Novella will be released in April 2021
There are few things that I remember now.
But the things I remember are so scattered now, but for you, my dear Dark children, I will tell you what I am able to remember. I have been of this blood, for four centuries.
Four hundred years.
Yet, I remember my last dawn. But I am getting ahead of myself.
I am Calsespi, daughter of Queen Nkimbe and King Junkimbah. I have not seen my parents since I was stolen from the coast of what you may now call Mali. As was the tradition of my people and village that the youngest daughter, is married the oldest son of the next village. “To keep peace, we must sacrifice the precious, Calsepsi.” I was the peace. I was the precious.
The night before my wedding, our village was attacked by enemies of my betroved. My youngest brother, Kheme, grabbed me and pulled me to safety. I saw my village burn, my father taken and mother murdered because she wouldn’t tell where I was. I watched her eyes, my eyes now, looking into her face as she closed her eyes—willing the enemies of her children to not see where she looked. We hid in the brush for two days before we were captured by the Portguese.
I had never been more hungry.
I had never been more angry.
Kheme held onto me like our father did when I was small. His arms like branches, strong and sure as I cried from fear and hunger.
I remember the ship was quiet, the smell was horrendous. I remember all the languages and listened four ours in the bottom of this ship with these men that held what I know now as guns to us as they packed us in.
Packed like boxes.
I imaged if I could die, this is would Hell would be like: hot, dark, and not knowing what is going on…ever. I remember sleeping a lot. I remember thinking, forgetting what land and sky look like. Kheme and I arrive in South Carolina—of course, I didn’t know that was what it was. I was shackled to Kheme, and separated from him and he screamed to me in our language and I reach for him, the irons placed on me clanging as laughter. “Aww, they must be married! Parson Shelby keep them together!”
Keep them together.
From that togetherness, we have never been apart. We were sold to Parson Shelby and his wife, an evil woman that had her eyes on Kheme from the time she got him. I remember she constantly touched him, stroked him, and would do all in her power to keep me us apart!
I also remember that Parson Shelby was a drunk. He ran a brothel, and I cleaned it. He was no shepherd, and reminded all those pale, ruddy faced people giving him money how it was their right to own people. How they were entitled to do so because ‘these dark, devil people need the brightness of our God. We rule over them to help them!”
That’s when it happened.
1648. It was winter. I remember how cold it was, and how pretty the morning was. Kheme had run away from after Parson Shelby beat him for the last time. That was the habit, you see. Parson Shelby’s wife would give something to Kheme to get him into her bed. After she would have her way with him, Parson Shelby would come in and beat him inside of their bedroom. With Kheme, wounded, again on the floor, Parson Shelby would make love to his wife—if that was what that was.
Kheme had run before that Christmas. He ran in the snow. I remember the blood, his bare feet, and my breath in the window. I had never been so scared. Now that I remember, there was nothing I had been more afraid of. There were stories of slaves that were killed by their masters. Some that jumped back into the ocean, determined to swim home.
Kheme came back by night, in the New Year of 1649. I had been the property of these owners for five years. The child of the Parson in my womb…not by my choice or desire. I remember how shiny that Kheme looked, how icy his skin was. He found me in the back room off the hearth, and he hugged me. Kheme was beaten for not speaking English, Bambara was our mother tongue.
While holding me, he told me that he had met someone and that he was more man than he had ever been. He told me in a loud rush in this small space on which I slept on the floor that he was different. Stronger. Faster. “I can see as well in the dark as the sun cold ever let me!” he said, still holding me. The scent of the outside in my nose, the cold pushing into me like needles. I no longer fear the lash, Calsepsi.” I squeezed him harder, happy to hear my name in the language of our parents. These people, these owners, called me ‘Bess’. He pulled me from the world of our creation, made up our my warm and his chill, and stood. He looked like a giant as I sat on the floor, the life in me, flipping. With his face to me, his back more like mountains. I wanted to go to him, hold him, share what he held in his heart like I had when we had crossed the ocean together. “I no longer fear the lash.”
I bit my lip, wrapping my arms around him. I willed my ears to hear everything that was going to happen next. “I no longer fear the lash, the heat or the cold.” If felt colder then. “I have seen the amshun in the village, saw him when I ran. I wanted the strength to come back and get to you, Calsepsi!” I stood then, all things in me buzzing. “Say it.” I said, I too not wanting the world to come in this moment by speaking the language of the people that stole us. “The amshun said that he would make me…”
I didn’t need him to say the word. I knew what the amshun was. I knew what they did. There was a girl I worked in the tavern with that was related to one. There was a rumor that an amshun had the pour of life and death, and it was in their blood to do so. “If you drink the potion of the amshun, death will not touch you.”
The slaves at that time didn’t know what a vampire was, you see. That wasn’t a reality. There was no word! But when my brother, my protector turned to face me, wrapped in the blankets which gave no warmth, my brother’s eyes opened and were red, this burning orange. “I no longer fear the lash.” As he wiped his mouth, he could see red on his teeth. Blood.
There was a word the other slaves had for those that went to see amshuns– Darkwalkers. Amshuns were a special type of apothecary. They made medicines, poisons, yes. But this potion was not supposed to be real! It was supposed to be a myth. My brother was now a Darkwalker! Hearing my thoughts, he walked to me, pulling me back into his over six-foot frame. “I came to get you Calsepsi.” There was something about him uttering the word, get. I watched as he took me to the salon, were Pastor Shelby and his wife lay on the blood, bleeding. He stood behind me, making me witness his Puric victory. “You never need to fear him taking you again, Calsepsi. Come with me, we can go home. I can make you strong enough to go home.”
It was that fast. The rage welling in me, sentient and more real than anything. I made one fist, then two. “Make me not fear the lash, my brother. Make me as strong as you.” As I exhaled, I felt a bite in my neck. Fire went through me, consuming and insistent. I remember opening my eyes willing them to stay open as I had times before when Parson Shelby would try and take my body. My eyes would make him leave, save for this last time in the fall. I felt the flipping in my belly slow and cease. “Calsepsi, drink.” I didn’t move. I turned to face him, head and limbs burning. Kheme put his wrist to my mouth and I remember closing my eyes. His blood was cool, sweet and rippled down my throat.
I remember falling to the floor, screaming as what I carried inside of me crawling, oozing out of me. As it died, I held onto myself to keep from ripping in half. “Calsepsi, don’t fight it. You are so strong, and this will make you stronger!” He knelt at her head. “My dear sister, you will never have to fear any man—free or slave—ever again.”