A REALLY Scary Halloween


"You told us how we get INTO the slave market," Sophie said. "How will we get out?"

"If we get out," Suki said nervously.

"Don't be foolish. A slaver would make no money if he kept his inventory in the market forever. Come, let us continue our tour."

The girls insisted on going to the slave market immediately, but again Abdul demurred, taking us to watch a goat auction instead.

It might seem odd that he could enthrall a group of two-dozen spoiled, self-indulgent college girls by taking them to a goat auction, but somehow he pulled it off. It was the subtext of the auction, and his hushed tones, that held the group spellbound. Even Julie and Sophie were breathless.

"Halloween is a time of masquerades, when one person can pretend to be another, is it not? Let us pretend that the goods today have two hooves instead of four. It makes no difference; it is like any other chattel sale. Watch the men in the bleachers bidding as the goods are paraded before them. Notice how the animals are displayed on the raised auction block. The view is excellent from where we are seated. The men can see the animals better that way."

"See the pens they hold the animals in, and the way the men examine the merchandise before the sale? They check the eyes for clarity, the teeth for decay, the flanks and fitness, and yes, even the genitals. Every part of the animal must be examined, seen... and felt."

"I have a brain and I'm well educated," Julie objected. "I'm not an animal."

"Goats are bought for milk, or for breeding, or some specific purpose," Abdul replied, once again answering a question about female slavery with an analogy. "One does not buy a goat for witty conversation."

"Guys don't go out with Brittany for that, either," Stephanie sniped.

"They aren't going to buy you for your milk, Stephanie," she shot back.

Sophie considered the matter. "In this country would I be intelligent? I can't read or write their language. I don't know how to make bread or weave or do any of the things the local women can do."

Abdul smiled. "You have lovely blonde hair and a pretty mouth. There is a use for every goat, is there not?" Sophie blushed and looked away.

"As you see the sale of any particular animal does not take long. Notice the prods they use on the goods to move them back and forth across the stage, and the whips on their belts? They do not allow the animals to tarry for there are many animals to sell."

"Are slave girls sold this quickly?" Julie asked.

Abdul did not answer directly. "Remember in any market the auctioneer merely receives a commission, so there is more to be made by selling six goats than one, more to be made from twelve goats than six, and more to be made from twenty four than twelve."

As there were 24 girls in our group the significance of the number was not lost on anyone.

"Twenty four animals, of similar quality and stock, examined freely by the buyers beforehand, vended rapidly. Yes, the auctioneer would make good coin that day."

All of the girls listened closely. Suki was biting her lip and Sophie was breathing in short gasps. Clearly this discussion of "goats" was having its desired impact.

"The horses in those pens will be brought for work, and for pleasure, and sometimes for breeding. But the procedure is much the same, whether the animal being sold has two hooves or four. When the sale is over, the animal is owned body and soul, forever."

Everything Abdul said was outrageous, of course. But it was presented so gradually, and the information revealed so sparingly, that it never shocked. I saw Julie's point. Like a frog in a pan of cool water, he simply raised the temperature one degree at a time.

As luck would have it the next day "security concerns" that Abdul could never fully explained forced us to alter our plans so that we traveled by bus to Elmina, a charming if somewhat small costal city.

"We will visit it for Halloween," he explained.

"What does Elima have to do with Halloween?" I asked.

"Everything, Professor," he replied, throwing up his hands as if the answer was obvious. "Tell me, have you ever bungee jumped?"

"Yes," I replied. "Many times."

"And parachuted out of an airplane, I assume? And gone hot air ballooning?"

"Yes, but I don't see your point."

"Does Halloween thrill you? Does it frighten you?"

"Not since I was seven," I replied.

"You are bored. You want excitement, adventure. You crave the rush and thrill the women in those books you read feel, the excitement of being totally possessed. I will give you a Halloween that will thrill you, and scare you, and leave you breathless with excitement."

I was unimpressed. "I'm not buying a pot from you, Abdul."

"Of course not. In Elima it is not the pots that are for sale." It was a curious, elliptical sentence that seemed to mean nothing, but typical of the way he ended conversations designed to bait the girls.

"Perhaps we should make a wager," he suggested, "for Halloween."

"I'm listening," I replied.

"Your Mississippi ancestors traded Africans as slaves, and the wealth you enjoy now is due in part to their cruelty. But can Mississippi girls take what they dish out?"

"I can take anything you can dish out. You don't frighten me."

"Excellent. If you can take what I dish out without getting scared, you will win the wager. If I cannot frighten you, then you win."

I shook his hand to solemnize the bargain. A part of me longed for a genuine scare, and although I knew Abdul was more bark than bite I was anxious to see what tricks he might have up his sleeve.

Naturally the girls complained loudly that our accommodations in Elima were not The Four Seasons but as they whined about everything in Africa being "dirty" or "shoddy" or "cheap" or simply "negro" Abdul was not shocked.

What distressed the girls more than the subpar rooms was the lack of phones. All of our various phone models immediately bricked when we entered the city, and after using a rather sketchy landline to talk to our various carriers we discovered that unlocking the phones would be impossible as this area was a beehive of criminal activity and stolen merchandise and was not actively supported by Western carriers.

"Like, thanks for taking us to phone theft central, DUH!" Brittany whined.

"How am I going to update my Facebook page?" Taylor complained. "I mean, what's the point of going to some shithole filled with dirty black people if you can't brag about it?"

I noticed one of the new guards Abdul had hired actually move his finger onto the trigger of his semiautomatic when Taylor said her slur. He didn't speak English -- or so I thought. Perhaps it was just a hand tick.

"I've been texting a friend where I am," Julie said. "Where are we, anyway?"

"Somewhere safe," Abdul said. "If you wish, you can write your friend a letter, and I will add the coordinates of our location, and mail it for you." Julie said nothing.

Small as the city was it did have a special fascination for us as a section of it was walled off to Westerners. It was -- or so Abdul claimed -- "a beehive of slave traders." The town did seem a bit more outlaw and authentically native than the other towns we had visited and far less interested in catering to Western tourists. There were very few white people in the streets and I noticed that Abdul had increased our security detail to eight armed men with automatic weapons. Most of the guards did not speak English, or at least did not speak it to us, and spoke only to Abdul. I suspected some of them understood at least some of what we were saying from the way they glared at Brittany and Taylor whenever they referred to them as the "gorillas" or "machine-gun monkeys" or openly talked about which ones were the most buff.

Julie, Sophie, and Suki seemed pleased by the extra security, as the three of them didn't seem to travel inside the impregnable bubble of mental confidence that their more spoiled counterparts enjoyed. In the lobby one morning I was sunk deep into my chair reading the latest Joe Doe story Sophie had given me, an amusing tome about something called "Slave Yoga." The girls didn't know I was there, and listened in as Julie told Sophie that she had been texting a friend back in Denmark, telling her about Abdul's plan to take them to the slave market.

"I know," Sophie said. "I'm scared too. But it's also... kind of exciting, you know?"

"I know," Julie said. "I think it's the power dynamic, the idea of having everything taken away from you and being put on the auction block. In America you buy and sell everything, so it almost seems normal to you. In Europe, people are supposed to have human rights, but there is none of that here. In Denmark even dogs have more rights than a slave girl. I think that's why I find the psychology so exciting."

"Do you really think he'd do it? I mean... put us on the block... Naked?"

"I'm not sure. Ordinarily if a person knows you they feel empathy for you, but I don't get that sense from Abdul. I don't think he likes us much. As for the naked part, it's hard to even imagine how humiliating that would be. I mean to literally be standing naked in front of people bidding on your body. I think you'd have to experience it to understand it."

"So... you'd do it, then?" Sophie asked. "I mean, go to the slave market?"

"No. Yes. I don't know. Maybe, if I could go, you know for research. Yes, maybe I'd do it just to see it, for my paper."

There was a long pause as Julie thought things over.

"Do you think I'd fetch a good price?"

"I think you'd bring a fortune. Guys love Scandinavian women."

"My breasts are so small."

Sophie reassured her. "Just because you didn't buy your tits doesn't mean there not nice. Don't worry. If you get a rich master and he wants you to have big boobs, he'll give you big boobs."

"You mean they could... change me? I hadn't thought of that but you're right. They could do anything they wanted with us. It's so American, and SO creepy."

"Yeah, it's scary, but they OWN you. That's what makes it exciting, too. But we need to be careful."

Julie agreed. "He offered to mail my letter, like I'm an idiot. I gave a letter to the front desk clerk but I'm worried it went right back to Abdul. I don't trust any of these creeps; I think they all work for Abdul. I think the guys with the machine guns would mow us down if Abdul gave them the word. I don't trust Abdul, and the other girls are idiots."

"What about Suzanne?"

"Abdul has her twisted around his finger. She thinks she's in charge, but she's not. She totally believes his bullshit and he's running this show."

I bristled a bit when I heard this, as I considered myself very much in charge. Until this moment I had considered Suki, Sophie, Patrice, and Julie as allies, but now I knew that I'd have to keep my eye on all of them.

I liked Julie, but she was a graduate student and like all graduate students a bit of a smarty-pants. Suddenly the idea of seeing the little blonde Danish standing naked in the marketplace seemed quite amusing.

Our small, squat hotel made it impossible to see over the ancient stonewalls of the old city and into the "vast market" Abdul claimed was beyond. The girls and I remained skeptical, particularly when he told us that white slave girls were sold openly there, and that indeed there was 'a bustling market in them, with the right people being paid so everyone looks the other way.'

The thought of bribery and corruption in Africa was not shocking (the girls haughtily referred to the natives as "banana thieves" and "dirty, thieving maccacas") but the thought of white women being openly bartered for in an open market seemed to all of us -- Julie and Sophie included - to be quite fantastical, or as Abdul said, looking straight at me, "like something out of a lurid romance novel."

That night at the hotel bar the drunken girls passed the time with a pumpkin carving contest, amazing me with their skill. Some of the jack-o-lanterns were really quite wonderful, and for a moment I must confess that I truly felt the Halloween spirit.

I had thought that Abdul's Halloween stories about the slave market for white women were entertaining bullshit. However at the hotel bar we did receive a confirmation of sorts in the corpulent drunken form of Colonel James Augustus Whither.

Colonel Whither was a boastful old Englishman with a braggadocios manner who I suspected was the Colonel of nothing and not nearly as accomplished as he claimed to be. It was Julie who was the first to note that he was "heroically wounded" in the Iraq war several years before the war began.

Because of his bald dome, obesity, and enormous white mustache and muttonchops the girls immediately nicknamed him "The Fat Walrus", a name he did not like at all but which he tolerated because he enjoyed being in the presence of two dozen attractive coeds.

The Fat Walrus confirmed Abdul's outlandish story that the walled "fortress within the old city" was indeed a place "where slave girls of all sorts are bid on, and examined, and bought and sold, in an open market, the same way one might buy a scarf, or a goat, or a necklace of beads."

"It is an active wholesale market," he explained, "although wealthier retail buyers also favor it, for its position on the coast allows it to sell girls of all nationalities and races, and export them easily."

As he spoke of all nationalities and races his eyes turned to Julie, our Danish princess, Suki, our very smart and rather shy Japanese entry, and Maria, who was of Hispanic descent. Suki, as was her tendency when addressed in such a way, blushed and looked away.

The girls told The Old Walrus about Abdul's plan to take them to the market on Halloween in the guise of slaves, so that they could see the slave trade first hand. Indeed several of the girls had been altering their lingerie, and making veils, in their ever competitive attempt to be the most alluring slave girl at the market, and win their internal contest for "best bid" and "best Halloween costume." Naturally my clotheshorse troop pressed The Fat Walrus for details about the latest in slave girl fashions.

Colonel Whither laughed so hard at their questions snuff blew out of his nose and stained his white mustache. "Oh, the slave girl Halloween costumes are quite wonderful, and I would very much enjoy seeing you girls dressed in them. Indeed, I would be happy to judge your costume contests, if the bidders do not."

"What are they like?" Jessica said.

"Yes, what colors do they use?" Sophie asked.

At this the fat man laughed uproariously, and slapped his knee, much to the girl's frustration, for they wanted the details and didn't like being made sport of.

"The colors I see here!" he said, laughing. "Yellow," he said, pointing at Suki's face, "gold", he said, pointing at Brittany's blonde hair, and, pointing at me, "red."

The Colonel reached out and touched my auburn hair, curling it between his fingers. I literally stopped breathing as he ran his fingers through my red locks as if he had every right to do so.

"I've always liked redheads," he said, clearly enjoying the touch of my hair. "You have lovely auburn hair, and cute freckles, and a beautiful, sensual mouth," he said, licking his lips in a way that was truly disgusting.

The girls were not impressed by his flirtations.

"Tell us, you Fat Old Walrus!" Taylor insisted. "Tell us now!"

"We're not hear to see you get drunk, stroke Suzanne's hair and stuff your piggy face," Jessica added.

"Yes, what are our costumes like?"

"No, tell us which costumes are the prettiest?"

At this he nearly keeled over in spasms of laughter. When he was at last capable of speaking he said simply, "The costumes are quite beautiful. Indeed, they are as beautiful as you are. For you see, ladies, as slave girls you would each be brought to market in the costumes that God gave you."

"You mean, like, butt NAKED?" Sophie said, blushing. I knew it couldn't have been entirely a surprise that she might be auctioned naked, for she had discussed as much with Julie. However the confirmation, and the fact that they would travel to market absolutely naked, was still a shock.

"Not entirely naked," the Colonel allowed, in a tone that suggested he was discussing last night's cricket scores. "You would probably wear chains or cuffs or such, and be fettered in some way. Otherwise you would be quite naked, as natured intended beautiful young women such as yourself to be," he added with a leer.

"You are such a disgusting fat pig, Walrus," Patrice said.

"Oink, Oink!" Stephanie added.

"Would I get to wear high heels, at least?"

At this the Colonel laughed again, and downed another shot.

"No, my dears, no shoes. Slave girls go to market absolutely naked, and must walk the dirty streets barefoot. A slave girl on her way to market must feel helpless, and vulnerable, for that increases her beauty."

"It's psychological conditioning," Julie said. "Being barefoot makes the girl feel powerless and defenseless."

"Exactly," the Walrus agreed. "It is the way of things. The institution of slavery is most ancient, and it is important that the slave girl experience that sense of tradition. She must feel the dirt between her toes, and the little pebbles dig into her feet, and know that as unique as her shame and humiliation might seem to her she is treading the same weary path that countless slave girls have trod before her."

"I'm special!" Taylor huffed.

"You are indeed," the Walrus agreed. "Here, in this hotel, you are a sophisticated and wealthy young lady wearing the latest in Western in fashions. But chained in a slave coffle you'd simply be naked pussy on your way to market."

"Taylor's twat for sale! Taylor's twat for sale!" Stephanie said in a singsong voice.

Although Suki was clearly shocked at the idea of being exhibited naked in the slave market I must confess that I was not. Abdul had hinted for several days "the goods must be seen to be sold."

During our visit to the animal auction he dryly noted that, "Goats and sheep own nothing, and wear nothing." His meaning was both obscure and clear.

It wasn't shocking when he was talking about goats and after several days of such conversation it somehow didn't seem shocking when he talked about girls. As with everything Abdul said the idea was slowly introduced until it seemed quite natural.

Still, there was a difference here, a difference Julie was quick to note. "You said brought to market. That means we'd be naked not just on the auction block, but the whole time, when we were being led through the streets?"

"With all those filthy black beggars in the street WATCHING us?" Taylor said.

"Yes, everyone would enjoy your Halloween costumes, from the richest sheiks to the lowliest beggars," the Colonel replied.

"So our Halloween costumes would be nothing, then?" Brittany asked.

"Yes," the Walrus said, pausing for moment to reward himself by sticking his fat finger into his nose for another disgusting snort of snuff, "nothing but your bare skin. It is the tradition, and in the slave market, tradition is everything. Slave girls are paraded to market quite naked."

He paused for another hit of snuff. "Except, perhaps, for their master's mark."

"A mark? Taylor asked? You mean, like a tag?"

At this the Colonel laughed again, and I was once again treated to the disgusting site of the snuff spraying out toward me.

"Or a tattoo?" Stephanie asked.

The Colonel laughed harder at this, slapping his thigh in approval at the girl's amusing mistakes. "Sometimes, a tattoo" the Colonel allowed, "but it is believed that the legal, aesthetic, and psychological benefits of branding female slaves far outweigh the artistic advantages of tattoos. My, this is excellent brandy, particularly for this part of the world. Could you be a dear and pour me some more?"

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