DARING TO DREAM by Claudia Lord - Lynch

Saysay
Chapter One
Tears of bitterness and fury streamed uncontrollably from Saysay’s eyes. Her dainty frame convulsed violently as she desperately tried to hold back her sorrow; her anger. Refusing to cry was often the only weapon of defiance with which a slave could metaphorically speaking punish and antagonise their master but today she could restrain her tears no longer. The slaves were not permitted to close their eyes during whipping ceremonies but were compelled to watch the brutality. They were all too aware of the penalty for refusing to look. Saysay had been subjected to enough arbitrary whipping already and wasn’t sure that she could endure anymore without retaliating. 
The sticky air was filled with fear and melancholy. The spirit of the slaves had long been crushed since this wasn’t the first time they had witnessed such a barbaric display and no doubt wouldn’t be the last. The question which plagued Saysay’s mind, amongst others was how long would this injustice last? How long would a God whom she had been taught to believe in, seemingly sit by and allow such cruelty to continue? She’d been a slave all her young life but possessed a dangerous spirit of belligerence. She yearned to be free and harboured dreams of emancipation and enacting revenge upon her oppressors but would these dreams ever materialise? Unbeknown to Saysay her desire for liberation was nothing new. It had been the ambition and hope of countless slaves centuries before, most of whom died without their aspirations ever being realised.
Here on another swelteringly hot Saturday morning, the slaves were compelled to stand in the courtyard and witness the merciless beating of Isabella. Isabella was a compliant, obedient slave who was dutiful and didn’t question her station in life, yet here she was being made an example of for something so trivial that one had to assume that the Master was imposing this punishment merely for his amusement.
“No more please,” begged Isabella after the sixth brutal whip. “Me won’t eat the stale bread no more, me promise?” she pleaded.
“You’ll learn one way or another,” explained the Master laughing heartily. “That stealing is a sin.” He shouted for emphasis. “You’ve been taught this commandment each Sunday. When will you learn? Stinking thieves!” he spat.
The slaves stood immobilised by the cruelty. Fists clenched tightly and hearts racing frantically. Yet in Saysay’s mind, this was not an example of the God of mercy she would hear about tomorrow; the God who forgave sinners. It was this hypocrisy made her to resist the teachings she heard every Sunday. How could these people who allegedly follow a God of love be so evil and yet expect their slaves to love and serve them faithfully? 
The brutal whipping finally came to an end and poor Isabella, riddled with lashes passed out and collapsed to the ground. The slaves were not permitted to go to her aid until the Master had left his chair. He looked scornfully at Isabella and the rest of the slaves before abruptly leaving his chair.
The nearby sea gulls were too distressed to sing and displayed their displeasure at one man’s inhumanity towards another. The intensive air became stagnant without the refreshing breeze to offer any respite.
Some of the older slaves nursed Isabella’s eye watering wounds as best as they could. Poor Isabella’s winced as each damp cloth was placed on her back to nurse and soothe her inflated gashes. Her face grimacing with pain. Despite the meticulous care received, poor Isabella was unable to stand for a few days much less work as she was so weak from the beating and loss of blood. Not that this mattered to her Master, who demanded that she return to duty as soon as possible and with the same vigour as before. There was no regard for the wounds inflicted and their obvious consequences. Yet Isabella’s positive attitude and humility remained and she was as subservient as before. Not seemingly harbouring any malice towards her malevolent Master. 
Saysay and Isabella were as close as slaves could become. There was always the risk that one would be sold and given that Saysay and Isabella were amongst some of the younger slaves on the plantation being only fourteen years, there was always that possibility, so the slaves naturally felt some trepidation in becoming emotionally attached to one another. This was especially true of mothers. They knew that their primary duty was to breed new property for their master, so they had to safeguard their hearts by not becoming too emotionally attached to their offspring, realising that at any time either they or their offspring could be sold to another plantation never to be seen again. 
Saysay knew about this first hand because she had no recollection of her mother whatsoever, who’d been sold shortly after her birth. Mama Mumda, the oldest slave on the plantation became a surrogate mother to her and shared many precious stories with Saysay about her mother, enabling her to create an idyllic fantasy about how wonderful her mother was and what it might have been like if she’d had a normal family life, like her Master’s spoilt daughter, Elva. Saysay despised Elva, not because her parents indulged her or because she was free but because she deliberately taunted and abused the slaves, in much the same way as her monstrous father. Saysay knew it was a sin to hold contempt for anyone, according to what she’d been taught in church but she couldn’t help but detest the pair of them. The Master’s wife was more tolerable, albeit relatively powerless from what she could deduce. The Mistress would often sit by subordinately, not saying anything about her husband’s brutality and was therefore viewed with disdain and indifference. What’s the point of existing, if you’re going to be so spineless pondered Sayay?
“You mustn’t get ideas above you station,” advised Isabella. “What you can do? You only a slave. You can’t go nowhere.”
“I go find a way,” continued Saysay defiantly. “I wasn’t born for this hardship?”
“What you t’ink you was born for?” queried Isabella.
“Me don’t know. I just know that cleaning the Massa’s house and serving the food in the big house is not for me.”
Isabella couldn’t conceal the feeling of terror she held for her beloved friend and this made her shudder. Numerous slaves on the plantation had tried to persuade Saysay to abandon her rebellious thoughts and warned her of the dangers of her ideas but she simply wouldn’t take heed. If she gave up hope, she may as well be dead.
The dry season had now passed and was replaced by the incessant rain of the wet season. There was no doubt that the relentless winds and rain of the hurricane season had returned and the slaves were terrified. They knew that this treacherous weather would not exempt them from their duties and would certainly endanger their lives. Saysay recalled how the gale force winds had caused loose pieces of timber to fly across the plantation, striking Freddie on the head causing him to fall unconscious and he remained so for several days before a poignant smelly herb was placed under his nose and revived him. It was a relief to all because some of the slaves believed that he would die and began making funeral arrangements for him. 
The Master was frantic that another hurricane could decimate his crops. Two years ago, Hurricane Monty had obliterated his crops and he had to sell numerous slaves since he couldn’t afford to feed them. That was a time of much distress and weeping amongst the slaves. The Master had been callous as usual and showed no understanding or compassion. He had separated mother from child, brother from sister and was as ruthless in deciding which slaves to sell as he was in his treatment of them on the plantation.
As long as the winds didn’t turn deadly, the rain was a welcome respite for the plantation slaves as it served to cool them down and offer some relief from the sweltering Caribbean heat. The Master still expected the same output nonetheless, so their productivity levels didn’t diminish.
“Me feel really weary today,” commented Freddy. “Me work really hard.”
“You say that every day,” grunted his stern looking Sister Lizzie.
“Truly,” replied Freddie. “It’s a shame that Massa wasn’t there to see me.”
“Massa?” asked Lizzie mockingly. “You t’ink he’s going to come out in the rain to watch you?”
“No but he don’t know how hard we does work.” replied Freddie.
“He don’t care about us, Freddie. You must know that. All he care about is his damn crops.”
“Time to finish now!” announced the overseer. “It’s getting too dark to see anymore.”
Overseer Maximus was no angel but certainly more amenable than the Master. He appreciated that some conditions made it impossible for the slaves to work in, whilst the Master didn’t appreciate that concept at all. 
Early the following morning, Saysay was busy clearing the weeds from the front garden of the big house when she was approached by an anxious looking Mama Mumda. 
“Saysay,” whispered Mama Mumda emphatically. 
“What happen?” asked Saysay curiously. 
“Carmel is pregnant and she say that Ted is the father!”
“What?” answered Saysay in an ever increasing tone of voice and doing nothing to disguise her surprise. “Ted? Me didn’t know that they was together. When did the Massa allow that?”
“Nobody knew that they was together and the trouble is that according to Ted the chil’ not his.” Explained Mama Mumda. 
“How you mean?” asked Saysay.
“Well, it’s only Carmel who saying that Ted is the father but he say it ain’t true.”
“Well if it’s not Ted’s who else can be the father?” asked a beady eyed Saysay.
“Me don’t know. I don’t know if the Massa know about this yet but when he find out, me pity her.”
Saysay fell silent. She feared for Carmel as female slaves were not permitted to mate without the express permission of the Master. This revelation of Carmel and Ted being in a relationship had certainly come as a surprise. Saysay hadn’t noticed any attraction between them at all and Ted’s denial seem to corroborate Saysay’s theory that there really wasn’t any relationship between them. The problem was that if Ted wasn’t the father, then who was?
Chapter Two
The scarlet sun was slowly beginning to set as the weary, disenfranchised slaves staggered lifelessly towards their derelict, wooden huts to replenish their exhausted bodies, before gathering again outside for their entertainment. The sounds of the crickets could be heard in the stillness of the dusk and the light emanating from the fireflies was now visible. Tomorrow was Sunday, so they would all have the entire day off but for church attendance which was compulsory. As much as Saysay didn’t relish the prospect of this or listening to the hypocrisy which she endured on a weekly basis, it was certainly better than slaving away in the big house or in its gardens.
After eating a meagre morsel of rice and offal, Saysay went to sit outside of the hut she shared with her uncle and cousin. She tried to fix her hair and look presentable although, she really wasn’t sure why. She wasn’t attracted to anyone but she still desired to look attractive. Perhaps, it was just part of being a female. She sat silently on the rotten wooden steps observing the other slaves who were venturing out excitedly.
Isabella who lived in the neighbouring hut, approached Saysay with a warm smile and sat quietly next to Saysay. Their friendship was such that at times no words were necessary. They had a deep understanding. Perhaps it was borne out of their mutual suffering but they definitely had a kindred spirit.
“How you feeling?” asked Saysay compassionately.
“Not too bad now but me back still sore. Mama Mumda say it go take some time to heal properly.”
“Damn brute,” retorted Saysay audibly. She didn’t mean for Isabella to hear that but couldn’t contain her feelings.
“Remember what the preacher does tell us in church. We must forgive our earthly massas if we want to make Heaven our home.”
“Huh, he would say that because they want to continue ill treating us. I hate them all.” spat Saysay contemptuously.
Isabella didn’t say anything. She’d heard Saysay make these comments so many times and despite efforts to thwart these rebellious exclamations, there was no calming Saysay. 
“You notice the new slave Massa bought?” asked Isabella changing the subject, her eyes glistening in the moonlight.
“Oh you mean the mulatto boy from Mount Man Estate?” asked Saysay looking quizzically at Isabella.
“Of course,” smiled Isabella. “You playing you don’t notice him?” she teased Saysay.
“Well as you know, it don’t make no sense you taking a shine to anyone because if Massa put you with someone else or sell you, you no go see him again.”
Isabella’s smile vanished. Even her momentary attempt to forget her plight and delude herself into believing that she lived a normal life in which she could fall in love and marry the man of her dreams was futile. Life could be so cruel.
The music had started. Firstly the drummers began, followed by the flute players and then the make shift musicians began using wooden sticks and playing rhythmically on discarded, dented tins. The musicians tried to play as quietly as they could because they knew that it was dangerous for the Master to hear the drumming. The plantation owners perceived drumming as a threat since they knew that the slaves used the drums as a means of communication but Saysay could see no sense in this threat as there really wasn’t anywhere that the slaves could escape to. The last time one of the slaves attempted to escape, his feet were brutally amputated. She remembered the Master laughing as he warned all the slaves that they had all better think long and hard before entertaining such wicked and ungrateful notions in the future. Saysay reflected back to that horrendous day. It was the overseer had been ordered to inflict this heinous torture upon the would be escapee. He was whipped repeatedly before the crude, blunt instrument was used to hack off his feet.
Saysay winced as she remembered Henry’s pitiful and hideous screams. The gushing blood which came flooding out as his feet were aggressively hacked off. One of the slaves passed out. She simply couldn’t bear it and days after the incident, the dogs began licking his wounds once the blood had dried. Poor Henry, he never recovered emotionally or psychologically from that and his will to live eventually died altogether. 
“Why you mind so far?” quizzed Saysay’s cousin, Alfreda. 
Saysay shrugged her shoulders. She didn’t wish to share her private thoughts with anyone this evening. She’d only be criticised for harbouring such depressing memories.
“Come and dance nah,” invited Alfreda. 
With Alfreda’s warm invitation, Saysay couldn’t resist and got up and joined the others who were having a raucous time. The volume level became louder and the dancing became more vigorous with the slaves almost forgetting about their deprivation and hardship. Isabella was ecstatic as she was seen dancing with the new mulatto boy. They danced together over and over again and Mama Mumda commented on how smitten they appeared to be with each other.
“Yes but there’s no future in it,” remarked Alfreda.
“You just jealous because it not you,” retaliated Mama Mumda. “You can see that they like each other.”
“Of course but if Massa sell Isabella or the boy, what go happen?” 
“That’s the problem!” answered Juper although no one was talking to her in particular. “Leave them be and let them enjoy they self. Life already hard for we, let them enjoy theyself even if it’s only for tonight.”
As Juper continued to reprimand Alfreda, there in the dark was a solitary figure carrying an oil lamp. His distinctive gait was unmistakeable and his limp convinced Mama Mumda that it was indeed the person she thought it was. She froze but it was too late to alert the merrymakers. Despite his limp, he was upon the slaves before they knew it and his stern expression made it abundantly clear that he did not approve of their activity.
“What’s going on here?” he demanded.
“Overseer, we sorry but we was just trying to to...” Peter had no plausible explanation, so his voice trailed off in silence.
The overseer wasn’t amused as was clear from his harsh expression. “Stop this racket immediately and go to your quarters. You all know that such activities are forbidden, especially the drumming. If I report this to the Master, you’ll all be whipped. I’m not going to jeopardise my position for any of you.” he spat.
The slaves began frantically rushing around before dispersing and retiring to their respective quarters for fear of any further reprisals. The joviality had come to an abrupt end and Saysay’s uncle and cousin were especially irritated by the interference.
“It’s the only damn time all week that we free from work and try to enjoy we self and even that we can’t do.”
“These people ‘ave no heart,” commented Saysay. “At least not the heart of compassion they preach to us about. They just want to work us as mules and when we too old to work, they go kill us, just like they did to Ellis.”
“Chil’ where you get that from? Nobody kill Ellis. Him just get too old to work and drop dead. Besides what you know? You just a babe at fourteen years.” replied Uncle.
“You can believe what you want but me know different.” answered an indignant Saysay.
“Those stories go get you into trouble. Ellis was an old man. No one kill him.” insisted Uncle clearly exasperated by Saysay’s conspiracy theory. 
Saysay decided to say nothing more. She didn’t have the strength to get into an altercation with her Uncle. He was a headstrong man too. Unfortunately, not so much where it was necessary. She wished he could see their superiors for the evil, callous individuals that they were. It seemed that only she was aware of what was going on. The other slaves were either oblivious to their Master’s cruelty or they perhaps had decided that since they were powerless to do anything, it was safer to accept the status quo. But try as she did, Saysay found that every fibre in her body resisted her situation in life. 
Saysay awoke to the soothing sound of birds singing and the crokey sound of her uncle shouting, “Church today. Get up Saysay.”
She was immediately brought back to reality. She’s just been enjoying a dream in which she was free and lived on a huge plantation, where she was the mistress, rather than a slave. In her dream, she was married to a kindly plantation owner, who adored her and treated her like a queen.
“Chil’ get up and get ready,” shouted Uncle. “Every week, I have to tell you to get up. What wrong with you?”
“I tired,” lied Saysay. “Don’t t’ink I can go today?”
“Well if you don’t go, Massa go send for you to work in the big house. You ready for that?” reminded Uncle as if he had suspected that Saysay was using this ploy to avoid going to church.
Saysay released a deep sign and as she did, rain could be heard outside growing heavier and heavier.

“We go get soaked by the time we reach church.” pleaded Saysay hoping that Uncle would see the rain as a legitimate reason to stay away from church. 
“Yes but we still ‘ave to go even if the rain really heavy. You know that already.” explained Uncle.
Saysay had expected that response even though she hoped it might be different. 
Much as Saysay hated going to church, she resented working in the big house even more and today at least, she had the comfort of dwelling on your dream, so she could mentally switch off and fantasise without anyone having a clue as to why she appeared so contended. They would obviously assume that it was the message in church but oh how wrong they would be. Let them believe what they want. No one needed to know the inner workings of her mind. 
The usual songs were sung and then the preacher gave his sermon but Saysay didn’t have clue what it was about. She’d been there in body only but her spirit had transported into her imaginary world where everything was perfect. The danger she feared would be in coming back to reality tomorrow morning when she returned to the big house for another gruelling week of work, ill treatment and hostility. 
“You look happy today!” commented Uncle. “You enjoy church today?”
Saysay just smiled and decided to humour her uncle. She needed these diversions in order to make life more tolerable. She spent the rest of the afternoon with Isabella and Mama Mumda who regaled them with tales of their ancestors. Mama Mumda told the young girls that their grandmothers had lived in a far way land, before being brought to Grenada. The faraway land was called Africa and she told Saysay that her grandmother told her that she lived with her parents and siblings and how happy she was before she was forcibly captured after being lured and deceived by a young friend. That horrendous experience caused Saysay’s grandmother to be untrusting of anyone ever again. Despite, the obvious sadness in the story, Saysay and Isabella found some comfort in knowing that their ancestors had meaningful lives before slavery. They realised that their ancestors had a rich history of family unity, love and purpose. It was nonetheless disconcerting to learn that their betrayal had been at the hands of their own people.
“The white slave owners would never have been able to capture our forefathers without the betrayal of neighbouring tribes. You see what envy and malice can do?” trailed off Mama Mumda. She always ended her stories about the enslavement of Africans with that phrase. It was a pivotal point because even amongst the slaves, Saysay had witnessed an envious spirit amongst some of them. Those who worked in the big house considered themselves superior to the field workers. Saysay was viewed differently because she associated more with the field slaves and was criticised by those in the big house.
“Why do you want to spend time with those dirty, smelly, dark slaves?” fair skinned Liz would ask her.
“Well dark or fair, we all slaves.” replied Saysay agitatedly. “You t’ink you better than them because you working in the big house? You t’ink the Massa see you as better than the field slaves?” 
Liz just gave Saysay a disapproving look. She didn’t appreciate the reprimand. “Well anyway,” she continued. “I know I cleaner than them. I don’t sweat and stink like them or have to work in the rain.” she pointed out unsympathetically.
“Well, it not their fault they have to work in the rain,” replied a stern faced Saysay. 
“Me never say it was but me don’t have to mix with them if me don’t want to.” retaliated Liz before walking away and leaving a fuming Saysay standing in the music room, polishing the piano. She couldn’t comprehend the disdain which Liz showed to the other slaves, weren’t they all slaves? Still she had to accept that she couldn’t change people’s attitudes. She noticed that the field slaves were more unified and caring towards each other but the housing slaves were aloof and self absorbed.
Saysay continued polishing the furniture in the drawing room which was one of her daily chores and she didn’t mind it too much as it gave her the opportunity to drift off and think about more pleasurable things. Foolishly perhaps, she imagined herself being the lady of the big house with a loving husband and children. It was a daily yearning. Why was she born with this desire, if it was not to be realised? She wished earnestly that she believed in the God she was taught to revere and worship because then she would pray to him and have the faith and expectation that her prayers would be answered but she didn’t believe. She was convinced that the proselytising of the gospel by the slave owners was for the sole purpose of keeping the slaves in their place. 
“What you doing?” shouted Liz. “You don’t hear Massa calling you name?”
Saysay hadn’t heard him calling her at all but she hastily stumbled back to the drawing room. The harsh reality was that her life was not her own, so she hurried off to the Master who wanted her to clean his bathroom. The slave who usually covered that task was too sick to work today, so Saysay had been assigned this task. She dutifully carried out this task relishing the fact that she was alone to carry out this chore. It was an arduous task however because no matter how hard she scrubbed the bath didn’t look clean. She could feel herself becoming anxious about this as she recalled Ena being beaten for failing to clean the bath thoroughly.
“Me really try hard Massa but me can’t get it white,” pleaded Ena.
“You lazy swine!” shouted the furious Master. I’ll whip your ass until it’s as white as mine.” 
“But me try. Please don’t beat me again,” pleaded Ena to the merciless Master. The Master lifted up his hand to strike Ena again but for some strange reason stopped in mid air. It was as though an invisible force had withheld his hand. The slaves stood stunned, all except one individual and the Master walked away confused.
Chapter Three
“You don’t notice how Maximus looking sickly and thin?” asked Mama Mumda looking intently at Alfreda whilst they were preparing corn and other vegetables for dinner. 
“Yes me notice and yesterday he could hardly stand up. But Massa still ‘ave him working.” remarked Alfreda.
Mama Mumda didn’t respond, instead she wore a wry grin. Alfreda looked curiously at her. It was as if she knew more than she was divulging.
The two women sat down for a brief moment when Juper came running frantically into the kitchen. “Mama Mumda, Ms Alfreda come quick! Massa just find out about Carmel pregnancy and say he go whip her.”
“My God, exclaimed Mama Mumda as she hastily rushed out of the kitchen with Alfreda, making their way to the courtyard where the other slaves congregated. Some were preparing to beg the Master to withhold punishment in light of Carmel’s condition but his mood denoted that he was not about to offer any clemency even to a pregnant young girl.
“I have warned you all before that you’re my property and you are not to mate with anyone unless you have my permission.”
“Mama, say something to Massa before he kill Carmel.” Whispered a desperate Alfreda.
“You hear him already. He gone beat her.” was Mama Mumda’s cold reply.
The Master propped himself in his chair, getting ready to whip Carmel when an inexplicable thing happened. As he lifted up his hand to strike the first blow, he was invisibly restrained. This occurrence mirrored the incident which transpired when he was about to beat Ena some months ago. The fury of his humiliation made him all the more determined not to be defeated by whatever it was, so he lifted up his hand a second time, only to experience the same strange phenomenon. The slaves looked around, what was going on and what would the Master do next. Alfreda touched Mama Mumda’s shoulder lightly “What you thin’ this is?”

Mama Mumda cast a cross look and gestured to Alfreda that now was not the time to talk. 
The red faced Master stood up, “Maximus!” he shouted. “Come here and whip this girl.”
Maximus obediently ran to the courtyard, taking the whip but the same strange force apprehended him, preventing him from carrying out his Master’s instructions.
“Whip her!” commanded the furious Master.
“I’m trying,” replied a confused Maximus ‘”But I can’t.”
“I will get to the bottom of this.” thundered the Master before leaving his chair and stomping off to the big house.
“What goin’ on?” Alfreda asked Mama Mumda. “I remember you telling me something about obeah.”
Mama Mumda remained silent.
“Tell me Mama, what happened today? Why Massa couldn’t beat Carmel?”
“Chil’ I can’t tell you cos you don’ know how to hold you mout’.”

“So you know what goin on?”

“Maybe but one thing I know from a little girl, you reap what you sow. Now let’s go back to we kitchen duties.” with that Mama Mumda said no more.

The slaves were certainly relieved that Carmel had escaped the whipping but they seemed more intrigued by the bizarre occurrences. It was clear that there had been an invisible force restraining both the Master as well as Maximus but if there was an explanation for this supernatural occurrence, no one revealing it. The deterioration in Maximus’ health continued and about a week after the Master attempted to beat Carmel, Maximus died.
Early one morning, the slaves were again ordered to the courtyard in the pouring rain. They wondered what horrors awaiting them but as they waited, becoming more drenched by the minute, the Master appeared accompanied by someone else.
“Hugh is the new overseer who will replace Maximus,” announced the Master. “You will obey him as you obeyed Maximus because if you don’t, you know what the consequences will.” continued the Master although he remained subdued, no doubt remembering last weeks’ embarrassment.
Hugh was much younger than his predecessor, with a well built frame. He wore a pleasant smile but the slaves were unsure how to receive this. He walked around the plantation with a stick in his hand, thus causing concern to the slaves but as the weeks passed, it was clear that Hugh was indeed more humane than Maximus. He exhibited a caring disposition which made the slaves warm to him. “As long as you obey the Master and do your work, you have nothing to fear from me” he reassured them.
Hugh was the first non slave who showed any compassion and as a result, Saysay’s heart began to soften to the God she had previously dubbed God for the Masters. Perhaps, there were some genuine people. 
Hugh had a special gift in curing animals and was therefore resourceful to the Master. One day, one of the Master’s beloved horses fell ill and Hugh came to the Master’s aid, offering to apply his secret remedy. However, it failed to work and as the horse grew weaker, the Master suggested that Hugh take the horse to a man who was known for treating sick animals. Saysay was ordered to accompany Hugh to tend to his needs and it was during this time that Hugh engaged in conversation with her.
“How old are you?” he probed.
“Fourteen.”
“You always seem so serious. Do you ever smile?” he asked probingly.
“If I have somethin’ to smile about, I go smile.” she was surprised that he had noticed her disposition around the plantation.
Hugh was clearly astounded by her response. “You seem to have a defiance about you which is remarkable for a slave.”
Saysay decided that on this occasion it was best to hold her tongue. Although, this man who appeared to be in his late twenties was civil, she still wasn’t sure whether she could trust him.
“I may be leaving the plantation in the next few months,” he confided.
Saysay didn’t reply but her aghast expression showed her shock. Inside, she felt an inexplicable wound. Hugh was the kindest person with authority on the plantation and now he was leaving. He could see her searching eyes and enquiring mind, so divulged further information.
“I have raised enough money to buy a small plantation and have a few animals but no slaves.”
Saysay grimaced at the word slave and wondered if his attitude would differ once he was the master rather than the overseer.
“However, my approach would be different.” he continued. “I would employ staff rather than have slaves. I think you get more from people if you pay them and treat them fairly.”
Still Saysay remained silent. She wondered why Hugh was telling her such things.
“If I were to buy your freedom, would you be willing to come with me?” he finally asked.
Saysay sat dumfounded with her mouth opened but no sound came out. Hugh could see that she was shocked by his proposal and nothing further was said. 
Months went by after that brief conversation and there was no further dialogue between Hugh and Saysay but as he had intimated, he left the plantation some months later. Saysay’s heart sank. She knew it was dangerous to dream, to hope but why had this man given her such hope? It was as though he sensed her desire to be free, but to you give a person a glimmer of light and then cut that light off, leaving the person in complete darkness was so cruel. She would never trust again.
It had been another long and arduous day and Saysay was relieved to retire to her cabin. Exhaustion soon overwhelmed her and she drifted off to sleep. However, she was awoken by what sounded like thunder ripping through her wooden shack but she heard no rain, so she got up to investigate. This was when she saw a face glaring back at her, startling her. 
Then she heard a familiar, husky voice whisper, “Sorry to frighten you but I had to come during the night. I tried to purchase your freedom but the Master refused, so this is your only chance. If you want your freedom, you need with me to leave now.”
Saysay hesitated for a moment. Her head was reeling, her mind confused. To leave now would mean that she would never see her family and friends again but this was the opportunity she had fantasised about virtually her whole life. Admittedly, she didn’t know what to expect as she had never tasted freedom before but it had to be better than what she had now, so without further contemplation or procrastination, she took hold of the outstretched hand of Hugh and disappeared into the Saysay
Chapter One
Tears of bitterness and fury streamed uncontrollably from Saysay’s eyes. Her dainty frame convulsed violently as she desperately tried to hold back her sorrow; her anger. Refusing to cry was often the only weapon of defiance with which a slave could metaphorically speaking punish and antagonise their master but today she could restrain her tears no longer. The slaves were not permitted to close their eyes during whipping ceremonies but were compelled to watch the brutality. They were all too aware of the penalty for refusing to look. Saysay had been subjected to enough arbitrary whipping already and wasn’t sure that she could endure anymore without retaliating. 
The sticky air was filled with fear and melancholy. The spirit of the slaves had long been crushed since this wasn’t the first time they had witnessed such a barbaric display and no doubt wouldn’t be the last. The question which plagued Saysay’s mind, amongst others was how long would this injustice last? How long would a God whom she had been taught to believe in, seemingly sit by and allow such cruelty to continue? She’d been a slave all her young life but possessed a dangerous spirit of belligerence. She yearned to be free and harboured dreams of emancipation and enacting revenge upon her oppressors but would these dreams ever materialise? Unbeknown to Saysay her desire for liberation was nothing new. It had been the ambition and hope of countless slaves centuries before, most of whom died without their aspirations ever being realised.
Here on another swelteringly hot Saturday morning, the slaves were compelled to stand in the courtyard and witness the merciless beating of Isabella. Isabella was a compliant, obedient slave who was dutiful and didn’t question her station in life, yet here she was being made an example of for something so trivial that one had to assume that the Master was imposing this punishment merely for his amusement.
“No more please,” begged Isabella after the sixth brutal whip. “Me won’t eat the stale bread no more, me promise?” she pleaded.
“You’ll learn one way or another,” explained the Master laughing heartily. “That stealing is a sin.” He shouted for emphasis. “You’ve been taught this commandment each Sunday. When will you learn? Stinking thieves!” he spat.
The slaves stood immobilised by the cruelty. Fists clenched tightly and hearts racing frantically. Yet in Saysay’s mind, this was not an example of the God of mercy she would hear about tomorrow; the God who forgave sinners. It was this hypocrisy made her to resist the teachings she heard every Sunday. How could these people who allegedly follow a God of love be so evil and yet expect their slaves to love and serve them faithfully? 
The brutal whipping finally came to an end and poor Isabella, riddled with lashes passed out and collapsed to the ground. The slaves were not permitted to go to her aid until the Master had left his chair. He looked scornfully at Isabella and the rest of the slaves before abruptly leaving his chair.
The nearby sea gulls were too distressed to sing and displayed their displeasure at one man’s inhumanity towards another. The intensive air became stagnant without the refreshing breeze to offer any respite.
Some of the older slaves nursed Isabella’s eye watering wounds as best as they could. Poor Isabella’s winced as each damp cloth was placed on her back to nurse and soothe her inflated gashes. Her face grimacing with pain. Despite the meticulous care received, poor Isabella was unable to stand for a few days much less work as she was so weak from the beating and loss of blood. Not that this mattered to her Master, who demanded that she return to duty as soon as possible and with the same vigour as before. There was no regard for the wounds inflicted and their obvious consequences. Yet Isabella’s positive attitude and humility remained and she was as subservient as before. Not seemingly harbouring any malice towards her malevolent Master. 
Saysay and Isabella were as close as slaves could become. There was always the risk that one would be sold and given that Saysay and Isabella were amongst some of the younger slaves on the plantation being only fourteen years, there was always that possibility, so the slaves naturally felt some trepidation in becoming emotionally attached to one another. This was especially true of mothers. They knew that their primary duty was to breed new property for their master, so they had to safeguard their hearts by not becoming too emotionally attached to their offspring, realising that at any time either they or their offspring could be sold to another plantation never to be seen again. 
Saysay knew about this first hand because she had no recollection of her mother whatsoever, who’d been sold shortly after her birth. Mama Mumda, the oldest slave on the plantation became a surrogate mother to her and shared many precious stories with Saysay about her mother, enabling her to create an idyllic fantasy about how wonderful her mother was and what it might have been like if she’d had a normal family life, like her Master’s spoilt daughter, Elva. Saysay despised Elva, not because her parents indulged her or because she was free but because she deliberately taunted and abused the slaves, in much the same way as her monstrous father. Saysay knew it was a sin to hold contempt for anyone, according to what she’d been taught in church but she couldn’t help but detest the pair of them. The Master’s wife was more tolerable, albeit relatively powerless from what she could deduce. The Mistress would often sit by subordinately, not saying anything about her husband’s brutality and was therefore viewed with disdain and indifference. What’s the point of existing, if you’re going to be so spineless pondered Sayay?
“You mustn’t get ideas above you station,” advised Isabella. “What you can do? You only a slave. You can’t go nowhere.”
“I go find a way,” continued Saysay defiantly. “I wasn’t born for this hardship?”
“What you t’ink you was born for?” queried Isabella.
“Me don’t know. I just know that cleaning the Massa’s house and serving the food in the big house is not for me.”
Isabella couldn’t conceal the feeling of terror she held for her beloved friend and this made her shudder. Numerous slaves on the plantation had tried to persuade Saysay to abandon her rebellious thoughts and warned her of the dangers of her ideas but she simply wouldn’t take heed. If she gave up hope, she may as well be dead.
The dry season had now passed and was replaced by the incessant rain of the wet season. There was no doubt that the relentless winds and rain of the hurricane season had returned and the slaves were terrified. They knew that this treacherous weather would not exempt them from their duties and would certainly endanger their lives. Saysay recalled how the gale force winds had caused loose pieces of timber to fly across the plantation, striking Freddie on the head causing him to fall unconscious and he remained so for several days before a poignant smelly herb was placed under his nose and revived him. It was a relief to all because some of the slaves believed that he would die and began making funeral arrangements for him. 
The Master was frantic that another hurricane could decimate his crops. Two years ago, Hurricane Monty had obliterated his crops and he had to sell numerous slaves since he couldn’t afford to feed them. That was a time of much distress and weeping amongst the slaves. The Master had been callous as usual and showed no understanding or compassion. He had separated mother from child, brother from sister and was as ruthless in deciding which slaves to sell as he was in his treatment of them on the plantation.
As long as the winds didn’t turn deadly, the rain was a welcome respite for the plantation slaves as it served to cool them down and offer some relief from the sweltering Caribbean heat. The Master still expected the same output nonetheless, so their productivity levels didn’t diminish.
“Me feel really weary today,” commented Freddy. “Me work really hard.”
“You say that every day,” grunted his stern looking Sister Lizzie.
“Truly,” replied Freddie. “It’s a shame that Massa wasn’t there to see me.”
“Massa?” asked Lizzie mockingly. “You t’ink he’s going to come out in the rain to watch you?”
“No but he don’t know how hard we does work.” replied Freddie.
“He don’t care about us, Freddie. You must know that. All he care about is his damn crops.”
“Time to finish now!” announced the overseer. “It’s getting too dark to see anymore.”
Overseer Maximus was no angel but certainly more amenable than the Master. He appreciated that some conditions made it impossible for the slaves to work in, whilst the Master didn’t appreciate that concept at all. 
Early the following morning, Saysay was busy clearing the weeds from the front garden of the big house when she was approached by an anxious looking Mama Mumda. 
“Saysay,” whispered Mama Mumda emphatically. 
“What happen?” asked Saysay curiously. 
“Carmel is pregnant and she say that Ted is the father!”
“What?” answered Saysay in an ever increasing tone of voice and doing nothing to disguise her surprise. “Ted? Me didn’t know that they was together. When did the Massa allow that?”
“Nobody knew that they was together and the trouble is that according to Ted the chil’ not his.” Explained Mama Mumda. 
“How you mean?” asked Saysay.
“Well, it’s only Carmel who saying that Ted is the father but he say it ain’t true.”
“Well if it’s not Ted’s who else can be the father?” asked a beady eyed Saysay.
“Me don’t know. I don’t know if the Massa know about this yet but when he find out, me pity her.”
Saysay fell silent. She feared for Carmel as female slaves were not permitted to mate without the express permission of the Master. This revelation of Carmel and Ted being in a relationship had certainly come as a surprise. Saysay hadn’t noticed any attraction between them at all and Ted’s denial seem to corroborate Saysay’s theory that there really wasn’t any relationship between them. The problem was that if Ted wasn’t the father, then who was?
Chapter Two
The scarlet sun was slowly beginning to set as the weary, disenfranchised slaves staggered lifelessly towards their derelict, wooden huts to replenish their exhausted bodies, before gathering again outside for their entertainment. The sounds of the crickets could be heard in the stillness of the dusk and the light emanating from the fireflies was now visible. Tomorrow was Sunday, so they would all have the entire day off but for church attendance which was compulsory. As much as Saysay didn’t relish the prospect of this or listening to the hypocrisy which she endured on a weekly basis, it was certainly better than slaving away in the big house or in its gardens.
After eating a meagre morsel of rice and offal, Saysay went to sit outside of the hut she shared with her uncle and cousin. She tried to fix her hair and look presentable although, she really wasn’t sure why. She wasn’t attracted to anyone but she still desired to look attractive. Perhaps, it was just part of being a female. She sat silently on the rotten wooden steps observing the other slaves who were venturing out excitedly.
Isabella who lived in the neighbouring hut, approached Saysay with a warm smile and sat quietly next to Saysay. Their friendship was such that at times no words were necessary. They had a deep understanding. Perhaps it was borne out of their mutual suffering but they definitely had a kindred spirit.
“How you feeling?” asked Saysay compassionately.
“Not too bad now but me back still sore. Mama Mumda say it go take some time to heal properly.”
“Damn brute,” retorted Saysay audibly. She didn’t mean for Isabella to hear that but couldn’t contain her feelings.
“Remember what the preacher does tell us in church. We must forgive our earthly massas if we want to make Heaven our home.”
“Huh, he would say that because they want to continue ill treating us. I hate them all.” spat Saysay contemptuously.
Isabella didn’t say anything. She’d heard Saysay make these comments so many times and despite efforts to thwart these rebellious exclamations, there was no calming Saysay. 
“You notice the new slave Massa bought?” asked Isabella changing the subject, her eyes glistening in the moonlight.
“Oh you mean the mulatto boy from Mount Man Estate?” asked Saysay looking quizzically at Isabella.
“Of course,” smiled Isabella. “You playing you don’t notice him?” she teased Saysay.
“Well as you know, it don’t make no sense you taking a shine to anyone because if Massa put you with someone else or sell you, you no go see him again.”
Isabella’s smile vanished. Even her momentary attempt to forget her plight and delude herself into believing that she lived a normal life in which she could fall in love and marry the man of her dreams was futile. Life could be so cruel.
The music had started. Firstly the drummers began, followed by the flute players and then the make shift musicians began using wooden sticks and playing rhythmically on discarded, dented tins. The musicians tried to play as quietly as they could because they knew that it was dangerous for the Master to hear the drumming. The plantation owners perceived drumming as a threat since they knew that the slaves used the drums as a means of communication but Saysay could see no sense in this threat as there really wasn’t anywhere that the slaves could escape to. The last time one of the slaves attempted to escape, his feet were brutally amputated. She remembered the Master laughing as he warned all the slaves that they had all better think long and hard before entertaining such wicked and ungrateful notions in the future. Saysay reflected back to that horrendous day. It was the overseer had been ordered to inflict this heinous torture upon the would be escapee. He was whipped repeatedly before the crude, blunt instrument was used to hack off his feet.
Saysay winced as she remembered Henry’s pitiful and hideous screams. The gushing blood which came flooding out as his feet were aggressively hacked off. One of the slaves passed out. She simply couldn’t bear it and days after the incident, the dogs began licking his wounds once the blood had dried. Poor Henry, he never recovered emotionally or psychologically from that and his will to live eventually died altogether. 
“Why you mind so far?” quizzed Saysay’s cousin, Alfreda. 
Saysay shrugged her shoulders. She didn’t wish to share her private thoughts with anyone this evening. She’d only be criticised for harbouring such depressing memories.
“Come and dance nah,” invited Alfreda. 
With Alfreda’s warm invitation, Saysay couldn’t resist and got up and joined the others who were having a raucous time. The volume level became louder and the dancing became more vigorous with the slaves almost forgetting about their deprivation and hardship. Isabella was ecstatic as she was seen dancing with the new mulatto boy. They danced together over and over again and Mama Mumda commented on how smitten they appeared to be with each other.
“Yes but there’s no future in it,” remarked Alfreda.
“You just jealous because it not you,” retaliated Mama Mumda. “You can see that they like each other.”
“Of course but if Massa sell Isabella or the boy, what go happen?” 
“That’s the problem!” answered Juper although no one was talking to her in particular. “Leave them be and let them enjoy they self. Life already hard for we, let them enjoy theyself even if it’s only for tonight.”
As Juper continued to reprimand Alfreda, there in the dark was a solitary figure carrying an oil lamp. His distinctive gait was unmistakeable and his limp convinced Mama Mumda that it was indeed the person she thought it was. She froze but it was too late to alert the merrymakers. Despite his limp, he was upon the slaves before they knew it and his stern expression made it abundantly clear that he did not approve of their activity.
“What’s going on here?” he demanded.
“Overseer, we sorry but we was just trying to to...” Peter had no plausible explanation, so his voice trailed off in silence.
The overseer wasn’t amused as was clear from his harsh expression. “Stop this racket immediately and go to your quarters. You all know that such activities are forbidden, especially the drumming. If I report this to the Master, you’ll all be whipped. I’m not going to jeopardise my position for any of you.” he spat.
The slaves began frantically rushing around before dispersing and retiring to their respective quarters for fear of any further reprisals. The joviality had come to an abrupt end and Saysay’s uncle and cousin were especially irritated by the interference.
“It’s the only damn time all week that we free from work and try to enjoy we self and even that we can’t do.”
“These people ‘ave no heart,” commented Saysay. “At least not the heart of compassion they preach to us about. They just want to work us as mules and when we too old to work, they go kill us, just like they did to Ellis.”
“Chil’ where you get that from? Nobody kill Ellis. Him just get too old to work and drop dead. Besides what you know? You just a babe at fourteen years.” replied Uncle.
“You can believe what you want but me know different.” answered an indignant Saysay.
“Those stories go get you into trouble. Ellis was an old man. No one kill him.” insisted Uncle clearly exasperated by Saysay’s conspiracy theory. 
Saysay decided to say nothing more. She didn’t have the strength to get into an altercation with her Uncle. He was a headstrong man too. Unfortunately, not so much where it was necessary. She wished he could see their superiors for the evil, callous individuals that they were. It seemed that only she was aware of what was going on. The other slaves were either oblivious to their Master’s cruelty or they perhaps had decided that since they were powerless to do anything, it was safer to accept the status quo. But try as she did, Saysay found that every fibre in her body resisted her situation in life. 
Saysay awoke to the soothing sound of birds singing and the crokey sound of her uncle shouting, “Church today. Get up Saysay.”
She was immediately brought back to reality. She’s just been enjoying a dream in which she was free and lived on a huge plantation, where she was the mistress, rather than a slave. In her dream, she was married to a kindly plantation owner, who adored her and treated her like a queen.
“Chil’ get up and get ready,” shouted Uncle. “Every week, I have to tell you to get up. What wrong with you?”
“I tired,” lied Saysay. “Don’t t’ink I can go today?”
“Well if you don’t go, Massa go send for you to work in the big house. You ready for that?” reminded Uncle as if he had suspected that Saysay was using this ploy to avoid going to church.
Saysay released a deep sign and as she did, rain could be heard outside growing heavier and heavier.

“We go get soaked by the time we reach church.” pleaded Saysay hoping that Uncle would see the rain as a legitimate reason to stay away from church. 
“Yes but we still ‘ave to go even if the rain really heavy. You know that already.” explained Uncle.
Saysay had expected that response even though she hoped it might be different. 
Much as Saysay hated going to church, she resented working in the big house even more and today at least, she had the comfort of dwelling on your dream, so she could mentally switch off and fantasise without anyone having a clue as to why she appeared so contended. They would obviously assume that it was the message in church but oh how wrong they would be. Let them believe what they want. No one needed to know the inner workings of her mind. 
The usual songs were sung and then the preacher gave his sermon but Saysay didn’t have clue what it was about. She’d been there in body only but her spirit had transported into her imaginary world where everything was perfect. The danger she feared would be in coming back to reality tomorrow morning when she returned to the big house for another gruelling week of work, ill treatment and hostility. 
“You look happy today!” commented Uncle. “You enjoy church today?”
Saysay just smiled and decided to humour her uncle. She needed these diversions in order to make life more tolerable. She spent the rest of the afternoon with Isabella and Mama Mumda who regaled them with tales of their ancestors. Mama Mumda told the young girls that their grandmothers had lived in a far way land, before being brought to Grenada. The faraway land was called Africa and she told Saysay that her grandmother told her that she lived with her parents and siblings and how happy she was before she was forcibly captured after being lured and deceived by a young friend. That horrendous experience caused Saysay’s grandmother to be untrusting of anyone ever again. Despite, the obvious sadness in the story, Saysay and Isabella found some comfort in knowing that their ancestors had meaningful lives before slavery. They realised that their ancestors had a rich history of family unity, love and purpose. It was nonetheless disconcerting to learn that their betrayal had been at the hands of their own people.
“The white slave owners would never have been able to capture our forefathers without the betrayal of neighbouring tribes. You see what envy and malice can do?” trailed off Mama Mumda. She always ended her stories about the enslavement of Africans with that phrase. It was a pivotal point because even amongst the slaves, Saysay had witnessed an envious spirit amongst some of them. Those who worked in the big house considered themselves superior to the field workers. Saysay was viewed differently because she associated more with the field slaves and was criticised by those in the big house.
“Why do you want to spend time with those dirty, smelly, dark slaves?” fair skinned Liz would ask her.
“Well dark or fair, we all slaves.” replied Saysay agitatedly. “You t’ink you better than them because you working in the big house? You t’ink the Massa see you as better than the field slaves?” 
Liz just gave Saysay a disapproving look. She didn’t appreciate the reprimand. “Well anyway,” she continued. “I know I cleaner than them. I don’t sweat and stink like them or have to work in the rain.” she pointed out unsympathetically.
“Well, it not their fault they have to work in the rain,” replied a stern faced Saysay. 
“Me never say it was but me don’t have to mix with them if me don’t want to.” retaliated Liz before walking away and leaving a fuming Saysay standing in the music room, polishing the piano. She couldn’t comprehend the disdain which Liz showed to the other slaves, weren’t they all slaves? Still she had to accept that she couldn’t change people’s attitudes. She noticed that the field slaves were more unified and caring towards each other but the housing slaves were aloof and self absorbed.
Saysay continued polishing the furniture in the drawing room which was one of her daily chores and she didn’t mind it too much as it gave her the opportunity to drift off and think about more pleasurable things. Foolishly perhaps, she imagined herself being the lady of the big house with a loving husband and children. It was a daily yearning. Why was she born with this desire, if it was not to be realised? She wished earnestly that she believed in the God she was taught to revere and worship because then she would pray to him and have the faith and expectation that her prayers would be answered but she didn’t believe. She was convinced that the proselytising of the gospel by the slave owners was for the sole purpose of keeping the slaves in their place. 
“What you doing?” shouted Liz. “You don’t hear Massa calling you name?”
Saysay hadn’t heard him calling her at all but she hastily stumbled back to the drawing room. The harsh reality was that her life was not her own, so she hurried off to the Master who wanted her to clean his bathroom. The slave who usually covered that task was too sick to work today, so Saysay had been assigned this task. She dutifully carried out this task relishing the fact that she was alone to carry out this chore. It was an arduous task however because no matter how hard she scrubbed the bath didn’t look clean. She could feel herself becoming anxious about this as she recalled Ena being beaten for failing to clean the bath thoroughly.
“Me really try hard Massa but me can’t get it white,” pleaded Ena.
“You lazy swine!” shouted the furious Master. I’ll whip your ass until it’s as white as mine.” 
“But me try. Please don’t beat me again,” pleaded Ena to the merciless Master. The Master lifted up his hand to strike Ena again but for some strange reason stopped in mid air. It was as though an invisible force had withheld his hand. The slaves stood stunned, all except one individual and the Master walked away confused.
Chapter Three
“You don’t notice how Maximus looking sickly and thin?” asked Mama Mumda looking intently at Alfreda whilst they were preparing corn and other vegetables for dinner. 
“Yes me notice and yesterday he could hardly stand up. But Massa still ‘ave him working.” remarked Alfreda.
Mama Mumda didn’t respond, instead she wore a wry grin. Alfreda looked curiously at her. It was as if she knew more than she was divulging.
The two women sat down for a brief moment when Juper came running frantically into the kitchen. “Mama Mumda, Ms Alfreda come quick! Massa just find out about Carmel pregnancy and say he go whip her.”
“My God, exclaimed Mama Mumda as she hastily rushed out of the kitchen with Alfreda, making their way to the courtyard where the other slaves congregated. Some were preparing to beg the Master to withhold punishment in light of Carmel’s condition but his mood denoted that he was not about to offer any clemency even to a pregnant young girl.
“I have warned you all before that you’re my property and you are not to mate with anyone unless you have my permission.”
“Mama, say something to Massa before he kill Carmel.” Whispered a desperate Alfreda.
“You hear him already. He gone beat her.” was Mama Mumda’s cold reply.
The Master propped himself in his chair, getting ready to whip Carmel when an inexplicable thing happened. As he lifted up his hand to strike the first blow, he was invisibly restrained. This occurrence mirrored the incident which transpired when he was about to beat Ena some months ago. The fury of his humiliation made him all the more determined not to be defeated by whatever it was, so he lifted up his hand a second time, only to experience the same strange phenomenon. The slaves looked around, what was going on and what would the Master do next. Alfreda touched Mama Mumda’s shoulder lightly “What you thin’ this is?”

Mama Mumda cast a cross look and gestured to Alfreda that now was not the time to talk. 
The red faced Master stood up, “Maximus!” he shouted. “Come here and whip this girl.”
Maximus obediently ran to the courtyard, taking the whip but the same strange force apprehended him, preventing him from carrying out his Master’s instructions.
“Whip her!” commanded the furious Master.
“I’m trying,” replied a confused Maximus ‘”But I can’t.”
“I will get to the bottom of this.” thundered the Master before leaving his chair and stomping off to the big house.
“What goin’ on?” Alfreda asked Mama Mumda. “I remember you telling me something about obeah.”
Mama Mumda remained silent.
“Tell me Mama, what happened today? Why Massa couldn’t beat Carmel?”
“Chil’ I can’t tell you cos you don’ know how to hold you mout’.”

“So you know what goin on?”

“Maybe but one thing I know from a little girl, you reap what you sow. Now let’s go back to we kitchen duties.” with that Mama Mumda said no more.

The slaves were certainly relieved that Carmel had escaped the whipping but they seemed more intrigued by the bizarre occurrences. It was clear that there had been an invisible force restraining both the Master as well as Maximus but if there was an explanation for this supernatural occurrence, no one revealing it. The deterioration in Maximus’ health continued and about a week after the Master attempted to beat Carmel, Maximus died.
Early one morning, the slaves were again ordered to the courtyard in the pouring rain. They wondered what horrors awaiting them but as they waited, becoming more drenched by the minute, the Master appeared accompanied by someone else.
“Hugh is the new overseer who will replace Maximus,” announced the Master. “You will obey him as you obeyed Maximus because if you don’t, you know what the consequences will.” continued the Master although he remained subdued, no doubt remembering last weeks’ embarrassment.
Hugh was much younger than his predecessor, with a well built frame. He wore a pleasant smile but the slaves were unsure how to receive this. He walked around the plantation with a stick in his hand, thus causing concern to the slaves but as the weeks passed, it was clear that Hugh was indeed more humane than Maximus. He exhibited a caring disposition which made the slaves warm to him. “As long as you obey the Master and do your work, you have nothing to fear from me” he reassured them.
Hugh was the first non slave who showed any compassion and as a result, Saysay’s heart began to soften to the God she had previously dubbed God for the Masters. Perhaps, there were some genuine people. 
Hugh had a special gift in curing animals and was therefore resourceful to the Master. One day, one of the Master’s beloved horses fell ill and Hugh came to the Master’s aid, offering to apply his secret remedy. However, it failed to work and as the horse grew weaker, the Master suggested that Hugh take the horse to a man who was known for treating sick animals. Saysay was ordered to accompany Hugh to tend to his needs and it was during this time that Hugh engaged in conversation with her.
“How old are you?” he probed.
“Fourteen.”
“You always seem so serious. Do you ever smile?” he asked probingly.
“If I have somethin’ to smile about, I go smile.” she was surprised that he had noticed her disposition around the plantation.
Hugh was clearly astounded by her response. “You seem to have a defiance about you which is remarkable for a slave.”
Saysay decided that on this occasion it was best to hold her tongue. Although, this man who appeared to be in his late twenties was civil, she still wasn’t sure whether she could trust him.
“I may be leaving the plantation in the next few months,” he confided.
Saysay didn’t reply but her aghast expression showed her shock. Inside, she felt an inexplicable wound. Hugh was the kindest person with authority on the plantation and now he was leaving. He could see her searching eyes and enquiring mind, so divulged further information.
“I have raised enough money to buy a small plantation and have a few animals but no slaves.”
Saysay grimaced at the word slave and wondered if his attitude would differ once he was the master rather than the overseer.
“However, my approach would be different.” he continued. “I would employ staff rather than have slaves. I think you get more from people if you pay them and treat them fairly.”
Still Saysay remained silent. She wondered why Hugh was telling her such things.
“If I were to buy your freedom, would you be willing to come with me?” he finally asked.
Saysay sat dumfounded with her mouth opened but no sound came out. Hugh could see that she was shocked by his proposal and nothing further was said. 
Months went by after that brief conversation and there was no further dialogue between Hugh and Saysay but as he had intimated, he left the plantation some months later. Saysay’s heart sank. She knew it was dangerous to dream, to hope but why had this man given her such hope? It was as though he sensed her desire to be free, but to you give a person a glimmer of light and then cut that light off, leaving the person in complete darkness was so cruel. She would never trust again.
It had been another long and arduous day and Saysay was relieved to retire to her cabin. Exhaustion soon overwhelmed her and she drifted off to sleep. However, she was awoken by what sounded like thunder ripping through her wooden shack but she heard no rain, so she got up to investigate. This was when she saw a face glaring back at her, startling her. 
Then she heard a familiar, husky voice whisper, “Sorry to frighten you but I had to come during the night. I tried to purchase your freedom but the Master refused, so this is your only chance. If you want your freedom, you need with me to leave now.”
Saysay hesitated for a moment. Her head was reeling, her mind confused. To leave now would mean that she would never see her family and friends again but this was the opportunity she had fantasised about virtually her whole life. Admittedly, she didn’t know what to expect as she had never tasted freedom before but it had to be better than what she had now, so without further contemplation or procrastination, she took hold of the outstretched hand of Hugh and disappeared into the night.

Saysay
Chapter One
Tears of bitterness and fury streamed uncontrollably from Saysay’s eyes. Her dainty frame convulsed violently as she desperately tried to hold back her sorrow; her anger. Refusing to cry was often the only weapon of defiance with which a slave could metaphorically speaking punish and antagonise their master but today she could restrain her tears no longer. The slaves were not permitted to close their eyes during whipping ceremonies but were compelled to watch the brutality. They were all too aware of the penalty for refusing to look. Saysay had been subjected to enough arbitrary whipping already and wasn’t sure that she could endure anymore without retaliating. 
The sticky air was filled with fear and melancholy. The spirit of the slaves had long been crushed since this wasn’t the first time they had witnessed such a barbaric display and no doubt wouldn’t be the last. The question which plagued Saysay’s mind, amongst others was how long would this injustice last? How long would a God whom she had been taught to believe in, seemingly sit by and allow such cruelty to continue? She’d been a slave all her young life but possessed a dangerous spirit of belligerence. She yearned to be free and harboured dreams of emancipation and enacting revenge upon her oppressors but would these dreams ever materialise? Unbeknown to Saysay her desire for liberation was nothing new. It had been the ambition and hope of countless slaves centuries before, most of whom died without their aspirations ever being realised.
Here on another swelteringly hot Saturday morning, the slaves were compelled to stand in the courtyard and witness the merciless beating of Isabella. Isabella was a compliant, obedient slave who was dutiful and didn’t question her station in life, yet here she was being made an example of for something so trivial that one had to assume that the Master was imposing this punishment merely for his amusement.
“No more please,” begged Isabella after the sixth brutal whip. “Me won’t eat the stale bread no more, me promise?” she pleaded.
“You’ll learn one way or another,” explained the Master laughing heartily. “That stealing is a sin.” He shouted for emphasis. “You’ve been taught this commandment each Sunday. When will you learn? Stinking thieves!” he spat.
The slaves stood immobilised by the cruelty. Fists clenched tightly and hearts racing frantically. Yet in Saysay’s mind, this was not an example of the God of mercy she would hear about tomorrow; the God who forgave sinners. It was this hypocrisy made her to resist the teachings she heard every Sunday. How could these people who allegedly follow a God of love be so evil and yet expect their slaves to love and serve them faithfully? 
The brutal whipping finally came to an end and poor Isabella, riddled with lashes passed out and collapsed to the ground. The slaves were not permitted to go to her aid until the Master had left his chair. He looked scornfully at Isabella and the rest of the slaves before abruptly leaving his chair.
The nearby sea gulls were too distressed to sing and displayed their displeasure at one man’s inhumanity towards another. The intensive air became stagnant without the refreshing breeze to offer any respite.
Some of the older slaves nursed Isabella’s eye watering wounds as best as they could. Poor Isabella’s winced as each damp cloth was placed on her back to nurse and soothe her inflated gashes. Her face grimacing with pain. Despite the meticulous care received, poor Isabella was unable to stand for a few days much less work as she was so weak from the beating and loss of blood. Not that this mattered to her Master, who demanded that she return to duty as soon as possible and with the same vigour as before. There was no regard for the wounds inflicted and their obvious consequences. Yet Isabella’s positive attitude and humility remained and she was as subservient as before. Not seemingly harbouring any malice towards her malevolent Master. 
Saysay and Isabella were as close as slaves could become. There was always the risk that one would be sold and given that Saysay and Isabella were amongst some of the younger slaves on the plantation being only fourteen years, there was always that possibility, so the slaves naturally felt some trepidation in becoming emotionally attached to one another. This was especially true of mothers. They knew that their primary duty was to breed new property for their master, so they had to safeguard their hearts by not becoming too emotionally attached to their offspring, realising that at any time either they or their offspring could be sold to another plantation never to be seen again. 
Saysay knew about this first hand because she had no recollection of her mother whatsoever, who’d been sold shortly after her birth. Mama Mumda, the oldest slave on the plantation became a surrogate mother to her and shared many precious stories with Saysay about her mother, enabling her to create an idyllic fantasy about how wonderful her mother was and what it might have been like if she’d had a normal family life, like her Master’s spoilt daughter, Elva. Saysay despised Elva, not because her parents indulged her or because she was free but because she deliberately taunted and abused the slaves, in much the same way as her monstrous father. Saysay knew it was a sin to hold contempt for anyone, according to what she’d been taught in church but she couldn’t help but detest the pair of them. The Master’s wife was more tolerable, albeit relatively powerless from what she could deduce. The Mistress would often sit by subordinately, not saying anything about her husband’s brutality and was therefore viewed with disdain and indifference. What’s the point of existing, if you’re going to be so spineless pondered Sayay?
“You mustn’t get ideas above you station,” advised Isabella. “What you can do? You only a slave. You can’t go nowhere.”
“I go find a way,” continued Saysay defiantly. “I wasn’t born for this hardship?”
“What you t’ink you was born for?” queried Isabella.
“Me don’t know. I just know that cleaning the Massa’s house and serving the food in the big house is not for me.”
Isabella couldn’t conceal the feeling of terror she held for her beloved friend and this made her shudder. Numerous slaves on the plantation had tried to persuade Saysay to abandon her rebellious thoughts and warned her of the dangers of her ideas but she simply wouldn’t take heed. If she gave up hope, she may as well be dead.
The dry season had now passed and was replaced by the incessant rain of the wet season. There was no doubt that the relentless winds and rain of the hurricane season had returned and the slaves were terrified. They knew that this treacherous weather would not exempt them from their duties and would certainly endanger their lives. Saysay recalled how the gale force winds had caused loose pieces of timber to fly across the plantation, striking Freddie on the head causing him to fall unconscious and he remained so for several days before a poignant smelly herb was placed under his nose and revived him. It was a relief to all because some of the slaves believed that he would die and began making funeral arrangements for him. 
The Master was frantic that another hurricane could decimate his crops. Two years ago, Hurricane Monty had obliterated his crops and he had to sell numerous slaves since he couldn’t afford to feed them. That was a time of much distress and weeping amongst the slaves. The Master had been callous as usual and showed no understanding or compassion. He had separated mother from child, brother from sister and was as ruthless in deciding which slaves to sell as he was in his treatment of them on the plantation.
As long as the winds didn’t turn deadly, the rain was a welcome respite for the plantation slaves as it served to cool them down and offer some relief from the sweltering Caribbean heat. The Master still expected the same output nonetheless, so their productivity levels didn’t diminish.
“Me feel really weary today,” commented Freddy. “Me work really hard.”
“You say that every day,” grunted his stern looking Sister Lizzie.
“Truly,” replied Freddie. “It’s a shame that Massa wasn’t there to see me.”
“Massa?” asked Lizzie mockingly. “You t’ink he’s going to come out in the rain to watch you?”
“No but he don’t know how hard we does work.” replied Freddie.
“He don’t care about us, Freddie. You must know that. All he care about is his damn crops.”
“Time to finish now!” announced the overseer. “It’s getting too dark to see anymore.”
Overseer Maximus was no angel but certainly more amenable than the Master. He appreciated that some conditions made it impossible for the slaves to work in, whilst the Master didn’t appreciate that concept at all. 
Early the following morning, Saysay was busy clearing the weeds from the front garden of the big house when she was approached by an anxious looking Mama Mumda. 
“Saysay,” whispered Mama Mumda emphatically. 
“What happen?” asked Saysay curiously. 
“Carmel is pregnant and she say that Ted is the father!”
“What?” answered Saysay in an ever increasing tone of voice and doing nothing to disguise her surprise. “Ted? Me didn’t know that they was together. When did the Massa allow that?”
“Nobody knew that they was together and the trouble is that according to Ted the chil’ not his.” Explained Mama Mumda. 
“How you mean?” asked Saysay.
“Well, it’s only Carmel who saying that Ted is the father but he say it ain’t true.”
“Well if it’s not Ted’s who else can be the father?” asked a beady eyed Saysay.
“Me don’t know. I don’t know if the Massa know about this yet but when he find out, me pity her.”
Saysay fell silent. She feared for Carmel as female slaves were not permitted to mate without the express permission of the Master. This revelation of Carmel and Ted being in a relationship had certainly come as a surprise. Saysay hadn’t noticed any attraction between them at all and Ted’s denial seem to corroborate Saysay’s theory that there really wasn’t any relationship between them. The problem was that if Ted wasn’t the father, then who was?
Chapter Two
The scarlet sun was slowly beginning to set as the weary, disenfranchised slaves staggered lifelessly towards their derelict, wooden huts to replenish their exhausted bodies, before gathering again outside for their entertainment. The sounds of the crickets could be heard in the stillness of the dusk and the light emanating from the fireflies was now visible. Tomorrow was Sunday, so they would all have the entire day off but for church attendance which was compulsory. As much as Saysay didn’t relish the prospect of this or listening to the hypocrisy which she endured on a weekly basis, it was certainly better than slaving away in the big house or in its gardens.
After eating a meagre morsel of rice and offal, Saysay went to sit outside of the hut she shared with her uncle and cousin. She tried to fix her hair and look presentable although, she really wasn’t sure why. She wasn’t attracted to anyone but she still desired to look attractive. Perhaps, it was just part of being a female. She sat silently on the rotten wooden steps observing the other slaves who were venturing out excitedly.
Isabella who lived in the neighbouring hut, approached Saysay with a warm smile and sat quietly next to Saysay. Their friendship was such that at times no words were necessary. They had a deep understanding. Perhaps it was borne out of their mutual suffering but they definitely had a kindred spirit.
“How you feeling?” asked Saysay compassionately.
“Not too bad now but me back still sore. Mama Mumda say it go take some time to heal properly.”
“Damn brute,” retorted Saysay audibly. She didn’t mean for Isabella to hear that but couldn’t contain her feelings.
“Remember what the preacher does tell us in church. We must forgive our earthly massas if we want to make Heaven our home.”
“Huh, he would say that because they want to continue ill treating us. I hate them all.” spat Saysay contemptuously.
Isabella didn’t say anything. She’d heard Saysay make these comments so many times and despite efforts to thwart these rebellious exclamations, there was no calming Saysay. 
“You notice the new slave Massa bought?” asked Isabella changing the subject, her eyes glistening in the moonlight.
“Oh you mean the mulatto boy from Mount Man Estate?” asked Saysay looking quizzically at Isabella.
“Of course,” smiled Isabella. “You playing you don’t notice him?” she teased Saysay.
“Well as you know, it don’t make no sense you taking a shine to anyone because if Massa put you with someone else or sell you, you no go see him again.”
Isabella’s smile vanished. Even her momentary attempt to forget her plight and delude herself into believing that she lived a normal life in which she could fall in love and marry the man of her dreams was futile. Life could be so cruel.
The music had started. Firstly the drummers began, followed by the flute players and then the make shift musicians began using wooden sticks and playing rhythmically on discarded, dented tins. The musicians tried to play as quietly as they could because they knew that it was dangerous for the Master to hear the drumming. The plantation owners perceived drumming as a threat since they knew that the slaves used the drums as a means of communication but Saysay could see no sense in this threat as there really wasn’t anywhere that the slaves could escape to. The last time one of the slaves attempted to escape, his feet were brutally amputated. She remembered the Master laughing as he warned all the slaves that they had all better think long and hard before entertaining such wicked and ungrateful notions in the future. Saysay reflected back to that horrendous day. It was the overseer had been ordered to inflict this heinous torture upon the would be escapee. He was whipped repeatedly before the crude, blunt instrument was used to hack off his feet.
Saysay winced as she remembered Henry’s pitiful and hideous screams. The gushing blood which came flooding out as his feet were aggressively hacked off. One of the slaves passed out. She simply couldn’t bear it and days after the incident, the dogs began licking his wounds once the blood had dried. Poor Henry, he never recovered emotionally or psychologically from that and his will to live eventually died altogether. 
“Why you mind so far?” quizzed Saysay’s cousin, Alfreda. 
Saysay shrugged her shoulders. She didn’t wish to share her private thoughts with anyone this evening. She’d only be criticised for harbouring such depressing memories.
“Come and dance nah,” invited Alfreda. 
With Alfreda’s warm invitation, Saysay couldn’t resist and got up and joined the others who were having a raucous time. The volume level became louder and the dancing became more vigorous with the slaves almost forgetting about their deprivation and hardship. Isabella was ecstatic as she was seen dancing with the new mulatto boy. They danced together over and over again and Mama Mumda commented on how smitten they appeared to be with each other.
“Yes but there’s no future in it,” remarked Alfreda.
“You just jealous because it not you,” retaliated Mama Mumda. “You can see that they like each other.”
“Of course but if Massa sell Isabella or the boy, what go happen?” 
“That’s the problem!” answered Juper although no one was talking to her in particular. “Leave them be and let them enjoy they self. Life already hard for we, let them enjoy theyself even if it’s only for tonight.”
As Juper continued to reprimand Alfreda, there in the dark was a solitary figure carrying an oil lamp. His distinctive gait was unmistakeable and his limp convinced Mama Mumda that it was indeed the person she thought it was. She froze but it was too late to alert the merrymakers. Despite his limp, he was upon the slaves before they knew it and his stern expression made it abundantly clear that he did not approve of their activity.
“What’s going on here?” he demanded.
“Overseer, we sorry but we was just trying to to...” Peter had no plausible explanation, so his voice trailed off in silence.
The overseer wasn’t amused as was clear from his harsh expression. “Stop this racket immediately and go to your quarters. You all know that such activities are forbidden, especially the drumming. If I report this to the Master, you’ll all be whipped. I’m not going to jeopardise my position for any of you.” he spat.
The slaves began frantically rushing around before dispersing and retiring to their respective quarters for fear of any further reprisals. The joviality had come to an abrupt end and Saysay’s uncle and cousin were especially irritated by the interference.
“It’s the only damn time all week that we free from work and try to enjoy we self and even that we can’t do.”
“These people ‘ave no heart,” commented Saysay. “At least not the heart of compassion they preach to us about. They just want to work us as mules and when we too old to work, they go kill us, just like they did to Ellis.”
“Chil’ where you get that from? Nobody kill Ellis. Him just get too old to work and drop dead. Besides what you know? You just a babe at fourteen years.” replied Uncle.
“You can believe what you want but me know different.” answered an indignant Saysay.
“Those stories go get you into trouble. Ellis was an old man. No one kill him.” insisted Uncle clearly exasperated by Saysay’s conspiracy theory. 
Saysay decided to say nothing more. She didn’t have the strength to get into an altercation with her Uncle. He was a headstrong man too. Unfortunately, not so much where it was necessary. She wished he could see their superiors for the evil, callous individuals that they were. It seemed that only she was aware of what was going on. The other slaves were either oblivious to their Master’s cruelty or they perhaps had decided that since they were powerless to do anything, it was safer to accept the status quo. But try as she did, Saysay found that every fibre in her body resisted her situation in life. 
Saysay awoke to the soothing sound of birds singing and the crokey sound of her uncle shouting, “Church today. Get up Saysay.”
She was immediately brought back to reality. She’s just been enjoying a dream in which she was free and lived on a huge plantation, where she was the mistress, rather than a slave. In her dream, she was married to a kindly plantation owner, who adored her and treated her like a queen.
“Chil’ get up and get ready,” shouted Uncle. “Every week, I have to tell you to get up. What wrong with you?”
“I tired,” lied Saysay. “Don’t t’ink I can go today?”
“Well if you don’t go, Massa go send for you to work in the big house. You ready for that?” reminded Uncle as if he had suspected that Saysay was using this ploy to avoid going to church.
Saysay released a deep sign and as she did, rain could be heard outside growing heavier and heavier.

“We go get soaked by the time we reach church.” pleaded Saysay hoping that Uncle would see the rain as a legitimate reason to stay away from church. 
“Yes but we still ‘ave to go even if the rain really heavy. You know that already.” explained Uncle.
Saysay had expected that response even though she hoped it might be different. 
Much as Saysay hated going to church, she resented working in the big house even more and today at least, she had the comfort of dwelling on your dream, so she could mentally switch off and fantasise without anyone having a clue as to why she appeared so contended. They would obviously assume that it was the message in church but oh how wrong they would be. Let them believe what they want. No one needed to know the inner workings of her mind. 
The usual songs were sung and then the preacher gave his sermon but Saysay didn’t have clue what it was about. She’d been there in body only but her spirit had transported into her imaginary world where everything was perfect. The danger she feared would be in coming back to reality tomorrow morning when she returned to the big house for another gruelling week of work, ill treatment and hostility. 
“You look happy today!” commented Uncle. “You enjoy church today?”
Saysay just smiled and decided to humour her uncle. She needed these diversions in order to make life more tolerable. She spent the rest of the afternoon with Isabella and Mama Mumda who regaled them with tales of their ancestors. Mama Mumda told the young girls that their grandmothers had lived in a far way land, before being brought to Grenada. The faraway land was called Africa and she told Saysay that her grandmother told her that she lived with her parents and siblings and how happy she was before she was forcibly captured after being lured and deceived by a young friend. That horrendous experience caused Saysay’s grandmother to be untrusting of anyone ever again. Despite, the obvious sadness in the story, Saysay and Isabella found some comfort in knowing that their ancestors had meaningful lives before slavery. They realised that their ancestors had a rich history of family unity, love and purpose. It was nonetheless disconcerting to learn that their betrayal had been at the hands of their own people.
“The white slave owners would never have been able to capture our forefathers without the betrayal of neighbouring tribes. You see what envy and malice can do?” trailed off Mama Mumda. She always ended her stories about the enslavement of Africans with that phrase. It was a pivotal point because even amongst the slaves, Saysay had witnessed an envious spirit amongst some of them. Those who worked in the big house considered themselves superior to the field workers. Saysay was viewed differently because she associated more with the field slaves and was criticised by those in the big house.
“Why do you want to spend time with those dirty, smelly, dark slaves?” fair skinned Liz would ask her.
“Well dark or fair, we all slaves.” replied Saysay agitatedly. “You t’ink you better than them because you working in the big house? You t’ink the Massa see you as better than the field slaves?” 
Liz just gave Saysay a disapproving look. She didn’t appreciate the reprimand. “Well anyway,” she continued. “I know I cleaner than them. I don’t sweat and stink like them or have to work in the rain.” she pointed out unsympathetically.
“Well, it not their fault they have to work in the rain,” replied a stern faced Saysay. 
“Me never say it was but me don’t have to mix with them if me don’t want to.” retaliated Liz before walking away and leaving a fuming Saysay standing in the music room, polishing the piano. She couldn’t comprehend the disdain which Liz showed to the other slaves, weren’t they all slaves? Still she had to accept that she couldn’t change people’s attitudes. She noticed that the field slaves were more unified and caring towards each other but the housing slaves were aloof and self absorbed.
Saysay continued polishing the furniture in the drawing room which was one of her daily chores and she didn’t mind it too much as it gave her the opportunity to drift off and think about more pleasurable things. Foolishly perhaps, she imagined herself being the lady of the big house with a loving husband and children. It was a daily yearning. Why was she born with this desire, if it was not to be realised? She wished earnestly that she believed in the God she was taught to revere and worship because then she would pray to him and have the faith and expectation that her prayers would be answered but she didn’t believe. She was convinced that the proselytising of the gospel by the slave owners was for the sole purpose of keeping the slaves in their place. 
“What you doing?” shouted Liz. “You don’t hear Massa calling you name?”
Saysay hadn’t heard him calling her at all but she hastily stumbled back to the drawing room. The harsh reality was that her life was not her own, so she hurried off to the Master who wanted her to clean his bathroom. The slave who usually covered that task was too sick to work today, so Saysay had been assigned this task. She dutifully carried out this task relishing the fact that she was alone to carry out this chore. It was an arduous task however because no matter how hard she scrubbed the bath didn’t look clean. She could feel herself becoming anxious about this as she recalled Ena being beaten for failing to clean the bath thoroughly.
“Me really try hard Massa but me can’t get it white,” pleaded Ena.
“You lazy swine!” shouted the furious Master. I’ll whip your ass until it’s as white as mine.” 
“But me try. Please don’t beat me again,” pleaded Ena to the merciless Master. The Master lifted up his hand to strike Ena again but for some strange reason stopped in mid air. It was as though an invisible force had withheld his hand. The slaves stood stunned, all except one individual and the Master walked away confused.
Chapter Three
“You don’t notice how Maximus looking sickly and thin?” asked Mama Mumda looking intently at Alfreda whilst they were preparing corn and other vegetables for dinner. 
“Yes me notice and yesterday he could hardly stand up. But Massa still ‘ave him working.” remarked Alfreda.
Mama Mumda didn’t respond, instead she wore a wry grin. Alfreda looked curiously at her. It was as if she knew more than she was divulging.
The two women sat down for a brief moment when Juper came running frantically into the kitchen. “Mama Mumda, Ms Alfreda come quick! Massa just find out about Carmel pregnancy and say he go whip her.”
“My God, exclaimed Mama Mumda as she hastily rushed out of the kitchen with Alfreda, making their way to the courtyard where the other slaves congregated. Some were preparing to beg the Master to withhold punishment in light of Carmel’s condition but his mood denoted that he was not about to offer any clemency even to a pregnant young girl.
“I have warned you all before that you’re my property and you are not to mate with anyone unless you have my permission.”
“Mama, say something to Massa before he kill Carmel.” Whispered a desperate Alfreda.
“You hear him already. He gone beat her.” was Mama Mumda’s cold reply.
The Master propped himself in his chair, getting ready to whip Carmel when an inexplicable thing happened. As he lifted up his hand to strike the first blow, he was invisibly restrained. This occurrence mirrored the incident which transpired when he was about to beat Ena some months ago. The fury of his humiliation made him all the more determined not to be defeated by whatever it was, so he lifted up his hand a second time, only to experience the same strange phenomenon. The slaves looked around, what was going on and what would the Master do next. Alfreda touched Mama Mumda’s shoulder lightly “What you thin’ this is?”

Mama Mumda cast a cross look and gestured to Alfreda that now was not the time to talk. 
The red faced Master stood up, “Maximus!” he shouted. “Come here and whip this girl.”
Maximus obediently ran to the courtyard, taking the whip but the same strange force apprehended him, preventing him from carrying out his Master’s instructions.
“Whip her!” commanded the furious Master.
“I’m trying,” replied a confused Maximus ‘”But I can’t.”
“I will get to the bottom of this.” thundered the Master before leaving his chair and stomping off to the big house.
“What goin’ on?” Alfreda asked Mama Mumda. “I remember you telling me something about obeah.”
Mama Mumda remained silent.
“Tell me Mama, what happened today? Why Massa couldn’t beat Carmel?”
“Chil’ I can’t tell you cos you don’ know how to hold you mout’.”

“So you know what goin on?”

“Maybe but one thing I know from a little girl, you reap what you sow. Now let’s go back to we kitchen duties.” with that Mama Mumda said no more.

The slaves were certainly relieved that Carmel had escaped the whipping but they seemed more intrigued by the bizarre occurrences. It was clear that there had been an invisible force restraining both the Master as well as Maximus but if there was an explanation for this supernatural occurrence, no one revealing it. The deterioration in Maximus’ health continued and about a week after the Master attempted to beat Carmel, Maximus died.
Early one morning, the slaves were again ordered to the courtyard in the pouring rain. They wondered what horrors awaiting them but as they waited, becoming more drenched by the minute, the Master appeared accompanied by someone else.
“Hugh is the new overseer who will replace Maximus,” announced the Master. “You will obey him as you obeyed Maximus because if you don’t, you know what the consequences will.” continued the Master although he remained subdued, no doubt remembering last weeks’ embarrassment.
Hugh was much younger than his predecessor, with a well built frame. He wore a pleasant smile but the slaves were unsure how to receive this. He walked around the plantation with a stick in his hand, thus causing concern to the slaves but as the weeks passed, it was clear that Hugh was indeed more humane than Maximus. He exhibited a caring disposition which made the slaves warm to him. “As long as you obey the Master and do your work, you have nothing to fear from me” he reassured them.
Hugh was the first non slave who showed any compassion and as a result, Saysay’s heart began to soften to the God she had previously dubbed God for the Masters. Perhaps, there were some genuine people. 
Hugh had a special gift in curing animals and was therefore resourceful to the Master. One day, one of the Master’s beloved horses fell ill and Hugh came to the Master’s aid, offering to apply his secret remedy. However, it failed to work and as the horse grew weaker, the Master suggested that Hugh take the horse to a man who was known for treating sick animals. Saysay was ordered to accompany Hugh to tend to his needs and it was during this time that Hugh engaged in conversation with her.
“How old are you?” he probed.
“Fourteen.”
“You always seem so serious. Do you ever smile?” he asked probingly.
“If I have somethin’ to smile about, I go smile.” she was surprised that he had noticed her disposition around the plantation.
Hugh was clearly astounded by her response. “You seem to have a defiance about you which is remarkable for a slave.”
Saysay decided that on this occasion it was best to hold her tongue. Although, this man who appeared to be in his late twenties was civil, she still wasn’t sure whether she could trust him.
“I may be leaving the plantation in the next few months,” he confided.
Saysay didn’t reply but her aghast expression showed her shock. Inside, she felt an inexplicable wound. Hugh was the kindest person with authority on the plantation and now he was leaving. He could see her searching eyes and enquiring mind, so divulged further information.
“I have raised enough money to buy a small plantation and have a few animals but no slaves.”
Saysay grimaced at the word slave and wondered if his attitude would differ once he was the master rather than the overseer.
“However, my approach would be different.” he continued. “I would employ staff rather than have slaves. I think you get more from people if you pay them and treat them fairly.”
Still Saysay remained silent. She wondered why Hugh was telling her such things.
“If I were to buy your freedom, would you be willing to come with me?” he finally asked.
Saysay sat dumfounded with her mouth opened but no sound came out. Hugh could see that she was shocked by his proposal and nothing further was said. 
Months went by after that brief conversation and there was no further dialogue between Hugh and Saysay but as he had intimated, he left the plantation some months later. Saysay’s heart sank. She knew it was dangerous to dream, to hope but why had this man given her such hope? It was as though he sensed her desire to be free, but to you give a person a glimmer of light and then cut that light off, leaving the person in complete darkness was so cruel. She would never trust again.
It had been another long and arduous day and Saysay was relieved to retire to her cabin. Exhaustion soon overwhelmed her and she drifted off to sleep. However, she was awoken by what sounded like thunder ripping through her wooden shack but she heard no rain, so she got up to investigate. This was when she saw a face glaring back at her, startling her. 
Then she heard a familiar, husky voice whisper, “Sorry to frighten you but I had to come during the night. I tried to purchase your freedom but the Master refused, so this is your only chance. If you want your freedom, you need with me to leave now.”
Saysay hesitated for a moment. Her head was reeling, her mind confused. To leave now would mean that she would never see her family and friends again but this was the opportunity she had fantasised about virtually her whole life. Admittedly, she didn’t know what to expect as she had never tasted freedom before but it had to be better than what she had now, so without further contemplation or procrastination, she took hold of the outstretched hand of Hugh and disappeared into the Saysay
Chapter One
Tears of bitterness and fury streamed uncontrollably from Saysay’s eyes. Her dainty frame convulsed violently as she desperately tried to hold back her sorrow; her anger. Refusing to cry was often the only weapon of defiance with which a slave could metaphorically speaking punish and antagonise their master but today she could restrain her tears no longer. The slaves were not permitted to close their eyes during whipping ceremonies but were compelled to watch the brutality. They were all too aware of the penalty for refusing to look. Saysay had been subjected to enough arbitrary whipping already and wasn’t sure that she could endure anymore without retaliating. 
The sticky air was filled with fear and melancholy. The spirit of the slaves had long been crushed since this wasn’t the first time they had witnessed such a barbaric display and no doubt wouldn’t be the last. The question which plagued Saysay’s mind, amongst others was how long would this injustice last? How long would a God whom she had been taught to believe in, seemingly sit by and allow such cruelty to continue? She’d been a slave all her young life but possessed a dangerous spirit of belligerence. She yearned to be free and harboured dreams of emancipation and enacting revenge upon her oppressors but would these dreams ever materialise? Unbeknown to Saysay her desire for liberation was nothing new. It had been the ambition and hope of countless slaves centuries before, most of whom died without their aspirations ever being realised.
Here on another swelteringly hot Saturday morning, the slaves were compelled to stand in the courtyard and witness the merciless beating of Isabella. Isabella was a compliant, obedient slave who was dutiful and didn’t question her station in life, yet here she was being made an example of for something so trivial that one had to assume that the Master was imposing this punishment merely for his amusement.
“No more please,” begged Isabella after the sixth brutal whip. “Me won’t eat the stale bread no more, me promise?” she pleaded.
“You’ll learn one way or another,” explained the Master laughing heartily. “That stealing is a sin.” He shouted for emphasis. “You’ve been taught this commandment each Sunday. When will you learn? Stinking thieves!” he spat.
The slaves stood immobilised by the cruelty. Fists clenched tightly and hearts racing frantically. Yet in Saysay’s mind, this was not an example of the God of mercy she would hear about tomorrow; the God who forgave sinners. It was this hypocrisy made her to resist the teachings she heard every Sunday. How could these people who allegedly follow a God of love be so evil and yet expect their slaves to love and serve them faithfully? 
The brutal whipping finally came to an end and poor Isabella, riddled with lashes passed out and collapsed to the ground. The slaves were not permitted to go to her aid until the Master had left his chair. He looked scornfully at Isabella and the rest of the slaves before abruptly leaving his chair.
The nearby sea gulls were too distressed to sing and displayed their displeasure at one man’s inhumanity towards another. The intensive air became stagnant without the refreshing breeze to offer any respite.
Some of the older slaves nursed Isabella’s eye watering wounds as best as they could. Poor Isabella’s winced as each damp cloth was placed on her back to nurse and soothe her inflated gashes. Her face grimacing with pain. Despite the meticulous care received, poor Isabella was unable to stand for a few days much less work as she was so weak from the beating and loss of blood. Not that this mattered to her Master, who demanded that she return to duty as soon as possible and with the same vigour as before. There was no regard for the wounds inflicted and their obvious consequences. Yet Isabella’s positive attitude and humility remained and she was as subservient as before. Not seemingly harbouring any malice towards her malevolent Master. 
Saysay and Isabella were as close as slaves could become. There was always the risk that one would be sold and given that Saysay and Isabella were amongst some of the younger slaves on the plantation being only fourteen years, there was always that possibility, so the slaves naturally felt some trepidation in becoming emotionally attached to one another. This was especially true of mothers. They knew that their primary duty was to breed new property for their master, so they had to safeguard their hearts by not becoming too emotionally attached to their offspring, realising that at any time either they or their offspring could be sold to another plantation never to be seen again. 
Saysay knew about this first hand because she had no recollection of her mother whatsoever, who’d been sold shortly after her birth. Mama Mumda, the oldest slave on the plantation became a surrogate mother to her and shared many precious stories with Saysay about her mother, enabling her to create an idyllic fantasy about how wonderful her mother was and what it might have been like if she’d had a normal family life, like her Master’s spoilt daughter, Elva. Saysay despised Elva, not because her parents indulged her or because she was free but because she deliberately taunted and abused the slaves, in much the same way as her monstrous father. Saysay knew it was a sin to hold contempt for anyone, according to what she’d been taught in church but she couldn’t help but detest the pair of them. The Master’s wife was more tolerable, albeit relatively powerless from what she could deduce. The Mistress would often sit by subordinately, not saying anything about her husband’s brutality and was therefore viewed with disdain and indifference. What’s the point of existing, if you’re going to be so spineless pondered Sayay?
“You mustn’t get ideas above you station,” advised Isabella. “What you can do? You only a slave. You can’t go nowhere.”
“I go find a way,” continued Saysay defiantly. “I wasn’t born for this hardship?”
“What you t’ink you was born for?” queried Isabella.
“Me don’t know. I just know that cleaning the Massa’s house and serving the food in the big house is not for me.”
Isabella couldn’t conceal the feeling of terror she held for her beloved friend and this made her shudder. Numerous slaves on the plantation had tried to persuade Saysay to abandon her rebellious thoughts and warned her of the dangers of her ideas but she simply wouldn’t take heed. If she gave up hope, she may as well be dead.
The dry season had now passed and was replaced by the incessant rain of the wet season. There was no doubt that the relentless winds and rain of the hurricane season had returned and the slaves were terrified. They knew that this treacherous weather would not exempt them from their duties and would certainly endanger their lives. Saysay recalled how the gale force winds had caused loose pieces of timber to fly across the plantation, striking Freddie on the head causing him to fall unconscious and he remained so for several days before a poignant smelly herb was placed under his nose and revived him. It was a relief to all because some of the slaves believed that he would die and began making funeral arrangements for him. 
The Master was frantic that another hurricane could decimate his crops. Two years ago, Hurricane Monty had obliterated his crops and he had to sell numerous slaves since he couldn’t afford to feed them. That was a time of much distress and weeping amongst the slaves. The Master had been callous as usual and showed no understanding or compassion. He had separated mother from child, brother from sister and was as ruthless in deciding which slaves to sell as he was in his treatment of them on the plantation.
As long as the winds didn’t turn deadly, the rain was a welcome respite for the plantation slaves as it served to cool them down and offer some relief from the sweltering Caribbean heat. The Master still expected the same output nonetheless, so their productivity levels didn’t diminish.
“Me feel really weary today,” commented Freddy. “Me work really hard.”
“You say that every day,” grunted his stern looking Sister Lizzie.
“Truly,” replied Freddie. “It’s a shame that Massa wasn’t there to see me.”
“Massa?” asked Lizzie mockingly. “You t’ink he’s going to come out in the rain to watch you?”
“No but he don’t know how hard we does work.” replied Freddie.
“He don’t care about us, Freddie. You must know that. All he care about is his damn crops.”
“Time to finish now!” announced the overseer. “It’s getting too dark to see anymore.”
Overseer Maximus was no angel but certainly more amenable than the Master. He appreciated that some conditions made it impossible for the slaves to work in, whilst the Master didn’t appreciate that concept at all. 
Early the following morning, Saysay was busy clearing the weeds from the front garden of the big house when she was approached by an anxious looking Mama Mumda. 
“Saysay,” whispered Mama Mumda emphatically. 
“What happen?” asked Saysay curiously. 
“Carmel is pregnant and she say that Ted is the father!”
“What?” answered Saysay in an ever increasing tone of voice and doing nothing to disguise her surprise. “Ted? Me didn’t know that they was together. When did the Massa allow that?”
“Nobody knew that they was together and the trouble is that according to Ted the chil’ not his.” Explained Mama Mumda. 
“How you mean?” asked Saysay.
“Well, it’s only Carmel who saying that Ted is the father but he say it ain’t true.”
“Well if it’s not Ted’s who else can be the father?” asked a beady eyed Saysay.
“Me don’t know. I don’t know if the Massa know about this yet but when he find out, me pity her.”
Saysay fell silent. She feared for Carmel as female slaves were not permitted to mate without the express permission of the Master. This revelation of Carmel and Ted being in a relationship had certainly come as a surprise. Saysay hadn’t noticed any attraction between them at all and Ted’s denial seem to corroborate Saysay’s theory that there really wasn’t any relationship between them. The problem was that if Ted wasn’t the father, then who was?
Chapter Two
The scarlet sun was slowly beginning to set as the weary, disenfranchised slaves staggered lifelessly towards their derelict, wooden huts to replenish their exhausted bodies, before gathering again outside for their entertainment. The sounds of the crickets could be heard in the stillness of the dusk and the light emanating from the fireflies was now visible. Tomorrow was Sunday, so they would all have the entire day off but for church attendance which was compulsory. As much as Saysay didn’t relish the prospect of this or listening to the hypocrisy which she endured on a weekly basis, it was certainly better than slaving away in the big house or in its gardens.
After eating a meagre morsel of rice and offal, Saysay went to sit outside of the hut she shared with her uncle and cousin. She tried to fix her hair and look presentable although, she really wasn’t sure why. She wasn’t attracted to anyone but she still desired to look attractive. Perhaps, it was just part of being a female. She sat silently on the rotten wooden steps observing the other slaves who were venturing out excitedly.
Isabella who lived in the neighbouring hut, approached Saysay with a warm smile and sat quietly next to Saysay. Their friendship was such that at times no words were necessary. They had a deep understanding. Perhaps it was borne out of their mutual suffering but they definitely had a kindred spirit.
“How you feeling?” asked Saysay compassionately.
“Not too bad now but me back still sore. Mama Mumda say it go take some time to heal properly.”
“Damn brute,” retorted Saysay audibly. She didn’t mean for Isabella to hear that but couldn’t contain her feelings.
“Remember what the preacher does tell us in church. We must forgive our earthly massas if we want to make Heaven our home.”
“Huh, he would say that because they want to continue ill treating us. I hate them all.” spat Saysay contemptuously.
Isabella didn’t say anything. She’d heard Saysay make these comments so many times and despite efforts to thwart these rebellious exclamations, there was no calming Saysay. 
“You notice the new slave Massa bought?” asked Isabella changing the subject, her eyes glistening in the moonlight.
“Oh you mean the mulatto boy from Mount Man Estate?” asked Saysay looking quizzically at Isabella.
“Of course,” smiled Isabella. “You playing you don’t notice him?” she teased Saysay.
“Well as you know, it don’t make no sense you taking a shine to anyone because if Massa put you with someone else or sell you, you no go see him again.”
Isabella’s smile vanished. Even her momentary attempt to forget her plight and delude herself into believing that she lived a normal life in which she could fall in love and marry the man of her dreams was futile. Life could be so cruel.
The music had started. Firstly the drummers began, followed by the flute players and then the make shift musicians began using wooden sticks and playing rhythmically on discarded, dented tins. The musicians tried to play as quietly as they could because they knew that it was dangerous for the Master to hear the drumming. The plantation owners perceived drumming as a threat since they knew that the slaves used the drums as a means of communication but Saysay could see no sense in this threat as there really wasn’t anywhere that the slaves could escape to. The last time one of the slaves attempted to escape, his feet were brutally amputated. She remembered the Master laughing as he warned all the slaves that they had all better think long and hard before entertaining such wicked and ungrateful notions in the future. Saysay reflected back to that horrendous day. It was the overseer had been ordered to inflict this heinous torture upon the would be escapee. He was whipped repeatedly before the crude, blunt instrument was used to hack off his feet.
Saysay winced as she remembered Henry’s pitiful and hideous screams. The gushing blood which came flooding out as his feet were aggressively hacked off. One of the slaves passed out. She simply couldn’t bear it and days after the incident, the dogs began licking his wounds once the blood had dried. Poor Henry, he never recovered emotionally or psychologically from that and his will to live eventually died altogether. 
“Why you mind so far?” quizzed Saysay’s cousin, Alfreda. 
Saysay shrugged her shoulders. She didn’t wish to share her private thoughts with anyone this evening. She’d only be criticised for harbouring such depressing memories.
“Come and dance nah,” invited Alfreda. 
With Alfreda’s warm invitation, Saysay couldn’t resist and got up and joined the others who were having a raucous time. The volume level became louder and the dancing became more vigorous with the slaves almost forgetting about their deprivation and hardship. Isabella was ecstatic as she was seen dancing with the new mulatto boy. They danced together over and over again and Mama Mumda commented on how smitten they appeared to be with each other.
“Yes but there’s no future in it,” remarked Alfreda.
“You just jealous because it not you,” retaliated Mama Mumda. “You can see that they like each other.”
“Of course but if Massa sell Isabella or the boy, what go happen?” 
“That’s the problem!” answered Juper although no one was talking to her in particular. “Leave them be and let them enjoy they self. Life already hard for we, let them enjoy theyself even if it’s only for tonight.”
As Juper continued to reprimand Alfreda, there in the dark was a solitary figure carrying an oil lamp. His distinctive gait was unmistakeable and his limp convinced Mama Mumda that it was indeed the person she thought it was. She froze but it was too late to alert the merrymakers. Despite his limp, he was upon the slaves before they knew it and his stern expression made it abundantly clear that he did not approve of their activity.
“What’s going on here?” he demanded.
“Overseer, we sorry but we was just trying to to...” Peter had no plausible explanation, so his voice trailed off in silence.
The overseer wasn’t amused as was clear from his harsh expression. “Stop this racket immediately and go to your quarters. You all know that such activities are forbidden, especially the drumming. If I report this to the Master, you’ll all be whipped. I’m not going to jeopardise my position for any of you.” he spat.
The slaves began frantically rushing around before dispersing and retiring to their respective quarters for fear of any further reprisals. The joviality had come to an abrupt end and Saysay’s uncle and cousin were especially irritated by the interference.
“It’s the only damn time all week that we free from work and try to enjoy we self and even that we can’t do.”
“These people ‘ave no heart,” commented Saysay. “At least not the heart of compassion they preach to us about. They just want to work us as mules and when we too old to work, they go kill us, just like they did to Ellis.”
“Chil’ where you get that from? Nobody kill Ellis. Him just get too old to work and drop dead. Besides what you know? You just a babe at fourteen years.” replied Uncle.
“You can believe what you want but me know different.” answered an indignant Saysay.
“Those stories go get you into trouble. Ellis was an old man. No one kill him.” insisted Uncle clearly exasperated by Saysay’s conspiracy theory. 
Saysay decided to say nothing more. She didn’t have the strength to get into an altercation with her Uncle. He was a headstrong man too. Unfortunately, not so much where it was necessary. She wished he could see their superiors for the evil, callous individuals that they were. It seemed that only she was aware of what was going on. The other slaves were either oblivious to their Master’s cruelty or they perhaps had decided that since they were powerless to do anything, it was safer to accept the status quo. But try as she did, Saysay found that every fibre in her body resisted her situation in life. 
Saysay awoke to the soothing sound of birds singing and the crokey sound of her uncle shouting, “Church today. Get up Saysay.”
She was immediately brought back to reality. She’s just been enjoying a dream in which she was free and lived on a huge plantation, where she was the mistress, rather than a slave. In her dream, she was married to a kindly plantation owner, who adored her and treated her like a queen.
“Chil’ get up and get ready,” shouted Uncle. “Every week, I have to tell you to get up. What wrong with you?”
“I tired,” lied Saysay. “Don’t t’ink I can go today?”
“Well if you don’t go, Massa go send for you to work in the big house. You ready for that?” reminded Uncle as if he had suspected that Saysay was using this ploy to avoid going to church.
Saysay released a deep sign and as she did, rain could be heard outside growing heavier and heavier.

“We go get soaked by the time we reach church.” pleaded Saysay hoping that Uncle would see the rain as a legitimate reason to stay away from church. 
“Yes but we still ‘ave to go even if the rain really heavy. You know that already.” explained Uncle.
Saysay had expected that response even though she hoped it might be different. 
Much as Saysay hated going to church, she resented working in the big house even more and today at least, she had the comfort of dwelling on your dream, so she could mentally switch off and fantasise without anyone having a clue as to why she appeared so contended. They would obviously assume that it was the message in church but oh how wrong they would be. Let them believe what they want. No one needed to know the inner workings of her mind. 
The usual songs were sung and then the preacher gave his sermon but Saysay didn’t have clue what it was about. She’d been there in body only but her spirit had transported into her imaginary world where everything was perfect. The danger she feared would be in coming back to reality tomorrow morning when she returned to the big house for another gruelling week of work, ill treatment and hostility. 
“You look happy today!” commented Uncle. “You enjoy church today?”
Saysay just smiled and decided to humour her uncle. She needed these diversions in order to make life more tolerable. She spent the rest of the afternoon with Isabella and Mama Mumda who regaled them with tales of their ancestors. Mama Mumda told the young girls that their grandmothers had lived in a far way land, before being brought to Grenada. The faraway land was called Africa and she told Saysay that her grandmother told her that she lived with her parents and siblings and how happy she was before she was forcibly captured after being lured and deceived by a young friend. That horrendous experience caused Saysay’s grandmother to be untrusting of anyone ever again. Despite, the obvious sadness in the story, Saysay and Isabella found some comfort in knowing that their ancestors had meaningful lives before slavery. They realised that their ancestors had a rich history of family unity, love and purpose. It was nonetheless disconcerting to learn that their betrayal had been at the hands of their own people.
“The white slave owners would never have been able to capture our forefathers without the betrayal of neighbouring tribes. You see what envy and malice can do?” trailed off Mama Mumda. She always ended her stories about the enslavement of Africans with that phrase. It was a pivotal point because even amongst the slaves, Saysay had witnessed an envious spirit amongst some of them. Those who worked in the big house considered themselves superior to the field workers. Saysay was viewed differently because she associated more with the field slaves and was criticised by those in the big house.
“Why do you want to spend time with those dirty, smelly, dark slaves?” fair skinned Liz would ask her.
“Well dark or fair, we all slaves.” replied Saysay agitatedly. “You t’ink you better than them because you working in the big house? You t’ink the Massa see you as better than the field slaves?” 
Liz just gave Saysay a disapproving look. She didn’t appreciate the reprimand. “Well anyway,” she continued. “I know I cleaner than them. I don’t sweat and stink like them or have to work in the rain.” she pointed out unsympathetically.
“Well, it not their fault they have to work in the rain,” replied a stern faced Saysay. 
“Me never say it was but me don’t have to mix with them if me don’t want to.” retaliated Liz before walking away and leaving a fuming Saysay standing in the music room, polishing the piano. She couldn’t comprehend the disdain which Liz showed to the other slaves, weren’t they all slaves? Still she had to accept that she couldn’t change people’s attitudes. She noticed that the field slaves were more unified and caring towards each other but the housing slaves were aloof and self absorbed.
Saysay continued polishing the furniture in the drawing room which was one of her daily chores and she didn’t mind it too much as it gave her the opportunity to drift off and think about more pleasurable things. Foolishly perhaps, she imagined herself being the lady of the big house with a loving husband and children. It was a daily yearning. Why was she born with this desire, if it was not to be realised? She wished earnestly that she believed in the God she was taught to revere and worship because then she would pray to him and have the faith and expectation that her prayers would be answered but she didn’t believe. She was convinced that the proselytising of the gospel by the slave owners was for the sole purpose of keeping the slaves in their place. 
“What you doing?” shouted Liz. “You don’t hear Massa calling you name?”
Saysay hadn’t heard him calling her at all but she hastily stumbled back to the drawing room. The harsh reality was that her life was not her own, so she hurried off to the Master who wanted her to clean his bathroom. The slave who usually covered that task was too sick to work today, so Saysay had been assigned this task. She dutifully carried out this task relishing the fact that she was alone to carry out this chore. It was an arduous task however because no matter how hard she scrubbed the bath didn’t look clean. She could feel herself becoming anxious about this as she recalled Ena being beaten for failing to clean the bath thoroughly.
“Me really try hard Massa but me can’t get it white,” pleaded Ena.
“You lazy swine!” shouted the furious Master. I’ll whip your ass until it’s as white as mine.” 
“But me try. Please don’t beat me again,” pleaded Ena to the merciless Master. The Master lifted up his hand to strike Ena again but for some strange reason stopped in mid air. It was as though an invisible force had withheld his hand. The slaves stood stunned, all except one individual and the Master walked away confused.
Chapter Three
“You don’t notice how Maximus looking sickly and thin?” asked Mama Mumda looking intently at Alfreda whilst they were preparing corn and other vegetables for dinner. 
“Yes me notice and yesterday he could hardly stand up. But Massa still ‘ave him working.” remarked Alfreda.
Mama Mumda didn’t respond, instead she wore a wry grin. Alfreda looked curiously at her. It was as if she knew more than she was divulging.
The two women sat down for a brief moment when Juper came running frantically into the kitchen. “Mama Mumda, Ms Alfreda come quick! Massa just find out about Carmel pregnancy and say he go whip her.”
“My God, exclaimed Mama Mumda as she hastily rushed out of the kitchen with Alfreda, making their way to the courtyard where the other slaves congregated. Some were preparing to beg the Master to withhold punishment in light of Carmel’s condition but his mood denoted that he was not about to offer any clemency even to a pregnant young girl.
“I have warned you all before that you’re my property and you are not to mate with anyone unless you have my permission.”
“Mama, say something to Massa before he kill Carmel.” Whispered a desperate Alfreda.
“You hear him already. He gone beat her.” was Mama Mumda’s cold reply.
The Master propped himself in his chair, getting ready to whip Carmel when an inexplicable thing happened. As he lifted up his hand to strike the first blow, he was invisibly restrained. This occurrence mirrored the incident which transpired when he was about to beat Ena some months ago. The fury of his humiliation made him all the more determined not to be defeated by whatever it was, so he lifted up his hand a second time, only to experience the same strange phenomenon. The slaves looked around, what was going on and what would the Master do next. Alfreda touched Mama Mumda’s shoulder lightly “What you thin’ this is?”

Mama Mumda cast a cross look and gestured to Alfreda that now was not the time to talk. 
The red faced Master stood up, “Maximus!” he shouted. “Come here and whip this girl.”
Maximus obediently ran to the courtyard, taking the whip but the same strange force apprehended him, preventing him from carrying out his Master’s instructions.
“Whip her!” commanded the furious Master.
“I’m trying,” replied a confused Maximus ‘”But I can’t.”
“I will get to the bottom of this.” thundered the Master before leaving his chair and stomping off to the big house.
“What goin’ on?” Alfreda asked Mama Mumda. “I remember you telling me something about obeah.”
Mama Mumda remained silent.
“Tell me Mama, what happened today? Why Massa couldn’t beat Carmel?”
“Chil’ I can’t tell you cos you don’ know how to hold you mout’.”

“So you know what goin on?”

“Maybe but one thing I know from a little girl, you reap what you sow. Now let’s go back to we kitchen duties.” with that Mama Mumda said no more.

The slaves were certainly relieved that Carmel had escaped the whipping but they seemed more intrigued by the bizarre occurrences. It was clear that there had been an invisible force restraining both the Master as well as Maximus but if there was an explanation for this supernatural occurrence, no one revealing it. The deterioration in Maximus’ health continued and about a week after the Master attempted to beat Carmel, Maximus died.
Early one morning, the slaves were again ordered to the courtyard in the pouring rain. They wondered what horrors awaiting them but as they waited, becoming more drenched by the minute, the Master appeared accompanied by someone else.
“Hugh is the new overseer who will replace Maximus,” announced the Master. “You will obey him as you obeyed Maximus because if you don’t, you know what the consequences will.” continued the Master although he remained subdued, no doubt remembering last weeks’ embarrassment.
Hugh was much younger than his predecessor, with a well built frame. He wore a pleasant smile but the slaves were unsure how to receive this. He walked around the plantation with a stick in his hand, thus causing concern to the slaves but as the weeks passed, it was clear that Hugh was indeed more humane than Maximus. He exhibited a caring disposition which made the slaves warm to him. “As long as you obey the Master and do your work, you have nothing to fear from me” he reassured them.
Hugh was the first non slave who showed any compassion and as a result, Saysay’s heart began to soften to the God she had previously dubbed God for the Masters. Perhaps, there were some genuine people. 
Hugh had a special gift in curing animals and was therefore resourceful to the Master. One day, one of the Master’s beloved horses fell ill and Hugh came to the Master’s aid, offering to apply his secret remedy. However, it failed to work and as the horse grew weaker, the Master suggested that Hugh take the horse to a man who was known for treating sick animals. Saysay was ordered to accompany Hugh to tend to his needs and it was during this time that Hugh engaged in conversation with her.
“How old are you?” he probed.
“Fourteen.”
“You always seem so serious. Do you ever smile?” he asked probingly.
“If I have somethin’ to smile about, I go smile.” she was surprised that he had noticed her disposition around the plantation.
Hugh was clearly astounded by her response. “You seem to have a defiance about you which is remarkable for a slave.”
Saysay decided that on this occasion it was best to hold her tongue. Although, this man who appeared to be in his late twenties was civil, she still wasn’t sure whether she could trust him.
“I may be leaving the plantation in the next few months,” he confided.
Saysay didn’t reply but her aghast expression showed her shock. Inside, she felt an inexplicable wound. Hugh was the kindest person with authority on the plantation and now he was leaving. He could see her searching eyes and enquiring mind, so divulged further information.
“I have raised enough money to buy a small plantation and have a few animals but no slaves.”
Saysay grimaced at the word slave and wondered if his attitude would differ once he was the master rather than the overseer.
“However, my approach would be different.” he continued. “I would employ staff rather than have slaves. I think you get more from people if you pay them and treat them fairly.”
Still Saysay remained silent. She wondered why Hugh was telling her such things.
“If I were to buy your freedom, would you be willing to come with me?” he finally asked.
Saysay sat dumfounded with her mouth opened but no sound came out. Hugh could see that she was shocked by his proposal and nothing further was said. 
Months went by after that brief conversation and there was no further dialogue between Hugh and Saysay but as he had intimated, he left the plantation some months later. Saysay’s heart sank. She knew it was dangerous to dream, to hope but why had this man given her such hope? It was as though he sensed her desire to be free, but to you give a person a glimmer of light and then cut that light off, leaving the person in complete darkness was so cruel. She would never trust again.
It had been another long and arduous day and Saysay was relieved to retire to her cabin. Exhaustion soon overwhelmed her and she drifted off to sleep. However, she was awoken by what sounded like thunder ripping through her wooden shack but she heard no rain, so she got up to investigate. This was when she saw a face glaring back at her, startling her. 
Then she heard a familiar, husky voice whisper, “Sorry to frighten you but I had to come during the night. I tried to purchase your freedom but the Master refused, so this is your only chance. If you want your freedom, you need with me to leave now.”
Saysay hesitated for a moment. Her head was reeling, her mind confused. To leave now would mean that she would never see her family and friends again but this was the opportunity she had fantasised about virtually her whole life. Admittedly, she didn’t know what to expect as she had never tasted freedom before but it had to be better than what she had now, so without further contemplation or procrastination, she took hold of the outstretched hand of Hugh and disappeared into the night.


Saysay
Chapter One
Tears of bitterness and fury streamed uncontrollably from Saysay’s eyes. Her dainty frame convulsed violently as she desperately tried to hold back her sorrow; her anger. Refusing to cry was often the only weapon of defiance with which a slave could metaphorically speaking punish and antagonise their master but today she could restrain her tears no longer. The slaves were not permitted to close their eyes during whipping ceremonies but were compelled to watch the brutality. They were all too aware of the penalty for refusing to look. Saysay had been subjected to enough arbitrary whipping already and wasn’t sure that she could endure anymore without retaliating. 
The sticky air was filled with fear and melancholy. The spirit of the slaves had long been crushed since this wasn’t the first time they had witnessed such a barbaric display and no doubt wouldn’t be the last. The question which plagued Saysay’s mind, amongst others was how long would this injustice last? How long would a God whom she had been taught to believe in, seemingly sit by and allow such cruelty to continue? She’d been a slave all her young life but possessed a dangerous spirit of belligerence. She yearned to be free and harboured dreams of emancipation and enacting revenge upon her oppressors but would these dreams ever materialise? Unbeknown to Saysay her desire for liberation was nothing new. It had been the ambition and hope of countless slaves centuries before, most of whom died without their aspirations ever being realised.
Here on another swelteringly hot Saturday morning, the slaves were compelled to stand in the courtyard and witness the merciless beating of Isabella. Isabella was a compliant, obedient slave who was dutiful and didn’t question her station in life, yet here she was being made an example of for something so trivial that one had to assume that the Master was imposing this punishment merely for his amusement.
“No more please,” begged Isabella after the sixth brutal whip. “Me won’t eat the stale bread no more, me promise?” she pleaded.
“You’ll learn one way or another,” explained the Master laughing heartily. “That stealing is a sin.” He shouted for emphasis. “You’ve been taught this commandment each Sunday. When will you learn? Stinking thieves!” he spat.
The slaves stood immobilised by the cruelty. Fists clenched tightly and hearts racing frantically. Yet in Saysay’s mind, this was not an example of the God of mercy she would hear about tomorrow; the God who forgave sinners. It was this hypocrisy made her to resist the teachings she heard every Sunday. How could these people who allegedly follow a God of love be so evil and yet expect their slaves to love and serve them faithfully? 
The brutal whipping finally came to an end and poor Isabella, riddled with lashes passed out and collapsed to the ground. The slaves were not permitted to go to her aid until the Master had left his chair. He looked scornfully at Isabella and the rest of the slaves before abruptly leaving his chair.
The nearby sea gulls were too distressed to sing and displayed their displeasure at one man’s inhumanity towards another. The intensive air became stagnant without the refreshing breeze to offer any respite.
Some of the older slaves nursed Isabella’s eye watering wounds as best as they could. Poor Isabella’s winced as each damp cloth was placed on her back to nurse and soothe her inflated gashes. Her face grimacing with pain. Despite the meticulous care received, poor Isabella was unable to stand for a few days much less work as she was so weak from the beating and loss of blood. Not that this mattered to her Master, who demanded that she return to duty as soon as possible and with the same vigour as before. There was no regard for the wounds inflicted and their obvious consequences. Yet Isabella’s positive attitude and humility remained and she was as subservient as before. Not seemingly harbouring any malice towards her malevolent Master. 
Saysay and Isabella were as close as slaves could become. There was always the risk that one would be sold and given that Saysay and Isabella were amongst some of the younger slaves on the plantation being only fourteen years, there was always that possibility, so the slaves naturally felt some trepidation in becoming emotionally attached to one another. This was especially true of mothers. They knew that their primary duty was to breed new property for their master, so they had to safeguard their hearts by not becoming too emotionally attached to their offspring, realising that at any time either they or their offspring could be sold to another plantation never to be seen again. 
Saysay knew about this first hand because she had no recollection of her mother whatsoever, who’d been sold shortly after her birth. Mama Mumda, the oldest slave on the plantation became a surrogate mother to her and shared many precious stories with Saysay about her mother, enabling her to create an idyllic fantasy about how wonderful her mother was and what it might have been like if she’d had a normal family life, like her Master’s spoilt daughter, Elva. Saysay despised Elva, not because her parents indulged her or because she was free but because she deliberately taunted and abused the slaves, in much the same way as her monstrous father. Saysay knew it was a sin to hold contempt for anyone, according to what she’d been taught in church but she couldn’t help but detest the pair of them. The Master’s wife was more tolerable, albeit relatively powerless from what she could deduce. The Mistress would often sit by subordinately, not saying anything about her husband’s brutality and was therefore viewed with disdain and indifference. What’s the point of existing, if you’re going to be so spineless pondered Sayay?
“You mustn’t get ideas above you station,” advised Isabella. “What you can do? You only a slave. You can’t go nowhere.”
“I go find a way,” continued Saysay defiantly. “I wasn’t born for this hardship?”
“What you t’ink you was born for?” queried Isabella.
“Me don’t know. I just know that cleaning the Massa’s house and serving the food in the big house is not for me.”
Isabella couldn’t conceal the feeling of terror she held for her beloved friend and this made her shudder. Numerous slaves on the plantation had tried to persuade Saysay to abandon her rebellious thoughts and warned her of the dangers of her ideas but she simply wouldn’t take heed. If she gave up hope, she may as well be dead.
The dry season had now passed and was replaced by the incessant rain of the wet season. There was no doubt that the relentless winds and rain of the hurricane season had returned and the slaves were terrified. They knew that this treacherous weather would not exempt them from their duties and would certainly endanger their lives. Saysay recalled how the gale force winds had caused loose pieces of timber to fly across the plantation, striking Freddie on the head causing him to fall unconscious and he remained so for several days before a poignant smelly herb was placed under his nose and revived him. It was a relief to all because some of the slaves believed that he would die and began making funeral arrangements for him. 
The Master was frantic that another hurricane could decimate his crops. Two years ago, Hurricane Monty had obliterated his crops and he had to sell numerous slaves since he couldn’t afford to feed them. That was a time of much distress and weeping amongst the slaves. The Master had been callous as usual and showed no understanding or compassion. He had separated mother from child, brother from sister and was as ruthless in deciding which slaves to sell as he was in his treatment of them on the plantation.
As long as the winds didn’t turn deadly, the rain was a welcome respite for the plantation slaves as it served to cool them down and offer some relief from the sweltering Caribbean heat. The Master still expected the same output nonetheless, so their productivity levels didn’t diminish.
“Me feel really weary today,” commented Freddy. “Me work really hard.”
“You say that every day,” grunted his stern looking Sister Lizzie.
“Truly,” replied Freddie. “It’s a shame that Massa wasn’t there to see me.”
“Massa?” asked Lizzie mockingly. “You t’ink he’s going to come out in the rain to watch you?”
“No but he don’t know how hard we does work.” replied Freddie.
“He don’t care about us, Freddie. You must know that. All he care about is his damn crops.”
“Time to finish now!” announced the overseer. “It’s getting too dark to see anymore.”
Overseer Maximus was no angel but certainly more amenable than the Master. He appreciated that some conditions made it impossible for the slaves to work in, whilst the Master didn’t appreciate that concept at all. 
Early the following morning, Saysay was busy clearing the weeds from the front garden of the big house when she was approached by an anxious looking Mama Mumda. 
“Saysay,” whispered Mama Mumda emphatically. 
“What happen?” asked Saysay curiously. 
“Carmel is pregnant and she say that Ted is the father!”
“What?” answered Saysay in an ever increasing tone of voice and doing nothing to disguise her surprise. “Ted? Me didn’t know that they was together. When did the Massa allow that?”
“Nobody knew that they was together and the trouble is that according to Ted the chil’ not his.” Explained Mama Mumda. 
“How you mean?” asked Saysay.
“Well, it’s only Carmel who saying that Ted is the father but he say it ain’t true.”
“Well if it’s not Ted’s who else can be the father?” asked a beady eyed Saysay.
“Me don’t know. I don’t know if the Massa know about this yet but when he find out, me pity her.”
Saysay fell silent. She feared for Carmel as female slaves were not permitted to mate without the express permission of the Master. This revelation of Carmel and Ted being in a relationship had certainly come as a surprise. Saysay hadn’t noticed any attraction between them at all and Ted’s denial seem to corroborate Saysay’s theory that there really wasn’t any relationship between them. The problem was that if Ted wasn’t the father, then who was?
Chapter Two
The scarlet sun was slowly beginning to set as the weary, disenfranchised slaves staggered lifelessly towards their derelict, wooden huts to replenish their exhausted bodies, before gathering again outside for their entertainment. The sounds of the crickets could be heard in the stillness of the dusk and the light emanating from the fireflies was now visible. Tomorrow was Sunday, so they would all have the entire day off but for church attendance which was compulsory. As much as Saysay didn’t relish the prospect of this or listening to the hypocrisy which she endured on a weekly basis, it was certainly better than slaving away in the big house or in its gardens.
After eating a meagre morsel of rice and offal, Saysay went to sit outside of the hut she shared with her uncle and cousin. She tried to fix her hair and look presentable although, she really wasn’t sure why. She wasn’t attracted to anyone but she still desired to look attractive. Perhaps, it was just part of being a female. She sat silently on the rotten wooden steps observing the other slaves who were venturing out excitedly.
Isabella who lived in the neighbouring hut, approached Saysay with a warm smile and sat quietly next to Saysay. Their friendship was such that at times no words were necessary. They had a deep understanding. Perhaps it was borne out of their mutual suffering but they definitely had a kindred spirit.
“How you feeling?” asked Saysay compassionately.
“Not too bad now but me back still sore. Mama Mumda say it go take some time to heal properly.”
“Damn brute,” retorted Saysay audibly. She didn’t mean for Isabella to hear that but couldn’t contain her feelings.
“Remember what the preacher does tell us in church. We must forgive our earthly massas if we want to make Heaven our home.”
“Huh, he would say that because they want to continue ill treating us. I hate them all.” spat Saysay contemptuously.
Isabella didn’t say anything. She’d heard Saysay make these comments so many times and despite efforts to thwart these rebellious exclamations, there was no calming Saysay. 
“You notice the new slave Massa bought?” asked Isabella changing the subject, her eyes glistening in the moonlight.
“Oh you mean the mulatto boy from Mount Man Estate?” asked Saysay looking quizzically at Isabella.
“Of course,” smiled Isabella. “You playing you don’t notice him?” she teased Saysay.
“Well as you know, it don’t make no sense you taking a shine to anyone because if Massa put you with someone else or sell you, you no go see him again.”
Isabella’s smile vanished. Even her momentary attempt to forget her plight and delude herself into believing that she lived a normal life in which she could fall in love and marry the man of her dreams was futile. Life could be so cruel.
The music had started. Firstly the drummers began, followed by the flute players and then the make shift musicians began using wooden sticks and playing rhythmically on discarded, dented tins. The musicians tried to play as quietly as they could because they knew that it was dangerous for the Master to hear the drumming. The plantation owners perceived drumming as a threat since they knew that the slaves used the drums as a means of communication but Saysay could see no sense in this threat as there really wasn’t anywhere that the slaves could escape to. The last time one of the slaves attempted to escape, his feet were brutally amputated. She remembered the Master laughing as he warned all the slaves that they had all better think long and hard before entertaining such wicked and ungrateful notions in the future. Saysay reflected back to that horrendous day. It was the overseer had been ordered to inflict this heinous torture upon the would be escapee. He was whipped repeatedly before the crude, blunt instrument was used to hack off his feet.
Saysay winced as she remembered Henry’s pitiful and hideous screams. The gushing blood which came flooding out as his feet were aggressively hacked off. One of the slaves passed out. She simply couldn’t bear it and days after the incident, the dogs began licking his wounds once the blood had dried. Poor Henry, he never recovered emotionally or psychologically from that and his will to live eventually died altogether. 
“Why you mind so far?” quizzed Saysay’s cousin, Alfreda. 
Saysay shrugged her shoulders. She didn’t wish to share her private thoughts with anyone this evening. She’d only be criticised for harbouring such depressing memories.
“Come and dance nah,” invited Alfreda. 
With Alfreda’s warm invitation, Saysay couldn’t resist and got up and joined the others who were having a raucous time. The volume level became louder and the dancing became more vigorous with the slaves almost forgetting about their deprivation and hardship. Isabella was ecstatic as she was seen dancing with the new mulatto boy. They danced together over and over again and Mama Mumda commented on how smitten they appeared to be with each other.
“Yes but there’s no future in it,” remarked Alfreda.
“You just jealous because it not you,” retaliated Mama Mumda. “You can see that they like each other.”
“Of course but if Massa sell Isabella or the boy, what go happen?” 
“That’s the problem!” answered Juper although no one was talking to her in particular. “Leave them be and let them enjoy they self. Life already hard for we, let them enjoy theyself even if it’s only for tonight.”
As Juper continued to reprimand Alfreda, there in the dark was a solitary figure carrying an oil lamp. His distinctive gait was unmistakeable and his limp convinced Mama Mumda that it was indeed the person she thought it was. She froze but it was too late to alert the merrymakers. Despite his limp, he was upon the slaves before they knew it and his stern expression made it abundantly clear that he did not approve of their activity.
“What’s going on here?” he demanded.
“Overseer, we sorry but we was just trying to to...” Peter had no plausible explanation, so his voice trailed off in silence.
The overseer wasn’t amused as was clear from his harsh expression. “Stop this racket immediately and go to your quarters. You all know that such activities are forbidden, especially the drumming. If I report this to the Master, you’ll all be whipped. I’m not going to jeopardise my position for any of you.” he spat.
The slaves began frantically rushing around before dispersing and retiring to their respective quarters for fear of any further reprisals. The joviality had come to an abrupt end and Saysay’s uncle and cousin were especially irritated by the interference.
“It’s the only damn time all week that we free from work and try to enjoy we self and even that we can’t do.”
“These people ‘ave no heart,” commented Saysay. “At least not the heart of compassion they preach to us about. They just want to work us as mules and when we too old to work, they go kill us, just like they did to Ellis.”
“Chil’ where you get that from? Nobody kill Ellis. Him just get too old to work and drop dead. Besides what you know? You just a babe at fourteen years.” replied Uncle.
“You can believe what you want but me know different.” answered an indignant Saysay.
“Those stories go get you into trouble. Ellis was an old man. No one kill him.” insisted Uncle clearly exasperated by Saysay’s conspiracy theory. 
Saysay decided to say nothing more. She didn’t have the strength to get into an altercation with her Uncle. He was a headstrong man too. Unfortunately, not so much where it was necessary. She wished he could see their superiors for the evil, callous individuals that they were. It seemed that only she was aware of what was going on. The other slaves were either oblivious to their Master’s cruelty or they perhaps had decided that since they were powerless to do anything, it was safer to accept the status quo. But try as she did, Saysay found that every fibre in her body resisted her situation in life. 
Saysay awoke to the soothing sound of birds singing and the crokey sound of her uncle shouting, “Church today. Get up Saysay.”
She was immediately brought back to reality. She’s just been enjoying a dream in which she was free and lived on a huge plantation, where she was the mistress, rather than a slave. In her dream, she was married to a kindly plantation owner, who adored her and treated her like a queen.
“Chil’ get up and get ready,” shouted Uncle. “Every week, I have to tell you to get up. What wrong with you?”
“I tired,” lied Saysay. “Don’t t’ink I can go today?”
“Well if you don’t go, Massa go send for you to work in the big house. You ready for that?” reminded Uncle as if he had suspected that Saysay was using this ploy to avoid going to church.
Saysay released a deep sign and as she did, rain could be heard outside growing heavier and heavier.

“We go get soaked by the time we reach church.” pleaded Saysay hoping that Uncle would see the rain as a legitimate reason to stay away from church. 
“Yes but we still ‘ave to go even if the rain really heavy. You know that already.” explained Uncle.
Saysay had expected that response even though she hoped it might be different. 
Much as Saysay hated going to church, she resented working in the big house even more and today at least, she had the comfort of dwelling on your dream, so she could mentally switch off and fantasise without anyone having a clue as to why she appeared so contended. They would obviously assume that it was the message in church but oh how wrong they would be. Let them believe what they want. No one needed to know the inner workings of her mind. 
The usual songs were sung and then the preacher gave his sermon but Saysay didn’t have clue what it was about. She’d been there in body only but her spirit had transported into her imaginary world where everything was perfect. The danger she feared would be in coming back to reality tomorrow morning when she returned to the big house for another gruelling week of work, ill treatment and hostility. 
“You look happy today!” commented Uncle. “You enjoy church today?”
Saysay just smiled and decided to humour her uncle. She needed these diversions in order to make life more tolerable. She spent the rest of the afternoon with Isabella and Mama Mumda who regaled them with tales of their ancestors. Mama Mumda told the young girls that their grandmothers had lived in a far way land, before being brought to Grenada. The faraway land was called Africa and she told Saysay that her grandmother told her that she lived with her parents and siblings and how happy she was before she was forcibly captured after being lured and deceived by a young friend. That horrendous experience caused Saysay’s grandmother to be untrusting of anyone ever again. Despite, the obvious sadness in the story, Saysay and Isabella found some comfort in knowing that their ancestors had meaningful lives before slavery. They realised that their ancestors had a rich history of family unity, love and purpose. It was nonetheless disconcerting to learn that their betrayal had been at the hands of their own people.
“The white slave owners would never have been able to capture our forefathers without the betrayal of neighbouring tribes. You see what envy and malice can do?” trailed off Mama Mumda. She always ended her stories about the enslavement of Africans with that phrase. It was a pivotal point because even amongst the slaves, Saysay had witnessed an envious spirit amongst some of them. Those who worked in the big house considered themselves superior to the field workers. Saysay was viewed differently because she associated more with the field slaves and was criticised by those in the big house.
“Why do you want to spend time with those dirty, smelly, dark slaves?” fair skinned Liz would ask her.
“Well dark or fair, we all slaves.” replied Saysay agitatedly. “You t’ink you better than them because you working in the big house? You t’ink the Massa see you as better than the field slaves?” 
Liz just gave Saysay a disapproving look. She didn’t appreciate the reprimand. “Well anyway,” she continued. “I know I cleaner than them. I don’t sweat and stink like them or have to work in the rain.” she pointed out unsympathetically.
“Well, it not their fault they have to work in the rain,” replied a stern faced Saysay. 
“Me never say it was but me don’t have to mix with them if me don’t want to.” retaliated Liz before walking away and leaving a fuming Saysay standing in the music room, polishing the piano. She couldn’t comprehend the disdain which Liz showed to the other slaves, weren’t they all slaves? Still she had to accept that she couldn’t change people’s attitudes. She noticed that the field slaves were more unified and caring towards each other but the housing slaves were aloof and self absorbed.
Saysay continued polishing the furniture in the drawing room which was one of her daily chores and she didn’t mind it too much as it gave her the opportunity to drift off and think about more pleasurable things. Foolishly perhaps, she imagined herself being the lady of the big house with a loving husband and children. It was a daily yearning. Why was she born with this desire, if it was not to be realised? She wished earnestly that she believed in the God she was taught to revere and worship because then she would pray to him and have the faith and expectation that her prayers would be answered but she didn’t believe. She was convinced that the proselytising of the gospel by the slave owners was for the sole purpose of keeping the slaves in their place. 
“What you doing?” shouted Liz. “You don’t hear Massa calling you name?”
Saysay hadn’t heard him calling her at all but she hastily stumbled back to the drawing room. The harsh reality was that her life was not her own, so she hurried off to the Master who wanted her to clean his bathroom. The slave who usually covered that task was too sick to work today, so Saysay had been assigned this task. She dutifully carried out this task relishing the fact that she was alone to carry out this chore. It was an arduous task however because no matter how hard she scrubbed the bath didn’t look clean. She could feel herself becoming anxious about this as she recalled Ena being beaten for failing to clean the bath thoroughly.
“Me really try hard Massa but me can’t get it white,” pleaded Ena.
“You lazy swine!” shouted the furious Master. I’ll whip your ass until it’s as white as mine.” 
“But me try. Please don’t beat me again,” pleaded Ena to the merciless Master. The Master lifted up his hand to strike Ena again but for some strange reason stopped in mid air. It was as though an invisible force had withheld his hand. The slaves stood stunned, all except one individual and the Master walked away confused.
Chapter Three
“You don’t notice how Maximus looking sickly and thin?” asked Mama Mumda looking intently at Alfreda whilst they were preparing corn and other vegetables for dinner. 
“Yes me notice and yesterday he could hardly stand up. But Massa still ‘ave him working.” remarked Alfreda.
Mama Mumda didn’t respond, instead she wore a wry grin. Alfreda looked curiously at her. It was as if she knew more than she was divulging.
The two women sat down for a brief moment when Juper came running frantically into the kitchen. “Mama Mumda, Ms Alfreda come quick! Massa just find out about Carmel pregnancy and say he go whip her.”
“My God, exclaimed Mama Mumda as she hastily rushed out of the kitchen with Alfreda, making their way to the courtyard where the other slaves congregated. Some were preparing to beg the Master to withhold punishment in light of Carmel’s condition but his mood denoted that he was not about to offer any clemency even to a pregnant young girl.
“I have warned you all before that you’re my property and you are not to mate with anyone unless you have my permission.”
“Mama, say something to Massa before he kill Carmel.” Whispered a desperate Alfreda.
“You hear him already. He gone beat her.” was Mama Mumda’s cold reply.
The Master propped himself in his chair, getting ready to whip Carmel when an inexplicable thing happened. As he lifted up his hand to strike the first blow, he was invisibly restrained. This occurrence mirrored the incident which transpired when he was about to beat Ena some months ago. The fury of his humiliation made him all the more determined not to be defeated by whatever it was, so he lifted up his hand a second time, only to experience the same strange phenomenon. The slaves looked around, what was going on and what would the Master do next. Alfreda touched Mama Mumda’s shoulder lightly “What you thin’ this is?”

Mama Mumda cast a cross look and gestured to Alfreda that now was not the time to talk. 
The red faced Master stood up, “Maximus!” he shouted. “Come here and whip this girl.”
Maximus obediently ran to the courtyard, taking the whip but the same strange force apprehended him, preventing him from carrying out his Master’s instructions.
“Whip her!” commanded the furious Master.
“I’m trying,” replied a confused Maximus ‘”But I can’t.”
“I will get to the bottom of this.” thundered the Master before leaving his chair and stomping off to the big house.
“What goin’ on?” Alfreda asked Mama Mumda. “I remember you telling me something about obeah.”
Mama Mumda remained silent.
“Tell me Mama, what happened today? Why Massa couldn’t beat Carmel?”
“Chil’ I can’t tell you cos you don’ know how to hold you mout’.”

“So you know what goin on?”

“Maybe but one thing I know from a little girl, you reap what you sow. Now let’s go back to we kitchen duties.” with that Mama Mumda said no more.

The slaves were certainly relieved that Carmel had escaped the whipping but they seemed more intrigued by the bizarre occurrences. It was clear that there had been an invisible force restraining both the Master as well as Maximus but if there was an explanation for this supernatural occurrence, no one revealing it. The deterioration in Maximus’ health continued and about a week after the Master attempted to beat Carmel, Maximus died.
Early one morning, the slaves were again ordered to the courtyard in the pouring rain. They wondered what horrors awaiting them but as they waited, becoming more drenched by the minute, the Master appeared accompanied by someone else.
“Hugh is the new overseer who will replace Maximus,” announced the Master. “You will obey him as you obeyed Maximus because if you don’t, you know what the consequences will.” continued the Master although he remained subdued, no doubt remembering last weeks’ embarrassment.
Hugh was much younger than his predecessor, with a well built frame. He wore a pleasant smile but the slaves were unsure how to receive this. He walked around the plantation with a stick in his hand, thus causing concern to the slaves but as the weeks passed, it was clear that Hugh was indeed more humane than Maximus. He exhibited a caring disposition which made the slaves warm to him. “As long as you obey the Master and do your work, you have nothing to fear from me” he reassured them.
Hugh was the first non slave who showed any compassion and as a result, Saysay’s heart began to soften to the God she had previously dubbed God for the Masters. Perhaps, there were some genuine people. 
Hugh had a special gift in curing animals and was therefore resourceful to the Master. One day, one of the Master’s beloved horses fell ill and Hugh came to the Master’s aid, offering to apply his secret remedy. However, it failed to work and as the horse grew weaker, the Master suggested that Hugh take the horse to a man who was known for treating sick animals. Saysay was ordered to accompany Hugh to tend to his needs and it was during this time that Hugh engaged in conversation with her.
“How old are you?” he probed.
“Fourteen.”
“You always seem so serious. Do you ever smile?” he asked probingly.
“If I have somethin’ to smile about, I go smile.” she was surprised that he had noticed her disposition around the plantation.
Hugh was clearly astounded by her response. “You seem to have a defiance about you which is remarkable for a slave.”
Saysay decided that on this occasion it was best to hold her tongue. Although, this man who appeared to be in his late twenties was civil, she still wasn’t sure whether she could trust him.
“I may be leaving the plantation in the next few months,” he confided.
Saysay didn’t reply but her aghast expression showed her shock. Inside, she felt an inexplicable wound. Hugh was the kindest person with authority on the plantation and now he was leaving. He could see her searching eyes and enquiring mind, so divulged further information.
“I have raised enough money to buy a small plantation and have a few animals but no slaves.”
Saysay grimaced at the word slave and wondered if his attitude would differ once he was the master rather than the overseer.
“However, my approach would be different.” he continued. “I would employ staff rather than have slaves. I think you get more from people if you pay them and treat them fairly.”
Still Saysay remained silent. She wondered why Hugh was telling her such things.
“If I were to buy your freedom, would you be willing to come with me?” he finally asked.
Saysay sat dumfounded with her mouth opened but no sound came out. Hugh could see that she was shocked by his proposal and nothing further was said. 
Months went by after that brief conversation and there was no further dialogue between Hugh and Saysay but as he had intimated, he left the plantation some months later. Saysay’s heart sank. She knew it was dangerous to dream, to hope but why had this man given her such hope? It was as though he sensed her desire to be free, but to you give a person a glimmer of light and then cut that light off, leaving the person in complete darkness was so cruel. She would never trust again.
It had been another long and arduous day and Saysay was relieved to retire to her cabin. Exhaustion soon overwhelmed her and she drifted off to sleep. However, she was awoken by what sounded like thunder ripping through her wooden shack but she heard no rain, so she got up to investigate. This was when she saw a face glaring back at her, startling her. 
Then she heard a familiar, husky voice whisper, “Sorry to frighten you but I had to come during the night. I tried to purchase your freedom but the Master refused, so this is your only chance. If you want your freedom, you need with me to leave now.”
Saysay hesitated for a moment. Her head was reeling, her mind confused. To leave now would mean that she would never see her family and friends again but this was the opportunity she had fantasised about virtually her whole life. Admittedly, she didn’t know what to expect as she had never tasted freedom before but it had to be better than what she had now, so without further contemplation or procrastination, she took hold of the outstretched hand of Hugh and disappeared into the Saysay
Chapter One
Tears of bitterness and fury streamed uncontrollably from Saysay’s eyes. Her dainty frame convulsed violently as she desperately tried to hold back her sorrow; her anger. Refusing to cry was often the only weapon of defiance with which a slave could metaphorically speaking punish and antagonise their master but today she could restrain her tears no longer. The slaves were not permitted to close their eyes during whipping ceremonies but were compelled to watch the brutality. They were all too aware of the penalty for refusing to look. Saysay had been subjected to enough arbitrary whipping already and wasn’t sure that she could endure anymore without retaliating. 
The sticky air was filled with fear and melancholy. The spirit of the slaves had long been crushed since this wasn’t the first time they had witnessed such a barbaric display and no doubt wouldn’t be the last. The question which plagued Saysay’s mind, amongst others was how long would this injustice last? How long would a God whom she had been taught to believe in, seemingly sit by and allow such cruelty to continue? She’d been a slave all her young life but possessed a dangerous spirit of belligerence. She yearned to be free and harboured dreams of emancipation and enacting revenge upon her oppressors but would these dreams ever materialise? Unbeknown to Saysay her desire for liberation was nothing new. It had been the ambition and hope of countless slaves centuries before, most of whom died without their aspirations ever being realised.
Here on another swelteringly hot Saturday morning, the slaves were compelled to stand in the courtyard and witness the merciless beating of Isabella. Isabella was a compliant, obedient slave who was dutiful and didn’t question her station in life, yet here she was being made an example of for something so trivial that one had to assume that the Master was imposing this punishment merely for his amusement.
“No more please,” begged Isabella after the sixth brutal whip. “Me won’t eat the stale bread no more, me promise?” she pleaded.
“You’ll learn one way or another,” explained the Master laughing heartily. “That stealing is a sin.” He shouted for emphasis. “You’ve been taught this commandment each Sunday. When will you learn? Stinking thieves!” he spat.
The slaves stood immobilised by the cruelty. Fists clenched tightly and hearts racing frantically. Yet in Saysay’s mind, this was not an example of the God of mercy she would hear about tomorrow; the God who forgave sinners. It was this hypocrisy made her to resist the teachings she heard every Sunday. How could these people who allegedly follow a God of love be so evil and yet expect their slaves to love and serve them faithfully? 
The brutal whipping finally came to an end and poor Isabella, riddled with lashes passed out and collapsed to the ground. The slaves were not permitted to go to her aid until the Master had left his chair. He looked scornfully at Isabella and the rest of the slaves before abruptly leaving his chair.
The nearby sea gulls were too distressed to sing and displayed their displeasure at one man’s inhumanity towards another. The intensive air became stagnant without the refreshing breeze to offer any respite.
Some of the older slaves nursed Isabella’s eye watering wounds as best as they could. Poor Isabella’s winced as each damp cloth was placed on her back to nurse and soothe her inflated gashes. Her face grimacing with pain. Despite the meticulous care received, poor Isabella was unable to stand for a few days much less work as she was so weak from the beating and loss of blood. Not that this mattered to her Master, who demanded that she return to duty as soon as possible and with the same vigour as before. There was no regard for the wounds inflicted and their obvious consequences. Yet Isabella’s positive attitude and humility remained and she was as subservient as before. Not seemingly harbouring any malice towards her malevolent Master. 
Saysay and Isabella were as close as slaves could become. There was always the risk that one would be sold and given that Saysay and Isabella were amongst some of the younger slaves on the plantation being only fourteen years, there was always that possibility, so the slaves naturally felt some trepidation in becoming emotionally attached to one another. This was especially true of mothers. They knew that their primary duty was to breed new property for their master, so they had to safeguard their hearts by not becoming too emotionally attached to their offspring, realising that at any time either they or their offspring could be sold to another plantation never to be seen again. 
Saysay knew about this first hand because she had no recollection of her mother whatsoever, who’d been sold shortly after her birth. Mama Mumda, the oldest slave on the plantation became a surrogate mother to her and shared many precious stories with Saysay about her mother, enabling her to create an idyllic fantasy about how wonderful her mother was and what it might have been like if she’d had a normal family life, like her Master’s spoilt daughter, Elva. Saysay despised Elva, not because her parents indulged her or because she was free but because she deliberately taunted and abused the slaves, in much the same way as her monstrous father. Saysay knew it was a sin to hold contempt for anyone, according to what she’d been taught in church but she couldn’t help but detest the pair of them. The Master’s wife was more tolerable, albeit relatively powerless from what she could deduce. The Mistress would often sit by subordinately, not saying anything about her husband’s brutality and was therefore viewed with disdain and indifference. What’s the point of existing, if you’re going to be so spineless pondered Sayay?
“You mustn’t get ideas above you station,” advised Isabella. “What you can do? You only a slave. You can’t go nowhere.”
“I go find a way,” continued Saysay defiantly. “I wasn’t born for this hardship?”
“What you t’ink you was born for?” queried Isabella.
“Me don’t know. I just know that cleaning the Massa’s house and serving the food in the big house is not for me.”
Isabella couldn’t conceal the feeling of terror she held for her beloved friend and this made her shudder. Numerous slaves on the plantation had tried to persuade Saysay to abandon her rebellious thoughts and warned her of the dangers of her ideas but she simply wouldn’t take heed. If she gave up hope, she may as well be dead.
The dry season had now passed and was replaced by the incessant rain of the wet season. There was no doubt that the relentless winds and rain of the hurricane season had returned and the slaves were terrified. They knew that this treacherous weather would not exempt them from their duties and would certainly endanger their lives. Saysay recalled how the gale force winds had caused loose pieces of timber to fly across the plantation, striking Freddie on the head causing him to fall unconscious and he remained so for several days before a poignant smelly herb was placed under his nose and revived him. It was a relief to all because some of the slaves believed that he would die and began making funeral arrangements for him. 
The Master was frantic that another hurricane could decimate his crops. Two years ago, Hurricane Monty had obliterated his crops and he had to sell numerous slaves since he couldn’t afford to feed them. That was a time of much distress and weeping amongst the slaves. The Master had been callous as usual and showed no understanding or compassion. He had separated mother from child, brother from sister and was as ruthless in deciding which slaves to sell as he was in his treatment of them on the plantation.
As long as the winds didn’t turn deadly, the rain was a welcome respite for the plantation slaves as it served to cool them down and offer some relief from the sweltering Caribbean heat. The Master still expected the same output nonetheless, so their productivity levels didn’t diminish.
“Me feel really weary today,” commented Freddy. “Me work really hard.”
“You say that every day,” grunted his stern looking Sister Lizzie.
“Truly,” replied Freddie. “It’s a shame that Massa wasn’t there to see me.”
“Massa?” asked Lizzie mockingly. “You t’ink he’s going to come out in the rain to watch you?”
“No but he don’t know how hard we does work.” replied Freddie.
“He don’t care about us, Freddie. You must know that. All he care about is his damn crops.”
“Time to finish now!” announced the overseer. “It’s getting too dark to see anymore.”
Overseer Maximus was no angel but certainly more amenable than the Master. He appreciated that some conditions made it impossible for the slaves to work in, whilst the Master didn’t appreciate that concept at all. 
Early the following morning, Saysay was busy clearing the weeds from the front garden of the big house when she was approached by an anxious looking Mama Mumda. 
“Saysay,” whispered Mama Mumda emphatically. 
“What happen?” asked Saysay curiously. 
“Carmel is pregnant and she say that Ted is the father!”
“What?” answered Saysay in an ever increasing tone of voice and doing nothing to disguise her surprise. “Ted? Me didn’t know that they was together. When did the Massa allow that?”
“Nobody knew that they was together and the trouble is that according to Ted the chil’ not his.” Explained Mama Mumda. 
“How you mean?” asked Saysay.
“Well, it’s only Carmel who saying that Ted is the father but he say it ain’t true.”
“Well if it’s not Ted’s who else can be the father?” asked a beady eyed Saysay.
“Me don’t know. I don’t know if the Massa know about this yet but when he find out, me pity her.”
Saysay fell silent. She feared for Carmel as female slaves were not permitted to mate without the express permission of the Master. This revelation of Carmel and Ted being in a relationship had certainly come as a surprise. Saysay hadn’t noticed any attraction between them at all and Ted’s denial seem to corroborate Saysay’s theory that there really wasn’t any relationship between them. The problem was that if Ted wasn’t the father, then who was?
Chapter Two
The scarlet sun was slowly beginning to set as the weary, disenfranchised slaves staggered lifelessly towards their derelict, wooden huts to replenish their exhausted bodies, before gathering again outside for their entertainment. The sounds of the crickets could be heard in the stillness of the dusk and the light emanating from the fireflies was now visible. Tomorrow was Sunday, so they would all have the entire day off but for church attendance which was compulsory. As much as Saysay didn’t relish the prospect of this or listening to the hypocrisy which she endured on a weekly basis, it was certainly better than slaving away in the big house or in its gardens.
After eating a meagre morsel of rice and offal, Saysay went to sit outside of the hut she shared with her uncle and cousin. She tried to fix her hair and look presentable although, she really wasn’t sure why. She wasn’t attracted to anyone but she still desired to look attractive. Perhaps, it was just part of being a female. She sat silently on the rotten wooden steps observing the other slaves who were venturing out excitedly.
Isabella who lived in the neighbouring hut, approached Saysay with a warm smile and sat quietly next to Saysay. Their friendship was such that at times no words were necessary. They had a deep understanding. Perhaps it was borne out of their mutual suffering but they definitely had a kindred spirit.
“How you feeling?” asked Saysay compassionately.
“Not too bad now but me back still sore. Mama Mumda say it go take some time to heal properly.”
“Damn brute,” retorted Saysay audibly. She didn’t mean for Isabella to hear that but couldn’t contain her feelings.
“Remember what the preacher does tell us in church. We must forgive our earthly massas if we want to make Heaven our home.”
“Huh, he would say that because they want to continue ill treating us. I hate them all.” spat Saysay contemptuously.
Isabella didn’t say anything. She’d heard Saysay make these comments so many times and despite efforts to thwart these rebellious exclamations, there was no calming Saysay. 
“You notice the new slave Massa bought?” asked Isabella changing the subject, her eyes glistening in the moonlight.
“Oh you mean the mulatto boy from Mount Man Estate?” asked Saysay looking quizzically at Isabella.
“Of course,” smiled Isabella. “You playing you don’t notice him?” she teased Saysay.
“Well as you know, it don’t make no sense you taking a shine to anyone because if Massa put you with someone else or sell you, you no go see him again.”
Isabella’s smile vanished. Even her momentary attempt to forget her plight and delude herself into believing that she lived a normal life in which she could fall in love and marry the man of her dreams was futile. Life could be so cruel.
The music had started. Firstly the drummers began, followed by the flute players and then the make shift musicians began using wooden sticks and playing rhythmically on discarded, dented tins. The musicians tried to play as quietly as they could because they knew that it was dangerous for the Master to hear the drumming. The plantation owners perceived drumming as a threat since they knew that the slaves used the drums as a means of communication but Saysay could see no sense in this threat as there really wasn’t anywhere that the slaves could escape to. The last time one of the slaves attempted to escape, his feet were brutally amputated. She remembered the Master laughing as he warned all the slaves that they had all better think long and hard before entertaining such wicked and ungrateful notions in the future. Saysay reflected back to that horrendous day. It was the overseer had been ordered to inflict this heinous torture upon the would be escapee. He was whipped repeatedly before the crude, blunt instrument was used to hack off his feet.
Saysay winced as she remembered Henry’s pitiful and hideous screams. The gushing blood which came flooding out as his feet were aggressively hacked off. One of the slaves passed out. She simply couldn’t bear it and days after the incident, the dogs began licking his wounds once the blood had dried. Poor Henry, he never recovered emotionally or psychologically from that and his will to live eventually died altogether. 
“Why you mind so far?” quizzed Saysay’s cousin, Alfreda. 
Saysay shrugged her shoulders. She didn’t wish to share her private thoughts with anyone this evening. She’d only be criticised for harbouring such depressing memories.
“Come and dance nah,” invited Alfreda. 
With Alfreda’s warm invitation, Saysay couldn’t resist and got up and joined the others who were having a raucous time. The volume level became louder and the dancing became more vigorous with the slaves almost forgetting about their deprivation and hardship. Isabella was ecstatic as she was seen dancing with the new mulatto boy. They danced together over and over again and Mama Mumda commented on how smitten they appeared to be with each other.
“Yes but there’s no future in it,” remarked Alfreda.
“You just jealous because it not you,” retaliated Mama Mumda. “You can see that they like each other.”
“Of course but if Massa sell Isabella or the boy, what go happen?” 
“That’s the problem!” answered Juper although no one was talking to her in particular. “Leave them be and let them enjoy they self. Life already hard for we, let them enjoy theyself even if it’s only for tonight.”
As Juper continued to reprimand Alfreda, there in the dark was a solitary figure carrying an oil lamp. His distinctive gait was unmistakeable and his limp convinced Mama Mumda that it was indeed the person she thought it was. She froze but it was too late to alert the merrymakers. Despite his limp, he was upon the slaves before they knew it and his stern expression made it abundantly clear that he did not approve of their activity.
“What’s going on here?” he demanded.
“Overseer, we sorry but we was just trying to to...” Peter had no plausible explanation, so his voice trailed off in silence.
The overseer wasn’t amused as was clear from his harsh expression. “Stop this racket immediately and go to your quarters. You all know that such activities are forbidden, especially the drumming. If I report this to the Master, you’ll all be whipped. I’m not going to jeopardise my position for any of you.” he spat.
The slaves began frantically rushing around before dispersing and retiring to their respective quarters for fear of any further reprisals. The joviality had come to an abrupt end and Saysay’s uncle and cousin were especially irritated by the interference.
“It’s the only damn time all week that we free from work and try to enjoy we self and even that we can’t do.”
“These people ‘ave no heart,” commented Saysay. “At least not the heart of compassion they preach to us about. They just want to work us as mules and when we too old to work, they go kill us, just like they did to Ellis.”
“Chil’ where you get that from? Nobody kill Ellis. Him just get too old to work and drop dead. Besides what you know? You just a babe at fourteen years.” replied Uncle.
“You can believe what you want but me know different.” answered an indignant Saysay.
“Those stories go get you into trouble. Ellis was an old man. No one kill him.” insisted Uncle clearly exasperated by Saysay’s conspiracy theory. 
Saysay decided to say nothing more. She didn’t have the strength to get into an altercation with her Uncle. He was a headstrong man too. Unfortunately, not so much where it was necessary. She wished he could see their superiors for the evil, callous individuals that they were. It seemed that only she was aware of what was going on. The other slaves were either oblivious to their Master’s cruelty or they perhaps had decided that since they were powerless to do anything, it was safer to accept the status quo. But try as she did, Saysay found that every fibre in her body resisted her situation in life. 
Saysay awoke to the soothing sound of birds singing and the crokey sound of her uncle shouting, “Church today. Get up Saysay.”
She was immediately brought back to reality. She’s just been enjoying a dream in which she was free and lived on a huge plantation, where she was the mistress, rather than a slave. In her dream, she was married to a kindly plantation owner, who adored her and treated her like a queen.
“Chil’ get up and get ready,” shouted Uncle. “Every week, I have to tell you to get up. What wrong with you?”
“I tired,” lied Saysay. “Don’t t’ink I can go today?”
“Well if you don’t go, Massa go send for you to work in the big house. You ready for that?” reminded Uncle as if he had suspected that Saysay was using this ploy to avoid going to church.
Saysay released a deep sign and as she did, rain could be heard outside growing heavier and heavier.

“We go get soaked by the time we reach church.” pleaded Saysay hoping that Uncle would see the rain as a legitimate reason to stay away from church. 
“Yes but we still ‘ave to go even if the rain really heavy. You know that already.” explained Uncle.
Saysay had expected that response even though she hoped it might be different. 
Much as Saysay hated going to church, she resented working in the big house even more and today at least, she had the comfort of dwelling on your dream, so she could mentally switch off and fantasise without anyone having a clue as to why she appeared so contended. They would obviously assume that it was the message in church but oh how wrong they would be. Let them believe what they want. No one needed to know the inner workings of her mind. 
The usual songs were sung and then the preacher gave his sermon but Saysay didn’t have clue what it was about. She’d been there in body only but her spirit had transported into her imaginary world where everything was perfect. The danger she feared would be in coming back to reality tomorrow morning when she returned to the big house for another gruelling week of work, ill treatment and hostility. 
“You look happy today!” commented Uncle. “You enjoy church today?”
Saysay just smiled and decided to humour her uncle. She needed these diversions in order to make life more tolerable. She spent the rest of the afternoon with Isabella and Mama Mumda who regaled them with tales of their ancestors. Mama Mumda told the young girls that their grandmothers had lived in a far way land, before being brought to Grenada. The faraway land was called Africa and she told Saysay that her grandmother told her that she lived with her parents and siblings and how happy she was before she was forcibly captured after being lured and deceived by a young friend. That horrendous experience caused Saysay’s grandmother to be untrusting of anyone ever again. Despite, the obvious sadness in the story, Saysay and Isabella found some comfort in knowing that their ancestors had meaningful lives before slavery. They realised that their ancestors had a rich history of family unity, love and purpose. It was nonetheless disconcerting to learn that their betrayal had been at the hands of their own people.
“The white slave owners would never have been able to capture our forefathers without the betrayal of neighbouring tribes. You see what envy and malice can do?” trailed off Mama Mumda. She always ended her stories about the enslavement of Africans with that phrase. It was a pivotal point because even amongst the slaves, Saysay had witnessed an envious spirit amongst some of them. Those who worked in the big house considered themselves superior to the field workers. Saysay was viewed differently because she associated more with the field slaves and was criticised by those in the big house.
“Why do you want to spend time with those dirty, smelly, dark slaves?” fair skinned Liz would ask her.
“Well dark or fair, we all slaves.” replied Saysay agitatedly. “You t’ink you better than them because you working in the big house? You t’ink the Massa see you as better than the field slaves?” 
Liz just gave Saysay a disapproving look. She didn’t appreciate the reprimand. “Well anyway,” she continued. “I know I cleaner than them. I don’t sweat and stink like them or have to work in the rain.” she pointed out unsympathetically.
“Well, it not their fault they have to work in the rain,” replied a stern faced Saysay. 
“Me never say it was but me don’t have to mix with them if me don’t want to.” retaliated Liz before walking away and leaving a fuming Saysay standing in the music room, polishing the piano. She couldn’t comprehend the disdain which Liz showed to the other slaves, weren’t they all slaves? Still she had to accept that she couldn’t change people’s attitudes. She noticed that the field slaves were more unified and caring towards each other but the housing slaves were aloof and self absorbed.
Saysay continued polishing the furniture in the drawing room which was one of her daily chores and she didn’t mind it too much as it gave her the opportunity to drift off and think about more pleasurable things. Foolishly perhaps, she imagined herself being the lady of the big house with a loving husband and children. It was a daily yearning. Why was she born with this desire, if it was not to be realised? She wished earnestly that she believed in the God she was taught to revere and worship because then she would pray to him and have the faith and expectation that her prayers would be answered but she didn’t believe. She was convinced that the proselytising of the gospel by the slave owners was for the sole purpose of keeping the slaves in their place. 
“What you doing?” shouted Liz. “You don’t hear Massa calling you name?”
Saysay hadn’t heard him calling her at all but she hastily stumbled back to the drawing room. The harsh reality was that her life was not her own, so she hurried off to the Master who wanted her to clean his bathroom. The slave who usually covered that task was too sick to work today, so Saysay had been assigned this task. She dutifully carried out this task relishing the fact that she was alone to carry out this chore. It was an arduous task however because no matter how hard she scrubbed the bath didn’t look clean. She could feel herself becoming anxious about this as she recalled Ena being beaten for failing to clean the bath thoroughly.
“Me really try hard Massa but me can’t get it white,” pleaded Ena.
“You lazy swine!” shouted the furious Master. I’ll whip your ass until it’s as white as mine.” 
“But me try. Please don’t beat me again,” pleaded Ena to the merciless Master. The Master lifted up his hand to strike Ena again but for some strange reason stopped in mid air. It was as though an invisible force had withheld his hand. The slaves stood stunned, all except one individual and the Master walked away confused.
Chapter Three
“You don’t notice how Maximus looking sickly and thin?” asked Mama Mumda looking intently at Alfreda whilst they were preparing corn and other vegetables for dinner. 
“Yes me notice and yesterday he could hardly stand up. But Massa still ‘ave him working.” remarked Alfreda.
Mama Mumda didn’t respond, instead she wore a wry grin. Alfreda looked curiously at her. It was as if she knew more than she was divulging.
The two women sat down for a brief moment when Juper came running frantically into the kitchen. “Mama Mumda, Ms Alfreda come quick! Massa just find out about Carmel pregnancy and say he go whip her.”
“My God, exclaimed Mama Mumda as she hastily rushed out of the kitchen with Alfreda, making their way to the courtyard where the other slaves congregated. Some were preparing to beg the Master to withhold punishment in light of Carmel’s condition but his mood denoted that he was not about to offer any clemency even to a pregnant young girl.
“I have warned you all before that you’re my property and you are not to mate with anyone unless you have my permission.”
“Mama, say something to Massa before he kill Carmel.” Whispered a desperate Alfreda.
“You hear him already. He gone beat her.” was Mama Mumda’s cold reply.
The Master propped himself in his chair, getting ready to whip Carmel when an inexplicable thing happened. As he lifted up his hand to strike the first blow, he was invisibly restrained. This occurrence mirrored the incident which transpired when he was about to beat Ena some months ago. The fury of his humiliation made him all the more determined not to be defeated by whatever it was, so he lifted up his hand a second time, only to experience the same strange phenomenon. The slaves looked around, what was going on and what would the Master do next. Alfreda touched Mama Mumda’s shoulder lightly “What you thin’ this is?”

Mama Mumda cast a cross look and gestured to Alfreda that now was not the time to talk. 
The red faced Master stood up, “Maximus!” he shouted. “Come here and whip this girl.”
Maximus obediently ran to the courtyard, taking the whip but the same strange force apprehended him, preventing him from carrying out his Master’s instructions.
“Whip her!” commanded the furious Master.
“I’m trying,” replied a confused Maximus ‘”But I can’t.”
“I will get to the bottom of this.” thundered the Master before leaving his chair and stomping off to the big house.
“What goin’ on?” Alfreda asked Mama Mumda. “I remember you telling me something about obeah.”
Mama Mumda remained silent.
“Tell me Mama, what happened today? Why Massa couldn’t beat Carmel?”
“Chil’ I can’t tell you cos you don’ know how to hold you mout’.”

“So you know what goin on?”

“Maybe but one thing I know from a little girl, you reap what you sow. Now let’s go back to we kitchen duties.” with that Mama Mumda said no more.

The slaves were certainly relieved that Carmel had escaped the whipping but they seemed more intrigued by the bizarre occurrences. It was clear that there had been an invisible force restraining both the Master as well as Maximus but if there was an explanation for this supernatural occurrence, no one revealing it. The deterioration in Maximus’ health continued and about a week after the Master attempted to beat Carmel, Maximus died.
Early one morning, the slaves were again ordered to the courtyard in the pouring rain. They wondered what horrors awaiting them but as they waited, becoming more drenched by the minute, the Master appeared accompanied by someone else.
“Hugh is the new overseer who will replace Maximus,” announced the Master. “You will obey him as you obeyed Maximus because if you don’t, you know what the consequences will.” continued the Master although he remained subdued, no doubt remembering last weeks’ embarrassment.
Hugh was much younger than his predecessor, with a well built frame. He wore a pleasant smile but the slaves were unsure how to receive this. He walked around the plantation with a stick in his hand, thus causing concern to the slaves but as the weeks passed, it was clear that Hugh was indeed more humane than Maximus. He exhibited a caring disposition which made the slaves warm to him. “As long as you obey the Master and do your work, you have nothing to fear from me” he reassured them.
Hugh was the first non slave who showed any compassion and as a result, Saysay’s heart began to soften to the God she had previously dubbed God for the Masters. Perhaps, there were some genuine people. 
Hugh had a special gift in curing animals and was therefore resourceful to the Master. One day, one of the Master’s beloved horses fell ill and Hugh came to the Master’s aid, offering to apply his secret remedy. However, it failed to work and as the horse grew weaker, the Master suggested that Hugh take the horse to a man who was known for treating sick animals. Saysay was ordered to accompany Hugh to tend to his needs and it was during this time that Hugh engaged in conversation with her.
“How old are you?” he probed.
“Fourteen.”
“You always seem so serious. Do you ever smile?” he asked probingly.
“If I have somethin’ to smile about, I go smile.” she was surprised that he had noticed her disposition around the plantation.
Hugh was clearly astounded by her response. “You seem to have a defiance about you which is remarkable for a slave.”
Saysay decided that on this occasion it was best to hold her tongue. Although, this man who appeared to be in his late twenties was civil, she still wasn’t sure whether she could trust him.
“I may be leaving the plantation in the next few months,” he confided.
Saysay didn’t reply but her aghast expression showed her shock. Inside, she felt an inexplicable wound. Hugh was the kindest person with authority on the plantation and now he was leaving. He could see her searching eyes and enquiring mind, so divulged further information.
“I have raised enough money to buy a small plantation and have a few animals but no slaves.”
Saysay grimaced at the word slave and wondered if his attitude would differ once he was the master rather than the overseer.
“However, my approach would be different.” he continued. “I would employ staff rather than have slaves. I think you get more from people if you pay them and treat them fairly.”
Still Saysay remained silent. She wondered why Hugh was telling her such things.
“If I were to buy your freedom, would you be willing to come with me?” he finally asked.
Saysay sat dumfounded with her mouth opened but no sound came out. Hugh could see that she was shocked by his proposal and nothing further was said. 
Months went by after that brief conversation and there was no further dialogue between Hugh and Saysay but as he had intimated, he left the plantation some months later. Saysay’s heart sank. She knew it was dangerous to dream, to hope but why had this man given her such hope? It was as though he sensed her desire to be free, but to you give a person a glimmer of light and then cut that light off, leaving the person in complete darkness was so cruel. She would never trust again.
It had been another long and arduous day and Saysay was relieved to retire to her cabin. Exhaustion soon overwhelmed her and she drifted off to sleep. However, she was awoken by what sounded like thunder ripping through her wooden shack but she heard no rain, so she got up to investigate. This was when she saw a face glaring back at her, startling her. 
Then she heard a familiar, husky voice whisper, “Sorry to frighten you but I had to come during the night. I tried to purchase your freedom but the Master refused, so this is your only chance. If you want your freedom, you need with me to leave now.”
Saysay hesitated for a moment. Her head was reeling, her mind confused. To leave now would mean that she would never see her family and friends again but this was the opportunity she had fantasised about virtually her whole life. Admittedly, she didn’t know what to expect as she had never tasted freedom before but it had to be better than what she had now, so without further contemplation or procrastination, she took hold of the outstretched hand of Hugh and disappeared into the night.