Turtlebacks

The heat of the sun was still a better beating than the ones involving whips.

You could hear the crack of one from meters away and hear the silent yell in your heart.

Today was any other miserable day, the sun high and bright with no cloud in sight. It was a good day for the other children. But for their children, they smiled regardless. For it was a good day.

Bubbles the size of horses babbled in the ocean, slowly moving from the east to the west. Fish followed the current made by flippers that could carry several families on one. Black eyes as ancient as time itself smiled through the hazy morning sunlight that lit the way to their destination. Barnacles and seaweed grew in specific parts of the shell the size of a large home, as if it was war paint on a face. Behind this giant creature, hundreds more just like it followed, the war paint different on each one.

Another crack. The air in their lungs would always catch, as if breathing at the moment the whip fell would have another descend on them, too.

It wasn’t until the sun was about to make its retreat that several men on horseback rode by the fields with such a hurry and worry the shadows that picked their money watched them, the shadow children whispering to each other in glee.

A yell came from the big house, the catchers that walked the perimeter of the field rushed to answer it. The shadows continued to watch, dropping their master’s wages in the dry dirt, their children running up and down the rows of crops, screaming in joy.

One of the men from the house watched the small rebellion of their living machinery, a finger moving to the trigger of their rifle before getting called into the house as well.

The alligators moved out the way of the giant creatures as they made it through the swamps in single file, as to not somehow make their presence known. But the children that mattered saw them. Heard them. Called for them.

The children couldn’t sleep, looking out the doors and windows of the shacks they called home, feeling the air crackle and sigh, hearing the trees groan as the creatures pushed past them as they exited the swamps.

Flippers turned into stumpy, padded feet, making it easier to trek through the wooded areas. At a fork, several creatures broke off from the main vanguard, their backs toward the rising sun.

The children were singing this morning, the cracking of whips as threatens caused them to sing louder in defiance at the behest of their elders. They stopped when a shot rang out, the sound of a body hitting the ground a reminder they were still stoppable regardless of how they felt. As the blood their friend touched one of their feet, they started singing again, the shaky low rumble from their gut drowning out the shaky low rumble from the treeline. Another shot rang but the sound of a falling body didn’t follow. Another child joined in on the singing as the blood spread on the ground. A louder rumble came from the trees, the catchers and masters looking over, watching the canopy make way for whatever was coming through and either swaying back into place or falling over in a loud crash.

The singing grew louder as hundreds of children howled and wailed and bellowed as the treeline broke. The masters and catchers started screaming, firing off round after round of buckshot into the few creatures making their way over the fields.

Men on horseback rode by, yelling and shooting, only to get the force of two trains crashing into each other on each side of their body, as the creature bit into their bodies with ease, tossing their torsos around in their giant mouths as they chewed. The elders scrambled as well, some grabbing children and running away, while others pushed them out the way, only to be eaten as well.

The children screamed and jeered, running alongside the creatures that stood taller than massa’s house, some of them scrambling up the barnacles on the legs and climbing up to the top of the massive shell. The children danced and sang, yelling out to other children as the creatures continued to eat catchers, masters, their wives, their children, the elders that harmed their own to appease their oppressors.

As they rode into town, the creatures started to get even more hungry, the lead one scrambling to bite the head off of one of the policemen.

And still, the children danced, playing in the limp seaweed on the back of this creature, making makeshift dresses and pants, blouses and skirts, work shirts and dress shirts, ignoring the harmony of screams of those dying beneath them as they reached out hands to other children climbing to the top of the creature.

Hundreds of these giant creatures “terrorized” towns, rescuing all the children of the fields that they could before turning back towards the swamps, towards the seas. The children clung to their saviors as the cold water they never knew but had called home washed the blood of their friends off their feet.

As the pink sky turned into orange surf, the children didn’t need to hold their breath for too long under the warm waters of home before being greeted by siblings from before the separation. Before they had forgotten the call of the water. Before they remembered.

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