I am sitting on the bench across from the harbor watching day turn to dusk as I have done many times before. Behind me is The Market House where foods can be bought that celebrate the varied tastes of Maryland. It was once a meeting place for the enslaved to sell chickens and trade news with other enslaved people while running errands for their masters. This is why I haven’t brought myself to purchase anything there, but that is another story.
The tranquility of the water is at war with the hustle and bustle of locals and tourists enjoying downtown Annapolis. I fix my eyes on the horizon. The surrounding noises dampen and fade. Just beyond the harbor’s inlet a fog sets in. I squint my eyes at the unusual sight. I sit up. Try to get a better look. A huge wooden ship pierces the fog. The stench of it reaches the pier before the ship does. I gag. My eyes search the crowd to see if anyone else notices the smell. The crowd… vanished.
The ship docks. It lowers a plank. The heavy sound of chains dragging across wood float toward me. Then I see them. They shuffle doggedly down the plank, the chains making their efforts arduous. A slave ship? It can’t be. How? My eyes fill with tears. My heart aches. I want to run to them but shock anchors me to the bench. I watch. Men. Women. Boys. Girls. Disembarking into their bleak, dehumanizing futures.
I want to scream. I want to help them. Free my people. An unexpected hand gently touches my shoulder. I look up with a start. “Ma’am? Are you all right?” she asks. Sounds meet my ears again. People reappear. I look back at the pier. The ship is gone.
Visions of Capture is a very short story I wrote for the 12 Short Stories in 12 Months challenge I do each year. July’s prompt was “men and women” and the story was limited to 300 words.