"A Candle Loses Nothing By Lighting Another Candle" - Father James Keller

Friday, January 7, 2011

“Premonitions and Curses” by Kiki Howell, A Short Story Inspired By History - Read Below


Author Note: I wrote this story in response to one of those moments when some part of history, here the witch hunts, makes you weep for those who suffered. So here is my fictional addition to history – an exploration into the turmoil of one wife and mother. Though I believe the witch hunts were born of fears used as excuses to victimize innocent people and create an illusion of power, the character’s gifts are a useful writing convention and whim of my imagination. I was imagining the horror even if one was actually gifted and misunderstood—innocent yet convicted.

East Anglia 1647

“They are coming,” she whispered in a voice rough from sleep. Thrown into consciousness by a dream, the sweat of her premonition chilled her hair, roused her. She got out of bed, literally, like one about to be hung. The horses stampeding toward the house in her dream still echoed in her head, vibrating in unison with the distant whisper of the same hoof-falls coming down the rutted road now.  
Her insights into the future had never been wrong before. For a brief second, she let herself mourn the life she loved, the one she’d been blessed with. The wool blanket tangled around her feet, caused her to misstep as she went to wake her husband. Margaret hurried despite the dread of death burning her lungs.
Her husband, asleep in a chair by the smoldering fire, his ebony hair glistened like the river at night. Each unruly curl also caught some light from the near-full moon shining through the thread-bare curtain over the window. Her love for this man overwhelmed her. Although pain still throbbed behind her eyes, she flung her body at her husband’s. Her hands landed abruptly on his chest sending a rush of air hissing from his lungs. Startled and angry like an animal roused, he glared at her with eyes as dark as his hair. 
“They are coming,” she repeated in the loudest, hushed tone she could muster through her dry throat.
“Who is coming?” he caught her arm as she tried to flee toward the back of the house to the small room where her three children slept.  Edward, Ella and May were all she could let herself think of.  There was no decision to make, no time to come up with a way to save them all. Her husband would fight for them no matter what she did to try to save him too. The truth almost too much to bear, she knew he would want her to save the children. They would beget the next generations.  She knew this to be true. 
As a seer, time proved no issue for her in knowing what could be. Many had tampered with fate, even she was guilty of such stirrings. Yet, tonight, fate reigned triumphant in the end. She had no time left to throw free will at it. The vision had come too late, so the sight gave her what would be whether she liked it or not. Destiny almost always found a way to put the players of life’s game right back where it wanted them. The mere suggestion of what she desired sizzled within her, like being burned at the stake before these men could hang her. 
At this moment, her future brought fear and comfort. The thought of saying good-bye to her children brought about a gut-wrenching sickness worse than death. Though, the peace of knowing those she bore into this world would go on to live full lives propelled her forward, kept her going.
Her visions always clear, she trusted. Tonight’s had been no different, but it had been tardy for a reason. Heaven would have her in one turn of the moon. Almost out of time, she yanked her arm from her husband’s sleep-weakened grip. Gnawing it off at her elbow would’ve not been above her to get to her babes, now almost men and women.
“I love you, more than I can ever say,” she whispered as she ran from him. 
Behind her, her husband, Matthew, stumbled and cursed as the cries of the men rang out in the night. Soon, they’d beat at the walls of their ramshackle home. Only worn and weathered wood separated her now from her nightmarish future. The horses’ hooves still stomped the muddy ground.  She could hear the sucking of the earth which protected her by slowing down the misguided men.
The gentleman outside were ruled by fears of their own, fears of things they’d never relinquish an ounce of their power to try to understand. Ever since King James had repealed and rewritten Elizabeth’s Witchcraft Act, the cries of witch had increased. Most tortured had no knowledge of the craft. These thoughts gave rise to fierce anger, constricting her muscles. Her energy brewed inside her as she swept into the bedroom. Even her beliefs, her gifts, what these men termed magic with a sneer, could not help her or hers now. These gentleman’s conjured up their own ideas of her, something far beyond the truth.
“Edward, Ella, May,” she dove into their arms, a circle of love trembling. Each of their breaths caught and held in one united front, a shroud of protection lasting a few more moments. A memory was made to last the tests of time. Of course, the sounds from outside had awakened them. Yet, she could see in her Edward’s eyes that he too had witnessed her dream. He, with gifts much stronger than hers, knew exactly the fate which would befall his mother.
“Mother,” his voice was low, but still held the distinct ring of his fathers. “I won’t let them take you.”
He rose to his full height above her, but her arm encircled his waist before he stepped to the door. The men outside beat on the front entrance. Her husband, she knew, stood rock solid and silent bracing the door with his back. She’d seen it in her dream. Therefore, she had only minutes before three men would begin to ram it. The thin wooden door would splinter and crack, slicing through her husband’s midsection creating a wound he’d not heal from. He’d die before she was hung.
“I have to save dad!” He tried to move, but her mother’s strength proved no match for even a boy his size at the moment. She breathed a beholden sigh of relief for the miracle of finding herself able to stop him. For the man dying for them, she’d do all she had to in order to save his children. Edward couldn’t save either of his parents now. He had a more important job to do. With insurmountable strength, she pulled him down in front of her. She ached all over, but held strong.
Margaret had already felt the rope around her neck, heard the cart move and observed the planks of wood fall out from under her feet. She’d been given the fate of dying twice in a way, having seen the force of her body falling snap her spine. This fate at least would bring an end to their tortures.
“Listen to me, all three of you. I love you with all of my heart and my soul. I long with every fiber of my being to stay with you, to watch you grow, to see you love…”  She stopped hearing the first crack of the wood of their front door. Her time was running out to make her children understand. “The dream of tonight’s events came too late. Therefore, what is to happen is unavoidable. Fate wins. There is nothing anyone can do other than to accept the inevitable as divine wisdom.” 
Looking into their contorted countenances, vengeance began to build like a rampant fire. Small sparks set her wrath to blaze over all in its path. She’d seen in her vision the anger with which she projected her malediction. A curse upon them powered by raw emotions alone. She could only hope if Edward had seen the same, he would understand and in time forgive her for her lapse in good judgment.  Because, at this moment, she couldn’t think better of herself. Her afflictions stopped her heart, stealing her last breaths. Yet, staring into these faces of her own flesh and blood, knowing their pain as her own, she moved closer to selling her soul to the devil himself to exact revenge.
However, she curbed the rising bile in her throat, and continued, as she should for them. “I will go with a full heart knowing that you love me. I will try to make you proud even in the face of what is to come. At least, I can change that part of the future.” It was a promise she wanted to keep.
“Mother, what will happen to us?” May cried.
“Rest well in the faith that I have seen you all in years to come. You looked happy, well-cared for...” Her voice gave out remembering the glimpse she had gotten into her children’s futures, at what she would miss.
She hugged her girls and kissed their foreheads in a rush as the door cracked again. Then, she took her son’s face in her hands. 
“Go out the window into the night. They don’t have the house surrounded. I don’t think they thought we would be awake to stop them at the door. Run with your sisters to the burrow. Hide there until the noise has died away. Keep running after that until you have found safety. All the fortune we have is in this bag. Make a life for yourselves. Don’t look back. Your job is the care of your sisters. Do it well for me. I will find you in your dreams. You know that. In the meantime, carry my love in your heart.”
She shoved the small bag at him. She’d stitched it herself. All the coins they had to their name were inside. Her son did as she asked, tears brimming in her young man’s eyes. Surely, he would understand, one day when he had children of his own, what a parent would do to save her young.
Margaret watched the three silhouettes flee into the night. Her tears flowed hot down her cheeks as the fog and the protective hands of the darkness enfolded around them. Seconds after the final crack of the wooden door, she heard the cry of  her husband’s demise. Guilt, loss and a hundred other emotions pulled her to the floor.
“Find the witch,” a deep voice, pitched high with cowardice, rang out through the house. Soon enough, rough hands seized her as she heard another yell about the children being gone. She was bound by rope. The twine cut into her skin as two horses and their riders were sent off into the woods to find her son and daughters. Her earlier visions had given her some peace to know they would not be found.  It was all she had left to hold onto. But, the longings of a mother to be with her children tainted her to her very core.
When they threw her into the cold horse-driven cart built to carry such things as food and animals, curses upon them all tried to make themselves known. Her fierce determination to be a woman her children could be proud of hovered, though at the moment her breaking heart felt darker than the sky above her. She begged the moon and the night for help as she tried to ignore the irreverence nipping at her. She hoped for her children, that in the future they would be free to show the world who they really were without fear. 
So mote it be.
The End
Voirey Linger Trailhead 



4 comments:

  1. Great story KiKi...I love how there's hope for the future in the rising generation and her ethics as a woman not to curse them as she could have.

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  2. Thanks Bri!

    You know when I wrote the final line, her hope for her children seemed quite a timeless idea, wanting more for our children, a better life than we had.

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  3. I felt her pain and her strength, Kiki. I'm not surprised, for you are great at capturing emotions and letting readers feel your characters.

    And the sense of hope you end the story with, what a little treat.

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  4. Thanks Magaly!

    So glad you liked it. This little story means a lot to me - almost as if I lived some part of it in another life.

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In accordance with the new FTC Guidelines for blogging and endorsements, Kiki Howell of An Author's Musings, would like to advise that in addition to purchasing my own books to review, I also receive books, and/or promotional materials, free of charge in return for an honest review, as do any guest reviewers.