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The Hanging of Constance Evans
"Will someone deliver me from this agony?"
Constance Evans fell to her knees at the edge of the stream and buried her face in her hands, sobbing. The dull amber glow that washed over the town of Salem village was the most horrific sight she had ever seen.
"Oh, holy God, have mercy upon Your daughter! Could I but receive Your endless mercy, I would repent of every wicked inkling in my soul!"
She was supposed to be executed that day on Gallows Hill, condemned of the unholy dark practice of witchcraft. As she knelt there at the water's edge and sought help from her Creator, Constance realized that she was basking in her final sunrise.
Naturally, this only brought on more tears.
A twig snapped, and a low voice broke from the trees. "Goody Evans... have you no devotion to our young Mistress, that you would seek such council from Another?"
Constance did not even have to look up to confirm the speaker. "You speak to me as if we were not familiar with each other."
"Constance... you have no need to resign yourself to your cruel fate so soon." Thomas Smith stepped out from the forest and got down on his knees beside her. His hand drifted over to her pale blonde hair, tugging on it until it came loose and tumbled about her shoulders. "At the trial, our lovely Faith promised you that-"
"She promised me nothing!" Constance shrieked, twisting out of his grasp as he tried to take hold of her hands. "If you recall, Thomas, our 'lovely Faith' did naught but to further incriminate me!"
"She loves you, my dear, as not even I can. Her ways are not our ways."
"You are always trying to justify her actions, and I shall not stand for-"
He clamped a hand over her mouth, forcing her down so that her shoulderblades pressed against the grass. A sharp pain shot down her spine, but she knew better than to scream at a time like this.
"I would be a little less careless with my tongue if I were you," Thomas hissed against her neck, "lest the mistress' astounding patience meet its violent end before she may deliver you today."
The wind howled through the trees, lashing branch against branch and creating an unsettling cacophony. With the noise came the cold; a chill so deep and penetrating that Constance thought she could never get warm again. The pale sun that rose with the wind was briefly eclipsed by a sudden series of clouds, extinguishing all natural light.
Thomas shivered and removed his hand from Constance's mouth. He took her in his arms and held her tightly as a crow cawed in the rooster's place, steadfast even as her nails pricked his skin. "It is cold for September."
Constance bowed her head against his chest, muttering into the fabric of his shirt. "We should have been more careful, Thomas. After... after Martha Carrier's hanging... we should have beseeched Faith to lead us away from this place."
"You sound much like a heretic, dearest." His fingers found her hair and stroked it away from her face. "Faith cannot be swayed to move unless she herself would wish to move. To suggest otherwise is blasphemy against our Mistress and our Master."
The blood drained from Constance's face at the words "blasphemy" and "Master." She lifted her chin and regarded Thomas with wide, panic-filled eyes. "Oh! Powers and principalities forgive me! I could never hope to commit such offenses against my Prince!"
"Faith shall not allow one of her most loyal servants to perish. She will save you from your hanging, Constance, as surely as I live and breathe."
Constance's lips narrowed into a frown, her eyes searching Thomas' almost desperately. She clutched his hands and held them tightly, blinking back a tide of tears. "Do you think... do you think she would have us to leave tonight?"
"Her ways are not our ways," Thomas repeated. "All I know for certain is that you have no reason to fear as you do."
Constance sniffed and dropped her hands from his, closing her eyes as he wrapped his arms around her. The sun was steadily climbing higher and higher into the sky. It would not be long before she wound find herself on that dreadful hill with a rope around her neck, at the mercy of her Faith and of her Master. "Thomas," she said softly, "I love you."
"I love you, too," he whispered, pressing his lips against hers. The kiss was brief and bittersweet and only made what would come to pass seem more terrible. Silent tears ran down Constance's cheek as Thomas pulled her to her feet, carefully pinning her hair back up in the accepted Puritan fashion.
"We must go now, darling, before they start looking for us."
Constance swallowed, took one last look at the stream, and followed her love as he led her towards Gallows Hill.
An impressive crowd had gathered to witness the hanging of Goody Evans. The crowd was so large, in fact, that even Goodman Evans had a difficult time getting close enough to the gallows to recognize his wife's face. His eyes strained against the darkness, faltering in the scarce light of the moon. There was a slight pressure on his hand.
"Father, let us move closer. I can hardly see where we are standing now."
"Hush, child. The minister is about to speak."
Faith's expression darkened, but she kept silent in order to hear the minister’s speech.
"We have gathered this day to observe the execution of the... rampant hag-"
"I have not heard that phrase since Carrier's trial," Goodman Evans whispered.
-"Goody Evans." The minister gestured to Constance, whom Deacon Prawley was helping climb on top of a crate.
The minister cleared his throat. "This woman- the very same woman who has sat in our church every Sunday, and has partaken of the holy communion- has been tried and convicted of the cursed practice of witchcraft, and of alliance with the Prince of Darkness himself!"
A cry of outrage arose from the crowd. A few even had the audacity to curse.
Constance resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Melodramatic hypocrites.
The minister raised a hand in an effort to silence the crowd. His attempt only resulted in lowering the volume to a dull roar. “Her crime is one that is both an abomination before man and God, and for this, she deserves nothing less than to have her very life… extinguished!”
Someone in the crowd screamed, “Hang the hag! Kill her! Kill the witch!” A few others took up her cry, adding a few impassioned swears to the mix.
Constance laughed to herself, shaking her head. Do these people not understand how childish they are acting? Can they not see how foolish this ceremonial execution is?
Goodman Evans winced as an angry villager elbowed him in the side. He cast a sideways glance at his daughter to ensure that she was all right, and then redirected his attention to his wife.
The girl who was holding Goodman Evans’ hand scowled at the ground as though disgusted by the whole event. Every few seconds, she betrayed herself by glancing up at the gallows anxiously, but she always returned to glowering at the damp grass.
Constance peered out at the crowd as Deacon Prawley slipped the noose around her neck. Thomas has assured her that she had nothing to fear; that Faith would soon come to her rescue, but did not seem to be any reason to relax as of yet. She saw no one significant in the crowd, save for her husband, her mother, her daughter-
The noose tightened suddenly, and Constance gasped.
“Goody Constance Evans,” the minister intoned, “you have been tried and convicted for the dark and deceptive crime of witchcraft. Your sentence is that you should hang by the neck until dead.” He slammed his Bible closed with a thunderous boom. “May the Lord have mercy upon your wicked soul.”
It was with this declaration that Constance remembered her feverish prayers by the stream- Oh, holy God, have mercy upon Your daughter! Could I but receive Your endless mercy, I would repent of every wicked inkling in my soul!
She bowed her head as far as the rope would allow, crying softly to herself. In calling upon the Puritan God, the God of her parents and grandparents, she had blasphemed her own Mistress. God was not going to save her because of her wickedness. Faith was not going to save her because she had spoken out against Her name. Constance was doomed, therefore, to face the awful fate that the gallows presented, and she had no one to blame but herself.
Deacon Prawley kicked the crate out from underneath her feet, and she dropped like a stone in the sea.
Goodman Evan’s yelped as his daughter jerked her hand out of his, scratching his arm with her fingernails. The girl’s eyes were wild and fierce, and her chest rose in quick, shallow breaths.
“Father,” she growled in a cold voice that made his stomach drop, “get out of my way.”
Goodman Evans obliged easily, all the blood draining from his face.
Constance’s daughter shoved through the crowd violently, pushing, shoving, and clawing her way to the gallows. She even bit a woman who protested and refused to move.
Constance’s fusion filled with black and a searing fire gripped her neck. She tried her best to suck in some sort of a breath, but the rope was far too tight. Blood rushed into her face, and her slowing pulse pounded in her ears.
-I really am going to die, aren’t I?
Distantly, she heard a crow caw.
-No one is going to save me.
Constance’s daughter leapt up on the platform and threw Deacon Prawley to the side with a strength unlike any a mortal could possess. When the minister dropped his Bible and ran to assist his fallen friend, the girl hissed at him and kicked him in the shin. He howled in pain and clutched at his leg, toppling back against the crate.
Constance was no longer able to breathe. She could not hear, see, or move.
-Help me, please. Someone… help me.
The girl hopped up on the crate and threw her hands up, arms outstretched to the sky. She tipped her head back to face the cloudless sun, closed her eyes, and screamed.
Her scream seemed to penetrate the very fiber of every being on Gallows Hill. The grass rippled and the trees shook as if attacked by wind, dark clouds rolled in and shut out the sun, and every single villager was hit by a wave of fear unlike any they had ever know- a fear that was blacker than black, darker than dark, with a power that rivaled the very gates of hell.
The rope securing Constance to the gallows snapped, and her body dropped to the wooden platform with a dull thump.
It started to rain blood.
Women began to scream and head for cover. Men tried to keep their wives under control while trying to maintain their own composure. Deacon Prawley became wide-eyed and shaky and sprinted back to town as though he were a man half his age. The minister tried to retrieve his Bible, but his fingers trembled so badly that he was unable to get a hold of it. Constance’s daughter turned on him and glared, and he cried out in terror and fled the hill, his Bible completely forgotten.
Goodman Evans stood there for a moment, the only person left besides Constance and their daughter. He gaped at the girl as she untied the noose around his wife’s neck.
“What are you looking at?” his daughter snapped, startling her father so tremendously that he stumbled backwards and fell. “Get out of here!”
Goodman Evans gasped and ran down the hill, never once stopping to see whether or not his wife had survived.
Constance laid on the unforgiving platform, reaching up to feel the groove the noose had dug in her neck. “Wh… what happened?”
“Fool,” her daughter replied, “I delivered you.”
The bloody rain stopped, and the dark clouds rolled away to reveal the sinking sun.
Realization dawned on Constance as her eyes roved over the girl’s face. She dropped her hands from her neck and covered her face, falling prostrate in conditioned submission. “Mistress! Forgive me, O Exalted Faith! I never meant what I said! I was desperate-“
“Silence!” Faith roared, kicking her servant in the ribs. Constance whimpered, biting her lip. “The only reason- and I mean only reason that I saved you today was because you obeyed the Dark Prince by carrying me inside of your womb for nine months. For that, He decided that you were to be rewarded.”
“And… did He mention anything about permitting me to remain in this temporal state?”
“He did, actually. He said that you were to be transfigured into a cat again.” She sat down on the edge of the crate, swinging her legs. “After such an ordeal as this one, Father is not too convinced that you can best serve Us as a human.”
Constance bit back a tide of complaint, tears welling up in her eyes once more.
“However,” Faith added, “you will no longer have to hunt alone.”
Thomas stepped out from the trees, smiling gently when his eyes met Constance’s. He knelt before his mistress, bowing his head humbly. “It shall please me endlessly to serve my Mistress alongside such a fair companion.”
Constance’s tears evaporated as quickly as they had appeared. “Oh, Thomas. You mean…?”
“Yes, Constance. He shall also be transfigured into a cat.”
Constance smiled gratefully, unable to put her enthusiasm into words.
“Stand, Thomas.” Faith raised a hand.
Thomas did as he was bid. Faith began to chant immediately, the strange, magical words wrapping around Thomas and enclosing him in his mistress’ spell. Faith clapped her hands, raised them to the sky, and Thomas appeared as a black cat.
“Your turn, Constance.”
“Of course, Mistress. It shall be my pleasure.”
Eventually, the sun began to set, signaling the end of the day. Faith slipped into a black cloak and pulled the hood down over her eyes, leading her two followers into the woods. “Do not count this as a failure, my pets. We have not yet managed to take any others into communion with Our Lord, but Salem in only one village, and we have many more still to venture into.”
Constance and Thomas padded along behind her, purring happily as mindless felines often do.
Behind them, the setting sun gave way to the vibrant moon, and it was clear that a new age had begun.