Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1517277-Burning
by Kenzie
Rated: 13+ · Fiction · History · #1517277
Historical short story occurring during the time of the Salem witch hunts.
Featured in January 2009 Noticing Newbies Newsletter.

The rise of the angry voices bit into the cold night as their cheers and jeers swirled around my head, excitement burning in their eyes. Burning. How ironic that their expressions should be a metaphor for my soon-to-be physical state. But was it? Was that the true irony of my situation? That I can see the fire of determination burning in their eyes? Or was it the fact that I had been one of them not so long ago?

I had gone from being one of the hunters to one of the hunted. All of the good I had done….or that I thought I had done….was easily forgotten by them. Lies. Trickery. Deceit. All words used to explain my past actions that had once been welcomed in this flea-ridden settlement of Salem.

My eyes searched the crowd, for what, I don’t know. Pity? Sympathy? No, I knew those didn’t exist here. But now I couldn’t help but find myself searching for that unfamiliar recognition in someone’s eye, the knowledge that they were making a mistake.

Through my searching, a pair of emerald green eyes in the face of a young girl of about twenty-one caught my attention. Her blank stare reflected the vibrant tongues of fire from the dozen torches dancing in front of them. She appeared to be the only one in the crowd who didn’t seem to be enjoying the spectacle. My spectacle.

And it was then that I recognized the familiar look on her face. Not sympathy, but guilt. I froze for one moment, a flash of anger spreading through my body, but then it passed just as quickly as it had appeared. I could not be angry at her. How could I be angry when I had been forced to hide that expression so many times before?

I had only done what anyone else would have done. Well, maybe not anyone. But in these desperate times, if you didn’t fight for your life, it could be gone in the blink of an eye. I understood. I knew all too clearly how quickly someone’s life could change. I had been the cause of it more times than I would dare count, but if it was going to be my life versus theirs, I couldn’t turn my back on myself.

I understood, now more than ever, how one whisper, one rumor, one minuscule, insignificant comment, can send a life whirling out of orbit.

I suddenly recalled the one time I had not been able to hide the guilt in my eyes. I couldn’t forget it if I tried. And I didn’t try. Not now. I let the memory flood my senses, blue eyes from my past resurfacing in my mind, staring back at me in bewilderment with water brimming around the edges.  Her golden blond hair lay a tangled mess around her tear-stained cheeks as her tiny body shook out of fear.

Why? She couldn’t say the word. She had lost the strength to speak, but her trembling lips formed the word as she refused to break her stare with me. 

Then the flaming torch dropped to her feet, and I turned my back on her, my sister. I turned my back to her pain and did everything in my power to block out her screams. Not anymore. I no longer tried to block out her screams as the vivid memory relived itself in my head. I could no longer block out anything.  The rough rope that kept me secured to the tall post caused the delicate skin around my wrists to break, while a few men mercilessly scattered the last of the straw, hay, and twigs around my feet.

I could now hear the words that were being shouted into the night, though I already knew what they would be.

“Kill the witch!”

“Burn her!”





They began chanting in unison, “Witch! Witch! Witch!”

A large man with a stern gaze stepped toward me, approaching my stage of glory and raising his torch high into the black night.

“Witch! Witch! Witch,” they all continued to chant.

I knew the routine. I didn’t want to listen to it again, for the last time. Instead I closed my eyes and traveled back in time to the pasture behind my home. I was running, chasing a head of golden blond hair. When she turned around, her vivid blue eyes sparkled in the sunlight, and she smiled. Waving her arm for me to catch up, she turned her back and continued to run barefoot across the soft, green grass.

I could feel the wind whipping through my hair as I chased her, and the intense heat of the summer sun beat down on my back, burning my tanned skin. Burning…..

I’ll see you soon, Bethany.
© Copyright 2009 Kenzie (dark_rose222 at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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