The Emerald Tinted Doors, Part I

October 15, 2010
The woman stood stiffly washing her dishes while humming her favorite traditional folk song. Her fire crackled gently, and her small log cabin was well-sheltered from the cold wind, snows and wild animals that lurked in the dark forest. Hardly any noise could be detected inside the cabin, and all seemed peaceful until she heard three booming knocks. She heard a terrifying voice shout, “Open the door, witch, or we’ll force it to open! And you would not enjoy that,” the voice added, so that the woman could imagine the sly grin on the speaker’s face. In dread, she laid down her work and ran to the door. With trembling fingers, she pulled back the bolt and creaked open the door. Instantly, five armed men burst into her cabin, facing her angrily.
“All right, woman, we all know that you’re a witch and that you’re not going to deny it. Let’s make this easy: you’re coming with us to the court!” thundered a stout, tall man clothed in uniform man who stood in front of the others, trembling with rage. The woman quickly extinguished her fire and the candles, not glancing at the invaders. Assuming that she would never return again, she cast a frantic final glance at her home in which she had been born and raised. She hoped that it would not be harmed in her absence, for she believed that her children would keep it and pass it on to their children, just as it had been for twenty-seven generations. She whispered a final word of farewell, pulled on her well-worn silk shawl and bonnet, and stepped out into the blistering cold. She climbed into the back of the wagon, grateful for the hay’s insulation. As she prepared to sleep, she looked at her house for a final time as many memories of merriness and laughter flooded to her mind, so that tears welled up in her eyes.
The sun’s gentle, tickling rays crept into her eyes and woke her. She peered out of the wagon and saw she had reached the Salem Court House. The cart lurched to a halt, and the men let her out and led her inside. As she sat and waited for her turn, she felt pity for the others accused of witchcraft, because she could discern that none of them were true witches. Finally, the guards reentered the room, smirking at her pallid face. They roughly hurried her into the adjacent hall.
It was a grand room, filled almost to the brim with curious spectators. The woman caught the eyes of her distressed daughter and son-in-law. Her heart ached as she took in the sight of her grandchildren sobbing. Suddenly, her attention snapped to the front of the room as the judge, a cruel, vicious man known as Samuel Whyleheart said, “We are here for the judging of Susannah Greenleaf. She has been accused of witchcraft and has repeatedly failed to deny it and has no sign of regret or remorse.” Turning to face her, he growled, his eyes cold and calculating like a hunter about to strike, “This is your final chance, woman. Do you deny being a witch and committing black magic?” Wordlessly the woman shook her head. He grinned devilishly and proclaimed, “Then I hereby sentence you to the drowning test! --- Guards! Take her away!”
Susannah spoke, her voice cracked with age and sorrow, “Then, for causing my family grief, I sentence your descendant to the same punishment as I will receive. Only he will be innocent, and he will perish!” Whyleheart frowned and looked disturbed for a moment, but then cleared his mind and glared at her as he gave the order for the procession to continue. As the guards dragged her away to the water’s brink, she cried. When they bound the cold rocks with a tight rope to her ankles, she gave one halfhearted smile at her family, waved, and shut her eyes as the guards shoved her towards the gloomy, mist-filled lake. The second her toes hit the water, she disappeared and the rocks sank without her. All that remained was a greenish mist that condensed around Whyleheart.
Although Susannah was never heard from again, her family was adamant in the belief that she had disappeared to a much happier place.

Albert Longsleeve was not in any way strange or extraordinary. He was simply the mayor of Salem, Massachusetts and enjoyed an absolutely typical life by all standards with his wife Emily and their children John and Jane in a small house in the Salem Woods built adjacent to Emily’s ancestral home. Therefore, he nearly dropped his coffee mug when on one crisp, warm fall day he received an official-looking letter from the Chief Justice of the Salem Court requesting him to come on trial at three o’clock pm due to the fact that he was accused of…witchcraft?
“Emily, I’m shocked. No one’s been accused of witchcraft since the days of Senator McCarthy! I don’t know-we’re in the two thousand fifties. How can it be?” he asked his wife, Emily, as they sat in the living room reading the letter. She shook her head in numb shock.
After leaving their children with Emily’s sister Susie Greenleaf, they quietly entered their car and Albert drove them to the court house. The road winded through a lush deciduous forest. Albert smiled at the beauty of the trees, which were dressed in elaborate shades of gold, brown, red, and orange. They were as beautiful as a fire: flashing, changing, and blended with all sorts of colors.

When they reached Salem, onlookers who reflected the couple’s fear and anxiousness on their faces greeted them. Albert drove to the court, parked, and entered with Emily grasping his arm nervously. They sat down on an uncomfortable wooden bench, and for some odd reason Emily seemed to feel a sickening dread, as if she had already gone through the experience before. She soon followed her husband into a large, open hall, empty except for a small table where the Chief Justice, Jacob Whyleheart, and several others sat, scribbling furiously. Jacob Whyleheart glanced up and sneered, “Well, well, well, if it ain’t our respectable mayor. I have evidence that you have committed witchcraft that has proved harmful to others.” As Albert stammered in rage, the judge said, “The evidence is all here.” Then each of the people at the table claimed to have been harmed by Albert.

Witnesses stood up to speak, “You shrunk my son!” bellowed a large-bellied man.
A short wisp of a woman cackled, “You broke my precious jade jar!”
“You’ve been messing with the town power outlets,” groaned a middle-age businessman, “and performing other misdemeanors!”
Albert frowned and said, “You have no proof that I committed any of the aforementioned. Just because I stared at something-” He was drowned by protests from the witnesses.
Then a timid, quavering voice spoke up, “We could always perform the Fee-Exile Act. You know, make him pay for damage, surrender his job to the second-place contender- that would be Justice Whyleheart- and become an average citizen.” Albert trembled in rage as Whyleheart nodded his head in agreement.
“Hand over your job and two million bucks and we’ll let you off the hook this time. But I warn you, next time you’re in real trouble.” Albert half-heard the words, and they seemed to reverberate in the chamber. He shoved the money and his ID card into the Justice’s grubby hand, turned and paced out of the hall with his wife.
All the way back, they said nothing. When they reached home and he pulled up onto the gravel driveway, he muttered to himself. Suddenly, inspiration struck him.
“Emily dear, I just figured out how to solve our problem. All we need is to frame him as a witch. If he is removed from office, I might get my job and my reputation. All we need is a bit of true witchcraft.” As he trailed off, his smiled beamed from cheek to cheek, and his wife laughed in delight. They skipped into the house and found Susie and the kids eating lunch. After a quick round of hugs, they sat down and enjoyed themselves while Mr. Longsleeve concocted plans on how to make it look as if the judge become mayor had committed witchcraft.
All through the fall and early winter, these nightly, top-secret planning missions continued until a decision was made. "All right then. We start first thing tomorrow."
The next day, Albert, Emily, and Susie drove to the prodigious Town Hall, where the mayor was at a meeting. They stood in the hallway until they heard the obscure sounds of the meeting ending. Albert and Susie watched the interior of the hall and saw the mayor heading out. As soon as Whyleheart's hands reached to touch the double doors, Albert thought he saw Susie's hand twitch. Or did it? He shook his head to clear the thought.
Suddenly, two hand-shaped blotches of green appeared on the doors. Soon the color spread frantically all throughout the doors, until the whole doors had become emerald-tinted. Emily acted out her part of the scheme flawlessly, screaming as if in shock and then fainting as Albert caught her. Albert bellowed, "Witch! He's a witch! He's cursed the doors!" in his booming baritone of a voice.
After passing through the doors, Whyleheart glared at him in anger and clamored, "I didn't do it!” but overwhelming shouts and boos drowned his denial. He failed to shrug off the police officers as they arrived and steered him towards the court house. Albert and a huge crowd followed, all waiting to see whether the sly man would receive a retribution for his crime and be usurped from his office or proven as innocent as he claimed.
The new chief justice was the one who had originally suggested the Fee-Exile Act in Albert's case, and he couldn't help smirking as he watched the mayor being dragged in forcibly as soon as the final witness had spoken. He began, "I can't say anything else, mayor. The witnesses and my own examination of the evidence prove you guilty.” Pausing for a moment, he continued, “Once again, I believe that we shall apply the Fee-Exile Act to punish the mischief-maker. However, I believe it would be fair to pardon our old mayor, invite him back, and return his money, since he is the best man for the job.” Bellowing, he called, “DO WE AGREE?"
Immediately everyone burst into a cacophony of cheers, smiles, and rounds of applause because they had missed Albert and his genial manner, kind personality, and coolheaded decisions. Albert says, "I'll take it!" Once again, the cheers erupted as the justice return Albert’s ID, as well as his 'witch penalty' bribe of two million dollars. Emily, who had been reawakened, smiled weakly in poorly hidden delight.
Albert served for mayor for many years after the witch trial, for the people loved him even more after he had been reinstated. He was proud of the fact that he had seen to the fact that the villainous Whyleheart had been sentenced to jail instead of being subjected to the age-old trial, although both Emily and Susie had urged him to punish the man. His heart was not cruel, vicious, or treacherous, so he let his enemy off only slightly. And as for the true witch of Salem, despite the fact that Susie had not fully avenged her ancestor, she spent her life in peaceful withdrawal from the world, filled with a reverberating echo of success.

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