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In an alternate steamfunk Haiti, at the height of General Toussaint's revolution, two lovers separated by class and a young woman whose love is forbidden, are thrust into war, sorcery and a quest for liberation on their own terms. . .

On the island of Saint-Domingue, in the dead of night, thousands of slaves crept silently along the path through the trees and wiry brush to Bois Caïman. In the clearing the Houngan Dutty Boukman, a huge, self-educated slave with a fierce countenance, and Mambo Cecile Fatiman, a mulatto slave woman, waited to led them in ceremony. They petitioned the Loa for protection, for deliverance from slavery’s lash—calling upon the darkest spirits of their Ancestors to help them in their battle. 

They prayed for freedom. 

“Bon Dje nou an ki si bon, ki si jis, li ordone vanjans!” Dutty shouted. “Se li kap kondui branou pou nou ranpote la viktwa! Se li kap ba nou asistans. . .! Koute vwa la libète kap chante lan kè nou!” 

“Our God, who is so good, so just, He orders us to revenge our wrongs! It’s He who will direct our arms and bring us the victory! It’s He who will assist us. . .! Listen to the voice for liberty that sings in all our hearts!”

There was a clap of thunder. . . lightning flashed in the dark sky. A swirling rush of wind stirred the trees.

Cecile's green eyes rolled back in her head. Enraptured she began to dance wildly. She’d been possessed by the Erzulie Seven Kout Kouto—the most deadly embodiment of the Loa, Erzulie Dantor. She sang and the slaves—beating upon the drums in rage—sang with her: 

“Seven kout kouto, seven kout ponya

Prete mwen ganmèl lan pou mwen al vomi san 

Prete mwen ganmèl lan pou mwen al vomi san 

San mwen ape koule!”

“Seven stabbings of knives, seven stabbings of daggers

Lend me the ganmèl, so I can vomit blood

Lend me the ganmèl, so I can vomit blood

My blood is running!”

Seven days later Dutty led his people in revolt against their slave masters. . .burning plantations to the ground. For this rebellion, he was captured and beheaded by the French; his head was publicly displayed with a placard reading: “Boukman, Chef des Revolutions des Escalves,” Boukman, Chief of the Slaves Revolution. The French thought killing Dutty Boukman would frighten the Black slaves— thus halting the tide of revolution. 

But the fires of liberation Dutty and Cecile ignited were not the first, nor would they be the last.

***

Monique, a tall, young woman with chocolate-colored skin, a long face, and slender build, made her way through the tall brass structures of Saint-Domingue, past red flowering Hibiscus blooms toward the fields. She was dressed in wrapped skirt and bustier, her braided hair wrapped in twisted beads atop her head. She wore a brass-handled musket on a holster about her waist. A grip of interwoven cloth and metal, encased her fingers and entire arm up to her shoulder to minify kickback from her pistol. She carried a water flask in one hand and her breakfast of a partially-eaten boiled plantain in the other. 

She stopped at a well on the outskirts of her township. Monique finished the last of the plantain in one bite, and dropped the peel in the cloth trash-bag beside the well: a conveyer belt made of cloth and woven wire. Half the belt lay above the soil; the rest, on her left and right, was buried underground. Monique knelt before the clunky machinery attached to two metal legs above the conveyor belt. She turned the crank, the belt jerked and scuttled forward: carrying copper vases full of water, screwed to caps on its underside. 

Monique twisted one of the vases off, filled her flask and turned it up her full lips: drinking deeply. She poured more water into the flask, and reattached the water vase back onto the belt. Refreshed and ready, the young woman made her way to the field on the edge of town. There she found thousands of men and women, aged sixteen to sixty, preparing for tomorrow.

When they would go to war with France.

Copyright Valjeanne Jeffers 2013. All rights reserved.

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