Boarding

…some work in progress from the Cazique of Poyais story…

Noemi and Jose approached the docks, still not speaking to one another and carrying with them the meagre supplies that represented their entire life. The ship in front of them was not the prettiest sight, but it was their future. A throng of people waiting to board stood along the docks. It was not until now that Noemi and Jose realised that they were essentially refugees, along with these Poyais sufferers. There was the promise of riches at the other end, sure. That was not certain and they felt it more than ever now.

Instinctively they held hands from the potent mix of fear and exciting looking up at their home for the crossing. They had always done the same growing up when they encountered a foreign and fearful test – when their parents died, when they were chased down by a stampede of bulls and all this other countless times when adventures veered into an interesting course.

This turn was interesting in its own right, forgetting all that had just occurred to them. Boarding a ship to England was no trivial matter for folk such as them. Neither of them had been on any sort of waterborne vessel, period, and now they were staring up at a mammoth. They heard the crossing could be hellish. It was why the debate around Uncle Tito had started. This only heightened the fear. The part known is often more dangerous than the unknown.

The throng they were in surged slightly, making all party sway to and fro. It was time to be ushered onto the ship and assigned their berths for the journey. A few minor scuffles were sporadically breaking out but were quickly calmed by the cool headed amongst the party. The crew of the Ocean didn’t really care about the passengers, they just wanted them on board along with the provisions and then they’d get to focus on the business of sailing the ship.

“I’m not sure why these people have to push like that,” Noemi uttered almost under her breath. The first words she had said to Jose since they read the letter from Uncle Tito.

Not wanting to ruin a fragile truce, Jose simply responded, “human nature I guess. Agitation begets agitation. It’s Shane since they’ll all have to be together for some weeks.”

“Months, brother, months. I think they all know what’s coming and that’s after they’ve already been to hell and back.”

“These poor people.”

“That’s to say the least of it brother. I saw the suffering first hand in the hospital. Those coming back to London are mostly those who couldn’t fend for themselves in the new world.”

“I wonder what they’ll do back in England?”

“Beg to their families, if they have them.”

The conversation stopped as abruptly as it started. They now reached the planks where they would board the Ocean from the quay. Noemi did not hesitate as she put one foot in front of the other, but she felt a tug on her arm as Jose paused for a moment. He surveyed the area behind him and around. It questioned quickly to himself whether they were making a huge mistake. Then, there was nothing left for them here and a chance in London. Before the throng behind him could push him forward, he did so himself.

Ocean

…some work in progress from the Cazique of Poyais story…

The letter was by far the most shocking thing that the twins had found in the pile of papers on the dining room table. Deeds, bond coupons and a note that read: “Passage booked on Ocean heading to London on 1 August 1823. No cabins available.”

It didn’t matter much now, their argument. The adventure, or whatever it was, now approached a defining moment. With resignation, sadness and a touch of excitement, they made their way from their family home into the unknown. They had packed in silence. There wasn’t much to bring and neither of them had been on a proper sea voyage, so they didn’t even really know what they needed. It didn’t matter much now.

Wandering out the door, they saw Daniel Perez approaching in the distance. Rather than have a final chit chat with the man, they ducked behind a bush and waited for him to pass. The new owner of their house. It was hard to swallow. Jose in particular somehow never thought this day would be like this. Even without the awfulness of Uncle Tito, they would have had to abandon their home and likely never return. It just wasn’t something he prepared himself for. He put his head down and walked by his sister down to the docks of Belize Town.

Belize Town had the stench of too many people crowded into a small space. Given its size, it felt more like a small ship than the town it was and so comparisons to a typically overcrowded urban neighbourhood simply wouldn’t do. The citizens were fed up with the Poyais sufferers and wanted them out. The chief magistrate was under great pressure to do something about the situation.

Many of the sufferers, those that were capable at least, refused to give up on their dream of a life in the new world. They listened to the decree from the magistrate that they must leave and ignored it. Some made their homes on the outskirts of Belize Town and others ventured North to stake their claim. Those who remained were weak, vulnerable or simply fed up and were being ushered to board the Ocean bound for London.

This was the magistrates solution. He would deal with the others if the need ever arose. Though, he thought that was an unlikely occurrence. In any event, it didn’t really effect the Belize Town residents, so it would be ok.

The captain of Ocean wasn’t best pleased to transfer the sufferers back to England rather than proper cargo. Though he would be reimbursed by the Crown, it wasn’t really enough. He walked along the quarter deck inspecting his ship before the hordes were piled onboard, along with some paying customers he had rustled out of the woodwork. It would be cramped and no doubt there would be death. That was best not to speak of though. These people had seen plenty of death and though they hoped the long shadow what stop falling on them, they knew that wouldn’t be the case.