The pale moon hangs, glowing in the blank sky, shining just enough light for the thick foliage and densely pack trees to be seen. Evening sounds silenced by the sloshing of rushing feet racing through the woods. In the distance a beagle howls in frustration. Sniffing and wheezing as he tries to pick up a lost trail.
Deeper in the woods a lone figure races at a maddening pace, bumping into trees, scratching his flesh against their harsh bark; causing bleeding. The young man’s eyes water up from a mixture of sweat, pain, and fatigue. Fear permeates his entire being
A thin orange suit clings lazily to his sweaty bronze skin, almost mocking his emaciated frame, which is actually a couple sizes too small for the jumpsuit. The dark figure has been running for days. Hot on his heels, his pursuers persisted. He knows being caught would mean a far worse fate than what he escaped.
Another mile and his legs began to leaden. Each step becoming heavier than the last. The sharp sting of lactic acid burning his side. Breath becoming spasmodic. Eyes bulging, still he maintains a frantic pace.
Running full force until his left foot catches the edge of a dark brown rotten root rising from the earth. A cloud of dirt explodes from ground immersing him in a brown mist. Spittle and blood spew from the runner’s mouth as he coughs violently. His breath rushing away even as he tries to calm himself.
Crawling from the dirt he searches for some sort of purchase, finding none he rests his weary frame against the nearest oak. Then the waterworks really hit. The sound of moans escaped his busted and parched lips.
“I will make it home.” He repeats over and over, like a mantra.
His fingers feel the frame of the tree he is resting against. Hands begin falling and rising for some strange reason, until they settle at the base. There just inches away from his digits sits a patch of mushrooms. The forgotten pain of hunger returns, so without examining the fungus he plucks them up and swallows them whole. Then half crawling half stumbling he moves to the stream which lay a few yards from the tree.
Cupping his hands he fills his palm with water; then slurps it up, repeating the process again and again till he has drunk his fill. Next he splashes the cool liquid on his face, hair, pits, chest, and other portions of his body massaging the blood and dirt from his aching skin till he manages to cleanse the wounds all over his person. Closing his eyes, he finally succumbs to the exhaustion that has been ******* him.
A bulge of earth begins to rise pushing his limp frame away from the stream and pulls him back to the tree. Then branches and leaves coalesce around his body till he is safely hidden from plain sight.
He awakens; eyes dilated, and body shivering. While brushing away the brush he turns to the tree, stands up shakily, and then wipes away the rest of the leaves and dirt, not noticing the slowly growing dark spot on his orange jumpsuit.
Tears streaming he softly whispers “Hello tree my name is John.”
Tree, sweet Tree, I beg of you tell me. Why does America hate me? I did everything I was told to do. I went to school. I stayed away from white women, never made eye contact with white men, became a teacher, and took care of my people.
What the hell was all that for? I am going to end up another dead black man in the backwoods of some southern hick state! I got these stupid leg irons weighing me down, and hells hounds are riding my trail.
Stupid ******* animals!
Filthy ******* *******!
What is the ******* point? Huh?
My dad was a good man too. He followed the unwritten rules of the white man. Never stole anything or hurt anyone, mostly. Do you know what they did to him Tree? Well do you?
They tied him to a post, sliced chunks of flesh from his hard muscular frame while burning him alive. They burnt him alive, Tree.
My father was a strong and righteous man, a man who loved his wife and child. My mother, who was barely half his weight and a good foot shorter, she had the palest skin of any black woman I have ever met. Her hair was the perfect shade of earth with eyes a couple tints darker. Her nose was tiny and lips thin as any white woman’s. I’d imagine she was as white as any ***** could get. She had a voice that soothed my darkest pains and fears. At night when I went to bed she would sing to me.
Oh my darling
Brown skin angel
Don’t be frightened
I’ll be right here
Hold you tight and
Watch you sleep
Guard you tonight
While you sleep
Oh my darling
I’ll be here
To keep your heart
Safe my sweet dear
Everything will be alright
I remember when I came home that day. I saw my dad clutching the tiny limp frame of my mother, sobbing furiously. Her body looked paler than usual. I had never seen tears fall from my father’s face. I don’t think he even saw me come in. I just stood in the doorway. I stood there and waited for him to say something. I wanted to cry but I was so scared that I just held my breath instead.
Our neighbor came and took me to their house. Back then I did not know what had happened. It took me over seven years to find out what happened to my mother. Do you know what happened Tree?
A handful of white men came to our house and ***** my mother.
Sometimes in my nightmares, that horrible scene plays out. I hear the sound of rapping at our door; the yells of angry men echoing through the house. I see the wooden door bulge as it begins to crack under their onslaught. Then I watch as men with no faces explode into our house, sweeping my mother off her feet, ripping the clothes off her body as she scream in horror, I would wake up in a state of horror and sorrow, weeping.
I am haunted even now. I cannot begin to imagine the pain my father felt, but I do know what happened next, because I snuck out of our neighbor’s house to comfort my father. I watched as he left our home with rage and violence in his heart. In one hand he held a knife; it seemed to be a foot long, half handle half cold hard sharpened steel; in the other hand he carried a gun. I followed him from a safe distances, heard him scream for the men that had attacked my mother.
When the sheriff came to calm him down, dad was startled and turned around accidently cutting Mr. Brinkley with the blade. The sheriff and his deputies arrested my father. I was certain that everything would be okay. The sheriff was a decent man. I heard him talking calmly to my father. He told my dad that he understood what was going on.
That night white men came for my father. They hollered for justice, screaming “bring out that ******* ******.”
The sheriff tried to reason with the mob. He told them “This is between me and my prisoner.”
He tried to stop the mob with force, but there were at least fifty men. Probably more if you counted the people that kept joining up with the mob. The mob broke down the prison door, took my father from his small stone cell, all the while taunting him. “You’re gonna fry ******.” From a distance and hidden in shadows I watched.
I saw an old lady spit on him. I watched as children raced around my father, dancing in and out of the procession, and tossed stones, from the side of the road, at my father. The mob drug him down to the town square. Tied him up, and lit a fire beneath him. The whole time my father’s head was hung in defeat. I swear he knew what was coming. It seemed that In the face of that onslaught all emotion had faded from his face. I guess he didn’t want to give them the pleasure of seeing him squirm.
As the flames started to consume his flesh, I saw the sheriff go for his gun. He raised his pistol and aimed for my father’s head, but the men in the mob wrestled the gun from his hand. Meanwhile my father had given into the horror and pain. He began to howl like an animal as the flames danced across his flesh crackling and pooping. He screamed for some sort of mercy, crying out for someone to shoot him.
I raced from the shadows, stealing a gun from some old white man. Then I shot my father in the head. Most of the men in the mob looked on dumbstruck. That gave me enough time to get away so I hightailed it out of there. I never went back for anything. I spent the rest of that night in the woods praying that what I had done was the right thing.
In the weeks and months to come I slept very little. When I did manage to fall asleep my dreams would cycle from the flaming horrors of my father’s death to the ****** of my mother.
Still, I managed to make something out of myself despite those sick atrocities. By working hard I finished school and became a teacher. A couple years after I started teaching I was arrested. They took me to jail; brought me up on some ******* charges. Part of me was certain I would end up being lynched, so when I was sentenced to a chain gang, man I was relieved.
Had I known what was gonna happen I would have preferred being lynched, at least then I would have been dead. Instead they worked me **** near to death, starving, and beating me like a slave. My brown skin has brought me nothing but grief. So tell me Tree, why does America hate me?
“Tell me tree, why does America hate me?” John sputters.
A soft breeze caresses his skin.
“Why the hell am I talking to a tree?” He cries. “What is the point?”
The blood stain on John’s clothes still expanding, and his shivers become far worse.
“Tell me tree, what is the ******* point? America hates Negroes. I’m going to die out here. Say something.”
The air swirls around him, and a soft voice fills his head.
“Do you think you are alone in your suffering? Know now that you are not. My children suffer horrors too. Listen carefully and I will tell you.
John turns to find the source; finding nothing he collapses, listening straining to hear the voice again.
Dear John I am the spirit of the winds, mother to the natives. Do you think that yours is the only tongue to taste the bitter fruit of America’s wrath? My child let me tell you of the first people of America. Listen to the tragic tale of my children. Before the Europeans came many tribes roamed this land. They were human and as such had flaws of their own, but in many ways they were poetry in the form of flesh.
The men would hunt during the day. Anything they caught was considered a sacred gift. They would use all that they could from the body of the beast. They treated my mother’s brown dirt earth, flesh as sacred, and I loved them for that. Women held equal value and had equal say in their tribes. There were wars, of course, but mostly my children strived to live in harmony with the land.
Then white men came. My children welcomed them with open arms, helped them survive, and do you know how they were repaid that kindness? Once received and no longer needed, it was returned with treachery and violence. Bit by bit they pushed my children back. Pushing them off one parcel of land and then another, slaughtering tribes after tribe. Still my children survived. When the white men could not **** all of my progeny, they came for the children. Some parents wept, some fought back, and some merely accepted it as inevitable.
I watched it all. I saw the men on horseback come for the children. The songs of lament tortured my heart. The tears of the children ripped at my very soul. I lashed out at the white men with all of nature’s fury, biting their flesh with my fierce and frosty winds. I sent the fiercest wind I had at my disposal. However, the children were still taken.
The children were dragged to schools far from their homes. They would cry out in their native tongues. I remember my sweet Rose. Yes, Rose was her name, John. She was as strong as the oak tree. Passion coursed through her veins faster and harder than the river’s water. She was born so tiny that the elder of the village was certain she would not make it. Yet, when she broke free of the womb coughing and sputtering, she cried with such a powerful voice that even I was taken aback. This tender babe had my attention. I swore I would watch over her.
The first seven summers of her life were spent in the loving care of her tribe. Her black hair grew almost down to her feet. Her eyes were brown, brimming with the unknown depth of her soul. She was unafraid, the pride of her father and joy of her mother, a creature to be cherished.
One fall morning as the orange sun was slowly ascending the soldiers came. Little Rose was wrenched her from her parents’ arms. Her father’s rage was stopped by a bullet that bled him dry. No one else would fight for this child, so I beat against the soldiers back. I struggled to wrench her from their arms and return her to her mother’s safe embrace.
The soldiers did not even recognize my fury. With that failure I watched Rose’s mother fell into despair. Her prayers of peace and love soon turned to prayers for vengeance and the return of her child. Many nights we wept together mourning the loss of father and daughter.
Rose’s mother could not join her child, so I tried to watch out for her. I followed the soldier to a tall white washed building that had been liberated from the southerners during the previous war. I heard the headmaster say “in order to save the child, we must **** the savage within.”
Day and night I raged against the solid white structure, slamming shutters and doors, pounding the roofs with torrential fury. Only stopping when I realized that the children were shuddering in fear of me.
At night Rose would sing the songs of her people. During the day she would stare in defiance as the teachers tried to make her speak the English tongue. She refused to yield, so they responded to her spirit with violence. The taste of soap saturated her mouth while the stinging welts marred her backside. Still my Rose remained strong. I was filled with pride. I had seen older children fall into silence and subservience.
Rose was a cut about the rest. Still, one can only fight for so long before the fire begins to wane. Each day some of her resilience would fade. I could not enter the building to comfort her, but when she was outside I would wrap her in my windy arms, cradling her spirit against mine. I would carry the whispered words of love her mother sent, and return Rose’s love to her mother. Had I known what was going on in that building maybe I could have blown harder, maybe I could have pelted the nuns and the preacher with sharp stones and hardwood.
As the glimmer of light faded even faster, I started catching the whispers of my children. Their dead bodies began to scar the sacred earth. One after another fell, faster and faster. I watch their flames die. What kind of wind was I that could not fly them away from harm?
One day while blustering away I caught the most horrid sight. I saw a sick man lay his hands on my Rose. She shivered in disgust as he groped her bare skin. He took such sick liberties. In my rage I waited and stewed, plotting and hoping he would come outside. My anger gave me more power than I had ever known. I flung him to and fro spinning him round and round, beating him down every time he tried to rise. I hurled stones and sticks at him. When I was spent, his face was dripping with blood, his lip busted and swollen. He ran like a coward.
Rose remained trapped in that house of horrors. More children died. Day after day Rose lost more of her language. Till one day she could not remember the songs of her people. I watched her sobbing while trying to recall the words as a nun slapped her in the face.
One night under the pale glow of moonlight Rose lit herself on fire. She became a burning flame to match her once radiant spirit. As she burned she screamed out for release. I tried to put out the flames with gusts of wind and heavy rain, but I was too late. Rose fell to ashes resting on the moist earth. Gathering what I could of her remains I sent her last words and ashes home to her tribe.
That night rang with lamentation of her people. Sobs of regret filled her mother’s body. As hard as tried I could not comfort Rose’s mother. She would not be consoled. On the coldest night of that year Rose’s mother walked from her abode, slipping off her clothes, she moved in silence. Every step adding to the numbness she longed