Weird Tales Contest Entry January 2020
|Samantha craned her neck, straining the already sore muscles, trying to see her last sunset. The last bit of beauty before they strung her up by that same neck.
The scaffold, the tool of her eminent demise, stood dauntingly close to her prison. A mild scare tactic, still wanting a confession before they killed her.
And kill her they would, with or without a confession. At the break of dawn she was to be taken from this dank cell; led up the dark stairwell; dragged by her tied hands to the scaffold; shoved up the creaky wood stairs; stood on the trapdoor whilst they attached rough strong rope around her neck; made to stand there in terrified readiness as they read the numerous charges; unable to speak past the lump of dread lodged in her throat when asked if she had any last words; then after an interminable wait during which her friends and neighbors would throw taunts and sometimes stones in her direction; the lever would be pulled and she would plummet to her death.
She had seen it done to others, the death always the same. The horror of it unsettling. Never had she considered that one day it would be her turn.
Isabel. The dreaded little harpy and her crew of mindless groupies. Samantha would be their fifth victim. Their cries of witchcraft. Their artfully faked impressions of one possessed. They have been skillfully eliminating all of their competition one by one.
The tortures had been endless and beastly. The questions always wanting the same answer. Her persistence in maintaining her innocence had not earned her a reprieve, only more brutish and onerous torture.
She rubbed her temple which still throbbed from the last of their attempts at gaining a confession. The throbbing kept time with the memory of the two long days of water dripping onto her head.
The cruel irony of it all was that to prove you were not a witch you had to die. In the deranged minds of her tormentors a witch cannot be killed. And yet, in all the these many years of senseless murders, not one has survived. Not one witch, ever. Still the killings continued.
A weighty sigh escaped her dry cracked lips just as there was a clanging at her cell door.
The heavy door creaked open. Mother scurried in, the door shut and locked behind her. How she had gained a one on one with her condemned daughter was just another of Mother's many secrets.
Once again she was subjected to pokes and prods, this time with caring hands, and bombarded with questions born out of love instead of malice.
Mother gently placed a healing salve on the horribly burned soles of Samantha's feet as she plied her with questions. Not questions of innocence, questions of what kinds of hurt and where to apply the salve. Mother's salve healed the most stubborn of injuries in a very short amount of time, a recipe handed down through many generations, a secret recipe. A secret Samantha had not yet been privy to, and now she never would.
With the nursing done Mother sat beside her on the rough hewn bench that also served as a bed. Mother held her close as she whispered a tale into her ear. A very strange tale. Yet at the end of the telling Samantha knew it to be true, outlandish, but true nonetheless.
Mother stood to leave and placed a clump of myrrh in Samantha's hand and a soft kiss on the top of her head. The monstrous cell door creaked open again and Mother left as quickly as she had come.
Samantha barely noticed Mother's leave taking. Her mind struggling with the memories that had been unleashed by Mother's tale. She remembered the struggle to live. The pain of abandonment. The loss of family. Then came Mother.
Mother had gently picked up the injured baby bat and taken it home to apply the healing salve to the damaged wing. Then she had done the unthinkable. Mother, with the use of her many secrets and potions, had transformed that baby bat into a human child about five years old and named her Samantha. All of Mother's secrets are actually just one, she is a witch.
Samantha is not even human. The myrrh that Mother had given her would transform her back into a bat. Once transformed Samantha could escape out the window. Then she would have to make a choice, rejoin her bat family or meet up with Mother and be Samantha once more. Mother was on the westward trail, not too far yet, making her way to someplace new. A place where the notion of witchcraft does not destroy the intellect. A place where people were still sane.
Her mind settled. There really was no question about what she would do. The myrrh didn't taste very good, so she did her best to just swallow it without much chewing. Her bat family had abandoned her to die when she had been injured by that owl, she had no reason or desire to rejoin them. Mother loved her, had given her a human form, had saved her from certain death, she would return to her.
But first there was the matter of Isabel.
Samantha landed softly on the window sill and waddled between the bars. As she took to the air with her powerful wings she wondered if Isabel was afraid of bats.
Word count = 912