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gracecroken

United States

You can't breathe - so you write

Message from Writer

For me, writing is my lifeline. Without it, I'm not sure how I would function. It's my way of dealing with my pain, and immortalizing my happiness. It's my way of expressing the many parts of me, and all that I want to be.
Poetry and short story are my go to, but I also have written a completed novel and am currently working on a second. :)
Thanks for reading, commenting and reviewing any of my pieces. I really do appreciate it!
Much love and happy writing - g

Me Ionwo

April 20, 2016

  I was born in Ghana during a drought. The luminous sun beat down onto the earth, baking all of us to a crisp. For an extremely long time, we were never visited by rain, which made the world around us dry, barren and infertile. Our harvest failed, leaving our produce wilted, straw-like and dead. The huge river that used to flow through the village is gone now too. It dried up, leaving nothing behind, not even a trickle of water.
   I was one of the very few infant children who survived this first year. Because of this, my Mother named me Monifa, which means “I am lucky”.
    The village took a long time to recover - almost ten years before we had a successful harvest. But when it happened, we were all so happy. At last, we could stop the borrowing from the nearby tribe, the Akanni. All my life we had to barter for the basic necessities our village needed to survive: drinkable water, seeds, livestock, tools, but now we could sustain ourselves once more! Well, that was the idea anyway. I suppose we should have known it wasn't going to be that easy. My village became so in debt to the other tribe; there was so much we had to pay back. My chief promised that in time we would repay the Akanni for their generosity, but our neighbors weren't so keen on this idea. They wanted their payment. Immediately.
   For over a year the two tribes shed each other's blood, but in the end the Akanni were victorious. They slaughtered our best warrior's, dismembering their bodies, scattering their severed limbs around our village. They kidnapped and tortured our chief, splattering his noble blood across the earth. They raided us, taking our produce, livestock, and everything we held dear. Once again our village went into despair, but at the very least this time we had soft dirt and water to rebuild with. But we lived with our tails between our legs. We knew the other tribe wasn't content yet, and we all knew that one day they would strike again for revenge.
   It has since been almost two years, and I have grown into a strong woman of nineteen. My home has somewhat returned to normal. Tonight we sit in the center of the village, all surrounding a large fire. Men prepare our dinner, while the women sing and tell stories. Little girls dance together and the boys wrestle and play. I sit on the earth next to my elderly Mother who smiles, the fire dancing in her eyes.
    She turns towards me, and over the voices of the others she says, “Monifa, my lucky girl, I would like you to have this.” She hold out to me a small, gold pin, “It will keep you safe, and enhance your luck.” I smile, and graciously take it from my Mother's dark, wrinkled hand and quickly push the pin through the flesh of my ear. Blood drips down and it stings, but the pain I feel is nothing compared to the great pride that surges throughout my body. It is a great honor to be bestowed gifts such as this.
   The air is still and a warm smile grows across my face. Then suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, a loud pop echoed throughout the village, and everything falls quite. Perplexed, we all stare out into the darkness that surrounds our home, squinting at the faint figures that slowly creep towards us. Another pop echos,this time causing a young girl to fly onto her back and blood to purge from her chest. We all let out a gasp. Suddenly people all around me are screaming, running and all hell breaks loose. My heart feels like a war drum and my mind and body is restrained. The only thing I can do is watch the shadowy figures enter the village. Strange wooden barrels rest on their shoulders; each time they touch it, another person seems to fall dead. The Akanni tribe, they came back for their revenge. Magic barrels raise high in the air, and nets fly everywhere. Before I can move, before I can even blink, before I can convince myself that this is all a nightmare, a net is thrown over me and mother. I feel like I am underwater, everything delayed and in slow motion… My feet are pulled out from under me and my body is dragged across the earth. Mother is right next to me, and she is screaming and fighting and I am too, but I know deep down that it is useless. They caught us. There's nothing left to do.
    One of our captures screams at us to stop yelling for help. When we don't, he butts us in the head with his barrel. For a moment my vision goes blurry, and all I can see is the outline of my village, that had endured and overcome so much, burning in the distance. Then, all at once, everything goes red.
   I thought that I had died. Quite honestly, I wish I had. For when I awake once more, I find myself lying on the stone floor surrounded by people who look like me but I have never seen before. I look beside me and see my mother who lays on the ground. She looks much frailer than usual and dried blood sticks to her dark skin. I see her eyes flicker, and her chest moves and in this way I  know she is alive. I hurry to pick her up, and help her stand.
   Not long afterwards, a large group of us are rounded up and herded out of the stone palace that we waited in by men I have never seen before. White men, whose skin looks like the color of a cloud, who point the same barrel the members of our enemy Akanni tribe pointed at us yesterday, force us up a ramp and onto a big vessel. Their is no opportunity for resistance, for the white men have shackled our feet and arms together. Once we are on the boat, they line us up and force us to wait patiently while they ready the boat for setting sail. If anyone made a noise, the men would hit them.
   As I stand, waiting, I search the crowd of prisoners for people I might know. Though I see not a familiar face besides my Mother's. In a way, all the faces look alike to me; bruised skin, blood-caked hair, sad, tired eyes with tear streaks running down brown cheeks.
   Soon enough the boat begins to sail away from the land, the only place I had ever called my home, my beloved Ghana. In the back of my mind, I wonder if I will ever see it again…
   Quickly the men get to work; stripping each one of us of our clothes and forcing us to stand nude waiting for our turn. I fear that they will take the gold pin Mother gave me, the last relic from my home, but as of now they haven't touched it, and I hope it stays that way. The cold, salty wind whips across our backs and burns our bare skin. When our turn finally comes around, we are pushed down a line, splashed violently with freezing water, repeatedly, until the dirt and blood runs off our skin. One man tries to resist; fighting, yelling at the white men, begging them to stop and asking them why they were doing what they were, but the white men did not answer in words. Their barrell answered for them. The resisting man, the one, brave soul who tried for all of us, our martyr, fell backwards, his skull crashing against the wooden ground. By this time people all around me are screaming. Each voice a different language or dialect I do not understand. But the fear in their screams and the confusion in their eyes is something anyone of any language could see, and yet the white men did not care. They shackled us once more, and violently pushed us down into the bottom of the ship. Mother grabbed hold of my hand and didn't let go as we descended into the darkness below deck. The men gestured towards us to lay down very close to each other and we did what we were told. They chained us to the walls and ceiling and floor of the boat. I couldn't move at all, and something hard and sharp is pressing into my knee. Tears began to sting my brown eyes.
   It is impossible to tell how many days have gone by. I haven't seen the sun or the moon since the day we were all chained beneath the ship. I sleep very little, but all Mother does is sleep. People around us scream constantly, or cry constantly. They have conversations with themselves, sing songs to themselves. Some try to talk to others, but the language barrier makes this very difficult.
   The air surrounding me is almost poisonous. It smells of feces and perspiration and whatever else is down here. Just the foul air alone makes my eyes water and my nose sting.
   It took a very long time for the men to finally bring us food. My stomach gurgled like a pot of boiling water - I had not eaten since the night I was first taken captive. When the sailors came down into the darkness where we all lay, they carried pails of...slop. It looked like something we would feed our pigs back home.
    People stick their hands out, desperately trying to grab food from the pail. Not everyone got some...the white man would flick their tongues, and that sound would decide whether you got food or not. If you were lucky enough to get food, you had to be careful. People would try to steal it from you; grab it out of your hand, wipe it off your body if you dropped some, among other things. They were ruthless. 
    When the men with the food finally come to my area, we all stuck our our palms to them. Mother put out her wrinkled old hand, begging for the slop, but the white men gave her one look, and moved on. It broke my heart. She was so weak, Mother needed food. I, on the other hand, was spooned some food into my plam. Right away, I gave a portion of mine to Mother. While my stomach roars in pain and hunger, I realize she needs it more than me. I can hold out for another few days...
    More and more time passed, and finally the white men decide to unchain us from our spots and let us up onto the deck. I could feel the ship gently rock beneath my feet, so I knew we had not reached our destination yet. This made me nervous...what were they going to do with us? Why were they letting us out?
   As I exit the putrid abyss in which I lay, I'm momentarily blinded. The light from the sun is too much for my eyes to handle, but the warmth it produced felt good on my bare back. I swallowed the air in big gulps, filling my lungs with the salty sea oxygen. This moment only lasts a second before we were yelled at to line back up. I grab Mother's hand and begin to guide her to our spot in line, but a white man stop us. He grab hold of our hands, and harshly untangles Mothers bony fingers from mine.
   I begin to yell, “That is my Mother! What are you doing to her! Let her be! That is my Mother!”
   As she is led away, Mother begins to yell back in her crackly, old voice, “Stay quiet child. I will be alright.” 
   Screaming and crying, I slump over onto the deck as I watch my mother get chained to a line of other older people. Sharp pain stings my body as a white man cracks his whip against me. He pulls me up from my bleeding knees and forcefully drags me back over to the line with the rest of the prisoners. Still sobbing, I watch at they attach a bag of rocks to the end of the chain of people that Mother is tied to. And I now realize what they are going to do…
“Oh Mother,” I say through wails and tears, “do not be afraid. Beneath the waves are beautiful things I will never see, but you will have the privilege of seeing.”
   The white man throws the anchor off of the side of the boat. The victims begin to fall, and slip towards the ocean…
   “You will learn to swim Mother!” I sob, “Me Ionwo! Me Ionwo! I love you!”
   Mother yells back to me, as she slides across the deck, “Monifa, my lucky girl, I am not afraid. You must not be either. Me Ionwo! I love you.”
   She slides off of the boat, and into the water below with a splash that echoes through the air.
   The white men push us back down into the cabin the deck, and chain us back in our spots.
    There is more room next to me now, but the space feels like an empty void. A black hole that's pulling my soul out of me. I am missing my mother, my best friend. My eyes still sting with tears and loud sobs escaped my throat. My dry hand reaches up to my ear and I grab at the gold pin in my earlobe. I feel my Mother's spirit rest within it...
   Everything becomes a blur. Time seems to go by quicker and quicker, but I have no idea how many days have passed. I need this torture to end, I need to get to the end of this journey.
   And we do. Eventually, that is.
   Once again the white men open the doors to the above deck and unchain us. I stand up, shaky on my legs,, this time I do not feel the boat moving beneath my feet. They line us up once more, and as they do, I stare emotionless out onto the new land in front of me. A large flag with stripes and stars flaps in the wind. It is attached to a wooden stick that pokes upward out of a large stone hut. The land in front of me is crowded by people with ivory skin, all yelling the same language as the white men on the ship.
  Forcefully, the white men shackle us and pull us by our chains, leading us like dogs off of the boat. I tremble with fear, but Mother's voice still rings in my ear, “Monifa, my lucky girl, I am not afraid. You must not be either.” I can also still feel her pin that sits in my skin, so i know she will always be with me.
   I take in a deep breath, and i think of my brave Mother, “Me Ionwo” I step off of the boat, “I love you.”

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