Content warning for racism, oppression, and intergenerational trauma.
by Melody Gordon
The airplane hatch opened and the Pearsons, with guns on their hips and jetpacks on their backs, gathered as a family to look out at the plantation.
They were flying low to the ground. Too low. The hot air whipped at their jumpsuits and the ground rushed underneath them at a frightening speed. Danielle, the youngest and smallest Pearson, stood between her father and her big brothers who were glued to the floor like big brown pillars, watching the scene blur past. Danielle was shaking and sweating everywhere, from the bandana holding her braids back all the way down to the soles of her feet.
“Before we go, I have one more thing.” Their therapist, Dr. Greenwood, said, projecting her voice over the wind. She stood behind them in a jumpsuit with a jetpack but no weapon. A shovel protruded from the top of her backpack and over her shoulder. “We’re only a few seconds away from the fields.”
Danielle watched Vann, her eldest brother, grip the side of the hatch. Quincy, her second eldest brother, held the rectangle-shaped DNA reader with a trembling hand.
“Everyone has a very important role. Remember, once we get down there and the clock starts ticking, we have one shot. That’s it.”
How could she forget? They’d talked about nothing else for the last 72 hours. Danielle knew her job: She was responsible for the container in her hands, a two-gallon glass cylinder with a metal lid that would soon be filled with the spirit of one of their ancestors. Danielle’s job was arguably the most important job of all. More important than Dad and Vann’s job to protect them from Forresters. More important that Quincy’s job to find their ancestor. If Danielle failed, they all failed.
“If you need me, I’ll be right next to you. Reach out. Ask for help. Try not to panic.”
Her brothers couldn’t take their eyes off the ground. She looked over at her father as he clenched and unclenched his jaw. She glanced backwards at Dr. Greenwood, the only one with a smile on her face.
“No matter what happens down there,” Dr. Greenwood said. “I’m proud of each and every one of you for making it this far.”
Their trainer shouted from the front of the aircraft. “We’re here!”
Danielle blinked and the grassy green stretches of land became a fuzzy white cotton field. Overgrown rows of cotton bloomed for miles in every direction. Lights flashed on the DNA reader. They turned on their jetpacks.
“Are you ready?” Dr. Greenwood asked.
“Yeah,” said the Pearson children.
Their father stepped to the edge. He put his hand over the push-to-start accelerator on his shoulder strap. “Let’s go, y’all.”
And he jumped.
The $3,500 package included travel expenses, lodging, equipment, a DNA test, basic survival training, journals, food, drink, and unlimited sessions with licensed professional psychotherapist Dr. Keisha Greenwood. It was a four-day therapeutic retreat with the Excavation scheduled for the third day. There were photos–so many photos–of people leaping off planes, women wiping their eyes with tissues, men running across fields with guns on their hips,
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