A Quarter To Midnight
Slowly reaching up a wrinkled hand, plucking a grey hair from my 13 year old head. Dirt encrusted in my legs. Lice biting my skull. The silence makes me want to scream. I stare at the shackles on my ankles and wrists. At the heavy lead ball, the evil gatekeeper preventing me from life, watching, laughing at my inability to move. Rats scuttle across the cell floor. I squint up toward the three small bars making up my window, gazing at the dying sun glinting off the wet stone. Night comes, the light is dead, with it goes all hope I had of life.
Sitting, waiting out the last night of my life, I begin to cry gently, the gentle plink of my tears the only noise. The bang as a guard thrusts open my heavy metal door makes me jump, pain raging up my back with the effort.
“Miserable witch,” his voice is scratchy, makes my ears hurt, “Enjoy your last meal.” He carelessly drops the plate onto the floor, food flies everywhere. I don’t touch it. I think I might be sick. Instead I think about why I’m here. The day I was sentenced to death for being a witch.
Survive. Fight the hand. I’ve been underwater for so long, surely three minutes. I can’t hold my breath anymore. Head wrenched back out of the pond, I snatch at chunks of air.
“She is a witch!” Terror runs through my veins at those words. I shall be burned for something I am not. Jeering laughter from the other men makes me scream. I beg for mercy but there is no convincing them. I am going to die age 13.
Mother’s face smiling down at me, her warm hazel eyes hugging me close.
“I love you Lydia,” she tells me, “You are something special.” I hadn’t known then ‘special’ really meant ‘cursed’. My curse goes thus:
“On the night of death, a quarter to the twenty-fourth hour, the bewitched girl shalt begin to cower. Back grows old, hand grows weak, hair begineth to appear bleak. Wither she will ‘til all is lost, she will be gone come morning’s frost.” I shiver as I remember the priest’s words, the wretched, possessed look in his eyes. How his voice shook. I rock myself back and forth.
Dong. The eleventh strike of the clock gives me less than an hour to live. I can see my flesh begin to wither away, my face feels hollow. Crawling across the floor, the chain catches on a rock sticking up. With a tired effort, I try to pull it free, to my great astonishment, it snaps. The chain grew old because it was connected to me. Without hesitation, I sling my wrist’s chain around the rock and pull. Snapped. Quietly, I shuffle to the door. I pick up a shard of the chain, carefully, I begin to pick the lock. At last I hear the satisfying click. I push open the door, peeking into the dark corridor.
My sentence was wrong. My hands are returning to their usual state. Laughing, I hear it bounce off the hills. I begin to run, chains falling away from me. Freedom. I run all the way back to my house. Opening the door, I call, “Mother? It’s time to go.”