Excerpt: Triangle: A Memoir of Black Caesar
La Creek – 1715
With Henri, Maya and their children living aboard Grande Maronage, it had been a simple matter for Oguna to take over the comfortable camp on La Roche. She and Abana had settled right in, much to the displeasure of Odulette, who thought the camp her’s and Collin’s, in order of succession. She felt it unfair of Henri to sanction Oguna’s annexation. Maya sided with Odulette on the matter, but for different reasons. She simply didn’t like Oguna, her vile magic, or the influence she held over Henri. She didn’t care much for Abana either, flaunting herself and her perfect young breasts the way that she did, in her ritual dances at the fire. She didn’t like the way that Henri watched the girl dance, sitting, silent by the fire, his golden breastplate glittering in the light, as he sipped from the witches brew, his thoughts far away from her. This nightly routine was pulling them apart. Maya could feel her own importance in his life melting away, like wax in a boiling pot. The diminished feeling she was left with made her angry and difficult to live with.
Four months came and passed with no sign or word of Daniel Carnes, but in July of 1715, a great storm descended on La Creek. It swept in from the south, churning northward, following the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. The first hint of its coming was a breathless heat, heavy with tropical moisture, consuming the morning’s energy, discouraging Odulette and the other women from their work in the lime orchard. Shortly after midday, a fresh breeze began to blow from the northeast, soft and cooling at first, a blessed relief from the day’s oppressive heat, a breeze that grew in velocity through the afternoon, until, by the time they were ready to retire for the evening, the wind grew stiff and carried with it thick, low-hanging, moisture-laden clouds.
Though it was obvious to all that a storm was approaching, neither Henri or Collin read the signs accurately. The Viscaynos, on the mainland, did not miss the deeper message, the one they observed in the behavior of the animals. After offering many sacrifices to a god they called, Hurukan, they abandoned their village on the shore of the bay and vanished into the interior forest. Henri, Collin and the community of Naufrages remained, as always, on the barrier island at La Creek Camp, ignorant of what was soon to come. By the time the sky clouded over late in the night and the wind lifted to gale force, it was too late to retreat to the mainland and there was no adequate shelter to be found on the reef. They struggled to do what they could to secure the ship and their separate camps, but their efforts were futile.
The full power of Hurukan, terrible god of the Viscaynos, came upon them in a moment of calm, in the wee hours of the morning, pretending to have passed by, then bursting upon them, howling through the trees like a demon, destroying everything in his path. It was all they could do, just to hang on to their children in the tangled mangrove branches as the wind driven rain punished their skin and the raging sea stripped everything, including their clothing, from them, nearly drowning them in the surging tide. The storm raged through darkness and well into the morning before the wind and rain began to subside. Collin’s driftwood cabin flew apart early in its passing, leaving himself, Odulette and little Hope, exposed to the storm’s fury. Henri, Maya and those with them were swept away when Grande Maronage broke her lines and washed out into the bay, finally going aground on a bar more than a league distant.
In the morning light their island was a scene of total devastation. Many of the children had been lost in the night. No structure of the camp remained. There was no shelter, no food, no water and no firewood with which to warm their shivering, naked bodies. Even the trees had been stripped of leaves, including the lime orchard who’s bitter fruit, had been swept away in the night, like all else, leaving only scrawny, leaf-bare branches.
When Collin was able to reach the creek at the southern end of the island he saw that Henri’s camp on the higher ground of La Roche had survived a bit better than the main camp. It concerned him deeply that Grande Maronage was no where to be seen. He knew that Henri, Maya, and their children had all been aboard. They could be injured or dead, and who knew where? The smaller boats had somehow survived, pulled up on the shore, turned upside down, in their tiny protected cove. He would need them, as he would need whatever food and water had survived in Henri’s camp, but he dared not try to swim across the creek, not now. The storm’s tidal surge was moving back out to sea through the narrow creek with a fury that stirred the waters into a raging froth of fast moving debris. He would have to wait until the tide ebbed before attempting the swim.
Odulette stood next to him watching the dangerous water rushing by. She held young Hope in her arms. The child was crying, terrified and hungry, like the rest of them. They were soaked to the bone. What remained of her clothing was shredded and threadbare around her. Her once beautiful brown eyes were lost in dark circles of exhaustion, framed in hopelessness. Collin placed his arm around her macilent shoulders and pulled her close. She began to sob inconsolably.
“Food and water first,” he mumbled to her, setting an order of priorities in his mind, putting on a brave, determined face, trying to ignore his own poverty and nakedness. “We must find food and water.”