Bad crop, p.1
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       Bad Crop, p.1
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           Nicholas Paschall
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Bad Crop
Bound and gagged, Jasper cursed as best he could as the two slaves carried him out into the field, another carrying a torch to light their way. Albert walked with them, his bushy mustache twitching irritably in the warm summer breeze. The tobacco plantation was one that often came with heavy allergens during the summertime, which Jasper knew tortured Albert to no end, as they had all their life.

  Nobody knew his brother as well as he did, at least he had thought. But being woken in the wee hours of the morning with a sap to the head, breaking his nose, he was strong-armed by two stout slaves that took great pleasure in binding the young taskmaster at his wrists and ankles, gagging him with an oil soaked rag. Every breath Jasper took was full of the heady scent of lantern oil, making him dizzy as they marched him out past the fields and into the forest.

  Grunting in agony, Jasper looked up at his older brother with pleading eyes, wanting to know what he’d done wrong, what he’d done to deserve this. His brother, however, was quiet on the matter and marched stoically with the black slaves as they carried him deeper into the forest. Past the old fence post marking the end of their land, they marched through thick underbrush and over creek beds, splashing through ankle deep water loudly as they silently pressed onward towards the unknown location.

  After staring at the same treetops for well over a half hour, his brother finally decided to make a statement.

  “You know, I never thought it would come to this,” Albert said darkly, looking up at the moon shining down on them.

  Jasper grunted in response, the oil-soaked rag clogging his nostrils with the heady scent of kerosene.

  “I never thought I’d have to have you killed Jasper, but you’ve taken too long to die on your own. I thought with all of your hunting and cavorting about that you would end yourself, one way or another.” Albert continued, looking down at his gloved hands. “I know of the child Jasper. You’ve been cavorting in all the wrong ways, captivating the hearts of our slaves for your own sick pleasures. Sadly, you’ve created a mulatto child that could lay claim to some of our lands should he ever draw breath.”

  Jasper thrashed against his bonds, forcing the men to stop and club him a few times to calm him down. Marina was a confidant, a friend that Jasper had made when he had fallen ill last summer. Not long after they became lovers… Jasper didn’t even know she was pregnant. How his brother had found out before even he did, he couldn’t say.

  The man resumed carrying him along an isolated path, leading them into the old growth forest of the mountainous terrain. Another ten minutes came by before Albert continued on with his previous line of thinking.

  “Had you just done as I’d hoped and kept yourself from spreading your seed, this wouldn’t be necessary. You could live on enjoying your games and parties while I could sit back and enjoy the revenue our plantations brought in. I even turned a blind eye when you gave up your taskmaster duties, assigning them to a more… loyal slave, who has whipped some sense into the slaves you’ve allowed to become so slothful.”

  Jasper thrashed about as they began to ascend the rocky outcroppings, leading higher and higher into the old growth forest. They finally came to a stop at a large black tree, gnarled and twisted with branches and roots spiraling about in maddening patterns. A large section of raised roots encircled a patch of dirt, where a deep grave had been dug.

  Standing with two slaves holding her back, Marina called out to Jasper, called out to Albert, pleading to let the two of them go.

  “Please!” She cried, fighting against the men holding her back. “We’ll just disappear. We’ll head west, away from the colonies!”

  Albert gave a dry chuckle. “I believe you, truly I do. But the child growing in your womb may one-day return, looking for his share of land and monies. And that is something I cannot stand by and allow to happen.”

  “We wouldn’t tell them,” she cried, clutching her stomach protectively. “We would tell them only of the glory of God and how to farm, I swear!”

  “And yet again, I believe you. But I just cannot take the chance. I apologize Marina, but I am the brother who isn’t a gambler. You bedded the gambler and lost.”

  She didn’t get any other chance to say anything as a gag was pulled into place, her hands pulled behind her back and bound with rope. Screaming into the gag, she struggled against the larger men as best she could, which proved to be ultimately futile. After she was bound, one of the men kicked out the back of her knees, dropping her to the earthen ground with a painful thud. The large black man, shirtless and covered in whip scars, pulled a knife and rested it beneath her chin, snarling as she continued to struggle.

  “Quit moving wench or I’ll just spill your blood here and be done with it.” The man threatened, pressing the blade hard enough against her skin to draw a thin line of blood.

  “Now Jeremiah, don’t do anything rash.” Albert’s voice is as hard as steel, his gaze pinning the slave in place, forcing him to pull the blade away from the young woman’s throat. “I appreciate your gusto, but don’t really need it seeing as this will all be solved within the next five minutes.”

  “Yes sir,” the mountain of a man grumbled, flipping the knife back into its bone sheath. He didn’t look pleased, but then again, neither did Albert.

  Albert nodded towards Jasper. “Remove his gag, let him have his say.”

  One of the men holding Jasper pulled the gag down until it like some macabre necktie. “Blech…Albert you heartless bastard, why are you doing this? We’ve always loved each other as good brothers should!”

  Albert chuckled. “Whelp! I’ve never cared for you or your kindness towards those… less fortunate than us. The way you slum the slave quarters brings a shame to this family that I see fit to burn away this evening, like cauterizing a bleeding wound.”

  “This is because I don’t see these slaves as animals like you? That I see them as people?” Jasper sputtered, looking between the gathered slaves, all five of them. “Men, have I not treated you kindly? I’ve never taken the whip to any of you, despite being your taskmaster!”

  The knife-wielding slave snorts, nodding his head toward Albert. “He may look at us as less-than-human as you’d put it, but he respects us for our strength and our power. The other taskmasters whip us to get us supposedly in line, and Albert has promised us positions replacing those taskmasters should we help him deal with the trash, so to speak.”

  The slave carrying the torch, a slimmer man, shook his head sadly. “I told Marina that cavorting with you would lead to something like this. I warned her. But did she listen?”

  Another one of Marina’s captors laughed, grabbing her arm and twisting until it popped, her pained shriek dulled by the gag in her mouth. “Yes, our little Marina is quite the minx isn’t she? Tempting the young master as she did, spurning our advances… this seems a due reward, doesn’t it?”

  The slaves all grumbled in agreement, listening to her sob over her ruined arm. One of the men placed a boot on her side and shoved her into the grave with a brutal kick. She wrestled within to try and get into a decent position where her arm wasn’t hurting, or where she wasn’t on her head. “Girl will learn, that’s for certain,” The knife-wielding slave said as he watched her right herself within the six foot deep earthen crevice.

  “No!” Jasper shouted out, only to get kicked harshly in the stomach by one of his carriers. Albert reached into his jacket, fishing out a cigar before lighting it with the torch. After puffing a few rounds of smoke from the rich tobacco, he looked at the gathered slaves, breathing heavily with bloodlust. He waved over at his brother.

  “You all have three minutes. Just make certain that he lives and is awake when you’re done.” He says, taking hold of the torch and clapping the former torchbearer on the back. “Enjoy this time taking a harsh hand against
a white man gentlemen, for it will be the last time you’re allowed to.”

  What followed was a beating so severe Jasper passed out twice, only to be awoken by having his fingers broken. The men avoided striking his head, instead focusing on his legs, arms, and torso. Ribs were broken and bruised and great welts formed on his back from the strikes from the knife-wielding slaves’ belt. Another slave, the slender torchbearer, had taken to breaking the individual bones within his fingers than moving them back and forth, keeping him awake in agony as boots tenderized his bloodied flesh.

  After a brutal couple of minutes Albert called them off his brother, waving the musclebound men away from his bleeding and bruised form. Walking up, cigar hanging from his teeth, he stood over Jasper as the man coughed, spitting up blood and bile onto a nearby twisted root of the great gnarled tree.

  “The way I look at it, Jasper, is this: I have to cut away the sickened part of this family the way father would of. And father, well, you know how he was. Old Testament. So what I’m going to do is simple.”

  He nodded to two of the slaves, who lifted Jasper up bodily despite his broken bones and bleeding cuts, stuffing the gag back in his throat. Another slave walked up, holding a canister of what looked to be lantern oil. The man, a scarred slave with a
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