Crack. He stirs in his sleep.
Crack! Something is choking him. He pulls at the collar at his neck.
CRACK! Ahhhnd lo, Tom awoke with a yelp. His shirtless back stung from the blow which had struck. From the corner of his eye, a large, dark mass was seen, a whip brandished in a gloved fist. Tom bounded to his feet to face his assailant. A punch to the stomach was his reply. Winded, he sagged to his knees. And though it is hard to say when he realised he was now outside, there was no mistaking the look of recognition at the manacles around his wrists. Nor the shock of seeing muddied, disheveled creatures front and back chained together by iron collars about their necks. His bound hands rush to his own neck and two semi-circles of metal clank together at his touch. Agog, he is hoisted by an armpit to his feet.
There were perhaps two dozen other members of this grim procession. They barely registered as human. Mud caked their bodies head to toe, giving the skin the complexion of graphite. An occasional patch of flesh poked through, seen as a paler shade, but it was still essentially gray. Some wore shorts, some sackcloth, others little at all. They flinched at the approach of their captors, who circled like vultures around carrion.
The group move off to the rattle of chains. Tom sized up his new masters with glances out of the corner of his eye. They were each dark brown in hue, tall and well built. At over 6”6’, the tallest also appeared to be the leader. Fur lined trench coats adorned their bodies, the roughly hewn slabs of leather sewn together with thick stitching. Their squat, cylindrical hats were of the same pelt as the lining, a back piece extending to the neck, covering their ears. Each wore knee length, leather boots; each carried a whip in hand and machete at waist. They scarcely spoke but all cowered when they did.
Tom’s back was aflame and he didn’t have to look too far for a mirror to his wound. The man ahead has deep, cavernous scars down his back. The wounds were packed with thick, dark peat like mud. Tom winced at the sight. He tried to attract the man’s attention, making a ‘psst’ sound, then tapping him on the shoulder, when he got no reply. The creature still ignores him and he tries a harder push. The shoulder dropped and rolled away from his touch, angry pleading words were mumbled in a language Tom could not understand. “Great.” he said, aloud. “Cunt’s sent me to Poland.” A further whip to his spine is delivered in a dialect he understands only too well. He said no more.
Having trudged for uncertain hours, only the sky marked time in this land, the trees begin to thin and they emerge into grassland. Here the group were allowed to rest on a hillside. The spot is well chosen, three corpses hang from an oak tree at the brow of the next hill. They are silhouetted against the pale sky, but the rent in their stomachs can be seen. The entrails of one hung from his bound feet.
Water is given on a wooden ladle. Tom clenched his fist as the pale draws closer. It reaches the man three places before him. The man eyeballs his captors. Words get exchanged between the guards that are too swift to catch. Head nodding, they seem to agree and guard with ladle punches prisoner in face. He drops like a stone, blood flowing from his cheek. Tom’s fist goes flat like a board. He drinks and keeps his head down.
Fireball in sky go early time in dark season and formless gray gives way to formless dusk. The frosts come down. Long are the shadows and bitter the air. Those in chains they march fast or they get beat. White fist on black cloth, it carried on high everywhere. On path, many dark men in circle, shouting. In centre, dark man on light girl. She cry as dark man put phallus in. Other men have phallus out, their turn next. Chained men heads low, some cry for girl. They know she die when dark men end.
Man who get hit in face, he angry. Man strong, he break free of collar. Man attack dark man, hit dark man in face. Other dark man use big knife, cut strong man hands off. Blood comes from strong man’s arms, he run round like chicken when head come off. Strong man scream. Dark man got hit, he cut off strong man head with big knife. Two times dark man chop. Head fall in mud. Body in mud too. Boy Tom get in dark man way. Dark man beat Boy Tom. Boy Tom teeth go to mud. Face swell. Pain in body too.
Dark come. All men rest. Dark men make fire. Gray men stay from fire. Gray men know get beat, take heat from dark men. Gray men lie near, make warm. Boy Tom in mass, hard say where, he look same now. All men sleep.
“Oi, Tomboy.” Fairy man, make people go, he come early day. Fairy man call Tom boy. Tom boy wake. “Well, well, well, Europeans enslaved by Africans, who knew? Except me, obviously. You know, it’s a pity the Greeks never progressed much beyond the Stone Age, I think your tale would have fitted nicely into their mythology. Tom Thompson, the boy cursed to live a life of perpetual, bigoted irony. You could have been Midas for the twenty first century. Except everything you touch turns to shit.”
“Charming. See if I didn't come out of my way to see how you're getting on and what do I get in return? A mouthful of abuse. That’s gratitude for you. Still, I see you’re making new friends.”
“Just fuck off and leave me alone.” Fairy man stand. “Wait.”
Boy Tom sing, “England never, never, never shall be slaves.” Tom boy cough-laugh. Tom boy sad. “Where am I?”
“Where are you? About twenty miles from your house. Or at least where it used to be.”
“What ‘appened to my ‘ouse, my family?”
“Let me tell you a little story.” Fairy man sit. “See, I could’ve just let you get rid of the Chinese. Then the compass wouldn’t have been invented. So we’d have no trade routes to America and nowhere for the huddled masses to flee to. Consequentially, the disposed Europeans would have had to remain and face their aggressors. Imagine it Tom, no Highland clearances or mass exodus of Irish peasants during the second potato famine. Plus, no gunpowder, so the sides would’ve been more evenly matched. Ah, in that world the Celtic tribes give the English such a continual headache that they’re looking the wrong way. By now, French would have become your national language once more. But I knew you wouldn’t like that and, as I said, I’m bored and looking forward to the endgame, so I brought you here, to a world devoid of Asians. Did you ever even consider what that would mean? Huh? No, you didn’t, did you. Let me fill you in.”
“No Asia, no major migration routes. The entire population of Europe is descended from people who crossed over here from Africa into Spain, a fraction of those that came up through Asia. With a vastly reduced gene pool, modern day Europeans are inbred and not very bright. No major civilization developed. There are a few scattered city states, but nothing like the majesty of Athens or Rome or Sparta. Meanwhile, Africa flourished, partly due to your non-interference. Their civilizations are truly majestic Tom, but, unfortunately for you, they do require large quantities of slaves on whose bones to build their empires.”
“What’ll they do with me?”
“I expect you’ll be taken back to Africa and sold at market. Ha, how’s that for irony? More than likely you spend the rest of your life down a mine or working a quarry somewhere. But I wouldn’t worry, miners don’t usually last more than a couple of years and with your doughy physique, I give you three months. Being maimed is the worst thing that can happen to you. They tend to bash the head in of anyone who’s no longer of use to them. Anyway, I should be going. Plenty more worlds to see.”
“Take me with you.” Boy Tom cry. “Please take me with you.”
“I told you Tom, I already have a pet.”
“But I can change.”
“Too late. I won’t say Au Revoir.”
“What now?” Fairy man angry.
“Get rid of them.”
“The Africans, get rid of them.”
Fairy man smile. “But you know what will happen.”
“I don’t give a fuck, just wipe the black cunts out.”
“Ok then, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. Get some rest Tom. You have a long day ahead of you.”
Tom boy sleep.