Just Another Dark Figure Against The Light
by Anisha Basu Choudhury
The evening’s silence was broken by the sound of hooves of horses- horses that were galloping at full speed towards us. The sound itself was like a thunderstorm, ready to raid our village. It took a few minutes for everyone to understand what was going on. As soon as they did, the children took shelter; so no one would find them, the mothers put out the candles, and a pitch darkness set over the village. The men locked their doors and inside, armed themselves with an axe. Within minutes the entire village went as dark a moonless night and so silent that if a jackal pup cried for his mother, his voice echoed right back at him. A shier went down my spine as my eyes adjusted to the darkness.
I sat on a branch of a tree as motionless as I possibly could. I hadn't felt so vulnerable in the entire eleven years of my life. I was stranded. I couldn’t possible escape now! But I couldn’t give up either. The riders pulled on the reins to command their horses to stop, and they jolted to a sudden stop. They were just black figures, but it wasn’t until they spoke that it all made sense. Piece by piece it all added up.“Oh come on out now. There is no point in hiding inside those small thatched muddy things you call ‘home’! it is not going to save you, as those will be the first things that we set on fire. **
‘The Toubab’- The slave hunters. Till today they were nothing but a myth. As I thought about the stories grandma Kaisa would tell us when we were kids. I remember clutching on to the hope that something like that would never happen to us. However, now as my hopes shattered so did something else. Something hit the floor and broke into pieces. My honey jar!! One of the men with skin as white as milk and blonde hair rode right towards the tree. He stood directly beneath me.’Not a sound’ I said to myself as I held my breath and shut my eyes. And then it happened. They started breaking into the houses and one by one took out the men and the children and shoved them into one part of the dry land as they dragged the women by their hair to the other side. The voices were worse than the sights.
One by one, the men torched the houses and waited for them to burn to ashes. The ones who could not travel and were a liability, were left for the fire to engulf. The Toubab men shouted and laughed as they rejoiced. Within all the chaos, I saw what I would trade for anything to be removed from my memory. My mother screamed and howled as her infant of only 3 days was burnt alive. My father took a blow to his head and he lay nearby, unconscious.
The men left after hours. They left behind piles of ashes, dead bodies and women who eventually bled to death after
hours of brutality caused upon them. As the toubab left, they carried along with them about fifty children and twenty men.
It was hours, before I climbed down the tree and among those bloodied mingled bodies I found a familiar face - My mother. She lay there in a pool of blood all around her, her eyes starring at the blank sky. Every possible soul known to me was either dead or shipped off to the country of the huge lady holding books in one hand and a torch, up high in another. None lived to to help me bury the bodies. But before I could put mud on all of them, the jackals started hoovering over a few of the former villagers. **
That night I had survived the siege of the Toubab’s. I barely managed to stay alive, and today after ten straight years I live to see myself shoved in a corner of a stinking barn. Mr. Lockwood, who now owns me says that I should find enough satisfaction in staying in there. Well, if it didn’t satisfy me it wasn’t like I could complain. I was captured when I was fifteen, and shipped off to America. Mr. lockwood bought me with a dollar and fifty cents and since then, I serve him. From doing all his odd jobs to serving him food three times a day, iron his clothes, keep the house tip top etc. I never complained. But I hated it the most when he called me names. Putting the dog collar around my neck wasn’t enough for him, it seemed.
My master was a father of two. He had a daughter of seven and a son of ten. His wife had died giving birth to his daughter. The midwives who came from the surrounding village were sentenced to die after they delivered Clarise and gave news of Mrs. Lockwood's death. Over the years if Jon has taunted Clarise for being nice to me, he has called me names to show me my place in this house. Clarise is a gentlewoman. She is anything but influenced by her environment and its doings.
Though she is only seven years of age, she understands her surroundings more than her elder brother. She is the only soul in this entire house who never looked down upon me, never speaks to me at a higher pitch than she does to her father. In this cruel world she is the only definition of respect that I have stumbled upon. On days when Mr. Lockwood decides on lashing my back at every wrong step I take while doing my job, and starve me for the entire day, Clarise, on those nights saves her dinner for me.
Then years back, on the night of the siege, as I saw the massacre I felt something I generally wouldn’t. I felt like murdering the entire population of white- man, woman, children, unbiased. But now I may have a slight change in plans. I just may be willing to wipe out the entire white race, except just one tiny soul. ***