Since we ALL like to see new content on the site, I dug something up that I think readers will enjoy. It’s a creative work that fuses elements from Gray’s “Confession of Nat Turner” and the “Dialogue Between a Master and a Slave.” It is retold using the style and pattern of Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.” The story is basically that of the Nat Turner Revolt, a slave uprising in which many people were killed in their sleep. I used the Dialogue as a tool to offer an understanding about the killings. You will notice that I’ve used quotations from the afore mentioned works. This was part of the original assignment. By the way, I would classify this story in the “Slasher/Horror” genre.
The Dew Blood
A history of motives—motives, reasons, why-why-why—you ask of me. But why must you always have your reasons? Some must be known by God alone. Indeed, I have no reasons but what God bids me. I am only an instrument in his hands bring about his work of justice: that “the last should be first and the first should be last” (Gray, 435). I had nothing to gain by it; none of us had anything to gain by it. We merely did His will.
Maybe the motive is incomprehensible to you. You are so close to it that you can’t even see it. Don’t look at me. Never look at me! It isn’t me, it’s everyone. God is in everything and so is his vengeance. Maybe you should not have sheltered enemies in your homes. They all had armies of enemies in their homes. You are and have been “surrounded with implacable foes, who long for a safe opportunity to revenge upon you and the other planters all the miseries they have endured” (Bingham, 242). Haha! And why shouldn’t they revenge themselves when that opportunity came? It came and came and came every time you placed your head on your feather pillow; they placed theirs on their straw, their flaxen mats, and their hard floors. You made them enemies when you claimed ownership, usurping their rights of self governance. You made them enemies, animalizing them into wild brutes while you thought them turned into faithful hounds.
But I will tell you—yes, I will tell you how God sanctified me to his holy vengeance. You must think me mad, but that they said of the prophets of ancient days. I was a slave. One formed in God’s image, and a man, yet a slave. I turned my whole attention on this fact as it seemed I was to be the deliverer from the Egyptians. I had been created to it. I flew from my overseer to Midian where, in my solitude, God told me “he who knoweth his masters will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes” (Gray, 432). I was not meant to escape, leaving behind all my people. I was to be a slave and a deliverer. “I saw white spirits and black spirits engaged in battle” and a voice told me “you are called to see… you must surely bear it” (Gray, 432). This event would come in my days; I had no doubt, for thus the voice told me.
I told your enemies of my holy visions from the ethereal sphere. They were witnessed to, knowing in their hearts that it was true and that the time had come. The last would be first. We saw it impressions and facsimiles made in blood, revealed by the spirit (Gray, 433). We saw it in blood, always in blood. The last must be first when blood covered the ground as the dew from heaven. We conversed about when it was to be. The great and terrible day would take place after the eclipse of the sun. We planned God’s justice, his prophet and four horsemen—Henry, Hark, Nelson, and Sam (Gray, 434). How would we begin? I meditated on it as I watched my master and mistress when they came down to breakfast. I watched them tranquilize on the patio while the slaves labored. I watched them reading their books and drinking lemonade. I watched them. I watched their eye lids droop as they sat in their comfortable chairs after a large supper. I watched and I thought. I watched and I planned.
I even watched them in their sleep. I had turned the brazen, squeaky knob so slowly. I watched through the cracked door as the clouds moved over the moon, hiding and revealing their sealed eyes. I wanted to see closer. I pushed the door so slowly, so carefully, the dry, noisy hinges raised no alarm. I was risking everything. One floorboard whining, a heavy exhalation, or a poorly timed noise from outside could delay God’s justice. But was impelled to see how near I could get. Moving so slowly, so carefully, I was just a caterpillar making its way across the floor. I stood at the end of the bed and watched. My master and mistress slumbered peacefully. My justice had finally come! As a thief in the night it came! But it didn’t come tonight. My master turned over. “He stirs!” I gasped and searched for a shadow to slink into. I made one wide step over to the wall, my black features securing me against any night eyes. I became the wall. My master coughed once. I didn’t even breathe. He jostled. I was as still as the rood. Minutes passed—an hour, two—without any movement. I exited as carefully as I came, as a caterpillar across the floor. I pulled the door home, taking my time so the metallic, dry alarm of the hinge would not reveal me. I moved back down the hall, my bare feet making no sound on the hard wood floor. I had beheld enough for tonight.
The next night I watched again. God dimmed the moon to mask my movement. My bare feet did not pat against the hall floor. My steely hand did not disturb the antique, noisy knob. My free arm did not wake the lightly sleeping hinges. The caterpillar lifted and rolled across the floor, not to the end of the bed but the bedside. My master snorted, but I did not hide. The pig was cooked (Gray, 434). The die was cast. And the Rubicon was crossed. The caterpillar had made it across the floor, but he had brought other quiet things with him. Enemies surrounded my master’s bed so quietly that they must have always been there. With a breath, I raised my hand and the ax that it gripped. My master’s eyes flashed open. The ax was meant to close them, but he twitched and the ax met its object unevenly (Gray, 435).
My master howled in surprise and fear. The mortal howl rang through me as the howl that I had made every day since I was a child. A howl that my heart had howled when I saw the old women whipped. It was the howl of frustration, not knowing why things were the way they were, why we were selected to this cruel, insignificant, animal life. Truly, I pitied my master that he had to feel this horror for his people, his wife and his children.
The howl subsided as part of the wall quickly came alive and buried its ax into my master’s neck, while a quiet lamp destroyed my mistress. We killed the children in their comfortable beds. They did not have to bother themselves with getting up. We handled all the trouble. We were fast and spared them any night terrors. Indeed, we took care of them all like we had been taking care of them for years.
I smiled, pleased that God’s mandate had began its fulfillment. The whites and blacks must surely continue to battle, as my vision told me. The highest obstruction was passed. I had killed the entire family of the man “who was to me a kind master” (Gray, 434). In a way, it was easier because “The more generous their natures, the more indignant [slaves] feel against that cruel injustice which has dragged them hither, and doomed them to perpetual servitude” (Bingham, 242). They think they can smile away the wrongs done to generations with some extra scraps of food and an extra few pence given now and then. This night the work of death will continue as the enemies sheltered in the homes of the masters learn of what we accomplished tonight. We will take them in their sleep. “Superior force alone can give [them] security. As soon as that fails, [they] are at the mercy of the merciless. Such is the social bond between master and slave!” (Bingham, 242).
Bingham, Caleb. The Columbian Orator.
Gray, Thomas. The Confessions of Nat Turner.
Poe, Edgar A. “The Tell-Tell Heart.”