Moving right along…
“Are you in some sort of hurry, Miss Black? Got a hot date after my class?” Mr. Pitts interrupted Nzinga’s clock watching.
“Maybe with her demonic minions,” came the reply from the back of the room. The class erupted in laughter. Jacob sat back in his seat, crossing his arms haughtily. Nzinga stole a glance at him, and found him staring back. Quickly, she dropped her eyes to her desk, wishing the day would speed itself up.
“Miss Black? Are you with us now?” Charlie Pitts questioned his student. The middle-aged teacher tucked a lock of graying red hair behind his ear as he waited for an answer.
“I’m here. Sir. My apologies,” she whispered.
“Let’s continue, then. Now, the first Africans arrived in this country…” Nzinga tuned out, once again, and focused on the bane of her existence: Jacob Worthy.
He was a snot; a very rich snot, but a snot all the same. His not-so-great, great, however many great-grandfather, Captain Daniel Worthy arrived in the New World in the early 18th century. He commanded a small ship named, ironically, Belle Morte (Beautiful Death, in English). Ironic because at the time of its final voyage, there was plenty of death, and none of it was beautiful.
The Belle Morte‘s final load was a shipment of African slaves.
The voyage was doomed from the start. Several crewmen fell ill the moment the sail was hoisted. The weather was terrible; there was a storm cloud within raining distance at all times. All the while, the human cargo kept up a steady chant in low voices. No amount of threats or cracks of the whip would silence them. Captain Worthy gave up, figuring they were praying their heathen god. He had more important matters to attend to, such as returning home to his wife and 3 young sons.
Years later, a leather-bound book washed up in the harbor of what was now called Worthington. According to the title page, it was the personal journal of one of the crewmen on the Belle Morte, a young man known only as Scar. He wrote of the final voyage:
The 16th of April, 17 hundred and 10 –
That infernal singing is louder as the water grows more wicked. Could they possibly be controlling the weather? I would say that it is preposterous, but whom but God knows what these heathen blacks are capable of?
The Devil has come! He has risen from the depths of the sea to claim the souls of us whom have not repented! God save us! Captain is missing, the blacks died laughing and every white man on board is dead. I am the last. I can see The Shadow passing over the sun. God sav –
Captain Worthy and his crew never made it home. Pieces of the ship were found floating less than 5 miles from the docking point at the harbor of Worthington. Not one body was recovered from the wreckage.
The descendants of the good Captain suffered greatly. Of the 3 sons he left behind, 2 died in mysterious accidents as teens. The only one to survive to adulthood died the moment his son own was born. People of the town still say that the family is cursed, has been cursed ever since that night in 1710. The truth most likely would never be known. But time was running out for the Worthy family; Jacob was the last of his line.
“Miss Black!” Mr. Pitts shouted.
Nzinga jumped. “Yes?” she asked softly.
“There is no sleeping in my classroom.”
“I wasn’t sleeping,” she refuted.
“Well, you certainly weren’t paying attention.”
“She was communing with her dark lord,” Jacob injected. The students snickered. Nzinga stood and stared openly at the teen.
“You will pay,” she declared softly. “You will answer for your sins.”
“Miss Black!” Mr. Pitts slammed his hands on his desk. “OUT!”
“Now wait a minute,” Marcus interrupted. “My sister here was simply defending herself, but you throw her out? Of course you do. All of you crackers stick together.”
“Would you like to join her in detention, Marcus?”
An eyebrow rose. “She’s Miss Black, but I’m Marcus? That’s fine, Charlie. I can dig it.”
Mr. Pitts face and neck was almost as red as his hair. “That’s it! Both of you. OUT! Go directly to office.” He scribbled something on a sheet of paper, and then thrust it toward the two offenders. “And take this with you.”
Nzinga, who had never unpacked her things, clutched her bag tightly to her chest and stepped away from her desk. She felt Marcus come up behind her and grasp her elbow. She glanced at him from the corner of her eye, and saw a determined set to his jaw. She relaxed. Things were going according to the plan.
Slowly, silently, they marched to the door. Marcus extended a hand to rip the paper from the hand of the instructor. Without sparing a backward glance, they exited the classroom through the open door. Nzinga waited while Marcus kicked it shut. From his pocket, he extracted a heavy aluminum padlock. This he slipped through the ends of two lengths of chain lying in front of the room.
The others were playing their parts well. Everything was going the way it had been planned.
Death is coming.
Nzinga heard the whisper, and smiled.