Girl from Salem
Warm breath plumed from her mouth, like steam from a hot broth. Her bare feet were numb with cold. She could barely stand. Almost lifeless, they threw her into the chair. She heard them laugh and cheer as the chair was winched higher and higher, over the freezing body of water. Breaking the previous convent quietness, the laughter manifested into words and eventually, the rapid hum of multiple conversations colliding with each other.
The villagers had had their eye on her for some time now; first alerted to her peculiar behaviour by her mother, they had grown more and more concerned. She came from a normal family, honest and proper. Her father had even helped with trials late last year. To most, apparently, she seemed normal.
The mother cried hysterically as her daughters lifeless body was lifted from the once tranquil lake. Its seemingly silver facade broken, by a harsh wooden chair and a young girl. This particular trial was simple: If the accused can survive 60 seconds, submerged in the icy lake, then they are guilty. If they perish, then they are posthumously innocent. Members of the crowd dispersed slowly, dissipating back to their homes and their crops. It was November, and the villagers were trying to get the most out of their soil before it froze over for winter. The girl’s mother approached her daughter. Blank eyes gazed over her child, who in death looked more peaceful than ever. A hand grabbed her from behind. “No.” A sullen and dry voice resonated around the cold and now empty lakeside. Her mother turned around. It was the girls father. His weary voice and empty appearance almost placated her. They embraced, turned around, and walked back to their home, not 100 yards away.
She had always been bright. Like every other girl in the village, she wasn’t allowed to go to school, but she still outsmarted all her brothers and, much to the distaste of their fathers, the other boys from the village. She was gifted in spoken english, always eloquent and delightful to listen to. At 13 years old, she was the youngest victim of the trials.
In a village as small as this, rumour spread like wildfire. Everyone spoke to everyone. It started with the odd word here or there. “She’s not married yet”. For a girl of 13, this was strange. She was always turning heads with the wonderfully bizarre sculptures she made. As gifted in art as she was in language.
Her body was given back to her mother and father later the same day. The last light of the orange sun bounced off the purple heather surrounding the lake, casting a dull, violet light across the sky. It was as if someone had thrown a kaleidoscope of colour across a dreadful grey sky. It was the same purple heather that lined the crude woven sheet in which her body was enclosed. Silently, they covered her face.
Days passed, late summer haze faded into a crisp, stark autumn. She had built up quite a collection of models and sculptures. Fashioned from twigs and leaves, feathers and fibres, she was proud of each and every one. She displayed them around her room that she shared with her mother, father and brothers. Passers by would often stop and stare at these displays, hung up on the front of the house, bewildered and slightly unnerved; but she never noticed. To her, this was innocence and creativity in the form of dark, wooden models and sculptures. To them, this was Witchcraft.