I open my eyes and find myself surrounded by water, not a lake, but an ocean. I’ve only been to the ocean once, we took a family trip to Virginia for a reunion. This is nothing like this. No matter which direction I turn there’s nothing but water. I can tell it’s deep, almost as if I’m standing on the ocean. I should be afraid, but it’s peaceful, almost as if I belong here. With no sign of land, I walk, in no particular direction. Walking on water would be a surprise almost any other time, but right now, it feels as if I was always meant to.

I remember Cathy making another visit to torture me, our fourth meeting. I blacked out, but this isn’t one of her illusions. It’s too peaceful, and there’s no one taking pleasure in my pain. I don’t actually feel any pain, it’s all gone. I don’t even have any bruises or scars now that I think about it. Is this, am I dead? I knew they would kill me, I just thought they would make a show of it. I didn’t expect them to let some little old lady be the one who pulled the plug on me.

“Come,” I hear a voice call to me.

“Who said that,” I turn to look around but I don’t see anyone.

“It was I who spoke,” a body appears behind me.

My first reaction is to jump back in fear. Before me stood a man, with stone features, and onyx skin to math. He had to be at least ten feet tall, I had never seen a man so tall before. A black cloak with ornate gold symbols covering it. As he removed the hood his face and bald head became visible. More gold piercings along his ears, a stud in his nose and a piercing on each side of his lip. I’m not a jeweler but I can tell the gold is all real. I force myself back to a steady position and stand as tall as I can. I’ve never met this man before, but something about him commands respect. He moves his head first, then he moves to walk around me, almost as if he were searching for something.

“Who are you?”

“Kaluga,” he answers with just his name in a baritone voice that almost echoes.

It resonates power. Just the name fills me with an understanding of what real power is. Yet, I still feel comforted by the name. A name that could end whatever this moment is, or help me through this and find my way home. I’m not sure which he is, but the option is there. All of this comes from him just speaking his name.

“Who are you?”

“God of The Underworld. Protector of those who have died but are not ready to pass on.”

“Where are we,” I don’t need more explanation.

“The ocean where the living become dead.”

“I’m dead.”

“Not if you don’t want to be,” the man smiles at me.

“How do I go back.”

“You need to build a connection.”

“Connection to where.”


“My apartment?”




“The United States?”

“No,” he raises his voice and dread fills me.

“Then where?”

“The place you were stolen from.”


“Yes. Those who were stolen crossed the Atlantic and they died. The only way to be reborn was building a connection. For you who were born in the kingdom of your masters were born dead. To truly be alive, you need to reach the motherland. Follow the line, build your connection. That is the only way you will live.”

“I just want to go home.”

“Then build your line. You can not go home from here. You can die and follow me to the underworld, or take a step to be reborn as something new.”

I don’t get to ask for anymore clues. He’s gone as fast as he came. He doesn’t even vanish in a puff of smoke, or slowly fade, he’s just, gone. Building a line to Africa? I’m American born, American raised. I don’t really know anything about Africa besides a few major countries. How is Africa supposed to get me home? For now, I just walk.

I’m not sure how long I’ve been walking, but I spot a person. I think it’s a person. I change direction and walk towards them. If someone else is here, they may be able to help me find my way home, or we can help each other. As I come closer a woman comes into view. A woman dressed in an elaborate skirt, picks at her afro with one hand and holds a mirror in the other. A snake is wrapped around her torso and neck. She doesn’t have a shirt so I avert my gaze from her hickory skin as I approach.

“Excuse me,” I try to get her attention.

“What? You never saw titties,” she catches me off guard.

“I, well. I’m just,” I’m not able to gather myself.

“Out with it. My nudity is nothing for you to be ashamed of, nor is your own.”

She’s beautiful, the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen. I can’t get my thoughts straight. Even without her looking away from her mirror. I’m embarrassed to speak with her. Her words suddenly made me aware of my own nudity. Had I been naked when speaking to Kaluga? I’m just I’m not standing at attention.

“I need to go home.”

“You’re not going to ask who I am?”

“I feel like I know,” and I don’t know why.

“Then who am I?”

“Mami Wata,” I don’t recognize the words as they leave my lips. “A goddess of water, you show people the truth in water.”

“You aren’t as dense as you seem,” she smiles but doesn’t look away.

“Thank you,” for some reason I feel honored.

“You want to go home?”

“Yes Mami.”

“Do you know what you have to do?”


“You have to drown.”

“I’m sorry?”


With her words I find myself sinking into the water for the first time. The welcome I had felt in this place is gone. Only terror remains as I try raise my legs once the water reaches my ankles. She still doesn’t turn from the mirror. Her snake seems to be enjoying my terror.

“Help, please,” I plead with her.

“No, you need to build your connection below the water. Build it with those who died because they could not make the journey. Build it with those that were thrown overboard because they refused to be chained. Build it with those that jumped to their death rather than face a life of torment. Build it with those who died trying to return. They wait for your below the surface. If you reject them, you will die. If you embrace them as the world could not, you will go home. You will take them with you, and you shall never truly be alone. That is how you build your connection.”

I don’t have a chance to respond. I try to swim as the water passes my shoulders, but it’s too thick. It’s almost as if I’m trying to swim in concrete. I can’t fight it, I can’t make it to the top. A hand reaches out to me in the water. I don’t have a choice, I take the hand, hoping this is what Mami Water meant.

I move closer to the surface. A vision of a man being shackled flashes through my mind and I let the hand go. I begin to sink again. Another hand. I take it, this time a man begs as his son’s hands are cut off. I don’t know how I know, but I know this is in Congo. Another hand lifts me from the water, this time a woman screams in pain as a knife digs into her abdomen. I can see she’s pregnant. A hand reaches in and I let go, I can no longer watch. I know where this goes. I sink as another hand reaches to me. I don’t want to die, but I can’t take another of these visions. I can see the surface, I can see another hand reaching out to me, but I’m afraid to take it.

“Do you want to die that bad,” I hear Mami Water call from the surface.

I take the hand and find myself in a dark box. I can hear footsteps and dogs barking above me. Muffled words I can’t understand. Three gunshots, silence, but the darkness remains. Light fills my vision as a door is lifted from above me. Hand reaches down, welcoming.

“Good job,” Kaluga’s voice echoes in my head.

I vomit sea water as tears fall from my eyes. I find myself back in the shack. All of the pain I remember has returned to me. I’m not sure how much of that was a hallucination, but the salt water, how can you fake that. Was it another illusion? I’m still strapped to this chair, but no one is here. Did they think they killed me? I cough up more salt water as I try to take a deep breath. I want to go home.  


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