Ahhh… It all makes sense now…
Out on the water, there was chaos.
The Shadow that covered the sun was expanding, dipping into the water, making waves and causing the piers to shake. It was massive, the Shadow was, and seemed to be solid, blocking out light and wind. People stared in fascinated horror as it took shape, swallowing up smaller boats and obliterating anything in its path.
Surprised mutterings turned to screams once the people at the harbor realized exactly what The Shadow was, and what it meant for them.
“Oh. My. God.”
“This can’t be!”
“Sally! George! Get out of the wa-”
“NO! No! NOOO!”
“We’re gonna die, we’re gonna die, we’re gonna -”
“Shit. It’s back.”
Marcus James tugged on the lock, testing it.
“This should hold them, right?”
Nzinga nodded, suddenly impatient. “As long as they don’t leave the building, it will be fine. Let them scurry about the halls like rats. It’s better than they deserve.”
Marcus looked at the girl who was once his intended bride. “You’re still angry, after all these years?”
He sighed. “I just want it to be over. It has been far too long. They are the last of the line. It won’t happen again.”
“But can we be sure?”
“We can never be sure, but we must do what we can.”
“Right.” Now she sighed, and leaned against his broad shoulder, forcing her face into his neck. Absentmindly, he curled his arm around her. They stood there in silence, thinking of all that had been lost.
She spoke first. “We should go. The others are waiting.”
In response, Marcus released his love, and yanked both chains hard. From somewhere in the distance, the chains were pulled in both directions, eradicating any slack. The door to the classroom was now impossible to open unless the lock was broken from the outside, which would not happen.
The couple walked slowly down the hallway, toward the stairs. As they moved silently through the corridor, they witnessed a teacher bounding down the stairs, laptop case tucked tightly under her arm, her mouth set in a grim line. Nzinga looked questioningly at her lover.
“Supporter of the cause.”
Nzinga nodded slowly, unsure of what to say. Someone outside of their group knew the plan? That could be bad.
“I know what you’re thinking, but Ms. Allen is cool. Her family fought on our side back then. They never followed the ownership trend, and spoke loudly against anyone who did. They were outcast for it. She’s cool.”
“If you say so.”
They reached the stairs at last. With Marcus in the lead, the couple descended to the main floor.
The hall was deserted. Every single door was crossed with chains and locks. Strangely, no one behind the closed doors had noticed yet. Nzinga knew that when the end of class bell rang, there would be anger, panic and probably much yelling. And fear. Fear was good.
“Death is coming,” she giggled.
They spotted the school’s custodian, Mr. Burns. An elderly Black man, he moved with an astonishingly light step. As they approached, he looked up from the chain he was wrapping through the handles on the main exit.
“Just in time, you two, or you would have been locked in here with me. Everyone else is outside already. Quickly now, out you go.” He unwound part of the bulky chain, and pushed the door open.
Marcus stepped toward the doorway and paused. “Are you sure that you’re okay with this, Mr. Burns?”
The older man snorted. “I’ve lived my life. At least this way, I get to be a part of justice.”
Marcus clapped on the man on the back. “You’re a good man. Good man.” He turned to face his almost bride. “Come on, Zing.”
She nodded and stepped walked toward her lover. “Thank you,” she whispered as she passed the custodian.
He nodded, and pushed them out of the school. The door clanged shut behind them.
They joined the rest of their group on the lawn. From the direction of the harbor, they could hear screams and crashes. Everything appeared to be on schedule.
From inside the school, the bell rang. 50 pairs of ears perked up, and 50 pairs of eyes lifted toward the windows. They could hear people express first shock and dismay, then anger, as they figured out that they had been locked in.
Sounds of pounding wafted through the open windows.
“Hey!,” someone shouted. “There are people outside!”
“How’d those niggers get out?” another voice called.
“Like, oh my God, it IS all the Black kids out there.”
“What the hell’s going on?”
Jacob Worthy stuck his head out of a window and zeroed in on Nzinga Black. “Is this your doing?” he asked.
“No,” she answered. “It is your doing. Your people started this. We’re just finishing it.”
“That’s crazy,” he accused. “What do we have to do with anything?”
“You people are all the last of you line. It is fitting that you are wiped off planet.”
“I don’t understand what the fuck you’re talking about!”
“Your forefather was a slave runner.”
“So? I wasn’t. And it’s not like you were a slave.”
“Oh,” breathed Nzinga, “but I was.” At her words, the pink and purple dye job vanished, the striped tights disintegrated, the dress fell to rags and the purple bag became shackles that bound her wrists together. “We all were, in fact.”
Jacob fell back in horror as the group released the glamour that covered them. All of the fine clothing became little more than rags and pieces of scrap fabric that offered no warmth and barely covered their most private areas. Shoes, jewelry and accessories reverted to the shackles and chains that they once were.
More voices called from the windows as more heads poked out.
“But what does that have to do with us? We didn’t make you slaves! We have nothing to do with this!” one girl called.
“You have everything to do with this. You lived in luxury with the fruits of our labor. You lived in houses we built, ate food that we grew, wore clothes that we made. Doesn’t matter if you actually held the whip or purchased the body. It may not have been us, it may not have been you. But if not for the greed of your ancestors, we would not be here right now!” Nzinga shouted.
Jacob spoke up. “My forefather, as you say, Daniel Worthy… He never returned from his final voyage.”
Marcus smiled and called up to the boy, “We know.”
A grinding sound filled the air. Students jerked away from the windows as the metal gates rolled down to cover the glass.
“You can’t do this us! We have families!”
“So did we,” Nzinga growled.
50 pairs of legs and feet fell into a single file line. Marcus and Nzinga nodded to each other. The couple opened their mouths wide, and a melodious chant filled the air. It stopped the wind and silenced the birds. It was dark and beautiful. It was the sound of something ancient that should not have been awakened.
On the water, The Shadow trembled in response.
As the group neared the water, the volume of their chanting increased. It was almost loud enough to drown out the sound of the explosion from the direction of the school. Almost.
Buoyed by the words swimming in the air around her, Nzinga began to cry. Tears streamed from her eyes as sweat poured down her face and body. It was over. Finally. Finally, the pain would stop. The years of lies, the regret, and the anger would stop. It was over.
50 people marched into the harbor, where their ship, the Belle Morte, awaited them.
Death had come.
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