Of Sins and Sinners
The Créole stared at the beast in chains. His lips muttered the old French proverb his mother once told him; his fingers grasped the wooden cross hanging around his neck. The beast bellowed, pulling on its restrains and the young Creole, startled pointed his rifle at the writhing creature.
McCoy touched the boy by the shoulder, beckoning him to lower his weapon. He shook his head.
“Is pointless now boy. Beast gonna die anyway. Best let it wriggle a bit.”
Sutherland, a rough man, with sandy blond hair and eyebrows, flamed the torch. He held it burning before him, locking his gaze upon that of the beast. In the midsummer’s eve, the air was still, the trees motionless, only fireflies flickering on the darkening sky. The torch illuminated – it burned for a sacrifice. It burned in his eyes and in those of the kneeling one. Sutherland took a step closer. He was given the privilege of cleansing, of holding this object that would eradicate all evil, here in the hot summer eve, under the clear sky.
He knew…If he would to burn it, peace would restore back, the town’s folks would ease their quivering hearts. If he would to pull back now and refuse to perform this duty he would be hated and chased away, talked of as a coward, a man who ran away from his responsibilities. But to flame the dry branches and watch them spread, licking naked flesh, engulfing screams meant to mark his soul; to spare it meant to mark others, condemn them to fear. His hand was unsure. The eyes that met his were human. The “beast” spoke his tongue and lived not two houses away from his own. He had known him since the day he was born.
Once more Sutherland asked himself questions that were bound to exist in unknown. What events had stolen this boy and returned it two winters after, not quite the same? What fate had decided to take away three lives the very year of his return and blame their loss on his fragile creature? Who was to blame for this turn of the wheel? Who’s testimony had spread the vivid rumor of the boy’s figure upon the lifeless corpses? Alas, these people needn’t listen to complicated explanations, nor seeked the answers of these questions – they thought the murder of the murderer to be sufficient, and thus this man, this example for bravery and honesty in their humble society was put before the beaten body of a boy of seventeen with a torch in his hand and a verdict to perform. No one cared for his personal opinion; he served the mass and the council.
The invading vision of the bodies lying in the dark behind the barn, eyes whitened, chests ripped open, and hearts missing made him sick again. The stink attracting flies came back filling his nostrils and Sutherland put great effort not to throw up. What doubt was there that the boy was indeed the perpetrator? He needed to believe what others did; he needed to burn him to prove their hunt right, to prove their accusations solid. He had to burn him in order to free everyone else.
“Straighten him up. Tie him tauter.”
McCoy grabbed the boy by the collar of his thorn dress and slammed him hard against the stake. He wrapped the chain tighter around his chest, locked it then muffed his mouth. His eyes never met those of the boy.
“I hereby declare the mutual judgment resulting from the consultation with the town council and the vote of the citizens. For his crimes in witchery and for the brutal murders of one Elizabeth Mein, Jaqueline Harkness and Stephanie Hall, this boy, whose name shall not be called tonight, is sentenced to death by incineration. ” Sutherland walked to the stake. The boy tried to speak; he was trying to yell. “You shall burn on this trial as a demon, as an unholy creature. For you there is no prayer. There shall be no place for you in Heaven, only in Hell.” Then as he flung the torch he whispered “Forgive us” and the crackling of the wood took his words away burning them along with the body.
Sutherland looked at the witnesses of the process: their faces showed no emotions. As the black smoke spread most of the watchers averted and went home, refusing to breath in the remains of the boy. Only McCoy stood, his Creole apprentice nearby. Sutherland walked passed him.
“I hope your boy was worth your sins.”
Sutherland was far up the hill when he heard the cries of the father, cries which mingled with those of his dying son.