by Gatita (Kat)
A woman from Salem, Massachusetts is hanged on charges of witchcraft.
| The sun rises on the horizon, tinting the clouds a fiery orange. I stare directly at it, refusing to allow myself to blink. This will be the last time I’ll see it, and I don’t want to miss even a split second of its beauty.
Against my will, my feet take the three inevitable steps up onto the platform The people gathered around the small wooden portal to hell are unbelievably loud and rude, but I can still make out the faint creaking of the half-rotten wood under my weight. Like a gong, the sound proclaims my imminent death to all who will listen.
A woman dressed in rags hurls an apple brown with decay at my head. Her aim is good, and the remains of it are deposited in my already putrefied hair. The stink is no doubt overwhelming, but after a week in jail smelling nothing but my own sweat and wastes, my nose detects next to nothing. I do my best not to flinch and only blink docilely in her direction, knowing that she cannot possibly humiliate me further.
Outraged by my lack of reaction, she vocalizes her anger in a long, ear-splitting screech. My hands automatically reach up to my ears, but are stopped by the ropes that bind them firmly to each other. I am forced to endure her screaming until she pauses for breath, leaving my ears ringing.
Surely, after such a performance she should be arrested as a witch, as I was. But no, no one even seems to notice. The low buzz of conversation resumes, quickly followed by more hurled insults. I take it all quietly, knowing that any reply on my part would be pointless.
It is so easy to slip into my own thoughts, but these are even more depressing than horrible reality. The face of my baby daughter is infused upon my mind. Will she remember me as the mother I always wanted to be to her? Or will she not remember me at all? I hope desperately that she will not be treated as I was, an outcast of “correct” society because of her lineage. I only wanted the best for her… But now my hopes are reduced to nothing. I wonder dimly if she will even survive without me to tend her.
A burlap sack, even filthier than I am, is roughly thrust onto my head, blocking out all traces of light and severing my thoughts. I nearly vomit from the smell, even stronger than my own body odor. My eyes begin to water, but whether from fear or the stench of the onions I cannot tell. Giddy with the fumes, I wonder if Hell smells like rotten onions.
I feel myself shaking in fear at the sudden but true realization that this is the end. Valiantly I try to stop the trembling that threatens to overtake me. I focus all my attention on my hands and discover that I can control them to a degree. But control over my own reactions will not give me control over anything else that is happening.
The voice of the man – a priest, I suppose – haranguing the crowd yanks me from my thoughts. He lists my offenses, all of which God and I know are false – witchcraft, dealings with the devil, the list goes on and on. I am nothing but a scapegoat to them.
As his voice drones on indefinitely, I sense another man coming up behind me. He takes the heavily knotted noose and slips it over my cloth-covered head. My heart pounds as if it is planning to leap from my chest, and my hands begin to shiver uncontrollably again. I can nearly feel my soul straining at its bindings, knowing that it shall no longer be held a prisoner in my body.
My tortured mind recalls a short phrase from the twenty-third Psalm. The valley of the shadow of death. That is my destination. What is that fabled place like? Is it beautiful? Terror-filled? Is it the road to Heaven or the road to Hell?
Despite myself, I nearly break out laughing. This is foolishness, to think of death in my last moments of life! Instead, I should be praying for God to save me and my pathetic soul.
But I know deep down that He won’t do it. This is my fate, to die for a crime I would never dream of committing. Neither God nor my prosecutors care that I am innocent. I would die the same death were I guilty.
Suddenly the priests’ words die off into unbroken, horrible silence, and I know that this is it. There are no ceremonial words murmured, no potent prayers to assist me to Heaven. Everyone knows they would do no good; my fate is Hell.
As if time has slowed down just for me, I feel the platform slowly slither out from beneath my questing feet. I gasp for one last breath, struggle to hold it in my lungs as my entire body weight is suddenly thrown onto my neck.
For a moment that seems to last a lifetime, I hang by my fingernails onto the thin line between life and death. My grip weakens, and I feel my soul – my self – break free from the prison that is my body.
I rise above all, paying no mind to them whatsoever, and flee to the arms of my Savior, to be escorted to the place where I can gaze at last up at the face of my Master.