by Peppur Chambers
The time had come. She felt a shift in her bones as they answered the call for her to rise. From the depths of the ocean, buried deep in the sediment of which she had become one, her bones collected like particles of metal drawn to a magnet. Piece by piece, she was whole once again.
She rose, conjured to the surface by a force unknown, yet welcomed. It was time. She looked right and then left in the murky water of blues and greens. She wasn’t alone.
The closer she traveled to the top, she felt something below her feet. Wooden planks had collected as had her bones. One by one, thousands came together to lift her. With a whoosh, she was above the surface and back to a world where breath was needed to survive. She straightened, stood tall as she had many, many years ago. She wiggled her toes. Enjoying that she could once again. She looked about her as she pulled tangled seaweed from her fingers and plucked fish from her ribs, which she threw back home with a plop, to where they belonged; to where they could breathe. Sails hoisted, releasing cascades of water which splashed on the deck at her feet. She recognized this ship. One she remembered quite well. Only this time was different. Much different.
She walked to the bow. Placing her hands along its familiar edge, she looked out, the rushed air drying her bones. There were more ships following behind. They were a fleet with majestic sails which saluted honorably. Far in the distance along the horizon of the setting sun, another ship materialized from the depths as had hers. A sound startled her. A hand gripped the edge. She reached below and pulled the soul up; another collection of bones called to duty. He climbed aboard. A collared chain hung about his neck, a restraint no longer needed. He nodded to her as he walked and joined the others, his watery footsteps marking his presence.
She returned to those who were waiting for her.
There, they stood. A legion of bones, hundreds huddled at the ready, free of chains, yet bonded by experience. Silence mothered them, holding their stories like a newborn baby swaddled in ocean blue…stories that had been stunted and now would grow, as people are meant to.
“My people,” she said. “We have been called. Our ancestors want to know who we are. It is time. We’ve not been forgotten. We are an army of history. We hold secrets others yearn to know.”
“Secrets?” A warrior stepped forth. “This is not about secrets, my Queen. We want more. We want a revolution.”
“A revolution of what?” she asked.
“Must you ask? You are here for a reason, the same reason as I and he and she and she,” he said pointing to the hundreds who continued to gather and board the ship, wet with purpose.
“I cannot deny that my bones do not share your plight. Have you thought of the power of our existence? Our history is our ammunition, to right wrongs done.”
He responded, “You cannot be serious.”
“If you do not like this ship, there are many behind us; each with a different purpose. I’m certain one will fit your needs of revenge.” She climbed high upon a throne of piled barrels. “This ship, my ship is to strengthen our people. To fill in missing pieces so that they might feel whole once again, as others do from other lands who have written word to support their existence. Our people have called for us, to pull from what these waters have held for far too long. To fill in what has been erased. They want to know! Can you not see the value in this?”
“A value greater than vengeance?” His bones rattled with rage.
“To me, it is the greatest. But please, join another ship. For we must all do our part. Retaliation has its place, this is true.”
She knew he was free of flesh that had been tortured, but he was not free of memory and it was cut deep into his bones. His thoughts had not misguided him. They simply were not her own.
“Please, brothers and sisters. Do as you must. We are all needed.”
Men and women jumped ship. Some dove deep into the water and rose with shards of more recent shipwrecks and mangled metal from missing airplanes to become shafts and swords for their battles to come. Their haunting would be fierce and cruel in their retribution.
She turned to her people. There were still many. Yet, they were from too many places, each with a different language. Excited words of all shapes and sounds spilled from them chaotically. Arms outstretched, she said, “I command you, please. Speak with your minds, your souls, your hearts, so that I can understand you.”
A woman rose her arm, the hand that should have been there was missing. “My daughter, she was taken to Brazil. I am from Cameroon.”
“We will go. We will go there,” she said.
“I was taken from the arms of my mother. In Mali.”
“We will go. We will go there.”
“My two sons, please,” called a man with a skull jagged and halved. “They tell me one went to West Indies, the other to New Orleans. We are from Cote d’Ivoire.”
“We will go. We will go there.”
As night fell, she listened to each story that came pouring out of them. Her own, which had never left her, came swirling to the front of her eyes; vivid once again. Given away by her father, in exchange for a handful of gold and silver, she had never suffered in life until that day. Her father had stood before the strangers, a proud man of their village. He had stood before them, a king with many daughters, but only one who was worthy of such an honor trade. He had pushed her forward. Spoke of her grace and her fortitude and his pride of his #1 daughter; a queen to be. “She is the best. She is wise. Take her,” he had said. And they did. As she was led away by men with skin the color of a yam, she held her head high and called on her worth. She had walked behind those men when she should have walked in front. They behind her. Soon, she was joined by others and more and more and more until she was a spec amongst them; each with differences she lost count to observe. Her status tarnished; her worth unrecognizable and unappreciated and unknown. When they stopped, having arrived at a destination unfamiliar, she was pulled from the crowd by a man with eyes green like a blade of grass fresh after rain and hair black and as curly as her dog’s tail. “Ah, finally. Someone with sense has seen me.” Sense was not the right word, she’d soon discovered. She felt quite worthless once bid upon by men who spoke a pointy language hard like bark splintered from the tree in a storm. Their skin, untouched by any god, looked like the cloudy river, angry after being disturbed in sleep by cows crossing. As she was shouted at and poked with sticks and touched in ways she had never been touched, she wished she’d been born last. She spoke to her bones, “Please hold me. I cannot.”
A vessel as large as the forest carried her obedient bones and so many others from her land. Over the rising and setting of many suns, they all became maggots to a slaughtered wildebeest the lions were too full to finish eating. They squirmed amongst one another to find solace in their infested existence. Sounds, words, screams, floated around her day and night, night and day, as she, a maggot too, squirmed. Until one day, freed from a chain for a moment she didn’t understand, she stood. She stood in the night, when the moon was full. It showed her the way. A path lit with silver. She ran. She thought nothing except of flying like the birds that followed them so freely. She reached the edge of the ship and jumped. The water welcomed her, soothed her burning skin, soaked her parched lips and took fingers to her eyes to close them so that she could finally rest.
She opened her eyes. The full moon, bright once again, revealed a glimmered path on the ancient water. She followed. She lead.
Peppur (aka The Hot One) is an international writer/actor/producer. She’s a published author of “Harlem’s Awakening” (1888 Center/Black Hill Press) which has also been developed and performed as a one-woman show of the same title. She has created and co-written an award-winning webseries, “The Brown Betties Guide: How To Look For Love in All The Wrong Places”; and is the creator of the sultry, sassy, sophisticated Brown Betties™ who are featured in her long-running dinner-theater show, “Harlem’s Night: A Cabaret Story” and “Harlem’s Awakening.” Peppur has written several plays, one of which, “Dick & Jayne Get A Life”, played in the Hollywood and Prague Fringe Festivals.
Peppur has contributed to Circle + Bloom, Prague Pulse Magazine, Bridge/Gate Magazines, Humor Mill Magazine, LA Beat, and The Firm FM radio show where she did a weekly, relationship-advice segment, “Keep It Spicy”. She taught journalism at Prague College and is the co-creator her theater production company, CATNIP (Contemporary Theatre Now in Prague). A Midwestern Girl at heart, she is looking for her next adventure. www.peppurchambers.com