(Cross-posted to the Texty Ladies site.)
He would not give in.
Even as he knelt in the dry autumn grass, head buried in his hands, James knew self-pity was not an option. Already, the scars from the overseer’s whip had faded from his back as if they’d never existed. And that was because the overlord didn’t know James’ secret. It was one that he had to keep quiet, even to those he was determined to help.
And this punishment, his incarnation as a slave, occurred only because he had defied God. Once a powerful demon, he’d been cursed and relegated to earth to suffer the injustices of man so that he would better understand their suffering. What a joke! James didn’t despise humans, except the hypocritical ones who saw themselves as agents of God and forced their wills on others. And those who believed that the color of their skin made them superior sickened him even more.
Who were the true devils, James wondered as he stared at his callused palms. His muscles were well-developed through hours of manual labor. Part of it he knew was his demonic nature, but as a human, his physique fascinated him even more. Demons could change their appearance at will, but humans weren’t given that ability. So the potential to transform through hard work was something he could respect.
However, now was not the time to think of that. There were slaves who needed his help to escape their shackles, both real and symbolic. And just when had he promised to help the humans? When had he been affected by their beseeching eyes, gaunt faces, and fearful expressions? Why had they looked to him with hope? He was a demon; he should have been on the side of the overseers and slave owners!
It was the young girl who convinced him. No more than seven, she had struggled across the field with a pail of water too heavy for her. When she stumbled, spilling the contents, an overseer began whipping her with the frenzy of a berserker. And when James had stepped forward to grab the overseer’s arm as he raised it to hurl the whip down again, the overseer had turned his piggish red face and threatened him.
But James hadn’t noticed. All he saw was the girl who looked up at him. Her eyes shone and in a quiet, resolute voice, she said, “I know who you are.”