Saturday, June 3, 2017

Reflecting on being sold -- The Matter of Aravis, Susan Era

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings, but it would have gone with this post if not for the fact comments are long since closed.]
[You know the content notes for these by now, slavery, child abuse, lack of self worth, stuff like that.]

Part of Shasta thought that he should feel relieved. All of these years spent thinking he was broken for not being able to love his father, shouldn't some weight be lifted with the knowledge that Arsheesh wasn't his father? That Arsheesh obviously couldn't love Shasta very much if he was willing to sell him? But there was no relief. Nothing felt better. He still felt like he was deficient for not loving Arsheesh, but now he felt even worse because he also knew he wasn't loved.

He was just something Arsheesh had taken from the sea, something Arsheesh was now going to sell. Arsheesh took things from the sea and sold them every day. So what if Shasta were more valuable than the usual fish? He was still just a thing.

A thing that would soon have a new owner.

What was slavery even like? Was this slavery? Slaves did work. He did work. Maybe this was slavery. But if he was never good enough for Arsheesh, how could he hope to be good enough for this stranger, this Tarkaan? True, Shasta wasn't entirely sure what a Tarkaan was, but it was obviously something Arsheesh recognized as being above “fisherman”.

Then again, if this were slavery, perhaps things wouldn't get worse. Perhaps they'd stay the same, perhaps they'd even get better. Perhaps the Tarkaan had many slaves and so no one of them had to do as much as Shasta had had to do for Arsheesh. If there were less work in need of doing, perhaps Shasta would be able to do some of it well. Arsheesh didn't always beat him, so he must be good some of the time. If he weren't so constantly occupied maybe he could be good more of the time. Maybe even enough of the time that beatings would be rare and far between.

Perhaps, for once, Shasta could actually feel like he was doing things right.

Or perhaps that was a stupid thought.

And then there were dreams about things that Shasta had never dared to believe. He still didn't believe them, but he allowed himself indulgence. One of the the stories the traveler from the north had told was of a slave made free for doing a great deed. Some feat in battle that saved his master or something. Another told of a slave that was discovered by its family and freed.

If slaves were just humans like Shasta, and Shasta wasn't the child of Arsheesh . . . Shasta could be anyone. Maybe the reason that Shasta had barely been to the village, and always was left with the donkey when village men came to visit was that he would be recognized.

Then he could be free and . . . what did that even mean? Shasta knew that freedom was good, but he'd always thought he'd had it. If he hadn't, then what was it? Did it mean not being forced to work all the time?

Could it be like the people in those stories, the ones who had cushions and cool days and warm nights and didn't even have to walk because slaves would carry them where they needed to go?

Shasta had always dreamed of being one of those people, even though he didn't believe they were real. Dreams weren't real either.

Shasta sighed.

None of this really mattered. He'd been sold. Arsheesh obviously didn't love him, he still felt just as bad about everything he'd felt bad about before, and after sleeping with the donkey he'd be taken away to an uncertain future.

And Shasta had learned something about uncertainty: it was never good. If you weren't sure what would happen, whatever happened would be bad.

He should just go to the stable, try not to think of any of this, and snuggle up next to--

The donkey!

If he belonged to the stranger, and the donkey stayed with Arsheesh, then they might never see each other again.

Shasta ran to the stable.



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