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It was a frigid November night. Silence had settled over the landscape, lit by the feeble light of a waning moon. By day, the scenery was beautiful and peaceful, but the harsh light of the night conjured up demons from behind rocks and trees, monsters from the roiling waters of the river, flinging them across the land. Not a soul stirred but the malevolent waters of the river, assaulting boulders and attacking the banks.
All of a sudden, the stillness was broken by the crack of twigs beneath sneaking feet. A young black woman, aged beyond her years, and her two wide-eyed children crept out of the forest warily. The air buzzed with a frantic urgency and terror could be seen clearly on all three dark faces, lurking in the lines that deepened around mouths, and resonating in three sets of staring eyes. They approached the rushing water. The fast paced current and wild nature of it seemed an impenetrable wall, unable to be crossed by three weakened beings.
A new sound abruptly introduced itself into the mix, soaring over the treetops to assault the ears and minds of the escapees. A far-off whistle, accompanied by the barking of dogs and the calling of the slave traders to each other, growing ever closer. The young mother looked down at her flesh and blood, feeling a love so intense for each, outweighed only by her fear for their lives. Terror and steely rational battled for control over her brain, as she frightfully assessed the situation. Rational won out and she realized there was a way, but it alone wouldn’t guarantee survival of her children. The barks sounded again, closer than she had anticipated. A sudden thought gripped her: there was, in fact, one way to ensure the safety of those dependent on her.
The woman collapsed to her knees and stared into the eyes of her children, reassuringly. She spoke for the first time.
“You must never give up. Stay together; through family, comes strength. And remember, always, that I love you more than life itself.”
With that, she kissed each child forcefully on the forehead, and lifted them into a nearby tree, after coating them thoroughly with mud to mask their scent.
“Climb higher, darlings!” she called out in a rough voice. “Climb as high as you safely can and stay absolutely still. You must make no noise, no matter what happens- promise me this! And when all is safe, you must find a way across the river, to the Northern border. I will watch over you as I can. I love you more than it is possible for one human being to.”
The barking and shouts reached a fevered pitch as the hounds caught scent of the woman. She steeled herself, straightening her back and staring directly ahead with defiance. Soon, she was surrounded by dogs straining at leashes, held back only by the strength of evil itself. It spoke.
“I love a good chase,” it drawled in a Southern accent, “especially when it ends like this.”
He smiled and lifted his hand lazily. At this signal, h.ell burst forth from now-slackened leashes, leaping upon the poor woman. Razors tore at her hardened flesh, bloo.d mixing with the slobber of the hounds, pouring forth as if from a faucet, dripping into the river and staining it red.
The dogs finished their meal, and the tormentors turned back around, satisfied. Silence overcame the area again, as the river pounded ever away, taking with it the memory of one mother’s ultimate sacrifice