The pain clawed it’s way up from my heel stabbing me in the groin. We had been squatting in the same spot for hours. Or it could have been minutes. Perhaps days. The cold, dehydration and hunger warped my sense of time but failed to numb the nerves.
Death seemed a merciful end to the whole experience. But the jingle of the chains as each Herero was yanked forward was a harsh reminder of a different fate. The waves mockingly slapped the rocks below us coming and going as they pleased.
Bzzzzzzzzzz. A fly rudely yanked me back to reality.
From the corner of my eye I saw a a booted foot. A German officer had made it down to our group. We were finally being moved into a cell. A weird sensation of warmth overcame my body as my chain was yanked towards the cluster of structures that would function as our cells. It wasn’t until my heart began to beat a little faster and I began to feel an uneasiness in my stomach, that I realized what I was experiencing was joy. Joy at slightly less inhumane conditions.
After months in the desert where at its highest, the sun seemed to reign forever and the sharp cold of the Namibian desert night did not spare an inch of skin the iciness, this was a slice heaven. But life never lacks in irony for in the next months we would come to know Shark Island as hell on earth.
Closing my eyes I thought back to twenty years ago when grandma sat us around the fire after supper and told us stories of ancient Kemitic warriors. I wondered if I asked kindly and desperately enough, if they would travel forward in time and fight our war liberating us from the white devils.
Black polished boots, wrinkled where his feet folded as he walked. The laces had faded to a disgusting blackish grey. For days it was all I looked at when they came around. I couldn’t bring myself to look up at him as they herded us into the cell. To give him a face would be to admit that he was human too. That he had a nose that recognized the nasty smell of shit that hang over the air at the camp. That he had a heart that beat for his loved ones too. That he had eyes that saw the skin and bones that populated the island including me. But for him to be human would mean that we were one and the same. Meaning either of two things; first, that I was capable of just as much evil or that he too was a prisoner in his world, unable to dictate his own actions.