A Witch's Tale

Anna-Rose lives in a Puritan town in the 1600's America. Uniform and conforming to a set model is essential, for those who break the rules and cling to their pagan belifs must do so in the cloak of night, in secrecy, when silence is broken, all hell breaks loose

Her brown eyes glimmered brightly as they captured one of the few rays of light that were allowed in by the drab windows of the Presbyterian Church. The reverend mumbled on, glorifying the Christian God from behind a bare altar, no flowers, no candles, not even any statues, not in a Presbyterian Church. Nothing was permitted that might distract from prayer. But Anna-Rose’s mind was far from the altar as her hand rested on her well concealed bump. Beside her, her mother raised her head pretending to pray, her mouth making the shapes of all the words but none were given the life of sound. Anna-Rose sighed as she resisted the urge to scratch her head, the bonnet that was restricting her auburn hair itched something fierce, but she had been told off enough times by her mother to know that scratching ones head in public wasn’t very lady-like. She hated living in the Puritan town in Salem County, but she knew she would hate starving in the wilderness even more.

Her eyes passed over the rest of the congregation, falling upon the handsome face of one Jonathan Squire. She couldn’t help but smile, and even after all this time she couldn’t stop her cheeks from flushing rosy as his grey eyes met hers. Her heart still pitter-pattered at the sight of the father of her unborn child. They were to be married in a month, and until then Anna-Rose would continue wearing many layers, and eat very little, in an attempt to hide her ever growing bump from the town’s people, even though on this fresh spring morning the extra layers made her more than a little uncomfortable, and she was more than a little famished. She allowed her gaze to linger on Jonathan a little longer, taking in his long wavy dark hair that came down to his shoulders, his dazzling grey eyes and his charming smile, before moving onto the scrawny figure of Samantha Hart. Samantha’s beady eyes glared at Anna-Rose as her features twisted into a wicked smirk, a smirk that made Anna-Rose’s blood run cold, a smirk of knowing.

“There is a witch amongst us!” boomed the voice of the reverend as his heavy fist pounded down onto the altar. Anna-Rose sat more upright, but tried to stop her face from betraying the terror she was feeling inside, she could feel her mother beside her tense up as the congregation broke into fear-filled whispers. “There is a witch amongst us!” He repeated and his flock were silenced. “At this very moment she sits in our midst, before our all seeing God, trying to hide her shame!” His eyes locked on Anna-Rose’s and she didn’t dare break his gaze. The sermon was interrupted by a shrieking cry of pain. It echoed off the walls of the church as Samantha flung herself from where she was sitting onto the ground, clutching her head in her thin, talon-like hands, shrieking as though she was being burnt alive.

“It’s Anna-Rose!” Samantha shrieked hysterically. “It’s her spectre! Can’t you see it? She’s hexing me!” She cried. Anna-Rose’s jaw dropped in shock, she could see right through her act, but being exposed as a witch, by a fellow witch, by a member of her own coven, that’s what was shocking. She shook her head in disgust.

“The girl’s accusations are ridiculous!” Her mother snapped in outrage as she stood up”

“Silence! Get the girl out of the witch’s sight or I fear it will kill her” Ordered the reverend, his face, and even the top of his bald head was flushed red with anger. Two girls helped Samantha off the ground as she squirmed in their grip. Before leaving, Samantha managed to shoot Anna-Rose a smirk of accomplishment.

“I never knew she was such a talented actress” Anna-Rose mumbled bitterly, her mother elbowed her in her ribs and she bit her tongue.

“This young woman before us has been accused of using witchcraft. Just yesterday a young woman came to me, telling me that young Anna-Rose Cromwell was casting spells against her, and just now we witnessed that very girl being struck down by magic.” Anna-Rose shook her head as her world began to fall down around her, but she would not allow a single tear to fall from her eyes.

“Good reverend clearly a wise man such as yourself can see that this is just a childish squabble over a boy that got out of hand, surely you don’t believe that Samantha Hart was really struck down by a hex?” Her mother said using a soft, persuasive voice. She was the leader of their coven, she had seen this happen time and again, when a witch, weather guilty or not was accused, and it rarely ended well she knew this, but she also knew her daughter did not hex young Samantha Hart. They fled Ipswich to get away from this kind of persecution, but apparently the free world wasn’t so free after all. She looked like an older version of Anna-Rose, a young widow of forty, but she lacked that spark, that intensity, power and passion that Anna-Rose held in her eyes, instead her eyes looked sad, as though they had seen far too many sad sights to ever have that sparkle again.

“It would be unnatural for a mother to think otherwise Mrs Cromwell; a mother often refuses to see evil in their child.” The reverend said in an even tone, dismissing her argument.

“It’s all an act! I did not hex Samantha Hart, she is just jealous that I am promised to Jonathan Squire in marriage!”

“It’s a bit extreme don’t you think? To accuse a woman of witchcraft; that could very well get her hanged, over a man?”

“She is infatuated with him, enamoured! There is nothing that she wouldn’t do to get her talons on Jonathon.” Her cheeks were red with fury. She quickly scanned the church again, but Jonathon had vanished.

“I saw her bathing sky-clad in the river!” called an unknown voice from the back of the church.

“And I suppose you bathe fully clothed?” She shot back.

“I’ve seen her go out to the forest at night!”

“She took the devil to her bed”

“I heard she signed her name in the Black Man’s book!”

“She slaughtered my chickens!” More and more accusations piled up against her, coming from people she didn’t even know. Outrageous accusations at that, she was blamed for Mr Gallagher’s cow giving birth to a two headed calf, and for Mrs Miller’s five year old son not being able to talk. Anna-Rose could not believe it, she was all of sixteen years of age and her life was already slipping from her fingertips. She had not once harmed any of these people, with or without magic. In fact at times she had helped many of the people in this town with her gift. But now they had all turned on her in fear. It’s human nature to fear what one doesn’t understand. She kept her lips firmly sealed as two men grasped her arms. Just yesterday she was just a normal girl to the town, she was just the only daughter of the widow Cromwell, and now she was a witch with her very own lynch mob.

The men tied her hands behind her back, fearing she would use them to hex someone else. She kept her head held high as she was marched from the church; she met the gaze of each and every one of the onlookers. In her last moments she would not beg or grovel for mercy, she would look her killer in the eye, and her killer just happened to be the whole town. She looked up at the men who escorted her through the streets to the town square. She recognised one of them. Last year she had assisted his wife while she was in labour, she had even breathed life back into the new born infant’s lungs. She knew her good deed didn’t go forgotten as the man couldn’t bear to meet her eyes. Straight away she was guided up the steps of the town gallows, and despite everything that was happening around her she couldn’t help but wonder where Jonathon was, why wasn’t he trying to help her? And then she remembered the only witch trial she had ever witnessed, back in Ipswich, none of the coven could ever speak up, it would expose the whole coven to the witch hunters, there was no hope for her now.

The sky which was a clear window of blue now was over taken by angry looking grey clouds that blotted out the sun’s light.

“It is only fair that she is tested as any other witch has been” Called the voice of the reverend as he walked up the wooden steps onto the platform. His hungry eyes stared over Anna-Rose’s body as he patted away beads of sweat from his forehead with a handkerchief. “We shall look for the witch’s mark” He announced and nodded to his men. First they removed her bonnet, letting her lustrous auburn locks fall about her shoulders. Her eyes peered out into the crowd as she caught the eye of Samantha Hart, she looked giddy and excited, but then something shocked her even more, beside her; with his arms around her waist was Jonathan. She swallowed hard as her jaw sat firmly and she blinked away the tears. They stripped away her skirts; and her many layers.

Horrified gasps came from the crowd. Anna-Rose frowned in confusion and looked down on her exposed body, and her protruding bump. She gasped, she had almost forgotten.

“She’s carrying the child of Satan!” Samantha called angrily knowing the truth of it. Jonathan’s face remained devoid of any emotion; he just remained staring at Samantha.

“This child is not the child of Satan, Satan does not exist, and he is son of man, the son of Jonathon Squire!” Anna-Rose called, her voice amplified with power. She had almost forgotten she was with child. Something had awoken in her as she felt the baby squirm inside her, the dire need to survive, to save the baby, she could not let the baby die before it even got the chance to live. She looked around her desperately. None of her coven had come forward to help her, and Jonathon was clearly in the grasp of a binding love spell.

“There, the witch’s mark! Clear as day!” The reverend called gesturing to red birthmark across her stomach; it looked like a bird in flight, its wings outstretched. Her father had always called her his little Phoenix because of it. The crowd chanted for her to be hanged; chanting that the spawn of Satan was to be killed.

Her breathing got shallow and ragged as they placed the noose around her neck. They were going to kill her baby; they were going to murder her innocent unborn child. Rage began to build up inside her. Her nostrils flared, something primal had awakened in her. Nobody was going to harm that baby. Winds picked up, tearing through the square harder and faster. The clouds rumbled as Anna-Rose’s eyes were glazed over by a screen of pure white, her baby had called the blood rage within her. She could not be stopped, and anyone who tried to stop her was sure to end up dead. Her mother gasped, she had only head of the blood rage in stories, and a witch had not been able to work such magic in centuries. Anna-Rose lifted her head as her auburn hair fell down around her shoulders glowing like a flaming mane. She let out a blood curdling scream; more animal then human and there was the booming sound of thunder, but no lightening. And she realised; she was the lightening. Just as powerful and destructive as a bolt of pure energy. The air around her rippled with her power. She leaped from the gallows, and the hanging rope snapped, she landed perfectly on the balls of her feet. She looked dangerous and primal, and oddly enough beautiful, a deadly beauty.

The town’s people advanced on her picking up anything they could find to use as a weapon. Anna-Rose pulled her hands free from there restraints easily. She flung both her arms out in front of her with another rumble of thunder and the advancing people were flung from their feet and scattered around the town square. Women and children scattered and ran from the place. It didn’t matter; Anna-Rose had no plans for them. A few of the braver men stood back up, picking up once more anything they thought might take her down. Samantha remained standing in place, muttering almost inaudible spells against Anna-Rose who just shrugged them off. The men advanced once more. Some got close enough to actually see the lightning in her eyes as she flung her arms out, with a rumble of thunder. They were sent flying, and this time they were smart enough to stay down.

The whole world seemed to dim out to Anna-Rose. It was just her and Samantha now. “You tried to kill me, you tried to get my baby killed” Anna-Rose said in a voice that could make flowing rivers freeze over. Samantha whimpered slightly but said nothing. Anna-Rose pointed one long index finger at the girl. Samantha screamed in agony as her blood vessels became visible through her skin. Each capillary was being crushed, one by one. Anna-Rose lifted her hand higher and Samantha’s feet left the ground.

“Please no- I’m sorry” She struggled to get her words out. Anna-Rose closed her fist, ripples appeared in puddles, needles fell from shaken pine trees; there was the loudest rumble yet. And with a chilling crack Samantha fell to the ground like a rag doll as all life left her body.

On the twelfth of April sixteen ninety-six; Anna-Rose was seen walking into the forest, and never again did the people of the town see her. Some say she still lives in the forest, and some swear they still hear her sobbing for her lost love at night, whereas other people say she simply had her baby and moved on to another town, not even her mother knows the true story. There is nothing more powerful than a mother's drive to protect her children.

The End

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