They plodded all the way from the state of Mississippi; hidden, terrified, constantly searching for a helping, sympathetic hand. Through swamps, cornfields and forests, they trudged, avoiding dirt roads and towns. They knew they were being hunted for bounty. Isabel was pregnant, by whom, she knew not, as she was forcibly used by Mastah around the same time she became intimate with Joshua, whom she fell in love with. The baby could be black or white, heaven help him. Heaven help them both.
Joshua, bare to the waist, his back looked like a rutted high mountain road after a rain storm, from the whippings of Mastah.
Since they got to the New York state line, it had become much safer, thanks to supportive folks on the farms. Following the clotheslines was their aim. Reading the quilt codes was the game. But there were also rumours and hearsay on the Underground Railroad.
Crossing a cornfield, Isabel stumbled and could barely get up. Joshua grabbed her and pulled her along.
â€śWe have to keep moving babe, I heard through the grapevine that Axel is after us, and heâ€™s the meanest, motherfucker slave catcher there is. If he catches us heâ€™ll kill me for sure, as Iâ€™m probably not even worth $5. And you? youâ€™ll be raped all the way back to Mastahâ€™s cotton field.â€ť
They got to a very wide, fast-moving river, but not sure really where they were, except that they have to cross it to keep heading north. They hopelessly watched the cormorants gracefully diving into the rapidly flowing current as the wind whistled through the gorge.
â€śI donâ€™t know what to do, honey,â€ť said Joshua, â€śThereâ€™s no way we can swim across this river, but we canâ€™t turn back for sure. Iâ€™d rather die right here then go back to that plantation.â€ť
Suddenly, a boat appeared and a man called out to them, â€śHowdy there, you folks needinâ€™ a ride across, eh?â€ť
â€śNot sure,â€ť replied Joshua, â€śwe donâ€™t really know where we are. Whatâ€™s on thâ€™other side there?â€ť
â€śWell, th’other side is Canada, and judginâ€™ by the colour of your skin, Iâ€™d say youâ€™ve made it. Just have to get you across.â€ť
Isabel nudged up to Joshua and whispered into his ear, â€śCan we trust that white man?â€ť
â€śI think we have to.â€ť
And they boarded the Bertie Street ferry and made their way over to Fort Erie, Canada. Disembarking, they kneeled down and put their hands in the soil, grinding their fingers, then looked at each other with tears in their eyes, amidst their heaving breath.
And then they looked up.
There in front of them stood a strange looking man and woman on iron horse-like vehicles with 2 wheels. The couple had very bright, skin-tight clothing, of a fabric that was unknown to them. They were wearing hard, colourful hats or helmets of an odd, shiny material. Isabel looked at Joshua but noticed he was fading away, becoming transparent.
â€śWhatâ€™s happeninâ€™ Josh? Iâ€™m terrified! Whatâ€™s happeninâ€™ to you?â€ť she screamed.
â€śYouâ€™re fading away too! I donâ€™t know whatâ€™s going on, but I love you!â€ť he cried.
â€śI love you too, Josh. Hold me.â€ť
And the terrified and bewildered lovers, after such a long, dangerous trek, held each other and kissed as they vanished.
[Click on any photo for the slideshow. Please leave comments at the bottom of the page]