Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: ZENITH (04/21/16)
TITLE: Run, girl, run!
By Catherine Craig
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Shanah’s long dress, soaked from forging the river, clung to her legs, and, it was difficult to tell whether her violent shivering was from the freezing temperatures or fear of being caught. How nice it would be to have a knife, she mused and then smiled bitterly, picturing the others’ reactions to her bare legs should they catch her.
How furious they would have also been to know that Shanah’s inward thoughts were in her own native tongue, and not the Americanese forced upon her! She lifted her head proudly, feeling again the dignity that being free and making her own decisions brought.
A branch scraped her back and she gasped. The welts criss-crossing her back were still fresh.
“Oh, shut up!” Shanah said, half-resenting the cheerful chirping of birds. Fingers of color reaching across the sky warned her to hurry. She was losing the cover of darkness.
Wearily, she forced her aching body to stand fully upright. Taking a step, Shanah winced and lifted her bound foot for a quick inspection. Rags torn from the cotton dress she wore to wrap her feet with were as bloody as she imagined her back to be.
Shanah felt grateful that the smug overseer had not bothered to latch the door from the outside the night before. He’d flicked the whip, allowing it to bite into her tender flesh again and again, then left her barely conscious. She’d seen her chance and ran.
Picturing how angry he must have been once he’d discovered her absence, Shanah at first grinned, but then her lips tightened into a grimace as guilt washed over her. Why did I survive?
The memory of her parents’ emaciated black bodies that had been left to rot, still tied to their cramped berths on the slave trawler less than a year before, filled her with rage. Sick and starved to death by the ship’s cruel captain, neither had survived the trip across the ocean. How dare they treat us like animals! She thought. We’re human beings too!
She pushed forward, breaking through the tangled brush and high grasses. The sounds of rushing water told Shanah that she was on track, keeping to the river just as she’d been told to do.
Just a little further! Shanah told herself. Another mile to the cabin and to those who would help usher her toward a new life.
All pain was forgotten as she skirted a large rock and then scrambled over a low rough wooden fence. Aware of their being the last of the landmarks along the path toward freedom, Shanah pressed on.
Terrors of the recent past haunted Shanah, driving her onward as if she could outrun them. The feel of the whip’s lashes slicing through her tender skin. Nights of lying on a thin pad trying to sleep with cold rain leaking through the thatch roof and freezing winds blowing through slats in the walls. The shame and indignities she’d endured.
Circumventing a thicket, she broke into a clearing. Pausing to catch her breath, Shanah watched the sun explode above the horizon in all its molten glory. In the distance beyond a cornfield and built upon a small knoll was a cabin with smoke curling from its chimney.
You’ve made it, thought Shanah. Now, run! You’re almost there. She flew along the rows between the cornstalks standing tall and proud.
Shanah wasn’t certain whether it was the demon of her past, or the Zenith ahead offering its golden promises of freedom from the shackles of slavery, that drove her forward. Coming into the clearing surrounding the cabin, she ran toward the building, shouting for help.
“Praise the Name of Jesus!” yelled someone as the door opened. Shanah struggled against the hands that reached out to catch her. “Mercy child. It’s all right. You’re safe.”
Her eyes blurred. But before she passed out, Shanah’s lips formed the words her fogged brain was trying to process, “Who is Jesus?”
“He’s the one who got you here, child,” answered someone just as the darkness took her.
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