The next time Zamba awoke, his head was less foggy. He looked around at the tidy hut. He was laying on a pallet on the floor, inches from the hard packed earth. A woman was moving around outside, in front of the hut. Occasionally he could see her pass the door. He didn’t recognize one thing about his surroundings. Where was he? He tried to get up, rattling a chain he realized for the first time was chained around his ankle. The other end of the chain was hooked to a ring that was embedded in the dried mud of the hut wall. In a panic, Zamba strained against the chain.
Zuri hurried into the hut, “Shhhh,” she said kindly, “You’ll hurt yourself.”
Zamba continued to thrash and kick his legs. Zuri grabbed his arms. “Hush,” she said, “You don’t want Matwanda to hear.”
Zamba didn’t know who Matwanda was. Why did it matter if he heard? From the worried expression on the woman’s face, Zamba decided Matwanda was dangerous though. He stopped kicking and pulling against the chain. It wasn’t helping anyway. He was stuck.
“That’s better,” Zuri said, “I’m Zuri. What is your name?”
“I don’t know,” Zamba said defiantly. “What happened?” he asked in a meeker voice.
“Matwanda brought you here,” she said, “I didn’t think you’d make it. I kept you alive though. Just like all the others. I can bring people back.”
“Others?” Zamba looked around the hut.
“Slaves,” Zuri said with a sad shake of her head. “Matwanda is my brother. He is a cruel man. He goes to the villages and captures slaves then sells them. If they are ill or hurt, he brings them to me first. If I can keep them alive then I stay alive too.”
“But…” Zamba said.
“I don’t have a choice,” Zuri said. “I have no husband, only my brother. I have no choice.”
Zamba lay back on the pallet and stared at the underside of the hut’s roof, blackened from smoke. “So what happens now?” he asked.
“Well,” the woman said softly, “You’re in luck. Matwanda is leaving this morning to go on a raid. He may be gone for weeks. If he thinks you’re still recovering, he’ll leave you here.” She smiled like this was his great fortune.
“So close your eyes and don’t stir when he comes to check on you.”
Suddenly a loud voice called from outside. “Zuri!”
“That’s him!” she said and scuttled out the door.
Zamba lay with his eyes closed and Matwanda entered the hut with Zuri. He could feel them nearby, staring down at him. “Will he be worth it?” Matwanda asked with a grunt.
“He seems sturdy,” she said, “Give him a little more rest. I’ll have him ready for you.”
“Fine,” Matwanda’s heavy steps receded and Zamba felt like he could breathe again.
Zamba was saved again, check back tomorrow and see what happens now!