Part the One Hundred Fifty Third: Sold to the Spider
“Señorita Maria Isabel de Cordova,” Osei continued, more spitting out her name like turned wine than saying it. “There had never been so evil a woman before or since in my life. At first sight of her, I wanted to be back on the ship that bore me here and stay in the hold, horrible as that had been.”
“What happened on the way over?” Hope asked.
“We were in shackles and chained together, scores of us. We were placed below deck in the dark like barrels, both our ankles chained together while we were chained next to each other, close enough to the next boy that we breathed in each other’s air. The lucky ones were those who died on the voyage, their bodies tossed overboard when they found them dead when they visited us below in the hold twice a day.
“Those of us who were left, at the end of our voyage, we were given a hard scrubbing with iron brushes to take the filth off our bodies before we were brought before the slave traders in Havana. They put us through great pain to make us presentable before we were auctioned to the highest bidder, our skin in pieces at our feet before we were offered to the colonas.
“As horrible as that had been, her presence made it worse still. Señorita de Cordova was like a puppet, a fully realized ideal form of a woman, whose strings you could see being moved by Anansi himself, his hairy legs greedily manipulating her from behind as she watched us on the block, thinking which of us would best suit her plans.
“I never felt such dread as her dark eyes landed on me, smiling as she plotted my fate.”
Hope let the sound of the Gale breaking the waves fill the air between them before she asked, “And then…?”
“I was her ninõ de casa, the one she’d rely on to do the small things she’d need that she either didn’t feel like doing or was too busy doing other things to bother with. I started by fetching this item and that on a whim, though she would punish me if she felt I took to long to retrieve her bauble. I became very good at finding things in a hurry, and then keeping track of everything should it be needed again soon.
“As I grew older I was tasked further, performing other duties that she wanted done without her needing to lift a finger. Chief among the many duties thrown to me was to supervise the rest of the house slaves for her, to mete out punishments when she wanted someone disciplined and to keep track of the staff’s mood, to make sure they were not tempted to rebel.”
“You were her steward, then,” Hope offered.
“That term implies I had a formal position. I was never a person to her, just a tool, no more than the Gale’s swivel gun is a member of her crew. The best I could ever hope for under her was benign disinterest in me as I did what was asked.”
“It was worse when she did consider me,” he said slowly. “Far worse…”
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