When she was three, they took away her mother because she was a ‘witch’. She remembers the mute acceptance on her mother’s face, as if that ridiculous accusation had been expected for a long time.
Four, and she remembers waking up in cold sweat, desperately clawing through the covers to touch her older sister, making sure she hasn’t been taken away as well. She remembers her father’s sad eyes resting much too often on her, his even sadder remarks that she looked so much like her mother.
Five, and she remembers the thrill she felt on healing an injured fawn. She’d cleaned the wounds and applied some medicinal leaves, and a few weeks later the creature was bounding about like normal. She remembers her sister’s eyes widening in surprise and the fervent whispers to keep it a secret.
Six, and she’d made a practice of tending to injured animals. They appeared to seek her out now, and though her sister disapproved, now and then a soft smile would grace her face as she watched over her.
Ten, and she stayed awake long enough to hear her father and sister argue over a marriage. Sister wanted nothing to do with the man father had suggested, and for good reason. Most of the animals that had crawled over to seek help had shared horror stories of that man, how he found joy in the spilling of blood and needless murder. She’d found it fitting to warn sister, and she’d believed her.
Twelve, and she woke up to find her neighbour wailing in grief. His wife had given birth, she was dying and the doctor was nowhere to be found. She remembers rushing out in the dark, herbs in hand and pushing aside concerned onlookers to get to the bleeding woman. The recovery was fast- it’d taken just a few days.
Five days later, the soldiers had come to her doorstep again. She remembers hugging her sister tight, fearing she’d be taken away, like mother. Instead, it was her slight frame that was pulled out of the house. She watched her sister break down and her father retreat indoors. She watched the very woman she had saved, hiding behind a soldier and regard her as something putrid.
In the cells, they called her a witch. No woman can become a healer, they argued, and hence she was no human.
Thirteen, and she caught the eye of the Crown Prince. She was given sweets, fruit and the gift of companionship- something that brought joy back to her heart, until one day the Prince put his hand up her thigh and she pushed him away. His whole demeaner changed at once, his eyes no longer gentle but ferocious, dark with lust and wrath.
The next day she was tied to a stake, surrounded by people staring at her expectedly. She felt naked under their scrutinizing gaze.
The soldiers came forward once again, reciting her “crimes”.
They explained how she’d used witchcraft to rule over the animals, how her presence had caused her neighbours’ baby to be stillborn and how she had used her powers to dissuade her sister from marrying a respectable man.
Last, they spoke of how she’d made a pact with the devil and tried to seduce the Prince while he was making rounds in the prison. The people started getting agitated as the tale reached its end, muttering slurs and looking at her with ill-disguised disgust.
“The poor prince” they cried.
“Yet her charms didn’t work- he remained honourable”
Her tongue had been cut off earlier, but even otherwise she knew she could do little to persuade them. The Prince himself was there, amidst fluttering ladies who pounced on him to express their astonishment at the witch’s actions and pleasure that he had remained unsullied.
The first rock was thrown by the man her sister was to marry. “Repent!” He cried, sneering.
“Repent!” “Repent” “Repent”
The chant carried over through the mob as they all took turns to pelt her with stones.
Though the blood almost blocked her vision, she managed to see the Prince being offered a stone, but denying because no matter what he couldn’t hurt a woman.
She saw her sister look at her, confused now, probably wondering if she was indeed under the enchantment of her younger sister.
She saw her father stare shell-shocked, then bend down to pick up a stone.
She saw the woman who’s life she had saved pick up a particularly sharp rock, screaming at her to bring back her child.
Repent. Repent. Repent.
Her vision went blank, tears and blood mixing together to decorate her tender body as she screamed aloud for her mother.
Repent. Repent. Repent.
Skin ripped as gigantic white wings rose out of her body. They flapped once, twice.
And then the angel returned to the sky.
So recently I’d been reading about the Salem witch trials. I grew obsessed with it, in fact, and HAD to write a story in order to let it pass.