The rains have subsided now. In the heavens clouds break apart revealing a deep azure sky. My eyes reflect azure as rough hands rip me from my garden. Down the main street with hands bound in thick iron cuffs I stride. To either side of me a faceless community watches.
“Curse thee, wicked woman!” Cries a broken hag. Her teeth crooked and mouth set against me. Others brandish torches and baskets of rotten food. They walk with us, following a step behind nervous to come any closer.
I pass by the Houlgrave’s home. All seven children rush behind their mother’s skirts. She flails a wooden ladle at me, eyes blazing, “How dare thee bring the wrath of the Almighty upon my children!”
We continue past the Mr. Laxton’s lumber yard. Nathaniel will be working today. I think. My eyes rove over stripped wood and stacked logs. Will he be there? Waiting? Watching, just like every other unenlightened cretin in this village?
Large hands push me forward as I try to pause searching for my friend. Their brut force makes my boots slide in the thick mud. I crane my neck around, failing to find him. Only more nameless, faceless shadows stare back. Nathaniel has gone.
We turn down the sloping hill onto the high street. More of my fellow villagers have come to see and share in my humiliation. Old master Loue holds something rotten in his arms. His chin quivers as our eyes meet. I try to smile, but his brown eyes, once so soft, are as hard and blank as stone.
I nod at him and look ahead down the lane. Forsake me then, friend.
To either side drab wooden structures sit nestled among the long grass. There’s the soldier’s lodge set back beyond the smithies. Jacob Thomas’s heifers lean against the far fence and beyond, the forest.
“Forward wench! Forward!” The crowd whoops and hollers behind me, pressing me toward my ruin.
We pass the chapel, with its crooked spire. Out side, waiting to join in the festivities stands Minister Hunt. Dressed in his unyielding black from head to toe he brandishes a worn bible in my face. “Thus saith The Lord: Woe unto those seized by the lying of the Damned! Secret combinations with the Devil deserve unending torment!”
Hiding a grimace, I relish for an instant in my thoughts. What a God they’ve brought here. The fools.
We continue towards the end. I walk, step after step, from my home. I move further from my true family. My true calling.
I stare at the sky, saying a last goodbye to clouds above me. My god has not forsaken me. I look to the line of the wood. To IT. For there outside is truth. In the beyond is the world. Here, near death, I am surrounded by lies and treachery.
More shouts sound as I continue my path, crossing the main square and onto the steps of the town hall. Curious that it reaches taller than the church, with a stout spire that stands erect.
A woman, Governor Newport’s wife Judith, pushes to the step below mine and spits in my face. “It was thee who brought on the plagues, the fires, and worms and rotting crops! The Devil can have thee!”
Her pig like eyes glare in triumph as her spittle runs down my face. If there could have been an enchantress in this place, it would be her. She will share my fate soon enough. They all will.
The procession halts and having a moment’s reprieve I steal a glance round the square. I taken in those who are strangers, those who were friends, and those who were no longer family.
These people have no idea what is about to happen. I am the last stone holding back the tide, if I go IT will take every last soul.
Again rough hands clamp down on my slight shoulders. I am thrust up a flight of stairs and onto a small balcony. The railing has been kicked away and lays discarded in the mud of the road.
Before me the butcher, William Rods, fastens a fraying rope to a jutting eave. William the Betrayer. He is a true butcher, a taker of life.
My life is to end soon as well, on that projection of wood. Like one of his fatted calves. Except instead of a blood slicked hook, a noose swings in the gentle afternoon breeze. Waiting for me.
“Have ye any last words oh Witch?” William Hangman asks as he lifts the rope up and around my neck. His feted breath washing over my face.
For a moment my chin quivers, but anger replaces my fear. I stare at the horizon. At the wood.
“They will never learn.”
William the Killer snorts at my words. He shakes his head and steps behind me. The time has come.
“Burn you hag.” He snarls as his hands push me into open air.