I awoke in the shadow of the dawn of a brand-new day. This would be a strange day the like of which I had never had to face before.
It was such a beautiful day. It was late summer but instead of the sweet smell of the season the acrid aroma of the room filled the air around me. Outside I could hear the faint sound of sweet singing. Not birdsong. It was coming from my neighbour next door. I listened for a while until I decided it was time to prepare myself to face the ordeal that this morning would bring. The sun had risen and was sending shadows through the window and across the room.
And it is at times like these that you have a chance to pause and reflect. My life has been good life. I’ve lived it well. I’m not saying that I have never done anything wrong. I believe that anyone who thinks that is not being true to themselves. I’m not a wicked man though. Whenever possible I have followed the true way, God's way and made sure that I did good deeds and led a good life.
Neither have I done any of these terrible things that I stand accused of. Such accusations! Not only against me but also many others. They are accusations that have been made by wicked people with their own ideas and prejudices against both myself, my family and my friends. I despair at the things that have been said. We have always tried to do our best for everyone. For the community.
But I’m not bitter. I forgive them. I forgive them all.
After a short while the singing stopped. It was replaced by the sound of footsteps. Approaching. Heavy booted. And as they neared the sound of whispered voices could be heard also getting closer. I checked my clothing to make sure it was presentable. Or as presentable as could be expected in the circumstances. I straightened myself up and ran my fingers through my hair to tidy it up. Then down the lines of my face. Without a mirror it was the best I could do but on such a lovely day it was important to look one’s best. I smiled. Everything was in order.
The door opened. Two stern figures in uniform stood there scowling over towards me. They were tall and stockily built.
‘What a beautiful day’ I said cheerily breaking the short silence.
‘Not for you’ one of them replied gruffly.
I smiled again. Possibly a weak smile but a smile nonetheless. It was the best I could manage.
They walked across the room and grabbed me tightly by my arms and pushed me out of the door and into the fresh air of this new dawn. I looked up at the blue August sky and smiled once more. Though my rough treatment was causing me some pain I thought to myself how nature had dressed this morning up for a special occasion. God in all his Glory would be pleased with his work.
They frog-marched me across the square and up to where the others were waiting. I looked ahead of me and I could clearly see my step-mother and her friends had been assembled on a nearby platform. They were arranged in a line. I joined them. From that platform I looked down and across into the crowd around us that had gathered for the occasion. I could see my brother and father there looking ashen faced from what I could make out. Other friends and relatives had also turned up to witness the event.
Back in the line on the platform each of us waited in turn. When my turn came and a noose was placed around my neck from the gallows above. Then a silence.
For a moment I thought I heard birdsong. A jolt.
On 20th August 1612 John Bulcock, his step-mother and others were hanged on Gallows Hill, Lancaster. Their crime was witchcraft. They were known as the Pendle Witches.
About the auhtor
Kevin Wood is based in Basildon, Essex. He writes mainly in the noir genre. His short story collection 'The Search for Ellie Babble' should be published later this year.
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