Jackson set the buckets of food scraps and water down at the foot of the steps. A couple of rats, waiting for their chance to feast, seemed perturbed at his presence and moved slowly into the shadows as he reached for his keys. His eyes hadn't yet adjusted to the dimness, but as Jackson's hefty body shoved open the creaky, heavy old door, a putrid odor made him stop short with a sneer and hold his breath.
He had made this trip to the cellar too many times to remember over the past couple of months, taking turns with William and Marcus. He loathed having to deal with the heathens, held captive inside, even more than he hated the smell of unwashed human flesh and waste. Why they didn't just hang the Witches and be done with them seemed senseless to him, but he dared not speak against the King's Law.
"FILTHY WITCHES!" he cursed in a deep, gravelly voice. "DON'T KNOW WHY WE FEED THE LIKES OF YOU WHEN OUR OWN GO HUNGRY!".
Jillian looked up at Jackson just in time to watch him snort and spit into the bucket of food scraps he was about to serve them. Her stomach fought between pangs of hunger and the urge to vomit. As it flip-flopped, a bit of bile rose in her throat as she swallowed back extra spittle and painfully held it there - with her throat closed off - til the nausea passed.
Her dizzying lack of iron made her head ache as tiny, swirling black and white spots moved before her eyes. The sensation was cut short by the jerk of her arms as Jackson pulled at her chains. "HERE WITCH!". He dumped some of the bucket of food onto a filthy tin plate at her feet and sloshed water from the other bucket into a battered drinking cup. She watched as the food scraps spilled out, hoping they wouldn't fall onto the dirt floor that was soaked with her own urine. Jillian's dress, now a mere scrap of tattered and dirty green fabric, shifted off of her shoulder as she reached for her meal. The waistline hung near her hip as if the dress had been two sizes too big. Shaking, she reached for a cold slab of ham as Jackson moved toward old Simone.
Jackson peered oddly at the old woman as he grabbed a handful of her matted, long gray hair and began to lift her slumped head. "Resistance". Rigor mortis was already beginning to set in. He kicked at her calf. Nothing. All at once, Simone's head jerked upward - staring up blankly toward Jackson's face with her own dead eyes - from her folded position on the floor, the twist of her neck was unnatural. Two hundred and sixty pounds of burly weight jumped backward as quick as a frog might leap from a snake to avoid becoming its' meal. Jackson stood, trembling and sweating. "THE OLD WOMAN IS DEAD!" His thoughts screamed in his head as he tried to convince himself. Just then, a throaty whisper came - without benefit of movement from Simone's bluish lips..."THEESE ARE NOT WITCHESSS. WITCHES ARE NOT EEVIL - LOOK WITHIINN". "Before Jackson could remember to breathe, the old lady's head returned to its' slumped position. His heart pounded violently in his chest. He glanced round the cell and realized he had been the only one to witness the event or hear the voice.
Sarah looked at him queerly from across the shadowed cellar. Jackson turned and left abruptly, fumbling with shaking hands to lock the cellar door securely behind him. His legs, heavy as tree trunks, shook violently making it hard to scale the steps to the safety waiting above-ground. He emerged into the sunlight, breathing heavily and trying to compose himself. He nearly plowed into William. "WHAT'S GOT YOU RILED? DEM WEETCHES CURSE YA, DID THEY?", William chuckled at his own joke. "LOOKS LIKE YOU SEEN A GHOST JACKIE BOY". Recovering slightly, Jackson wiped the sweat off his upper lip and replied, "WE GOT US A DEAD ONE. NEED TO GIT 'ER OUT". He was surprised his throat could produce any sound as he spoke. Abruptly, Jackson left William to assess the situation and made his way quickly across the courtyard to the barracks. He collapsed onto his bunk with a thud. The front of his trousers were soaked - he had pissed himself without even realizing it.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Jillian's hunger, for the time-being, had been satiated. Her senses had returned to near-normal by the time she had finished the dried bread and ham. The only drawback being that as her consciousness returned, so did her awareness of the pain in her body. Her thoughts swarmed around the recent death of her beloved chamber-mate - her body long-since removed from it's shackles by two of the guards, the trials - and probable executions - scheduled for Jillian, Mary and Sarah the following day, and the sensations building within her since her plea on the previous afternoon. She recalled some of the visions which had faded in and out of her sleep during the night..
...an enchanting woman in white-flowing robes riding a high-stepping, sleek, black horse; the brightness of sunshine - in the usually dim-gray rainy weather of England - nearly blinding her with it's reflection; and the sound of hundreds of people yelling, crying and gasping at once.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *Visions raced through Jackson's mind. His brain was stuck somewhere between the stages of sleep and being awake. Unable to move and unable to escape, images of childhood memories, the lessons he had learned about evil beings, and his promises to God to obey His will flashed by...
Jackson fell asleep with images of the flames of Hell licking up his body...higher...hotter. Held prisoner to his nightmare, the ghostly forms of all those he'd seen tortured and killed - in the name of Witchcraft - looking upon him and laughing...
READ THE CONCLUSION OF "BEWARE THE CAPTIVE INNOCENTS" HERE:"JUSTICE IS SERVED Known in the Pagan Community as the "Green Witch", POLLY TASKEY is descended from Mary Bradbury (Perkins). She shares her interests through the PAGAN BY DESIGN BLOG and MESSAGE BOARDS. If reprinted, this byline and links shown here must be included."