The Prong Collar


Moses’ father told him stories of vast plains. The older man spoke about the wonders he experienced in his youth. Moses found himself thinking of those stories as he ran through the rain-soaked ground, his old boots could not carry him fast enough through.


“I ain’t goin’ back.”


He knew Master could not allow him to live after this latest transgression, even though he and his mother were favored. He attempted to claim his freedom on multiple occasions. He had the crisscross of scars on his back as proof. His most recent attempts earned him his latest prize, a prong collar. Tall rods of iron with hooks that curled at the end made it difficult for him to maneuver quietly through the ever-changing environment. It was indeed a fitting punishment for one such as himself, but it did not matter. He had to get away. There were vast fields awaiting.


“I ain’t goin’ back.”


Master purchased him and his mother, as she would not go without her son. When Master called for her, she would willingly walk into a rear of the house where he’d would rape her. She surrendered, and Moses hated his newfound master for it, as well as thinking less of his beloved mother for her compliance.


“I ain’t goin’ back.”


The journey towards freedom was long and hard. He’d already consumed all of his provisions that once hung from a flaccid sack, affixed with a jute rope he wrapped around his waist. His stomach betrayed him as hunger pangs begged for him to return to the place of his torment, the place where food was available. He ignored the calls of his body and pressed onward towards parts unknown.


“I ain’t goin’ back.”


As the sun fell below the horizon, he pushed himself to continue as gunshots in the hills and torches grew brighter in the dark behind him. He hurried towards the sound of rushing water that greeted him ahead. The rains of the days prior flooded this waterway, creating a bloated fast-moving river. Broken trees and blackwater pulled from the surrounding material of the riverbanks, creating nothing but roiling night. Maybe, just maybe he could allow the river to carry him away from his pursuers and he could eventually swim to the other side when it was safe.


“I ain’t goin’ back.”


He leapt into the rushing river water, but the pull was so strong, so very strong. It dragged him much faster down the river than he wanted. And, that damn collar, once again it became a problem. The heavy metal made his swimming slower as it would cut into his shoulders with each attempt at a stroke. It hampered his ability to maneuver, making it hard to turn and see where he should go.


“I ain’t goin’ back.”

Pushed by the black waters, he was quickly drawing close to a fallen tree. He struck the water-soaked bark, and in a flash he was under the log, cold dark water surrounding him, branches stabbing and grabbing at his flesh. The collar began to choke him, his feet betrayed him, unable to find any purchase. Between the exhaustion, the slippery water and the collar, Moses knew he had to get to the surface before…


“I ain’t goin’ back.”


So much, too much and it was all happening at the same time. In a heartbeat, there was a choice that must be made. A choice between surrendering or suffering. It was the same choice his own mother made over and over again. It was a choice that made him angry when he previously thought of her. Now, he thought of her and smiled, finally understanding his mother’s love and sacrifice. He went limp and his body forced him to breathe deep as water filled his lungs so fast he could no longer resist the night’s call.


Moses’ Freeman was never brought back to his master.


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