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TRUE TALES OF THE SIDE SHOW: The Cannibal King - Trickle of Consciousness — LiveJournal
From the memoirs of Terrance Rhodes, "radical" education activist best known for establishing schools for African American children in the states of Missouri, Mississippi, and Arkansas as far back as the 1920's…

There are days when I fear my project may never truly succeed. It seems for every school that manages to find roots, there are half a dozen more which shrivel and die (or, let us be honest, are burned to the ground). Little, Missouri obviously hasn't been the first place where my project has seen opposition, but I daresay I shan't forget the events which have surrounded the founding of this particular schoolhouse.

The community initially responded as I've become accustomed: education is something for which only the White mind has a predilection, goes the reasoning, and thus nothing but 'uppity notions' are to be gained by trying to educate young Negroes. As before, however, some brave parents and children saw fit to give me a try. I set up a half-dozen homemade desks in the abandoned church near the edge of the forest (I've grown to be quite the carpenter after all this time, it seems).

My small handful of students were timid, at first, but soon took to my curriculum with abandon. So much so that I had even begun to make inquiries to find a permanent teacher to take over the classes when I moved on to the next town. I was on my way back from a meeting with one such prospect when I happened upon one of my students, young Master Brandon, being accosted by a small pack of agitated White men his own age. I would rather prefer not to transcribe the specifics of their taunts other than to make clear they were none too happy with the notion of Brandon or any of his contemporaries rising above their current stations in life.

I was about to intercede myself when another student, Jacob, arrived from the other direction.

"You better watch out," he told them. "You keep picking on Negroes, and the Cannibal King's gonna hunt you down," he said. The small mob seemed to chitter amongst itself a moment before one of them managed to ask just who this mystery King might be.

Without missing a beat, my young pupil launched into a tale spawned from the fear and mystery the locals clearly have of those with roots in the so-called Darkest Continent. From its deepest jungles, he explained, comes the immortal Cannibal King. Draped in the pelt of a leopard slain with his bare hands, the skull of the first child he murdered hangs at his belt, and his own flesh has fallen away from his face as the price of the dark powers with which he holds congress.

The Professor attempts a rendering based on his pupil's description...

Woe betide those who threaten his descendents, Jacob warned, for the Cannibal King guards them against all threats. Once he has marked you, there is no escape. There is only the hunt, and your vicious, painful death, and then the Cannibal King feasts upon your flesh, sucking your bones dry.

"His years in the jungle taught him to hide in any shadow," Jacob finished, "to stalk like a panther or a lion, and you won't see or hear him until he's already leaping out at you when you're alone, and then he won't stop 'til he runs you to ground."

The White children expressed their doubts, but did suddenly find themselves remembering that they needed to run home. I would normally have expected such a story would only work the once, and soon enough the boys would regain their hate-filled courage and begin the taunting again.

But the next morning, Little was atwitter with a gossip of dread. It seems each of the boys who had taunted young Brandon and Jacob had awoken to discover a small skull hung before his window. The local mortician confirmed the skulls to be human, but the cemeteries were entirely undisturbed, so no one could quite explain the origin of the skulls.

When I discovered that I must improvise my lesson on the human skeletal system due to the loss of some physical learning aides, well, the local White populace had made it quite clear that I had nothing to teach them. Who was I, with my uppity notions, to argue?

A quiet foreboding seemed to take the town after that, as the Negro citizens of Little suddenly found themselves, if not accepted, at the very least given a respectable space within which to conduct their lives: to shop, work, and—of course—attend the small school at the edge of town.

Who or what is The Cannibal King? A force of nature? A protector spirit? Explore his secrets April 24 - May 5 at The Players Theatre!

Previous entries in the series:
The Fortune Teller

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