Ansa…The End

18 Feb

Chapter 6

Ansa was surprised to hear the sound of a cockcrow though it came from afar off. It seemed like an eternity since he last heard anything that resembled normalcy in life.

An odd smell permeated the shack where they were all ‘stored’. It smelt like faeces. Ansa had to swallow to keep himself from vomiting. It was then that one of the men arrived to move them out of the shack.

Being the first to enter the shack when they arrived last night, Ansa had to vacate it last. He felt air begin to come in as a number of the captives were led into the open. Kwame let out a yelp which attracted the others. Mensah whistled softly when he saw whatever was causing the excitement. One of the new arrivals had died overnight.

That must account for the smell in the shack this morning, Ansa concluded. Poor soul. He was grateful it was not Mosa and said a short prayer of thanks.  But even then he could not help but envy him/her. Whoever it was has been spared the misery that awaits them all.

The dead captive was carried away from the shack before the others could evacuate.

In their state of filth and hunger, somebody emptied water on each and every one of them. Though the pouring of water on them was aimed at giving them some wash, it had the opposite effect. Ansa felt itchy all over and felt absolutely uncomfortable.

Some conversation took place between their captors, and from the snatches Ansa heard something about an Alata who came from Accra and was talking about the Danes determination to abolish slave importation. If the law goes into effect that would effectively end the trade at Elmina and the Cape Coast Castle was out of the question since it was now a British fort.

This piece of information gave Ansa some hope. All he needed was to get out of Osei’s hands before possession of slaves in Dutch colonies becomes a criminal offence; for Ansa knew Osei could not afford seeing him get back to Denkera alive.

*                           *                           *

By midday Ansa was no longer under Osei. He was owned by Kofi Obutu and he was due to receive his branding that evening. The unfortunate thing had been that he and Mosa had been separated. Kofi had sent her to the female barracoons and Ansa wondered when he would have the opportunity of seeing her again.

 

The blindfolds had finally been removed. Ansa was examined for diseases and his teeth were checked as a dog would be checked for rabies.  It had been one humiliating experience. They had haggled over him the way you haggle for a fish at the riverside.

 

After the sale was executed Ansa and a number of newly acquired slaves were sent to the barracoon for male slaves. The barracoon was cramped and smelt of human excrement and urine.

 

Ansa held his breath for as long as he could and hoped that this was just the holding room and they would be moved soon…or later.

 

Evening came and as the old slaves were returned to the barracoons, the new slaves were brought out to the open in fetters so heavy you could barely move your feet. Earlier when Ansa was bound hand and foot in the fetters he had almost collapsed from the sheer weight. But when he had seen the ladies moving in theirs he had decided to be a man.

 

The entire slaves were connected by chains bound to the necks, so the action of the one would affect all others.

 

Nothing prepared Ansa for what he was about to witness. A heavy metal was heating in the fire with the new slaves lined up in front of the fire.

 

Someone in the lineup of the ladies caught his attention, it was Mosa. He was so thrilled at seeing her that he was not prepared for the earth shattering scream that rent the evening.

 

Ansa turned to behold one of the male slaves collapsed on the floor with a massive burn on his back. The collapse of the slave had a ripple effect. Since they were all connected by neck chains the next one to him had to fall too and then another.

 

The fifth slave managed to break the fall. He was the slave next to Ansa. He held out his bound hands in an effort to steady the one in front of him. By this time the slave drivers were already yanking up the fallen ones and administering whips on them.

 

When all had been made to quieten down, the connecting neck chains were removed from around the neck of the slave who was to be branded next.

 

Wails of different versions arose that night. A wail which Ansa knew would be etched in his memory for the rest of his days.

 

Even after witnessing what it was doing to all who preceded him, Ansa could not help the scream that tore through his throat when the red hot branding iron made contact with his skin.

 

It was indescribably excruciating, like his heart had been torn out of his chest.  It was all the well that their hands were still bound for one’s first inclination was to rub the wound which would have been highly counterproductive.

 

After the first wail, many who considered themselves manly braved the pain. The ladies were a different matter. Their wail was piteous and could tore at Ansa’s heart.

 

Who came up with the concept of branding a human just as you brand a cow? Even the cow was allowed to roam free to nurse its wounds but here they were, bound in fetters under a humid night air, while their backs burned like roast meat.

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