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The Emerald-Tinted Doors
The woman stood stiffly washing her dishes while humming a 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 make it open!” 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.
“All right, woman, there’s no point in denying that you’re a witch. You’re coming with us to the court!” shouted a large, burly man who stood in front of the others. The woman quickly extinguished her fire and the candles. Assuming that she would never return again, she cast a frantic final glance at her home of all her life. She was convinced that it would not be harmed in her absence, for she knew 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. It seemed so lonely and empty.
The sun’s 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 led her into the courtroom.
It was a grand room, filled almost to the brim with 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 always failed to deny it. This is your final chance, woman. Do you deny being a witch and committing black magic?” Wordlessly the woman shook her head. He continued, “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 carried 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 jumped off the cliff 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 lived on in the belief that she had spent the rest of her days in calm isolation.
Albert Longsleeve was not in any way queer 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. 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.
When they reached Salem, onlookers who all reflected the couple’s fear and anxiousness on their faces greeted them. They drove to the court, parked, and entered. They sat down, and for some odd reason Emily seemed to feel a sickening dread, as if she had already gone through this 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.” He 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 was spreading 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 screamed, "Witch! He's a witch! He's cursed the doors!" in his booming baritone of a voice.
Whyleheart glared at him in anger and tried to stammer, "I didn't do it!” but overwhelming shouts and boos drowned his denial. He tried to act innocent, but he failed as the police officers 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 lose his eminent position, or would be proven as innocent as he had 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. He began, "I can't say anything else, mayor. The witnesses and my own examination of the evidence prove you guilty. Once again, we shall use the Fee-Exile Act. However, I believe it would be fair to pardon our old mayor, invite him back, and return his money. 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's first action as mayor was to sentence Whyleheart to a lifetime of jail under the charges of cheating Albert out of his job and forcibly taking his money and ID. As for Susie, she lived a quiet life she considered absolutely perfect due to the overwhelming feeling of satisfaction of finally acting out vengeance for her revered ancestor’s and namesake’s exile.