Piloting the slave ship Le Saphir, captained by the cruel Captain Dugarry, is to be Gerard’s final job before retirement. He does not realize his journey will draw him him into the world of Maman Brigitte, a spirit worshiped by the Hatian slaves, who controls the way to the spirit world. There, Gerard is forced to choose between his life among the living and eternal submission to a cruel goddess. (F/M)
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Captain Dugarry’s treatment of the slaves was savage. I witnessed numerous beatings, usually with a vicious knotted whip. “The slaves need to know who is in charge. Discipline is everything on a slave ship,” he would insist. Yet I could see the sadistic pleasure he obtained from administering these random and cruel punishments.
I felt sickened, but at the same time drawn to the sadistic and charismatic Captain Dugarry. What was happening to me? Was exposure to the hardships of slavery eroding my sense of humanity?
The captain’s debauchery continued for the whole voyage. The slaves were used for all manner of perverted acts to satisfy our sexual gratification. I will not go into detail about the depraved activities we engaged in, partly out of shame, but also because graphic detail of our perversions would add nothing to my account. Despite revulsion at what I was doing, and against the better side of my nature, I found it exhilarating, even enjoyable. I would return to my cabin disgusted with myself, but also facing the dark reality that Dugarry’s sadism had aroused me, and I had enjoyed it.
We were only a few days away from our destination, the French colony of Port-au-Prince on St Domingue, when one morning the lookout called out, pointing to a swirling mist on the horizon. I had sailed these seas many times; this bank of fog was a strange phenomenon for these waters.
We sailed inexorably into the mist until the ship was completely enveloped in an impenetrable fog. The combination of the thick mist and the rhythmic ring of the warning bell created an eerie atmosphere. I could tell the crew was uneasy, and I knew only too well how superstitious sea-faring folk are.
Indeed, although a fog like this in these waters was unusual, I would not normally be bothered by such conditions. But there was something about this mist that was deeply unsettling. I shared the crew’s unease. We were now becalmed and could do no more than sit out the situation until conditions changed. They lasted for the best part of a day, until late afternoon when the mist lifted as quickly as it descended.
Later that night I was in the captain’s cabin to partake of yet more of his perverse pleasures. This time he had a male and female slave and was about to embark on yet more debauched games with them when there was a knock on the door. Dugarry was furious. He hated it when his entertainment was interrupted. One of the crew asked him to come down to the hold, as the cargo was behaving strangely.
As we entered, the slaves were in a trance, their eyes wide open and unblinking. They emitted low ululating sounds from their mouths in an eerie cacophony of noise. The captain ordered the crew to whip them all but the slaves were oblivious to this punishment and continued their other-worldly calls. The strange guttural noises continued unabated all through the night making the crew grew more and more agitated.
Pierre, one of the crew and old sea dog, turned to Dugarry. “Whipping ’em’ll do no good, Cap’n; they are possessed. This noise will drive us all mad, Cap’n. I’ve seen grown men try to pierce their ear drums because they can’t stand this.” The captain told him to stop talking rubbish, that he didn’t believe in such things and that a more severe whipping will put an end to the racket. “That’ll do no good, Cap’n. I’ve seen this before in other parts of the Indies. It’s possession, I tell you, and there’ll be nothing you can do without a witch doctor.” Captain Dugarry stormed off in a furious temper.