Slowly, however, the light began to grow brighter, though bright in such a context was a relative term.
I’d no idea of its source, but I could see the shadows of trees, tombstones and monuments, Ian and the old woman in silhouette, but I couldn’t make out details or features of anything. It was an otherworldly light, deepest purple with an aura of navy blue. It was also warmer, maybe 10 degrees Celsius; I took off my overcoat and laid it on one of the tombstones.
“You think you stand on consecrated ground here?” the old woman said shrilly, her tone contemptuous. “Fools! Fools all of you! One and all! Long before they built this cemetery – this supposed ‘holy ground’ – do you know what this was? A place of execution! Men and women were put to death, as spectators laughed and cheered, gorging themselves with food and drink, watching lives of their fellow creatures snuffed out for an afternoon’s entertainment.
“I told you I was at my husband’s grave here, and so I was. He’s buried here – in a massive hole, far below the fine caskets on top, which they dug before they dumped his body – like the corpse of a wild dog, as they did with nigh on all the bodies of those executed.
“Yes, I saw him that day, long ago – he was innocent, but what chance had he to prove it, in that travesty of a trial he was given. They led him to the scaffold, pulled the trap, and down he fell. But the rope about his neck was too long and for over an hour he slowly, painfully strangled: awake, his eyes bulging out of their sockets, his tongue protruding, his body twitching about like a puppet on a string until, at last, death mercifully agreed to claim him.”
The light grew brighter still; I almost wished it hadn’t.
On the up side, the ground was no longer cold and hard, the grass had grown back and the snow had vanished. On the down, 30 meters, more or less, from where I stood, any resemblance to the cemetery ended. In its place stood a capacious courtyard with a gigantic gallows.
Shadowy shapes, mostly men, but also a few women and even what appeared to be a child or two, stood in the misty vapors of the scaffold. Seconds later, eight of those shadowy forms dropped beneath the scaffold, one continuing to struggle like a trapped insect, the rest dangling limply, like stones on a string.
“As I watched the life drain out of him,” the old woman continued, “I knew there was neither an earthly power that could prevent it or ease his suffering, nor was there any way in this sorry world for me to have those responsible for it face the justice they deserved. So I offered myself to the Dark One, if he would give me the means to avenge myself upon each and every one of them – however long it took – provided I ensnared and delivered some innocent souls for him to take and harvest, as well.
“And, you two will do as an offering tonight, my precious, you’ll do very well, indeed.”
© 2017, 2016, 2015 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.
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