Trading Places by Reuben T
‘…the rotten vermin were particularly vile today, one even refusing to do his work. After 50 floggings, we threw his body to the sharks. It will be a relief to get back to Exeter away from all of these beasts…’ Captain Butcher put down his quill and laid his head on his pillow, the familiar motion of The Dragon on the waves rocking him gently to sleep.
The stench was the first thing to wake him, crawling up his nostrils making him gag. His first thought was that some of the slaves had escaped, but when he fully opened his eyes, there was a meagre light coming from above his head, allowing him to see a tangle of limbs and ripped clothing. He felt a sharp pain in his leg, and looked down to see his black skin glistening with sweat. Christopher Butcher leapt up almost falling back down again. His stomach cramped with hunger as he retched onto the pile of sleeping slaves. He slowly climbed over the bodies in the hope he could find a way out, but instead, he came across a barred doorway. He heard a shout from the other side of the door and a soft candlelight flickered into view.
‘Get me out of here!’ he cried hoarsely. ‘Please,’ he shouted ‘please let me out!’
In response, he got a face full of boot and was knocked back into the slaves.
‘No one gets set free. You want extra work? Get up and follow me!’ shouted a gruff voice.
‘I am the captain! And you shall let me out!’
‘Yeh right. Shut up and get to work.’
Despite his further protesting, the guard managed to tie up his wrists and drag him out of the cell, up some cold wooden stairs and onto The Dragon’s deck. The churning, grey sea heaved below him and he struggled to keep his footing. He was given a small, bucket full of soapy water. The brush was stiff as iron. ‘Scrub the deck before the captain gets here!’ shouted the man.
‘I have already told you; I am the captain and I will not do this work!’ replied Christopher.
‘Then let’s see how you fare up against him then!’ scoffed the man, walking into a large cabin.
Christopher’s eyes widened, remembering what had happened the day before. He saw himself come out of the cabin, staring straight at him. Christopher saw his hand reach towards his whip. He closed his eyes waiting for the first strike. Instead, he heard a whisper in his ear saying, ‘That body you are inhabiting is mine. Do you remember me?’
‘I’m so sorry for what I did to you,’ replied Christopher.
‘For what? Killing me?’
‘I’m so sorry.’
Christopher opened his eyes and looked down; the rope that had bound his wrists was cut free. He looked up, bemused, seeing himself nod with a knowing smile. Christopher turned to the crowd that had gathered and simply said, ‘Let’s turn this ship around.’