Fiction: Aurelia Stands Accused

gallows

Aurelia couldn’t feel her feet even though they had taken her shoes. They were bare, holding her up on the coarse wooden platform that was now serving as stage. It was as if she were in a theater play, which was something small groups of people in this town did in winter to pass the time. But it was summer, and there was no time for play acting.

Her body shook. Not so much that any one of the people staring at her could see but she could feel it. A quickening under her skin, she felt it most just above her wrists, under her ribs and at the points of her knees. She believed firmly that it was her soul visiting her because the same thing happened when she saw a baby be born or knew deep inside her that someone who was missing had been killed. It was her soul’s way of talking. Waking her to the presence of something that had always and would forever live on. She didn’t believe in the devil as many did. That was nonsense folks made up to judge one against another. She preferred her conversations with God to be private, at her bedside or before the hearth as she prayed for what she needed to survive. She never asked for any more and God had never let her flounder.

She still had faith. She knew she had done wrong and that there was a price to pay and she was happy to die. Many didn’t live as long as she had. Four of her eight siblings for instance. Aurelia was twenty-five years and had much to show for it. But she had done wrong. She had a loved a man that was not hers.

She didn’t like the word witch. Didn’t believe any of it. The fever that had taken over her town was nothing more than gossiping lit up into flames. Excuses to kill innocents who someone more important had a line on, like her. Then they had concocted some treachery and gotten small girls who knew no better and sisters who were jealous to testify.

The noose around her neck she could feel, itchy against the tender skin there. Much of her skin was calloused from the work but her neck was most often hidden from the sun and the skin had remained sensitive. She wished the rope around her wrists was as loose and she could scratch to relieve it.

Even as her sister Charlotte stood and accused her, going so far as to say Aurelia had flown on a stick, Aurelia managed to convince Charlotte not to tell her baby, when she was old enough to talk, that her mother had been hanged a witch. She had no assurance Charlotte would keep her promise, but belief was all she had.

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