Land of Pharaohs Part Two
By: Mark Kodama

Later that evening, Big Mo and Joshua are attacked by two local white men - an older man and a younger man.

"Hey boy, what are you two doin,' camping in our woods and eating fish from our river," the older man said.

"This is God's country," Big Mo said. "We don' want any trouble. Push on ol' man."

"You are niggah," the older man said. "Show some respect. You can't talk to me like that. You know the rules. "

"Push on ol' man," Big Mo said. "I don't know no rules."

The older man suddenly points his shotgun at Big Mo. "Boy, get down on the ground." He turns to the younger man whose grinning. "Tie them up."

When the younger man bends down to tie Big Mo. Big Mo grabs him from behind and puts a knife to his throat.

"Now lower your shotgun or your young friend is a dead man," Big Mo said. "Now throw it over there on the grass."

"Don't harm my son," the older man said.

The old man throws his gun away. Big Mo then rushes him and knocks him to the ground. He then quickly slits his throat. "The first shall be last," Big Mo tells him as he kills him.

The younger man tries to run away. Big Mo tackles him as he tries to run away. Big Mo then he holds a knife to his throat.

"Have mercy," the young man said.

"Too late," Big Mo said. "You should have thought of that before."

Before Big Mo kills him, he said "And the last shall be first."

Big Mo limped toward Joshua. "Damn, I turned my ankle," he said.

"Oh, Lordy," Joshua said. "God is going to punish us now."

"Boy, wipe those thoughts from your mind, " Big Mo said. First, there ain't no God. Secondly, even if there is a God, He certainly does not live down here on earth. Try not to think so hard. Just do.

"Now give me a hand," Big Mo said. "The white folks do live here on earth and the sheriff will certainly punish us."

"We done wrong Big Mo,"Joshua said.

"What wrong did we do?" Big Mo said. "We were just defending ourselves. What real choice did we have? We chose life. Nothing wrong with that."

"Damn, I've never met a man like you before Big Mo," Joshua said.

"I'm just a man like every other man," Big Mo said. "We are in great danger. We need to be smart now."

"You the boss," Joshua said.

"You are damn right," Big Mo said. "So do everything I say."

"Those white folks deserved what they got," Joshua said.

"No one deserves it and we all have it coming to us," Big Mo said. "Now let's get rid of these bodies."

Big Mo turned to Joshua. "I did not make this world," Big Mo said. "I just deal with it the best I can."

***

They tied large stones to the bodies and throw them into the river. They camp for a couple days until Big Mo can walk again. When Big Mo and Joshua set out again, they are picked up by Sheriff Flay who is looking for the missing locals. Sheriff Flay has a "hunch" that Big Mo and Joshua have something to do with the disappearance.

"Sometimes we are all that stand between order and anarchy," Sheriff Flay told his deputies. "God may determine what is right and wrong. But it still must be enforced by man with all his imperfections here on earth."

"If not for the sovereign, it would be a war of all against all," said Flay said. "Life for all would be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. Freedom requires restraint for there is no freedom without law."

"Without restraints man is nothing but a beast," Flay said. "If you throw money into the mix, man is the very worst of the beasts."

Sheriff Flay threatens to torture Big Mo. Big Mo coolly replies that if he tortures him he better kill him. When Big Mo takes off his shirt, Sheriff Flay notices his powerful build and asks him about his scars.

Big Mo tells him about his war scars. When Sheriff Flay asks him about bite scars, Big Mo said he got them fighting a gator. When Flay asked him what happened, Big Mo showed Flay his knife and said "I killed him."

Flay said "Out of respect to your service to the cause, I will not harm you." He, however, tried to whip a confession from Joshua who does not talk.

Flay turned to his deputy. "Mersault, take care of him."

"You did good," Big Mo tells Joshua. "I will teach you how to survive. See the world as it really is. Innocence is a luxury for the sheltered. Life makes no sense. There is no God. The world is indifferent to your struggles. Safety lies only in yourself."

"If there is any rule to this world, it is the rule of self preservation," Big Mo said. "Man is an animal. And even a fox caught in the trap will gnaw off its own leg to survive."

***

Big Mo carries Joshua to a rough cabin at the edge of the woods. A black woman about the age of 30 answers the door. Her name is Diotima. Big Mo tells her that the boy was hurt and could she help him. She opened the door and helped carry Joshua in.

"Aren't you gonna ask who we are?" asked Big Mo.

"Do you need my help?." Diotima asked.

"Yes," Big Mo said.

"Then I do not need to know," she said.

"Are you afraid of the law?" Big Mo asked.

"There are higher laws," she replied.

***

The next morning, Big Mo thanked her and began to leave. Diotima asked him where he was going. Big Mo replied "I ain't got no blood ties to the boy. He ain't no kin of mine."

Diotima replied: "You don't need no blood ties to be bound to another. He's your friend. You can't abandon him. You have a duty to him."

"I am in a hurry to get to home to find my ma, brother and sister,"Big Mo said. "And we do not really have friends in life."

"You have waited 35 years to see them," Diotima said. "Whether you wait now or not, ain't gonna make no difference. Your family is either there or not there."

"Life is a solitary journey," Big Mo said. "Who can you really count on anyways? In the end, your life is only your own."

"I'm sorry life has treated you with a rough hand," she said. "But we all have to endure our share of unfairness."

"I don't feel sorry for myself," Big Mo said. "So don't feel sorry for me either."

"It is up to each person to make this a better world," she said. "Hope sometimes is all we have. A man without hope does not belong to the future. You can't leave the boy. The boy needs you now. I speak the truth."

"There is no truth, only truths," he said.

"Don't confuse solitude with freedom. You are a stranger – unto others and even unto yourself. No man is an island, entirely unto himself." Diotima said. "We all need each other. The boy can't be used as some means for your escape. He is a person just like you."

"I can't afford self delusions," Big Mo said. "I see the world as it is. We are only as strong as ourselves. We don't need others if we are strong. And I know of no man stronger than me."

"We all are born and then die," Diotima said. "So in a sense life is futile. We must do something between our birth and death to make our lives meaningful. We must therefore at least make our own life mean something. We must at the very least leave this world a better place than we found it."

***

Diotima is in her garden. She is picking flowers and herbs. Joshua walks into the garden. Diotima smiles.

"Well, look at you," Diotima said. "You are a very strong young man."

"Yes, ma'am," Joshua said.

"Do you like flowers Joshua?" Diotima asked.

"No," Joshua said. "Flowers are for girls."

"Are they?" Diotima said. She smiled. "Smell this."

Joshua smelled the flower.

"Don't they smell good?" she said. "Don't they look good?"

"Yes, Ma'am," Joshua said.

"Then you do like flowers," Diotima said. "It is not unmanly to like beautiful things. It is quite natural to love the things made by God."

"Yes ma'am," Joshua said.

"You see I grew these flowers from seeds," Diotima said. "I planted the seed in the soil. I watered the plants. I weeded the garden."

"Yes, ma'am," Joshua said.

"You see flowers are miracles," Diotima said, bending down and smelling. "Any one in search of miracles need not look any further than a flower. If you watch carefully, you will see that God is always teaching us something."

"Can I ask you something?" Joshua said.

"Of course," Joanna said.

"Are you negro?" he asked.

"Why do you ask?" she said.

"Because you look negro and you don't look negro," he said.

"Does it matter?" she asked.

"I ‘spose it doesn't," he said.

"I am from everywhere and I am from nowhere," she said. "I am black. I am white. I am American Indian. I am one of God's children. That's what is important. We all are."

"Yes, ma'am," he said.

"The most important thing is that you judge all people as individuals," she said. "Because all people are individuals, each with their own characters and peculiarities."

"Well, I judge no one," Joshua said. "Because I am no one."

"Don't ever say that, Joshua," Diotoma said. "There will always be plenty of people who will make you feel like a nobody. If you listen to them, you will be a nobody. And you will have nobody to blame but yourself."

***

"Thank you for giving us shelter," Big Mo said. "In this dark world, Diotima, you are a beacon of light. Here is payment."

"I didn't do it for payment," Diotima said.

"That is all the more reason for accepting my gratitude," Big Mo said.

"No keep it," Diotima said. "You may need it."

"No, please take it," Big Mo said. "You need it."

"Your gratitude is payment enough," she said. "I won't take your money. I just wanted to help because it was the right thing to do.

"God always provides," she said. "Ask and ye shall receive."

III.

After Joshua recovered, Big Mo and Joshua set out for Southampton County. When they crossed into Southampton County, they came upon a dried head of one of the black men on a post. He was killed in the Southampton Insurrection 34 year ago. It was a large head with a large scar from his right eye to his chin. The sign said Blackhead Signpost Road.

Big Mo looks up to the head and tears stream down his cheeks. "So they killed you," he said to the head. "I thought you were the one man they couldn't kill."

"Will … Will… I thought they could never kill you," Big Mo said.

Later, Big Mo told Joshua that General Will was one of the leaders of the Southampton Insurrection. Big Mo also told Joshua that Big Mo was the son of Nat Turner, the leader of the largest slave revolt in the history of the United States.

"My father led the army, but Will and Hark did the killing," Big Mo told Joshua. "In a revolution, someone has to do the killing.

"And they did it was axes," he said. "Men, women and children. even infants. It was terrible. You can see the fear in the eyes of the men you knew all your life. You could hear their last breath as life ebbed from the eyes. Perhaps there is an afterlife after all. Only they will soon know."

"One moment they are alive like you and me. Then they are dead – no more alive than a fallen tree. There is nothing good about killing another person."

"By the time the revolt was put down, we killed nearly 60 local men, women and children. Nat Turner was caught a month later. Those that had been captured, including Nat Turner, were tried and hung."

"Hundreds of innocent blacks, slaves and freemen, were murdered by vigilantes in the bloodbath that followed. Because I was a child at the time, I was shipped out of state and sold again as a slave."

***

Night was falling and it began to rain. Big Mo and Joshua sought shelter at a rough cabin in the woods. Big Mo knocked on the door. A black woman about 50 answered the door.

When the woman answered the door, her guys grew big with surprise. "Oh my God. Mo is that you? Is that really you?"

"Delilah," Big Mo replied. "Yes. It's me. And I'm home."

Suddenly, Delilah became angry. "God damn you." She then slapped his face. "Your daddy killed my daddy and brother."

"They made their own choice," Big Mo said.

"Your father misled them," she said. "He had no special powers."

"They were men, free to decide for themselves," he said.

She then turned her back. "You and the boy can stay here until the rain passes. Then you must go."

That night Big Mo dreamed. It was the final battle of the insurrection. Nat Turner was in the center like the Great King. Will was by his side, captured musket in hand. The last time he saw Will through the smoke and haze he was firing the musket.

The white militia men began their attack. Smoke was all around. Bullets whizzed all around. People were getting shot all around. The black rebels are greatly outnumbered. As the militia men closed all around, the black army broke and ran.

"God, have you forsaken us?" Nat Turner said as those around him were shot.

Big Mo stood among the few who stood at their position. Surrounded he and the dozen who held their positions surrendered.

The dead and dying lay in the grass.

In the morning, Big Mo took an empty bucket of water to the spring and then brought back.

When he returned, Delilah was starting a fire in the stove. "I'm sorry," she said. "You and the boy can stay here as long as you want. Do you want some coffee?"

"What happened to Momma?" Big Mo asked.

"Gone," Delilah said.

"Dead?" Big Mo said.

"Did I say that? Delilah said.

"Then what?" Big Mo asked.

"Gone," she said. "After your daddy was captured, they tortured Cherry. By the time they were finished there was no skin left on her back. Finally, she showed them papers your father left with her."

"Afterwards, she disappeared with your brother and sister. They said they were transported out of state and sold in Mississippi."

To be continued…

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