She opened her eyes slowly to darkness. The darkness held her. Her eyelids closed. A jolting thump, thump, thump, told her she was moving on a bumpy road. How long would they travel? The box she was stuffed inside provided little room to move and made the rough road unbearable.
Thoughts of her homeland gave her hope that one day she would be free. Before the box, she lived in West Africa in the Sahel region. Her small community was surrounded by woody vines, shrubs, and herbaceous plants. She remembered yellow fever trees with white thorns. The thorns could draw blood if she wasn’t careful. She vowed to draw the blood of her captors when her strength matched theirs. Her people called this brilliance, the one time through many prayers when a warrior could use the power of the sun for strength and guidance.
“How much money did we make?” Pete asked, wanting his cut.
“Not as much as I hoped, but we sold a lot of tokens on the side though,” Leo responded carefully. The amount of money they gave Leo didn’t cover their expenses which he realized after the deal was made. He wasn’t sure how long he could keep his incompetence from Pete who had an inner rage that came out often after his wife left him. It was a thought he didn’t want to dwell on. Pete let out a sigh. He folded his hands in his lap and decided not to ask any more questions. Think before you speak he thought, controlling his temper the way he was taught in anger management class. They drove on in silence.
Unable to rest, Esmeralda thought about the last place they went. Her captors called it Arizona Red Rock, a high desert terrain area with warm weather. A big tent was set up during the night for the locals. The men sold tickets. She was in there for about three days. The tent had low lights. She was weak in the dim lighting. She prayed for brilliance.
They called her Esmeralda. She despised the name. Born into a wealthy family that traded along the Senegal river, Ebele wanted for nothing. In her village, she was a queen. She adorned herself with beautiful gold and silk garments, handmade by the best weavers in the town. She would not take a name other than her own. ’Ebele! Ebele! Ebele!’, she told herself. She would not forget who she was.
Ebele heard the white-skinned man speak foreign words. She understood some by being around them for so long. Money. Sell. Sold. Would she be sold to someone? Most of the conversation Ebele did not understand, but the word sold reminded her that she lost her freedom.
She could not break free by herself. The darkness was too intense. She would use the light and her prayer for help. With enough prayer and the sun, she would use brilliance to power the Chakram, a circular gold, and silver ornament. Her captors did not know this was a weapon hidden in plain sight around her neck. She prayed once again for brilliance.
Esmeralda. The false name brought on dark memories of a battle lost. Pale men forcefully took control of the prosperous trade route her people survived on. Many were lost in one day by outsiders that killed family and friends for her prosperous land. A powerful spell forced her into the box after her Chakram had its way with three captors long ago. Her willpower, now stronger than the spell, waited on brilliance.
The truck stopped next to a grassy rest area along the dirt road.
“I’ve been driving all night. Let’s take a break” Leo suggested, pulling into the remote camp.
Pete grew agitated thinking about the money due to him. He decided to confront Leo. It was now or never.
“I want my cut.”
Leo turned off the engine, then stretched back in the seat.
“I’ve decided something.”
“What?” Pete asked. Ready for a fight.
“I think it’s time to sell Esmeralda,” Leo answered, his voice bearing a humble defeat.
“We’ve been trying to turn a profit renting her, but no luck. I think we can do better if we sell her outright to the next circus.
“How much do you think we can get?” Pete asked, pushing back frustration, now that they were talking.
“Well, she’s authentic. Built over 125 years ago in Africa. She’s the only fortune-telling machine I’ve seen from that era. I was told it was custom-made for a slave trader that trapped the soul of a female warrior to entertain his guests. I have the original papers that shipped with the box, written in Swahili. She’s in good shape, even with us renting her out to that Big Top Circus in Arizona. I bet we can get a least twenty-five thousand dollars for her as is. Hell, the gold ornament around her neck must be worth at least that.” Leo continued, confident his friend would accept the idea. “If I get twenty-five thousand, I’ll give you fifteen. The sale will square us.”
“The sale will square us for Esmeralda, but what about the Big Top Circus? Where’s my cut for that?” Pete demanded.
“I used most of that for gas and maintenance for the truck. I didn’t forget Big Top. That’s why I’m giving you a bigger cut for her, to compensate.”
“What maintenance? It’s been gas, junk food, and booze since Big Top, and I bought the booze. So where’s the Big Top money… Leo?”
While the men argue, dawn poked its way inside the truck from the sky roof. It made its way to the box where Ebele was. As darkness surrendered to light, the strength needed to break her bonds came through after months of saved energy in her Chakram. The box exploded from within, releasing Ebele from exile.
“What the hell was that!” Pete gasped as both men ran to the back of the truck. Leo jumped on the bumper, trying to open the roll-up door, but it was off its hinges.
“Help me!” Leo yelled. Pete pulled the door upward from the opposite side until the hinge sprang back in place allowing the door to fully open.
The 250-pound fortune-telling box made with wood, copper, and glass lay wholly destroyed, with pieces scattered over the interior of the truck. What stood in its place was a Kiswahili female warrior, in a black and gold leather pleated skirt, the material skin tight over her upper torso. Her left arm held a tattoo image of a Katana sword with blood drops on the blade, symbolizing battle kill numbers. Her right hand held the energy-filled Chakram, as she ran the razor-sharp edge of the weapon across Leo’s throat.
Horrified, Leo took a step backward, hands holding his severed trachea. Bright red oxygenated blood flowed between his fingers. He looked at Pete as lightheadedness caused him to fall off the truck face up onto the moss-green road. Pete backed away, hands raised. His eyes were on the woman that stood in the truck while Leo’s body jerked and twitched until it lay still.
“Hold on there,” Pete spoke in a high-pitched voice. “You want money? I got money.” Pete lied. I’ll give you whatever you want. Take the truck. The keys are inside. You can sell it for a good price.”
Money. Sell. Price. Those foreign words Ebele understood. She jumped out of the truck into a crouching position, Chakram at the ready. Pete was already running at top speed from the murdering woman he did not know.
Instead of chasing him, Ebele stood up and spun the Chakram around her index finger allowing it to gain speed. With a flick of her wrist, it flew towards Pete, shaving half his head off as he ran. His lifeless body fell to the ground. The razor-sharp weapon returned to its master, dropping at Ebele’s feet. She carefully picked it up, wiping the blood from the Chakram onto her tattoo then putting the weapon around her neck as an ornament once again.
Two new blood drops appeared on the sword’s blade, increasing her battle kills to five. Now that she was free, she allowed the sun’s brilliance to guide her home. She walked the dirt road, following signs with written words she did not understand.
Copyright © 2018 Darnell Cureton. All Rights Reserved.