know that I would eventually go out anyway. There’s bound to be some food and I wouldn’t take to long. Cccrrreeeeee, the noise was magnified by 100. How could they not hear me? Sure I was thankful but I wanted to stop, no they’ve heard me by now, I have to keep going. I do, I will. I’ve gone this far so why not? I opened the crate all the way and stepped out. Crrreeeaaakkk, it’s all in my head, it’s all in my head, it’s all in my head, how I wanted to believe that. I was being as quiet as I could but I know I was making noise, I just hoped they wouldn’t come back here to find out what it was. Creak after creak I made my way around the boat until I found it. Bread, the most glorious thing in the whole world. Right now anyway. I opened the crate, grabbed all the bread I could, closed the lid and, not caring how loud I was, ran back to the box and shut the crate behind me as fast as I could.

    “Ey’ I eard sumzeng.” Of course they heard me. What strange accents, ne zeh zooh zooh zooh! “It vas probebley joost a wrat! Leave it bee.” Yes! They think I’m a rat. Oh joy! “Boot vat eef it eets zee vood or sugar? It vill be you to blam!” No, getting a bit worse here. “Ooo fine, veel goo chuak the voom!” No! They can’t come in here. They’ll see me for sure! ‘Chuak’ what strange accents! Seriously, who says chuak?! No, back on track, I have to stay focused. OK, what do I do? What if they don’t check the box I’m in, they can’t check all of them. I just have to be really quiet. “I doon’t ear vee wrat, do yoo?” Oh no, they’re in the room. “No, boot it cood be iding! Let look for it.” No, no, no, no, no! Don’t look, there’s no rat! “Vee shood probaby only chuak zee foood boxes, it vood probaby ony goo for zem!” All right, I can live with that. I’m leather, that’s not food. “Noo vat eef it chews zroo zee cooton or lezer?” No! “Noo, wrats can’t chew zroo lezer, an it volden’t liek cooton.” Yes! “Vell it mite, it’s worz zee check!” NO! “Noo iz not! Iz a wast of tiem!” YES! “Fien, zoo vill chuak zee foood an I vill chuak zee mateerials!” Oh no! No! No! No! “Vine!” NO! They can’t find me, I’ll be done for! They’ll sell me again and then I’ll get beaten half to death! I shoved some bread in my mouth to stop myself from screaming and squeezed my eyes shut to stop from crying. I didn’t know what emotion it was but I never wanted it again. It was like a mix of the bad feelings, like I almost knew I was going to die but I wasn’t quite there yet. This really is a death ship, once you get on your dead.

    My heart was beating faster than ever before, pounding against my chest as if trying to escape the horror I was in. It was all a nightmare but this one wasn’t going away. They were still searching and one of them was practically next to me. I will be found, this is it. CRASHHHHH……… the boat rocked so violently I almost fell out of the crate. The bread hit the top with my head and all together it was a pretty big thud but I thought I was safe. “Ooo, zat vas a vig vayve! Vee butter goo chuak outside, eef zat doozen’t scare zee wrat zen nozing vill! Lez goo.” Oh, yes! Thank you big wave, or vayve! “Vell joost lat me poot zis bwred back in zee bwred crat. It moost of fallon out.” I cautiously looked through the hole and saw a piece of bread on the floor just in front of my crate. One of the zooh zooh people swept into view and I shrank back against the crate. I was breathing heavily and I could only just see through the hole. All the time I was afraid that they would hear me. I was so tense and wound up I would jump if someone touched me, and I mean literally jump. He finally stood up and I breathed a sigh relief, but maybe to soon. “Vat vas zat, did you eer it?” There goes freedom. In a second crushed, shattered into a million pieces. “I did not eer anyzing, lez goo. Joost eet zee bwred, Come oon.” “OK” And as quickly as it had been destroyed it rebuilt, I’m getting home. I’m free.

    About a week passed and I had gone through six of rolls, I was down to eight now. I was just about as cramped as I was going to get but I’d been standing up for about a minute at night when I thought it was quiet. The blankets helped me a lot, I would freeze to death in the crate if I didn’t have them. One night it was particularly quiet and I had an idea, I was debating whether to do it or not when I heard the crew singing. Perfect! I opened the crate and climbed out, cautiously and slowly. I picked it up with utmost care as to not make the bread roll and thud against the edges. I walked as silently as I could and put it down in the darkest, furthest part of the ship and sat with my back against the crate. It felt good to be able to have my legs stretched out after having my knees at my face for so long. I heard the clink of glasses being toasted, I think I more afraid of them getting drunk than them coming in here. I found myself lying down, arms and legs outstretched. I felt my eyes drooping and I knew I was falling asleep but I was too comfortable to do anything about it. My eye’s got lower and lower and lower and lower and lower and lower………

    “Malkia! Ya still on me propery! Yer dats righ, me propery. I’m gonna get cha for it, gonna get cha for not coming wif me. Come on don’t be shy…. HAHAHA!” Oh, him again? I’ll show him who’s going to pay! “Oh really, you think you can just come onto this boat and ‘get’ me? I don’t think so! I am not backing down from a puff of smoke! No wait, smoke is black. You’re nothing but a wisp of steam! What can you do to me?!” I was all fired up, ready to fight, to do whatever it takes to get him to leave me alone. I don’t care that the crew will hear, let them hear. In fact let them fight, I’ll take on the lot of them! “Malkia, I’m impressed. You are truly free. You will be home soon enough, just believe you can.” That voice sounded so familiar and his answer really took me away. The ghost monster started to fade “Wait, don’t go! Who are you? Please just wait.” I called but I didn’t expect anything in return, instead the figure came back but in his true form. “Adjatay! Oh, I’ve missed you!” I started to cry and I ran to hug him. “I don’t ever want to leave Zaire ever again, never, never, never!” I buried my head into his shoulder and just wept with joy but he started to fade. “No, don’t go. Stay with me, please!” He was fading my arms. “Don’t worry Malkia, I will be with you soon…”

    I was startled by the sound of glass smashing and sat up. I found myself in the same position as I fell asleep but by now it was even later and I was shivering. I heard them shouting and singing and couldn’t help but laugh but I stilled hoped at least one of them is and stays sober. I was pretty sure they wouldn’t come back here and even if they did they’d be to drunk to notice me. I got up and pushed the box slightly forward, just enough for me to fit behind and grabbed one of the blankets and laid it in the space, got the other blanket, closed the lid on the crate, got into the space and got cozy. Once I was comfortable I fell asleep, snug and happy.

    Waves began pounding at the side of the boat and in my ear. I opened my eyes and turned to face the walls of the boat. They were pretty big waves and they were crashing at the walls. It was almost deafening. I struggled up and got back inside the crate. I looked through the hole but I didn’t believe what I saw. “Ze, ze, zer is! Ju, coom quikly! Uray!” How come I didn’t see him? He was standing right there. I ate a bread roll and waited for my punishment. The other zooh zooh’s came in and stood besides the zooh zooh that saw me. “Vell, vat iz it. All I zee iz a box vor lezer.” I squeezed my eyes shut in preparation for the blow. Here it comes. “Ze, zer iz a slav on zi ship. In ze box. A blauk slav. In zee box!” One of the other men leaned forward and opened started to lift the crate. I couldn’t believe I was doing this but oh well. I pushed the crate lid up and stood. “Look, OK yes I’m here but please don’t hurt me. Please don’t send me back to America. Please, do you know what they make us do, how they make us live? Please just because were black doesn’t mean we’re not human. I don’t treat you like an bug because you’re white.” I know it wouldn’t matter what I said they still wouldn’t listen to me. “Ver did you coom frum?” This was the zooh zooh that found me. “Well, I got in the crate and put on the boat from America but if you’re talking about Africa, Zaire.” I said. “Vell, vell, vell. I vemember voo. Viv zat boy on zee beech, no?” He replied. “Yes, that was me. I’m Malkia. Please, you’re not going to put me back to work in America are you?” I looked straight at him, trying to read his expression, and waited for a reply. “Very vell, ve vill zend voo bauk to Zaire on von condition. You be our slav until vee get zere, zats anazore vive weeks!” All of the zooh zooh’s laughed. “OK, whatever it takes. As long as you don’t ever come back to Zaire.” I wondered whether they would accept or not but I know that they were stunned by answer. “Doon! Zo it iz zeteled.” I’d done it, I just won my freedom.

    They didn’t treat me nearly as bad as William and Annabel did and they were actually quite nice and really funny. They only made me do jobs when they couldn’t be bothered but most of the time they would just show me how to do stuff around the ship. They even fed me the food they had. I also learnt that the man who found me originally was Gianni, the one who tried to open the crate was Gianfranco, and the others were Nick, Vintorino, Paulo, Roberto and Bruno. I actually became really good friends with them and saying goodbye was going to be really hard but not going back would be harder. I couldn’t wait to be back home again.

    The day was here and I could see the coast of Zaire drawing closer. I was ecstatic, running around the boat I must have looked like a maniac. I know I said this was a death ship but it was now my life ship, it had brought me back to life. Made me happy again. I was almost home, I could practically hear Nadira and I could already taste ye yo’s cooking! The boat lurched as we hit the shore and I went to every one of them saying goodbye. “Come on, you can meet my village, pretty please. I’ll make you all thalassa necklaces and ye yo will cook for you, come on.” I wasn’t going to leave with out them coming to meet my family, they were my friends. When they finally agreed I jumped off the boat and swam until I could stand then started running, I ran all the way to the village with the crew following. “YE YO!!!!” I ran straight into her and simply hugged her. “Oh, I missed you! I’ll never let anyone take you away ever again.” I couldn’t even begin to start telling them how much I missed them. “I missed you too, I missed you so much! NADIRA!!! Hey!” I ran over to Nadira and hugged her like I hugged ye yo. I got through the whole village but I hadn’t seen Adjatay anywhere. Oh well I’d look for him later. I walked over to the zooh zooh’s. “I haven’t forgot about you. Everyone I’d like you to meet my friends the zooh zooh’s, I wouldn’t of gotten back without them. This is Gianfranco, Bruno, Gianni, Vintorino, Roberto and Paulo.” They met the village and I went off to get some thalassa shells from my stand. “Adjatay!” He was sitting at my stand and I ran to him. “Adjatay I missed you, you won’t believe what happened!” He got up and I clung to him. “Malkia. Oh, I cannot believe you’re here. I thought you were lost forever.” “Me too.”

    “Don’t you just love they colours the sky makes this time of day? We have ye yo’s cooking, laying in the middle of the village surrounded by friends and watching the sun go down over the sea. What could be better?” Adjatay moved his hand over mine and clasped it. “It’s absolutely perfect.”