“When the sun comes up
And the first quale calls,
Follow the drinking gourd.
’cause the old man’s awaiting for
To carry you to freedom
Follow the drinking gourd”
Everybody chorused. The agile men were tied to the wall while the women gathered round Isabelle – the oldest woman. They have heard of stories that a man was fighting their war, they didn’t believe it at first, but when it became the only choice, they succumbed.
Her sight was getting blurry and the last thing she would want to remember was seeing her children and her family watching her closing lid. The younger women placed their hands on Isabelle’s forehead, her body was a burning kettle. It is how a body of a ninety-seven year old feels after being raped.
She remembered her first time, she was just fifteen and it was endurable then. She remembered the calming words of the woman fondly called Iya Agba, and how she passed on on the day she was raped. It all seemed like yesterday and today looked like a nightmare. No matter how much her weak arms fought and struggled to get out of the reach of Mr Collin’s son – Alfred, he wouldn’t let her rest nor catch her breath. Her father – Mr Collins complained of her being ‘unripe’ but now she wondered if she was not too ripe and too grumpy for a young man.
Others heard Isabelle screamed but no one would dare to peep or make the slightest grumble. Some men grumbled though but when Mr Alfred’s soldiers came, they led them out, wih their hands behind their back, everybody already knew their fate and where their manhood would be thrown.
She struggled until her brittling bone shook and failed to move an inch, her children and grandchildren could still hear her screams in their heads. It is really hard to forget the voice of your mother or grandmother in anguish while the only thing you could do was weep. She bore three girls for Mr Alfred but he complained that he wanted boys instead.
Isabelle’s lid fell many times and she wondered what she was still doing in this cruel world. She looked down, she saw Mary – her youngest child, a eighteen or nineteen year old woman – she rubbed Isabelle’s laps with a towel that they had hid carefully (to treat the wounds of beaten men), she gasped whenever Mary’s hands moved too high, and those groanings got stuck in the head of the men.
Isabelle’s head was blank for a moment and she thought she heard gunshots and the March of fierce men. It might be the heavenly hosts? She thought, she opened her eyes a little, and she saw the cold metal face of her grandchildren shaped into cringing brows and tears sought more than the comfort of their sockets. Mary came beside Isabelle’s head and kissed her in-between her hair so emotionally, and her tears washed the hair clean.
“Ma, our saviours has come, the old man has appeared” she muttered in-between quiet sobs and joy hidden behind the frail figure of a prisoner. Isabelle’s face brightened, and her sunken eyes was bright for a moment.
“I thank fate that I passed away at the gate of freedom and not at the shackles of servitude” she said, and her lid fell continually until it finally closed. They would not return to a land of a different God, for their language had differed and had resembled that of the white spirits themselves. They would stay in their sojourn only to admire home from the fridge of the sea.
A soldier rushed in and he looked like the old man they had all wished to see, he has a full beard, his broad shoulders gave the men strength and his eyes which was full of empathy energized the women to pick up arms to complete their battle for freedom.
“When the sun comes up