Mon. Jun 24th, 2024

I had 48 hours to write this and the prompts were…

Magical Realism – Walking Away For Good – Poignant

“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”

Witchfinder General Justin Benham took his oath seriously. He travelled with his henchmen by horse and went town to town, putting women to question. Accusations reached his ears with every fresh border he crossed.

           “The milk has soured!”

           “The crops are failing!”

           “I saw her dancing naked in the woods!”

           For a small levy, he’d render a legal and binding judgement on the accused. But there were poignant moments when Justin thought about walking away from this righteous path. He’d put many a witch to death, and because they couldn’t prevent their demise, they were posthumously declared innocent. It weighed heavy on his soul, and he flagellated himself nightly as penance.

An angry mob formed in the next town he visited. They pulled Abigail Cook out of her bed and threw her into the dirt before Justin and his men. With her tear-soaked face illuminated by torchlight, Justin loomed over as a shadow and asked,

           “Have you made a covenant with the devil, child?”

           Abigail put her hands together in prayer.

           “I love only God.”

           Justin straightened.

           “Who will stand witness? Speak your truth and have it heard before Christ.”

           An elderly woman stepped out from the crowd.

           “I saw her talking back to her husband as he beat her for disobedience. Her sharp tongue caused him to fall ill the next day, and a week later, he died.”

           Justin’s face turned gravely serious.

           “Do you confess to this act of witchcraft?” he asked Abigail, but she only sobbed and babbled something under her breath.

           “She’s speaking in tongues!” one of the townspeople cried.

           “If you won’t confess, then we’ll have to put your innocence to the test.”

           The mob marched Abigail to the nearest lake, pelting her with rotten fruit they accused her of spoiling. They tied her to a chair with a weight fixed to her chest. Justin stood before her with a bible held over his heart.

           “This is your last chance for absolution.”

           Abigail stopped crying. She looked furious, and the townspeople shrunk back as she glared at each of them.

           “I’ve done you no wrong.”

           Justin looked disappointed.

           “So be it. Only God can judge you now. We will cast you into the lake, and if you drown, we will know of your innocence and pray for forgiveness. But if you float, we will know you are the witch you’re accused of being. Throw her in!”

           She screamed when she hit the water, but soon the screams bubbled under.

A minute passed.

Three minutes.

Four.

Nothing.

Another dead, innocent girl. Justin would walk away. He’d settle down somewhere, build a homestead, and…

Abigail surfaced. Floating. Dripping wet. Angry. It was the turn of the townspeople to suffer as they coughed up water and drowned on dry land. The Witchfinder found a genuine witch at long last but would never live to find another. He got to walk away from the life after all.

Straight to Satan’s embrace.

By Michael