Excerpt from Four Dreadful Judgments, book 4 of Revelation Special Ops

Meet Kwaku, one of the characters from the upcoming installment of the Revelation Special Ops series. His story is the story of way too many children in West Africa who are forced to harvest cacao beans for chocolate. After researching his story, I changed my habits. I love chocolate, but I won’t buy it unless I know for a fact that it’s fair trade certified.

The covers 0f books 1, 2 & 3, which can be found on Amazon.com:

From Four Dreadful Judgments:

Kwaku piled into the back of an overflowing four-wheeler. None of the children looked back at him when he gazed into their faces. He hoped to find a familiar face, one person who would remind him of home. None of these hardened, angry faces held the slightest hint of familiarity.

Did he look as angry as the rest of these boys? He’d only been here two months. And every day he worked meant another day’s wages for his mother and sisters.

But at age eleven, few things frightened him more than the prospect of being as angry and bitter as most of the men from his village in the center of Cote d’Ivoire, the Ivory Coast. As angry and bitter as all the boys here.

He wanted to paint pictures and to smile and to enjoy the beauty of life.

Here in the jungle, where the monsieurs stood with wooden poles, ready to beat any who indulged in conversation or daydream, nothing seemed beautiful.

He had to get out of here soon and find his sister Yejide, who was three years older than him, only fourteen. The thought of what work she was forced to do, what must have been happening to her every day, ate away at him. Yes, he was eleven, but he wasn’t naïve. He’d seen too much already to pretend he didn’t know.

The four-wheeler jolted to a stop. One of the boys fell onto the forest floor. Thankfully, he wasn’t holding a machete. But he screamed, cradled his knee and writhed on the forest floor.

The driver hopped to the ground and, wielding his wooden pole, beat the boy. Probably not to punish him, but just get him to stand. The rest of the boys stared as if rapt in morbid fascination.

Kwaku refused to stare. Every impact made his stomach clench tighter. Watching would make him lose last night’s dinner. No way he wanted to lose his one meal for the day. He hummed a tune to himself, one he’d made up on the spot, to drown out the boy’s screams.

It was midmorning before that boy finally stopped whimpering. He still worked, limping has he dragged loads for the other boys. Part of Kwaku wished he knew the boy’s name. And part of him was glad for ignorance. He could shut off the place in his mind that screamed about injustice.

He could not shut out the screams of injustice emanating from his heart.

The midafternoon sun shining through the canopy gave a rich green hue to everything in the jungle. One day when he would be able to leave this plantation, this, dare he say, slavery, he would remember that color. One day he would be free of all the horror of this, but would remember the beautiful parts. The vibrant greens under the canopy. The distant blue sometimes visible when he climbed the trees. He would not let these colors be tainted by the cruelty of the monsieurs. They didn’t deserve that kind of power.

He tried to do most of his work early. Always in the late afternoon, when Kwaku began to shake from hunger, his work slackened and his feet dragged. When he worked hard in the morning, the shaky hours didn’t matter so much.

Kwaku jumped to the ground and assembled his fourth 100 lb load for the day. Sweat streamed from his shaved head onto the cacao beans. Hopefully, no one would actually eat these things, as Aman suggested one day. He said some call it chocolate. If they ate these, they’d be eating his own sweat, pus and blood.

The boy who’d been whimpering most of the morning suddenly screamed.

A beast unlike any Kwaku had ever seen pinned the boy to the forest floor. It was large like a lion, but also like a snake and an ostrich all at once. Its grotesque face lunged at the boy.

Berko swiped at the beast with his machete. Even though he was one of the biggest boys at the plantation, Berko was only half the size of the beast.

It reared its head and turned toward Berko. He screamed and ran, waving his machete over his head and behind his back.

The creature leapt from the first boy and scrambled through the thicket after Berko.

Kwaku ran to the first boy and helped him to his feet. The boy was scratched, and his arm was pierced, probably by the talons of that crazy animal.

The boy squeezed Kwaku’s hand, popping his blister.

Two more crazy creatures jumped out of the brush, squawking and croaking strange calls into the air. Then came the unearthly growls that sounded somewhere between metal scraping and a tree falling and crashing to the ground.

Kwaku ignored the stinging, throbbing pain in his hands. He pulled the boy away from the bazaar creatures.

Lizards. They were like giant lizards with smatterings of feathers. Ugly. Desperate. Giant. Lizards.

Kwaku ran, unwilling to look back. Unwilling to let go of the boy’s hand.

He would never, ever paint with those colors, the mud gray and iridescent green. Never.

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