“The town is too big to search together,” Leila says, “I presume you are already familiarized with the town and Yanira’s house, let us split the search. Look for a dim and neglected-looking house, but at the same time grand in appearance. There are many around town but don’t let all of them fool you, we are looking for one that has heavy drapes covering the windows.”
I record her words mentally, trying not to forget the details. “Okay, got it.”
“Good, see you tonight at Yanira’s house, when the sun is no longer in the sky,” Leila waves slightly and disappears around a corner.
I stalk off through the streets, in search of that window. People rush past around me, ignoring the non-existent figure I am. I have to admit it almost feels good not to be noticed and judged. The houses’ monotony is repetitive and the misery dwells in the streets are foreboding. The more I think about it, the more I am sure that this is the perfect place for Drey to hide. People have become wary among themselves ever since the tales of the witches began. Women are treated unjustly in this town, and some treated them in revere for fear of their witchcraft. Ignorance will be the end of us.
Piercing cries catches my attention; I quickly sprint toward the nature of the commotion. Bystanders are already assembling around the steps of a house, whispering and cursing among themselves. Two officers are dragging a wailing woman out of her house, treating her like a beast rather than the human being she was.
“Please, please let me go!” she cries, “I swear I’m not a witch, please let me go back to my children! They need their mom, please! There is no one to care for them, their father abandoned us. Please!” She struggles against the iron-clad hands seizing her by the arm.
“Be quiet witch,” one of the officers landed a fist on her head to silence her. The harsh blow causes her to close her mouth as she was forcefully being drag out of her house. Children cries are heard from the inside of the house, calling for their mother. “Out of the way!” the officer barks at the throng of people as they made their way down the steps. “Whoever dare stand in the way will suffer this witch fate.” There is a sneer of satisfaction in his voice as the crowd parted.
Anger boils inside me, but I can do nothing in the current state I am in. Defiant of their threats, I stand in the middle of their path. I see their bodies passing through mine like walking against a thin wall of air. I clench my hands and land a fist on the back of the head of one of the officers. Nothing, I grit my teeth and feel powerless. I could’ve spared another innocent life from the smoldering flames.
“What a calamity, how bold of that woman to devote herself to witchcraft!” I hear one woman exclaim indignantly, “she deserves death.”
“Poor children, they are left alone in this world with shame in their hearts,” another voice says, “to know their mother was impure would devastate their poor little hearts and they will fall into an ill state of mind.”
“Well deserve!” the first woman spoke, “the children of such creatures deserve nothing less.”
“Shut up!” I hiss, knowing they cannot hear me. “I am tired of hearing you talk nonsense!” Memories drifts me back to my acclaimed years as a witch hunter, back then, I heard these same comments but took them as praise, a compliment for my contribution in eradicating the filth from humanity. I was wrong.
The crowd disintegrates completely, leaving me alone. I watch the inside of the house with pity and compassion, wondering what would be the future of these children who are now cowering in the corner of their dingy house. To grow up in fear and hatred of everything is wrong and demeaning to the soul. I close my eyes and continue walking on, wishing everything would finish soon.
The news that a new witch is found shakes the entire community, soon people start gathering around in groups, discussing the latest arrest done by the officers. Surely, the woman will be brought to court and judge accordingly, and tomorrow she will be burn in the stake. Some people are excited for tomorrow’s “grand event” for morbid and unrealistic reasons. They are sickening.
Fury instills in my heart with every remark and comments I hear about the subject, none of the comments have compassion or sympathy in them, much less are they contradictory. I close my eyes to shun me from watching the disgusting faces of such awful comments.
Somebody crashing against my body brings me back from the quiet haven that is my mind; I open my eyes and see a man staggering on his feet, trying to keep his balance. Instinctively, my hand reaches for his arm and pulls him on his feet. I hold him until he is steady on his own, feeble legs. The appearance of this man is appalling, his gaunt face looks ghastly, and his grey eyes mingle with an ill-looking yellow tint seem unforgiving and harsh. His skin is of the palest shade I’ll ever see, almost a grey color, and it feels ashy under my fingertips.
“Will you walk around with your eyes open?” he growl, smacking me on the head with his bony, cold hands. He yanks his arm from my hands and glares at me. A small, hunched man beside him keenly watches his master, his expression somewhat perplexed.
I am lost in words, not sure how to respond to his accusations. Shame rises to my face, “I am very sorry sir, I was really careless, my sincerest apologies for bumping into you,” I offer the cruel man a smile and wait for his response.
“You better,” he grunts and walks away, the small man following him.
I lose sight of him as the crowd closes in on him. I must be tread carefully now, apparently the inhabitants of Atala are really sensitive when it comes to…..
I am incapable of finishing the thought as another one settles in my mind. The second thought is, by far, a most logical one. How come I could crash into him if I’m a ghost?! That made no sense at all, unless…
Another unfinished thought, my muscles clench and my features become rigid. My heart skips several beats as different thoughts collide in my mind, fighting to overpower the others. Only one word, or rather a name, claims victory in my mind and appears clear in the midst of confusion.