Hang the Witch
By Savannah Nelson
Claude stood in front of the jeering crowd on the frigid February morning. He watched the woman he loved being guided to the platform. The hanging noose swung indifferently in the sharp wind, beckoning to the woman--the witch. With a clench in his heart, Claude saw her face. Her jaw was rigid; her eyes hard and cold. Claude began to shake. A heavy arm crashed upon his shoulders. It was his father’s. Claude watched as the witch climbed up the platform. His breath came out in sharp thrusts.
“Mary Calamy, you have been accused of participating in forbidden rituals that are consistent with the works of the devil. For these acts, you have been proclaimed a witch. You will be executed on this day, February 15th, 1692.” The priest’s voice rose high and clear into the cool air. “Do you wish to publicly confess your sins?”
Claude drew his gaze downward, guilt tugging at his heart and blackening his mind.
“I only wish to confess the sins of others,” the woman said coolly. Claude could feel her stinging gaze upon him.
“This man.” She paused for a moment. “This man I was to marry has told disgusting lies. I am not a witch, nor have I participated in such heinous acts as he has accused me of.”
Silence hung over the crowd. Claude felt his father lift his arm off his shoulders and step forward.
“She lies! Hang the witch!” he thundered. Claude closed his eyes in despair, thinking of Mary, the woman he loved. The witch. He thought of her lovely, open face in the firelight when he first told her he loved her. He thought of his father--his idea of the accusation. It was his father who had threatened him to accuse Mary. It was his idea. Claude’s resignation to the devil himself.
A chant from the crowd brought him back from his sorrowful memories. It was low, rumbling, and song-like. “Hang the witch. Hang the witch. Hang the witch.” Claude looked at Mary. She wore her necklace of rope and stood upon a wooden crate. The executioner stood behind her.
At once, Mary looked down at Claude. Her eyes were overflowing with anger and sadness. Claude opened his mouth, ready to free the words that were caught in his throat. Then the box was kicked out from under Mary’s feet. Claude watched silently, mouth open and dry, as her feet went still.