Non-Fiction

Nathan Retmock

As she was led into the centre of Salem Village, Bridget Bishop did not understand what had brought her to this situation. It was summer, but the air felt somehow cold and foreign. Grey clouds smothered the village and threatened to unleash their burden upon the gathering crowd of spectators. She recognised faces, some from the wretched church and some patrons to her tavern. The tavern she ran was slightly unorthodox, yes, but she was unfamiliar with any notion of witchcraft. Her red bodice might have something to do with the accusations that have been hurled against her. The puritan society of Salem Village loathed any form of excitement, as far as Bridget was concerned, to the extent that Abigail Williams had been sent to the tavern in an attempt to “remind Bridget of her feminine innocence”. Her tavern was a welcome reprieve from the likes of Samuel Parris, Abigail’s foster father and the leader of the local church. But Bridget knew who was behind the accusations against her.

Mercy Lewis and her band of brats had taken it upon themselves to claim Bridget was in league with the devil, a notion of particular interest to Parris and his church of ferocious lunatics. Bridget had actively avoided joining their absurd church, preferring to instead don her scarlet bodice and foster relations with others that despised the puritans. As an outsider it was inevitable the burning loathing of Parris would fall upon her. The unfortunate death of her husband had not assisted in the development of her reputation as a somewhat bizarre woman. She had heard rumours that some within the church believe she assisted in his death in order to inherit the property and taverns. Yes, the idea of his death had indeed seemed attractive at times, but Bridget ran a tavern. She wasn’t concerned with murder. She was, however, concerned with the situation unfolding before her.

As Bridget passed through the crowd and entered the centre of the village, she saw the group of girls glaring at her with eyes like serpents, and the stand hastily prepared from freshly cut wood, upon which she would be questioned by none other than the superstitious John Hathorne. 

 

Anxiety began to raise the hackles on Bridget’s neck as she began to feel the voracious silence of the village consuming her. Every pair of eyes glared over her body, and she felt naked before the crowd. Her former confidence in the situation was quickly snuffed from a fierce flame into a cowering trail of smoke.

The witch entered the village centre, and Mercy Lewis immediately began to feel the effects of her power. She called herself Bridget Bishop, but Mercy only knew her as the spectre that haunted the innermost chambers of her mind and begged her to sign the book of Satan. The headaches and shivers began to course through her body in response to her presence, and Mercy knew the judge was watching. Her quaking body collapsed and began to squirm in the mud of the town centre, the other girls following her lead. Angels of mud spread their wings as the afflicted girls displayed the corrupting influence of the witch. This would prove their accusations. The town watched on in horror, hurling insult at Bridget as the judge began questioning. The townspeople had never watched Mercy like this before, never noticed her or pitied her like they do now. Tears gathered in her eyes like wells of diamonds.

Mercy wondered if the Indian slave was watching on; she would be next. Mercy knew she was a filthy sorceress, and like all of their kind motivated solely by the devil. Indeed, Mercy knew that somehow the slave was related to the tribes that had brutally slaughtered her family in Maine and left her alone in the world. She locked her jaw and glared through the townspeople as she began to scream, scanning for the slave as she ensured Bishop’s sentence was inevitable. There. What was her name? Tituba. She did not deserve a name, as far as Mercy was concerned. She was less than a dog. The other girls began to shriek alongside Mercy as the judge was forced to shout his questions at the accused witch.

There are more, Mercy knew. More witches in this town.

Samuel Wardwell, who had married the beautiful young maiden and never so much as glanced at Mercy, he was most certainly a witch. He used to practice fortune telling. Had she seen him outside her window, in the blackest hours of the night, with the black dog of Satan following him? Yes, perhaps she had, and Abigail would most certainly agree. As victims of this terrible crisis, of malefic and diabolical magics unimaginable, of the Devil himself leading his legions upon their humble village, Mercy and the girls could target anyone they pleased. The town pitied them, the town adored them, and Mercy revelled in the fame.

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