(The Darkling Trilogy Book One)
by A. D. Koboah
Dark Genesis, A. D. Koboah's debut novel, is currently FREE. Also available: Rising Dark. You can also read my blog post on Peace, a novel set in modern-day London.
Life for a female slave is one of hardship and unspeakable sorrow, something Luna knows only too well. But not even she could have foreseen the terror that would befall her one sultry Mississippi evening in the summer of 1807.
On her way back from a visit to see the African woman, a witch who has the herbs Luna needs to rid her of her abusive master's child, she attracts the attention of a deadly being that lusts for blood. Forcibly removed from everything she knows by this tormented otherworldly creature, she is sure she will be dead by sunrise.
Dark Genesis is a love story set against the savage world of slavery in which a young woman who has been dehumanized by its horrors finds the courage to love, and in doing so, reclaims her humanity.
Many slaves came to visit Mama Akosua for her medicines, and her skills were known far and wide. It was also rumoured that she dealt in more than just herbs and was actually a witch. Whether that was true or not, she was feared by many, even some of the whites, and few dared incur her wrath.
As I got nearer to the cabin, I saw that the door had been left open and a light was burning inside even though the sun had yet to go down. I approached gingerly. Already feeling the unease that always possessed me in the presence of the African woman, I walked up to the door, and stopped.
There was a short spell of silence and then her voice floated out to me.
“I have been expecting you.” The voice was low and dry like the sound of rustling leaves.
She probably said that every time someone came to her door, no doubt to help foster the belief that she was a powerful all-seeing, all-knowing witch. But the words still sent icy fingers trailing down my spine and I swallowed before taking her words as permission to enter.
The cabin, which consisted of only one room, was rich with the slightly bitter, but not unpleasant, smell of dried herbs. Most of the room was taken up by a long wooden table, which held bottles, bowls and an assortment of other instruments that were used to prepare her concoctions. Every wall in the room was lined with shelves holding bottles, jars and baskets of fresh and dried herbs. The only evidence that someone lived in the cabin was the pallet in the corner. This was the most furniture I had seen in any slave cabin, but as her Master profited from the sale of her herbs, it was in his interest to make sure she had everything she needed. There was another smaller table in the centre of the room and that is where she sat, peering at me by the light of an oil lamp.
She was a small lithe woman with delicate features like mine. Her head was cleanly shaven and she would have been considered beautiful were it not for the scars, rows of lines about an inch long, marking her forehead and cheeks. It was rumoured that those scars had been self-inflicted when she was first brought to America as a slave. Some people whispered that she had done it to honour the customs of her people, others, that the journey, the horrors of the middle passage, had driven her to scar her face in madness and despair. Although I would never dare to ask her, I didn’t believe she had been driven insane. The shrewd dark eyes that met mine belonged to a strong, sharp mind and I doubted that anything could, or ever would, be able to break it.
“Evening, Mama Akosua,” I said as I walked into the circle of light.
There was still daylight outside but it didn’t seem to reach the small window in Mama Akosua’s cabin and so it was always dark in here no matter what the time of day.
She gestured to the chair opposite hers, her eyes never leaving my face. I moved to the chair and when I sat down, she pushed a small cup toward me.
“Drink,” she said.
I picked up the cup and sipped the cool concoction, which tasted vaguely of mint leaves. Whatever it was, it seemed to have an immediate effect because I no longer felt as hot and the fatigue, which had been pulling on me like lead weights, seemed to evaporate.
Feeling slightly better, I was able to meet the force of her gaze fully. She seemed to have aged a great deal since I last saw her, nearly four years ago. The lines around her eyes and the ones running from her nose to the corners of her mouth had deepened and although she was not yet forty years old, she looked much older.
She studied me for a few moments and a soft sigh escaped her when she finally shifted her gaze away from my face.
“It is as I feared,” she said and stood up, wincing from the small movement.
“It is a small price to pay,” she mumbled, more to herself it seemed.
She reached into a basket on one of the shelves and pulled out a small black cloth bundle. Moving back to the table she placed the bundle before her and when she sat down again she closed her eyes for a few seconds. She was clearly in a lot of pain.
“I have prepared what you need,” she said pulling open the cloth bundle to reveal six paper sachets of herbs.
There was no need for her to ask me why I was here. I would only risk making this dangerous journey for one reason.
“Take this tonight.” She pointed to the larger of the bundles. “The rest is to be taken for five nights after, to stop the bleeding.”
She tied up the bundle and pushed it across the table toward me.
“Thank you, Mama Akosua.”
“Is it the son this time?”
I looked up and met her intimidating gaze, but on this occasion, I couldn’t hold it. She knew how much these things shamed me yet it didn’t stop her from asking about them. When I answered, my voice was barely a whisper.
“He... he be at my cabin near about three times a week now since Easter.”
“He is worse than his father, no?” It wasn’t a question; it was a statement.
I fought back tears as an image came to me from a few weeks before. I was standing in my tiny cabin and Master John was behind me gazing at our reflections in a small handheld mirror. I don’t know if making me look at myself was one of the many ways he had of tormenting me or if he really was oblivious to the fact that I despised my face. Either way, he would make me stare at my piercing dark brown eyes framed by long sooty eyelashes, deep mahogany skin, small delicate features and large sensuous lips. My springy, unruly hair was pulled away from my face, something he insisted on, as my hair was the one thing a man like him could find no beauty in. It was always the same ordeal with the mirror whenever he came to my cabin. And I honestly don’t know which face I hated more, that of the blond-haired, blue-eyed man I had come to despise even more than his old, decrepit father, or my own. The face he was enamoured with. He eventually pulled the mirror out of my hand, and placing it on the bed, held his arms out.
“Dance with me,” he had said in a soft, silky voice.
I remained where I was, my face a blank mask but rage no doubt burning behind my eyes. I may not have had a say over his nocturnal visits, but I would not play these little games or pretend that I wanted him in my wretched little cabin.
Fast, so fast that I didn’t have time to protect myself, he raised his hand and slapped me, sending me crashing to the floor. Pain bloomed along my temple and the left side of my face. I had also bitten my lip when I hit my head. His foot came down on my neck and I felt the dirt on the sole of his boot rubbing into my skin as he pressed down, cutting off my air supply. I struggled in vain to breathe and was close to losing consciousness when he slowly removed his foot and hauled me back onto my feet as if he were picking up a sack of potatoes. Then he held out his arms again, that smile, which never seemed to leave his face, swimming before my eyes as I struggled to clear my vision.
I was bristling with anger and yet fear won out because he could do anything he wanted to me and there was nothing I would be able to do to stop him. No one I could go to for protection. I had been born and bred purely for men like him, not only to do with as they pleased, but to increase their riches by breeding more slaves for them to own.
“Dance with me,” he said again.
Tasting blood in my mouth, I did as I was ordered to do.
“Massa Henry used to please hisself and leave,” I told Mama Akosua. “But Massa John... he like to play.”
Luna is a slave who is repeatedly sexually abused by her Master and then his son when he becomes the Master. Her mother is sold away from her when she is a very young child and she has no-one else. She finds her only solace in a ruined chapel on the grounds of the plantation, but even that is no longer safe.
This story is truly intense. It is told from the view of a young woman who finds a journal telling the life's story of an ancestor of hers, Luna. Through her we feel terror, horror, humor, romance, sex, safety, loss, joy, and sorrow. Each page brings new enticing information to keep pulling you into the story.
Well written, this story is not for the faint of heart or for children. This story has scenes of rape, murder, demons, beating, the worst of slavery, and the best in humanity. It will make you angry, happy, sad, and get your adrenalin pulsing. I would not read it in the dark ... Unless you are very brave.
From the Author
I am of Ghanaian descent and spent the first few years of my life in Ghana before moving to London which is where I have lived ever since. I completed an English Literature degree in 2000 and although I have always written in my spare time, I didn’t start writing full-time until a few years ago.
My first novel Dark Genesis was inspired by my thoughts on dehumanization. I was fascinated by the ways in which people are able to dehumanize others, the impact it has on the psyche and whether it is possible for people to find their way back from being dehumanized. This led me to Luna and the ruins of a haunted chapel deep in the heart of Mississippi. Rising Dark, the sequel to Dark Genesis, was released April 2014.