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Escape From the Adelaide
I feel the guards’ gazes fall upon us as we sit cuffed against the cold stone wall in the hull of the Adelaide. Some of us are sleeping, some are awake and some are half dead. I pray, hoping that the guards are in one of their good moods; otherwise this could be my last day. My last day. I shudder at the thought. I slowly look up at the guard and see a man with a face like a monster and the rotten teeth of a corpse. He looks at us, going up and down the row; and when he comes to me I look down and hope I don’t draw attention. His whip hangs off of his belt and drags on behind him. I catch the eye of Belle, who sits across me and looks weak physically but strong. Stronger than any man on this ship. She is my friend, for I am in desperate need of them.
My name is Clary. I am 12 years old. That is all that I remember. Everything since the kidnapping has been a blur. I remember screams, arms grasping and tears falling as mothers were being pulled apart from their children. Fathers who rushed to get their families to safety were slashed with whips and beaten to death. The last sound I heard that night was a screech of pain from my own mother.
From the corners of my eyes, I see the guards leave the room. I hear the doors slam shut behind them. I raise my head and look around. I see Belle talking to a man. I can barely make out the words but what I do hear stuns me,
“We must escape,” says the man.
“I agree. But I don’t know how we are going to do that, Sean. We cannot put any one of our people’s lives in danger,” says Belle.
“The lives of our people are already in danger,” whispers Sean. “The only way to be safe is to be free, at any cost.”
Belle looks around at the people, shackled and bleeding and whispers, “ok . . .how? “
Sean leans in and I can no longer make out their words.
My mind begins to race . . .
Before I can think anymore the door is thrown open and a guard walks in. His whip in his hand and a sly smile on his face. I recognize this man. He was the one with the monster face that had inspected us earlier and had come close to beating us. I stare for too long; a mistake that I would regret for many days coming.
Monster Face walks up and down the aisle looking for a reason to use his whip. He finds it. He catches my eyes and a sly smile appears revealing his rotted teeth. I pray for my life.
His whip flies off the ground repeatedly. It slashes at my back and my thighs and my neck (just missing my eye) and the soft flesh of my arms. I feel the warm trickle of blood flow down my forehead and onto my cheek. I think that death would be a better option that this torture. I feel tears well up in my swollen eyes and I try my hardest to keep them from slipping down. That would give Monster Face satisfaction.
I pass out.
Clary. I see wisps of my mother and father reaching for me, calling for me. Clary. I feel their warm embrace as I begin to cry. Clary. I believe that I am dead. I begin to hear a faint voice, “Clary!” I feel a force tugging me back into reality and into the painful world where I wish that I really was dead. “Clary,” I hear clearly this time (it’s Belle’s voice). For a second I don’t remember what happened, but just as I open my eyes, my body fills with pain and I remember the horror of the whip, the pain of earlier days or was it weeks or hours before, I don’t know. I look just long enough to see Belle’s worried face and pass out once more.
I slowly tug my eyes open. I wish I hadn’t.
I see Sean bend his head toward the back of Belle’s hair. The dark chocolate skin on his arms bead with sweat that gleams in the dim room showing knotted muscles. His eyes shine like stars. I think I must be dreaming. Chin down, Belle lifts up her hair as high as she can towards his mouth. Am I crazy? Sean grips a bobby pin with his teeth pulling a few strands of hair with it as Belle quietly wimpers. He spits it onto the floor near Belle. “Sorry,” he whispers. I see her reaching for the pin with both arms locked behind her and then struggle with the shackles. I hear the click of the lock opening. I see a slow smile of success creep onto her face. I can’t believe what I am seeing. I know that she has unlocked herself. Quietly and slowly she rises to her feet. She stretches out her arms and legs and begins to unlock Sean. They are playing a dangerous game. I hear a second click and sighs of relief from both Sean and Belle. They are free.
My body burns in pain and I glance down, leery of what I might see. There is swelling and bruising. Dried blood is caked over the slashes on my thighs and arms. A map of my lashing. I know that what they are doing is dangerous, but I also know that I want to be free, more than anything. Free from the Adelaide, free from slavery, and free from reality.
Sean and Belle look around and notice me. I catch Belle’s eye and it’s like she can read my mind. She whispers something to Sean and he hesitates for a moment, and then nods. I am confused. They come over to me and wiggle the bobby pin in front of my face.
“In or out?” they say in unison.
“In.” I say, grateful that they asked me without my begging. A tear drips down my face.
As Belle is struggling with my shackles, Sean stands lookout beside the door, listening for even the faintest footsteps and even the quietest of whispers. I look at Belle and and wonder why it’s taking her so long. I hear her mutter a curse but not take her eyes off of my shackles. While she is working, I think about our next plan. How are we going to escape? How are we going to be free? Once we are free, where would we go? Questions pile up in my head that I don’t know the answer to.
I focus back into reality and hear a click. Belle has unlocked my shackles and I am on my way to freedom. I slowly rise scared that I can no longer hold my own weight. I stand up, but I know that I am weak. My legs ache from where I was whipped, my knees are wobbly from all the sitting and I can’t even lift my arms above my head.
I try to walk and instantly fall down, hitting my head.
As my head throbs I pass out again.
As Sean and I see Clary falling, we think nothing of it, we have all fallen one time or another, right? Poor Clary hit her head and was knocked out. Sean and I push her up against the wall and cuff her again. We have no choice. Clary isn’t strong enough to walk or run (if necessary), or even stand. Our time is not infinite and we must hurry.Our lives are in danger.
I look at Clary, kiss her forehead and whisper, “ I’m sorry . . .I’m sorry that we have to leave you, but this is our only choice.”
Sean and I exchange glances and he nods. It’s either now, or never.
I wake up with a throbbing pain in my head. I peel open my eyes and force myself to look around. I am cuffed again. Belle and Sean are gone. They have left me. They have left me. They have left me. The thought surges through my head in a loop. They have left me. They have left me. They have left me.
After escaping the hull, we head quietly upstairs to what seemed to be the main deck. We hear voices and music and the sound of drinks being gulped down. We stop mid-step and try to figure out what is going on.
We slowly peer our heads out and what we see amazes us. There's singing and dancing and music playing. Only now do we realize how foolish our plan was. Their are so many men, over 100 for sure, but what worries us most is that all of these men have whips within reach. If they have them close to reach at a celebration like this, then how protected are they when they are working? The thought frightens me. There's no way that we can overthrow them and be free. No way.
“Sean . . . I . . . ” I start.
“Stop,” Sean says cutting me off. “I know what you are thinking. There is no way that we can overthrow them. I know. But I have a plan.”
I look at Sean with a doubtful face.
“Belle, do you trust me?
“Sure, I guess...” I say.
“Do you promise to do as I say without questioning it?”
“Um, sure, why?”
In the middle of the night I rise and unshackle myself. I walkover to Sean and Clary and do the same. Clary wakes up with a little groan and asks what’s going on. We tell her the plan. She looks petrified.
Sean sneaks to the deck and steals gallons of gas and we set to work. Clary and I sneak into the boiler room. We pour the gas over the everything, leaving a foul smell and everything drenched. Sean, in the mean time, stands guard outside. I tell Clary to leave the room as I take a match that Sean gave me and light it. I drop it and run. We all do.
I don’t know where I am going. I am just following Sean up towards the main deck. We jump off of the boat and into the surprisingly warm waters of the pacific ocean. I go under. Through all the excitement, I forget that I am not a good swimmer. The water is rough. The waves pushing me up and down, up and down. I am a goner. I am pulled down and a wave crashes over my head. I go under. I don’t know how far, but I do feel my lungs struggling and gasping for air. I try to paddle my way up, but my body still aches from being whipped. I am tired of fighting. I am dying. I let my arms fall to my sides and I can’t seem to find any energy to swim. I want to panic, but deep down in my heart I know that this is the end. The end. No matter how many times I have thought of death I hadn’t pictured it like this. I always thought someone would kill me, whip me and kick me until my heart gave out. But no. No air in my lungs. The pain is from within.
I jerk when I hear a faint voice. My mother? I see her coming towards me, but she is walking, not swimming... how strange. Her chocolate skin is brightly glowing and her eyes are shining like diamonds. Her hair is in a ponytail but a few strands hang loose, over her eyes. She brushes it aside.
“Clary, I’m sorry, I’m sorry that I couldn’t prevent this.” she says.
“Am I gone? “
“Yes, my dear child, I’m sorry.”
I feel a force tugging me, but now I know that it is my mother welcoming me into her warm embrace. I let her.
“It’s okay,” I whisper.
I am free.
This is what I wished for.
I am free.