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"The Journey Through Freedom" - MidPointe Library Trenton Teen Writing Contest Winning Entry

This year’s MidPointe Library Trenton Teen Writing Contest winner is Mary Ann Angst. Find her entry, “The Journey Through Freedom,” below.

Run, run, RUN!!! All I had ever seemed to know was run! I tried to

concentrate on the hard ground beneath my bare feet. The thump on the ground

as my feet rhythmically hit it. My arms pumping through the air, fast, fast,

faster!! Run. Run from the dogs and their evil masters. Run. Run to the land

where there are no dogs pursuing. No master's commands filling my ears, yelling

at me if they could find one simple flaw in any of my work. Concentrate!! Focus

on running, getting away, nothing else. I see it! The doorway I thought I would

never see. Freedom. Just down the hill! Keep running! Then, just as my feet

touched the cool water of the Ohio River, a piercing pain shot up from the back of

my leg as the dog's sharp teeth closed around it. I yanked my leg from it's and

jumped into the river, but I couldn't swim. The dog had my shirt in it's mouth and

was pulling me back. The rest of the dogs pilled on top of me and when I finally

had the guts to look up, the sight terrified me. I was staring straight into the eyes

of the head slave catcher, then the stick and black.

I jolted awake, covered in a cold sweat, clutching my head. I looked around

to see myself in what looked like a jail cell. I ran to the door and shook the bars,

hoping to get someones attention, but the only person who heard my racket was

a fellow slave.

“Quiet down, girl!! If you knew what was good for ya you'd be getting rest

before the auction!” The man in the next stall pulled the ragged hat down over

his eyes and rolled his head back onto the wall.

I fell to the floor, slowly realizing that my worst fears had just come true.

What the master had been threatening to do since the first time I ran was now

happening. I was being taken down farther south to the plantations where slave

were worked to death, far from the river of freedom. I jumped up when I heard a

racket coming from the steps leading out of this hideous place. A young boy, just

a few years older than me, was shoved down the stairs, his hands and feet tied

together. He let out a yell as his body hit the hard cobblestone floor.

“Hank!!” At the top of the stairs, a slave catcher stood, the same one who'd

hit me and probably brought me here. “Get your lazy bum up here! I've got

another young un for the auction.”

“Huhh!?” Slurred words emerged from the back of the room and with them

and old man, bottle in one hand and keys in the other. “We got no more room.

Take him some where else.”

“Listen to me Hank! Every other jail in this county is full of actual criminals.

You have the simple, easy, job of holding all these slaves before the auctions. Can

you do that simple job, or do I need to find some one else to buy the good liquor

for?” He nudged the lump on the floor that was actually a human body. “Now

take care of this thing!” With that he slammed the door and marched back

outside.

“If he thinks it so easy, why don't he do the darn job.” Hank muttered

under his breath as he staggered over to where the boy was curled on the floor.

“Hey girlie! You mind you got a roommate?”

“Nah.” I shook my head as Hank opened the door just enough to shove the

boy through and then he slammed the gate. “When's the auction!?”

“In a hour girlie, now quit your yappin.” Hank stumbled of back into his little

corner.

I fell to the floor, hugging my knees. What to do? There was no way I could

escape from here, by myself anyway. I crawled over to the boy on the floor and

rolled him over. His face looked slightly familiar, but it was hard to see real clearly

with all the blood and swelling. I untied the ropes from his wrists and feet, then

dragged him over to the sleeping mat and let him sleep, if you could call being

knocked out by pushed down a set of cobblestone stairs. I yawned and curled up

on the floor, because I knew the man next cell was right. This could be my last

chance in a long time before I could get a decent rest.

I woke from my nap to gentle shaking on my shoulder. I looked up to see

the swollen face of the boy.

“Essie?”

Suddenly the recognition hit. “Matt?”

“Hey, looks like we're both going to be in the auction.” He gave a little

smile. “At least we're in this together, right?”

“Ya, I guess so.” I was still shocked to see my best friend beaten and in a

jail cell. He was usually so obedient and hard working for master. “How'd you get

here?”

“I tried to run. I knew it was wrong but the opportunity seemed like a once

in a lifetime opportunity.” His head hung in shame.

“You do realize this is the third time I've tried to run?” I rolled my eyes at

Matt.

He smirked and gave me a little friendly shove. “I missed you when old

Brown moved you across the farm.”

“I missed you too. You don't know how hard it was to work with young

master Brown.” I turned around and pulled up the back of my shirt a little, just

enough for him to see the many scars across my back and even some wounds.

“Any way, we're getting out of here. The jailer is extremely drunk and I don't think

the auction is for another half hour or so.”

Matt stared in disbelief, “You were getting whipped over there!?”

“Ya, but it don't matter any more, it's done and over with.” I sighed and

tried to not think about all the things that that evil boy had done to me. “Now,

about gett-”

“Hold up! I want to know how you got all those scars. Your entire back is a

scar!” This is why Matt was such a good friend, he always wanted to help, but

sometimes I just didn't want to complain.

“Look, they're nothing, okay! So what if he beat me everyday because I

refused to give him something.” I couldn't keep the tears back anymore. I almost

immediately felt Matt's strong loving arms around me, trying to comfort me. I let

myself fall into his embrace and cried even harder.

“You're right, it's done, in the past.” He gave me one more squeeze than

pulled back and looked me right in the eyes. “You ready to get out of here?”

With a smile I simply nodded and threw my arms around him in a hug. “How

did I get through all of that without you? Let's go!”

“Hold it you two!!” Hank's familiar voice completely ruined my mood. “It's

time to get going!” He yanked open the door and with two other slave catchers at

his sides there was nothing we could do. Before we knew what was happening we

were chained together and dragged out into the square.

“Are we the only ones from old Brown's here?” I didn't see any one else that

I recognized, but I thought it wouldn't hurt to ask Matt.

“Not that I know of...” Matt smiled a sad smile. “I think it's just us!”

We were pushed into a pen until it was time for each individual to be

auctioned or, since me and Matt were by the same seller, we might be sold as a

group for a slight “discount”. One by one, the other slaves were yanked up onto

the wooded block and auction of to farmers and plantation owners like cows.

Next thing I knew, Matt and I were both pulled up and words about a sturdy

working group were coming from the auctioneers mouth.

“Next up I have two young slaves, both around the age fifteen, grew up

working in the fields, strong, broad shoulders, being sold as a group! Do I have

any bids?” Immediately the bids started coming in and finally the words, “Sold!!”

We were brought back down, labeled, and pushed back into the pen. Then, all the

others were brought up, auctioned of, kicked, labeled, and brought back to the

pen with us. After the auction ended, people line up outside the pen to pay and

receive their purchases.

“Smith? Where's Smith? I've got his group right here!” We were grabbed

by a tall slave catcher and then shoved to another man. I supposed he was

Smith, but if that was true, then why was Matt being unchained from me and

shoved in a different direction!?

“Matt!” I tried to grab him, but Smith grabbed my arm and held me there.

“Why are they taking him away? I thought we were sold as group!”

“You were, but if this is going to work, he's going to have to go with Jacob.”

The man looked at me straight in the eyes, but instead of the normal hate and

disgust in his eyes, he had a kind of loving and concern in his eyes. I had never

seen this look in white man's eyes.

“Who are you?” I looked at him closer and realized that he looked very

familiar. He was very young, maybe about 20 and he had very dark skin for white

man.

He smiled and pushed his cap up just the slightest bit, just enough for me to

see the dark brown curls of a black man hiding under his cap. Then he winked

and grabbed the chain and dragged me toward a wagon.

“Get in the darn wagon, girl!” Then he mouthed, “Play along.”

“Stop!! I want to stay with Matt! You bought us together, so why isn't he

here?” I didn't know what to do, or what was going on.

“Shut your mouth and get in the wagon!” With that he came over and

tossed me into the wagon, but instead of throwing me down like I had been so

many times before, the drop was gentle and barely there. The man then climbed

up into the drivers seat and drove off, without chaining me. I could easily jump

out of the back of this wagon and make a run for it. But something told me to

stay in the wagon. I don't know if it was the wink or him showing me his hair or

maybe even the familiar, concerned look in his eyes. Whatever it was, I listened,

and I'm glad I did.

I crawled up to the front of the wagon and asked again, “Who are you?”

“My name is Will, I don't have a last name. That's all I can tell you right

now.” He looked away and I thought I saw a tear fall from his cheek. He shook his

head as if to clear his thoughts then grabbed an old tarp from the back of the

wagon. “Here, you'll be safer if you hide under here.”

“Okay.” I slid under the tarp. All my doubts about this man, Will, had gone

from my mind. Because as soon as he had mentioned his name, some long lost

memory had resurfaced and was now playing over and over again in my mind.

“Will!! Don't let them take me!! I want to stay with you forever!!

“Essie, listen to me. I will come get you some day, but right now you need

to stay here.”

“NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Will was my brother. He had come back for me. He was here to take me to

freedom. “Where are they taking Matt?” I couldn't take it anymore, I had to know

where my only friend was heading.

“We'll meet him in Ohio.” Will was trying to hide the smile, but couldn't

keep it back.

“Can you pull over for a minute? Please, I need to get some things

straight.” I couldn't wait another minute to get everything straight in my mind.

“Just up here there's a spot.” He drove the wagon a few more minutes then

pulled onto the shoulder and turned to look at me. “What did you need to know?”

“Are you Will, the Will I remember as my older brother?” I sure hoped he

was, otherwise this question would seem super awkward.

“If your Ester, always going by Essie, my little sister.” With that I couldn't

hold back the tears any more. Soon we were both hugging and crying. “Now I

have a few questions for you. Who is Matt? He ain't your boy is he?” The teasing

look on his face again triggered more memories. It seemed with every word or

face he made I remembered more.

“NO!! He's just a friend, my only friend.” I sighed thinking about Matt.

“Does he know what's going on?”

“I don't know if Jacob told him or not.” He mad a little kissing face then

turned around laughing and jumped back into the driver seat. “We should get

going if we want to get to the river in time. I've arranged for a friend to take us

across and once we get across we'll meet Jacob and Matt. After that we'll go

through the underground railroad. With that we were on our way to freedom. I

just hoped this time I would make it through the door way.

When we finally arrived at the river it was dark. There was little moon light

and it was about midnight. When we reached the river bank, I could tell

immediately from the look on Will's face that something was wrong.

“What's wrong?” I had to ask. “Wasn't your friend supposed to be here by

now?”

“Well, yes. He was supposed to be, but he's not which makes me think we

need to get out of here right now because it might be a trap.” Will motioned for

me to follow then lead me down the river. “If we hurry we might be able to catch

Jacob and Matt, then we could just ride across with them. It'll be risky, but it's the

only chance we have.” We ran down the river until we reached a huge barge.

“This is how they're getting across?” I was so confused right now.

“Wouldn't it be more secretive to just swim or find a rowboat?”

“It might be, but in the circumstances, we figured this would be easier.” He

sighed. “I just hope we can make it across.”

We then snuck aboard the barge and hid in a emergency rowboat. It wasn't

until we had already gotten into the rowboat did we realize that there were two

other people hiding in the boat too.

“Will?” The other voice was completely unfamiliar. “Will, it's Jacob! What

are you doing here?”

“Jacob!? The rowboat never showed up so we ran over here to see if we

could catch the barge!” Will and Jacob continued to have their little whispering

conversation.

I turned towards the other figure silhouette, assuming it was Matt. “Matt?

Did Jacob explain everything to you?”

“Ya, it took him a little while, but once we started towards the river instead

of the south, I figured it out completely.” He reached out and grabbed my hand.

“How are holding up? Finding your brother after all this time and finally making it

across the river?”

I gave him a playful push and replied, “I'm fine. He did say he was going to

come back for me... How about you?”

“I don't know, honestly. For awhile I was worrying about you, but now that

your here, I guess, I just...” I heard a slight choke from his throat.

“You wanted to do this with your sister, didn't you?” Then he broke down,

crying as quietly as possible.

“I just, I always dreamed of the day we would find freedom together, and it

was always you, me and her...” Two years ago Matt had learned that his only still

living relative, his sister, Kate, had been worked to death in a plantation down

south.

“You know, if she was here, she would want you to keep going. She would

want you to keep going. She would say her signature line, 'Why give up your

dreams for someone who ain't coming?'” At that Matt joined in and started

laughing because, even though it seemed like a serious line, Kate only said that

about silly things like, food.

“John, get over here and help me get this boat over the side!” The air inside

the rowboat seemed to freeze. “First help me get this tarp of!” With that the tarp

was off and we were all exposed to the barge workers.

I thought we were toast, but Jacob hadn't given up. He jumped out of the

barge and the over the side he went. I quickly followed with the rest of the of our

group. Luckily we were close to the shore and were able to walk across and get to

Ohio.

“The house with a light in the window on the hill. That's where the

underground railroad begins.” Jacob lead us up the hill to the house and knocked

on the door. A young white boy opened the door, a musket in his hands.

“I'm Lowry, come in. Jane, go warm up some food for them.” The boy

motioned us inside. “Welcome to the first stop on the underground railroad.”

8 Weeks Later:

Freedom felt good on my face as I crossed over the Canadian border.

“Welcome home everyone!” Will shouted. We all cheered and headed for

the log cabin in the distance.

My name is Mary Ann Angst, and I am 14 years old.  I've been homeschooled since I was in preschool which means I've never been to a traditional school.  Until my family joined a homeschool co-op 2 years ago I had never had a “real” writing class. Sure, I had writing assignments and book reports to do every year, but I had never had a true writing instructor until I was in the 7th grade.  My mom was happy to give that responsibility to someone else since she loves math, not writing.  

            This first class used IEW's (Institute for Excellence in Writing) Introduction to Writing curriculum.  For the first time, I was actually asked to write a story!  As you can imagine, having to write reports about blood vessels in the past was very different from writing a fictional story about a lion and a mouse.  In the first stages of IEW's writing process, we were asked to rewrite classic short stories in our own words, trying to make them even better.  Writing quickly became my favorite school subject and eventually, even reports became fun to do.  I love the challenge of finding just the right words to turn a normal, boring report on friction into a marvelous story of science.  

            The following year brought me another opportunity to participate in an IEW course.  This time is was an introduction to literary analysis.  Even though this course was mostly book reports and tons of homework, I still enjoyed it a great deal.  I finished that course with a report on “Jane Eyre,” a classic but very hard book to read.  This proved to be challenging but fun.

            Now, we come to this school year, my first year in high school.  An IEW class was not available, but another opportunity presented itself.  I am now taking a fictional writing series with Homeschool Connections, an online curriculum provider.  This is my favorite writing course, so far.  It has given me great ideas on how to develop dialogue and setting without writing too much.  

            When I heard about the writing contest at MidPointe Library, I decided to try to clean up one of my old stories to send in.  I didn't expect to win, but looked forward to an honorable mention, maybe.  Learning that I had WON the contest was even better!  I am now anxious to start my next story and enter more contests. Thank you for the opportunity to share something I love!