The dazzling disk of the sun flooded the endless white, cloud-island-like plantations. A barely noticeable breeze sometimes flew over them, carrying the smell of heat and tart, bitter honey. It rose high, over the bent backs in white shirts, flew around, and rushed into the branches of old oaks. The trees stood like silent giants, occasionally rustling in response and unemotionally watching the inhabitants of the mansion.
Will liked to look out of the window early in the morning at the cotton fields when the rays of the rising sun stained them with multi-colored iridescent specks. The dewdrops that fell during the night turned into precious grains of sand, iridescent with a thousand shades. The first motives flew over the white fluffy heads, and a quiet African song was pouring from everywhere, as ornate as the range of colors on cotton bolls. But soon the habit of waking up with a crowing of a rooster became a real ritual for Will. He had only to open his eyes, threw off the blanket, and, stepping barefoot on the cool floor, carefully crept to the window. As if someone could see him. He eagerly followed the slaves going into the fields, looking out for a powerful figure in a linen shirt. Blushing from his own impudence, the young man, like a girl, hid behind the curtain and kept looking at Him. Will caught every gesture, every step, listening with bated breath to the incomprehensible feelings inside. He was doused with heat, enveloping him from head to toe, his lower abdomen pulled pleasantly and heavily, awakening vague thoughts in his head. These thoughts had not yet taken shape, but for some reason they already seemed shameful to Will, flooding his cheeks with a burning blush.
Isaiah was brought in with the last purchased slaves. Will's father, Mr. Mackenzie, did not skimp on the huge African and paid almost three hundred dollars for him. Unthinkable price! But Isaiah was definitely worth it. Taller than his brothers in misfortune, almost a head and a half, broad-shouldered, he looked like a strong young buffalo. Will had never seen such huge people. The young man stood with his mouth open, looking at the giant and squinting from the bright sun. Since then, the slave constantly fell into his field of vision, it could not be otherwise. The new slave turned out to be silent, although, as Will later found out, he spoke pretty good English. The only one Isaiah answered almost willingly was Will. He answered and looked with his impossible black eyes as if burning through the young man. But as soon as Will caught his eye, the African hid behind fluffy eyelashes.
Will was too young. Although he was known as an enviable groom, and even danced several times at a ball with the daughters of other landowners. But he regularly attended church, read the Holy Scriptures, and was an obedient son. And of course, he knew what sodomy meant. Roughly knew. He was perplexed how exactly a man can lie with another man in physiological terms. But Isaiah... how can the fledgling resist a violent gust of wind? A storm that captures and carries away far into the raging sea, where there is a stormy sky above, and only furious waves below.
Will was doomed to know the full force of the fall, strength, and bitterness, mixed with mind-blowing sweetness. Every night he gave his body into the strong hands of Isaiah, cast his soul into the flames of passion.
As soon as everyone fell asleep, Will got out of the window and made his way into the forest, where the faithful lover was already waiting for him.
They rolled on the warm grass, trying to touch the skin even more strongly. To merge into one single being, muffling the hoarse moans in the darkness of the night. Will threw back his head, exposing the defenseless white neck. And Isaiah could hardly restrain himself from branding it with a long, greedy kiss. The young man arched, substituting the burning skin under the tongue, biting his tormented lips, drowning groans and screams with all his might.
And at the moment of culmination, his brain turned off, his body stopped holding his soul, and it flew up above the ground, shattering into hundreds of burning fireworks.
Then Will lay for a long time, looking at the dark foliage above his head, catching his breath. The heart gradually calmed down. He wanted to sleep, cuddled up next to the warm body. But Isaiah kissed him affectionately on the forehead, brushing the unruly lock of hair from Will's face.
"Time to go, young master."
And William nodded reluctantly, groping for his abandoned trousers and shirt. On wooden legs, he returned to the bedroom, risking falling from the tree while he climbed into the window. As soon as he got to bed, he fell on it and plunged into a blissful sleep, full of sensual dreams.
In the morning everything was repeated. Will furtively watched his lover, feeling his blood boil in veins at the thought of the coming night. He did not know how to lie and pretend, so he was always afraid that someone would understand. Someone will notice his embarrassment and burning eyes. And Will stayed away from Isaiah. Only sometimes the young man caught the return look of the lover, full of bliss and promises...
Sometimes it was possible to go into the forest in the middle of the day. It usually happened at lunchtime. While everyone was eating, the two of them went to the forest to check the snares. Will took bread, cheese, jerky, a piece of cake, and a flask of cold water from the basket. They built a fire and roasted acorns, grinding and preparing bitter spiced coffee from it. It was even better than the night meetings. Will thought they were free. Free for real.
One day, Will bought Isaiah a present. A red woven thread with small wooden beads that he got from an Indian in the market. The ornamentals were forbidden for slaves, only the free ones could wear them, and Will decided to tie it around Isaiah's ankle.
"The pants don't cover it very well," he said, gently stroking Isaiah's knee, "but I don't think anyone will notice."
Isaiah silently smiled, pulling his young lover to him.
Sometimes he told stories. Legends of his people, their land, distant and lost. Will listened to him, fading, and saw with his own eyes the endless savannahs under the hot sun, fires reaching the heavens, and figures bizarrely bending in a rhythmic, almost unbridled dance. Saw their shiny dark bodies, on which flames reflected with glare.
And he felt the pain and longing of Isaiah. Bitterness for an orphaned house, for a family that would never be seen again.
"Why are you sad, young master?" Isaiah wiped William's wet cheeks, smiling sadly.
"Because you're unhappy," Will replied in a whisper.
"Silly master," the slave hugged him again, cradling him like a baby. "I lost everything. But to find you. I guess that's how it happens in life."
Will sniffed and remained silent. Was that an equal exchange?
Increasingly, he was visited by thoughts of escape. They said that there were people who melt runaway slaves to other countries. He and Isaiah could run away... could be free. This thought took root in Will after Isaiah was beaten. For disobedience. Calm and balanced, even he could not stand the injustice of the lord. Fifteen blows of the whip were forever etched into the memory of the young man, as well as wounds, lacerated, long, bleeding. Will wept as he processed them. Carefully touching the ugly edges, shuddering each time, looking at her lover's tense back.
"It shouldn't be like this," muttered Will, in a trance. "It is not right"
Isaiah was silent, tightly squeezing the guy's cold palm.
The wet rag moved weightlessly over the wounds, wiping away the blood and forcing the slave to clench his teeth.
He held back only for the sake of Will, and in the young man grew and grew stronger confidence in the escape.
"Yes," he thought resolutely. "As soon as Isaiah gets better...I'll find someone to help us."
And this thought warmed him before going to sleep in a lonely bed.
But everything has its end. And when that happens, dreams remain dreams, and hopes turn to dust, leaving you on the side of the road.
That night, Will climbed out the window, as usual, heading into the forest to his beloved slave. He was in such a hurry that he lost all vigilance.
The overseer Jones stepped out of the barracks, a tall, thin man who looked more like a heron. He tucked his shirt into his pants and lit a cigarette, peering into the silence of the night. Workers often made slaves the goomah, there was nothing special about it. Jones preferred cheap brothels, considering it below his dignity to meet with African women. But when the salary in his pockets ended, he did not disdain to give up his vile principles.
"What the hell is this?"
The man squinted, trying to see the white spot in the distance.
"Is it Mackenzie Jr.?"
What was this kid going to do in the woods at this late hour? Jones strained his memory. It seems that all the women of the slave were in their places, he would have noticed the loss. Then what the hell did the lad need in the woods?
The steward returned to the barracks again, illuminating the faces of the weary people with the lantern. They looked at him, shivering in the light, frightened and hushed.
"Which one of you is missing? Huh? Answer quickly!" Jones swung at the first girl he came across. She shuddered and covered herself with her hands, expecting a blow. But the man suddenly froze, looking around the place. Something was missing .... What ... He fumbled with his eyes at the bent figures, trying to understand what was wrong. And suddenly it dawned on him. There wasn't that healthy slave, Isaiah. The buff to intercede for the poor and the oppressed. Jones couldn't stand him. The slave was always silent but looked at the overseer as if it was Jones in chains. And now this racy figure was not among the rest.
"Here's the bastard," Jones spat and grinned evilly. "Did you decide to run away?"
Of course, because that Isaiah and the Mackenzie boy became friends. This little brat decided to help him escape!
Jones darted out into the street, baring his teeth vindictively, and rushed into the woods, grabbing his gun as he went.
"You're done, brat. And your friend too!"
That night was especially sweet. And it hurts. And good. And bad. It was so unbearable that Will's legs buckled. He clutched at the grass with trembling fingers, biting his lip until it bled. He arched in an unthinkable arc, obeying an instinct as ancient as the world. He hardly saw or heard anything, succumbing to bliss with his hips. And then he was thrown up, and the pleasure scattered in his body into millions of bright fragments. Each of them dug into his veins, spilling lava through his blood. Will broke down and screamed, frightening the night birds in the branches. He went limp, falling into the hot embrace of Isaiah and feeling the warmth spread inside.
The young man returned home as soon as the horizon brightened. The morning chill was already settling in drops of dew, and Will moved his legs a little languidly, smiling stupidly. Soon! Soon they will be free! They will leave, sail to another continent and live together in a small house on the seashore... without a whip and white cotton bolls...
He climbed a tree, habitually climbing into the window. But as soon as his feet touched the floor, an invisible force grabbed him by the collar and threw him against the wall. Will gasped in pain and let out a stifled gasp.
"Oh, you're pup!" His father stood over him, purple with anger. His nostrils flared, his jaws bulged under the rough skin. "Where have you been?!"
Mackenzie Sr. grabbed his son and pulled him to his feet in one tug.
"Tell me! Where have you been?!"
Will was silent. He was paralyzed with fear, his blue eyes flashed with animal terror.
"Where have you been?!" The man shook him so that the young man's teeth chattered.
Will swallowed the bitter lump. And then Mackenzie began to rip off his clothes. And only now Will thrashed in his arms, desperately trying to escape.
"No! No, father! Don't!"
The thin fabric crackled, exposing the pale body, and the man froze for a second. The tender skin of the son was covered with bright marks, and there was no doubt what it was.
"You!" Mackenzie roared, "You! You filthy brat! Is that true?! You're sodomy with a slave!?"
Will went quiet, petrified, and that was the answer.
The slap threw him back, he hit the back of his head against the wall and the world swam around him. As if through a fog, he heard his mother's sobs, his father's roars, and felt a strange warmth and numbness creeping up his head. Then he lost consciousness.
There was no court, but there was a family one.
Mackenzie was incensed, Mrs. Mackenzie cried, Will was locked up. Downstairs they shouted, stamped their feet, but he thought only of Isaiah. And his heart sank painfully at the thought of what awaited his lover. His father would kill him... Will had no doubts.
Cold fingers tried to tear off the boards nailed to the windows, to see what was outside. Run to Him, to his beloved... And so, soon there was silence. And it was even more frightening. Will heard his father go out into the yard and heard the overseer Jones hooting cheerfully.
"No!" The young man yelled, afraid of the closed door. "Father! No! Please!! I'm begging you!!"
He grabbed a chair and threw it in an attempt to knock out the hinges. Then he again rushed to the window, looking out for people through the cracks in the boards.
"Father! Father!! Don't do it, father!"
His nails were worn and bleeding, the skin on his fingers burst, and he kept scratching at the rough wood...
There were screams outside, women's, men's, cursing and screaming. The dog Fang barked. He was answered by other hounds and Will, having lost his mind, began to beat against the door again. His whole being went mad with fear and horror, he must be there! He won't let them do that to Isaiah!
Will screamed until he was hoarse. Until his fingers turned into a bloody mess. He croaked, leaning his forehead against the door, and only when the dogs were silent, Will was silent too. His heart froze. The young man did not know how long he sat like that. An hour, two... He went deaf and blind. Lost his mind and didn't see anything. His soul... turned to ashes.
Suddenly the door swung open and he fell right to the feet of his mother. Her arms wrapped around him, holding him close, but something seemed to wake up in Will. He violently pushed her away.
He ran down the stairs, stumbling and falling. But feeling no pain, he got up and ran again. He knew where they left HIM. All slaves were left in one place. Near the old oak. Or rather, on one of its branches ...
Isaiah was there. At the edge of the forest, under that very old oak tree. Will saw him from a distance. His strong dark body hung limply, like a heavy sack. A thick noose squeezed the neck, twisting the veins and blood vessels like an ugly snake. Hands like whips ... a beautiful face was swollen.
Will slowly, as if sleepy, approached the body. His gaze wandered over the man he loved, of whom now only a shell remained. The young man sank to his knees, his legs no longer held him. He buried his forehead in the ground, not feeling its dusty smell. And howled. Long, bitter, hysterical, like a dying animal. On one sad note. Howled until he broke into a wheeze, tearing his vocal cords. Bloodied fingers scraped dry soil, and the chest was torn in two, it was bursting from the inside with curved sharp claws.
When there was nothing left but dry tears and an all-consuming emptiness inside, Will raised his head. He didn't want to remember Him like that. Just not like that.
Why not finish everything here and now, next to Him? Cut off this pain and cold.
"Will..." The foliage whispered. "Will..."
The young man turned his head, obeying the breath of the wind, and froze. At the edge of the forest, almost at the very border with the trees, a figure stood. Tall, broad-shouldered. Strong. His chocolate skin shone in the sun. Will blinked, trying to shake off the obsession.
"Isaiah..." He tried to get up, but his legs didn't obey him. "Isaiah, I'm coming!"
The figure raised a hand and waved as if to say goodbye. And Will could not move, rooting. He just stared, not believing his eyes. And then he saw that.
Red thread on His wrist.
Even from his seat, the young man saw it. Bright as blood.
Finally, Isaiah was free.
Will watched him smile and wave, then He turn and walk away.
"Isaiah!" The scream goes through the air like a gunshot. But He did not even turn around, disappearing among the dark trees...
Will was left alone. And only the wind carried to him the faint smell of roasted acorns.