Trigger warning: slavery, sexual assault

My map hangs above me, a cloud of glittering dots in the sky. The familiar constellations tell me where I must go. 

Breath coming in ragged gasps I run away from the only home I’ve ever known. Unlike Mother, I wasn’t taken from our native land across the sea. Unlike her, I’ve never tasted the freedom she missed so dearly. 

All I’ve ever known was this farm and the abuse held therein. But I’ve been told stories of freedom, and now I will run. 


Every night as we lay together, Mother used to tell me of the map in the sky. She told me the stories of every star and how they came together to show us the way. Whenever she told the stories, she would hold me close and tell me how someday we would use them to escape. 

Every time she said this, I could feel my excitement rise to fight terror. I’ve seen people try to escape before. I’ve seen them dragged back to camp and whipped half to death. Their wounds healed as thick marring scars that forever marked them as runners.

As we would sleep, I was plagued by nightmares of being whipped myself. Of screaming for mercy that would not be given. I also dreamed of what would happen after. Dreamed of the punishment I feared most. The nighttime visits from the master and farmhands. 

Thus far. I have been spared. Scantly over fifteen, few men have even spared me a passing glance. Though my body has started to betray me and I will soon be seen as a breeder… an animal whose only purpose is to produce more workers. 


That’s why I have to run you see. I can’t live with the thought of being an animal any longer. I can not believe that I am truly the property of someone simply because of my skin. 

Mother and I planned for months how we would escape, then the night before we were to run, a farmhand slipped into our small one room home. We woke with a start and she told me to run, to get away and never turn back. 

So I ran. I ran until I could no longer hear her cries for help.


I kept running into the night, feeling the slap of twigs against my face and arms. Every step brought new pain from my bare feet. I know they must be bleeding, but this pain is only momentary while the pain I would face on the farm would be lifelong agony. 

Eventually, my stride started to slow and I came to a walk. Breath coming in giant gasps I look up through the trees to my map. Fighting for some semblance of calm I tried to remember the plan. 

Before I go much further I must find the stream. I know in the morning dogs will be sent for me, and if I don’t hide my scent, I will be found and brought back to face the whip. 

I listen intensely for the sound of water, while I follow the north star. Mother told me if I always follow that bright star and I would not go astray. 

From around me creatures of the night made their usual sounds. Crickets chirping excitingly and small animals running while larger beasts stalked them. I myself feel very similar to those small scampering animals, trying to outrun or outwit my captors. 


As the cold of the night started to seep through my excitement and terror, I came across the bubbling stream. Mother’s words come back to me, telling me to follow the stream until midday before finding someplace to hide until tomorrow’s nightfall.

Stepping into the water I hiss at the frigid temperature. My feet burn with every step, the many cuts on them being filled with the small pebbles that make up the stream bed. 

At first, I can feel the pain of every step, heightened by the cold, then slowly the burn starts to fade, replaced with the dull ache of numbness. 


The hours pass slowly, and I can not help but think of the events that led me to where I am.

I feel hollow thinking of Mother. Knowing without a doubt what horrors and shames must have been done to her. She sacrificed her chance at freedom when she told me to run. When I’m found missing, she will be punished for my crimes. She gave away her chance at freedom for me. I wish above all else that we could be here together, walking away from our captivity hand in hand. 

Instead, it’s just me. Very alone, and very, very cold. 

Keeping my head held high I greet the morning with a cold determination. I will escape and find freedom, not just for myself, but for Mother too. 


Once the sun reaches its peak in the sky, I gladly drag myself from the riverbed. I am tired, sore, and my hunger reminds me that I did not grab the provisions bag we acquired for our escape. 

Slowly stepping with numb feet I walk a good fifty paces from the river and find a small indent in the ground, that is bordered by fallen trees on either side. 

I cover myself by placing branches half haphazardly over the trunks and sprinkling leaves over them. 

Laying down on the damp ground I fall asleep immediately.


I wake to shouts. Loud calls and perpetual barks from dogs. I do not know how long I have slept, but I do not dare move to check where the sun is in the sky. Laying down, I stay as still as physically possible, trying to ignore the creeping of ants and other insects over my largely uncovered skin. 

My tattered dress barely passed my knees and hardly discouraged bugs from crawling under the dirt stained fabric. 

It felt like entire days passed with me laying awake and alert waiting for nightfall to claim the woods. Finally, night did fall. The shouts from the men ceased and as darkness claimed the woods once more I slithered from my hiding place. 

Shaking my dress I watch the little bugs fall off like rain. Walking in the cold stream once more I numbly followed the path of the water, listening to the animals around me. 


Soon I smelled smoke, and after some more walking, I saw the dancing light of a fire. Frozen in the stream, pure fear raced through me. One of the men at the fire laughed and broke away from the flames, turning towards the stream. 

I move as quickly as I dare, my dress, through brown from years in the fields, is far lighter than my surroundings and I know if I were to move too quickly, or make much noise I would be found. 

Making my way from the stream, I dart behind a tree and hope that the man had not spotted me. 

How foolish I was to have not been more aware! If I was spotted- 


“Ey! O’er there!” a voice cries out in the dark, as heavy splashes come from the stream. 


I run. Fast and hard, but around me footsteps grow louder, paired with a chorus of barks and shouts. 

My lungs gasp for air as I blindly crash into branches barely visible in the dark. The pain in my feet is almost nonexistent for the fear that is coursing through me, blinding me to any pain or injuries I may have. I can’t even feel my footfalls, I feel more like flying, floating in leaps above the ground.

Suddenly, I feel like I am above the trees, soaring with the stars, with nary a worry. 


Then I fall, tripping on one of the many fallen branches or roots. As I fall the footsteps get louder and I’m ripped back to my feet. One of them hits me across the face, telling me that’s what I get for running. 

They hold my hands behind my back as they lead me the short distance back to camp. Though it had felt like I had run a great distance, we only walked for a few minutes before reaching the stream. 

They brought me to their camp, leering at me all the way. They talked among themselves at their luck of having caught a fine young girl like me. 

Once we reach the fire there is a brief discussion among them. Soon I’m led away from the dancing flames to the shadowy outskirts of the camp by a grinning man. There is a thin sheet before me and tears come to my eyes. 

Fear is winding through me when the man tells me to lay down. 

“Please sir,” my desperate voice whispers. “Please don’t.”

He smiles as he pushes me down. 

When he pushes up my skirt, I look past his shadowy figure and look at my map in the sky. 

I trace the constellations with tear filled eyes. I tell myself the stories of how they were placed there to help me escape to freedom. I look at them as that freedom is stripped effortlessly from my grasp. 

April 26, 2020 20:22

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