The Truth of the Trade

My father looked at me like he wanted to cry.  My father never looked like he wanted to cry.  He sighed and looked back down at his trowel.

"Where did you hear that word?"

I thought I was in trouble again.  I felt bad and ashamed like I shouldn't have asked.  I started to fumble for words.

"You're not in trouble, just tell me where you heard it and don't say it again."

"I heard it when I got taken by the fissure.  There were two men walking and one spat at the other one but he said that word before he spat at the other man."  My heart was beating fast again and my hands were sweating.  I knew the word was bad but I still don't know what it is or what it means.

My dad started to work again and he began to explain, "Aluna, do you know what kind of work your cousin and his wife does?"

I pulled some more weeds and thought for a moment, "They save people."

Dad nodded, "Uh huh, and you do know that those people aren't from here, right?  That they don't know about Sheba and this world we live in."

I could hear his words but they weren't making any sense.  "This world?" I asked.  I wasn't too sure I wanted to know any more of this story.

"Yes, a lot of the people living here don't know the truth.  They don't know what racism is.  What you saw was hatred from racism."

I tried my best to understand what he was saying, "Is it like when my friends have nice things and I don't?"

Dad laughed a small laugh, "No, honey.  It's like you know our neighbors?  What if we knew nothing about them and they moved to the neighborhood and we didn't want them there."

I shook my head, "No.  That doesn't make any sense, if we didn't know them then why wouldn't we want them there, they could be wonderful people."

"We wouldn't want them there because their skin color isn't the same as ours and so we think that they're not as smart as we are, or not as clean, or as sophisticated as we are," by now my father was looking me in the eyes and he waited to see if there was any understanding from me.

I shook my head again, "That's terrible.  I thought we were helping people from war.  There have been so many bloody boys through here.  I thought there was a war going on or something."

"It is a war, honey, calm down," my father reached out to put his hand on mine but I snatched it away.

"Is that what the last girl was talking about?"  I started to piece things together.  My parents were one of the few families in the city that took on the survivor's, mostly girls.  And the girls didn't speak often, I did most of the talking.  But one girl, Jennifer did tell me I wouldn't have to worry about living where she lived because I looked like a house slave and I would be able to pass.

"Pass for what?" I asked her.

A grown up interrupted us and I never got my answer.  Jennifer went to live with another family on the other side of the country shortly afterward.  It's where all the transferred children from the other world come from.  I just didn't know it until now.

That evening my parents gave me a book.  It had a continent on it in a shape I saw everywhere all of the time, Africa.  The book explained Africa was the cradle of civilization and that the African people were kidnapped, bought, sold and traded for hundreds of years.  I cried when I realized how many generations and lifetimes the slave trade spanned.

Dad told me that during the chaos of the first World War a group of African scientists found a way to leave the old world and carve out a new one here where I lived now.  For 100 years people like my cousin have been smuggling people away to live here away from the war.

I sat at my window and looked up at the stars; I couldn't stop crying.

My head started to hurt and swirl.  And then I remembered the moment the fissure pulled me in, I was back in the moment and looking right at it, the fissure had a face.

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