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On the Witch’s Trail by K.L Rasmussen

A lot is at stake as of right now, mostly my life and witch-hungry fire. It is a hysterical time for women. It is believed that these demonic powers stem from the feminine sex. Doubtful, if I do say so myself. So many have died because of fear. Fear spread by foolish men and women who thought this was a game. And kept alive by cruel school girls in Windsor. Our colony took religion seriously, threatening the beliefs that were set in stone before we arrived. A phobia for witchcraft lingers. It spread from Salem all the way here to Windsor, Connecticut.
People were turning on each other left and right. You couldn’t trust anyone, and sometimes not even our own family. We learned that after Isabelle Cooke was hauled off to the gallows after her husband accused her of making him go bald. She did no such thing, of course. Magic doesn’t exist. John Cooke is just an abusive arse who wanted his wife out of the way to be with his mistress.
Religion makes people do and believe ridiculous things. I’ve never personally bought into any of it, but I had to keep up a good image and pretend. Go to church, where I would sit and think up wild stories in my head. I never shared these stories with anyone, and they would surely get me into trouble.
A substitute led this Sunday’s services. Father Crawley had fallen ill, Judge Crawley, having been our previous priest, filled his post for the time being. The pews were packed tight; even my boney body barely fit comfortably. Everyone in the colony felt compelled to come to pray in these trying times of need. Or save face, like me. Not that I didn’t care. But I am realistic about life, and you can’t have life without death and illness. The Father had not been looking well before this illness. It’s only a matter of time.
The Judge drones on about the looming presence of witches in Salem. “For my brother’s sake, please come forth if ye have suspicions of witchcraft and speak the name of evil before the whole congregation! Let them be brought to justice!”
No one came forward. Not even the group of whispering girls that now sat in complete silence behind me, and I knew what they were thinking. Sitting beside me was my younger sister, Shannon, and my widowed grandmother, Carol Crane. We were the last three spinsters in the town. And they were running out of options.
But they did not come forth at that time. The girls are silent, just like the rest of us.
As we walk out of the church, Grandmother tells me to stick close to her. I hold Shannon’s hand and follow her to our small cottage planted at the edge of Salem. Passing other churchgoers on the path leading out of town, we avoid eye contact. No one smiles anymore or waves. We walk in silence. I felt this made us look more suspicious, but at the same time, I fear what they would see if they did dwell too long.
We hear a commotion erupt on the path ahead, just before the market. Sara Ann Crawley, the Judge’s self-righteous daughter, appears to have cornered the shy girl of our class, Myrtle Miller.
“IT’S HER! I KNOW IT!” Sara Ann shrieks at the top of her lungs. Her two brothers hold her back as she struggles against them to attack and throw dirt at Myrtle, who is cowering and shielding herself from the flying debris. No one else dares to step forward to defend her. “I didn’t do anything,” Myrtle cries as Sara Ann starts to break free from her brother’s restraints.
Without thinking, I run ahead of Gran and Shannon, who calls after me, “No, Indigo! Don’t get involved.” But I pretended to not hear them.
I’d witnessed enough people dying because of prissy bitches like Sara Ann who think this is a game. And Sara has already ruined other lives; I couldn’t let her take another.
Sara Ann had broken free of her restraint. Her brothers had given up and now stood on the sidelines and watched their sister berate this poor girl. Thomas and James never had much backbone. In the end, Sara-Ann always got her way. They figure they should at least try, I guess.
“You ought to shut your lying trap.”
Everyone’s head turned as I approached the crowd.
“Excuse me, but who invited you to the conversation?” Sara Ann sneered, a shine of hate in her eye that I knew was reserved for me.
“Oh, no one invited me, Sara-Ann, and no one ever does. But I digress. But you heard me, stop this right now. Myrtle has done nothing to you nor your family, and we are all concerned for your uncle. But spreading lies about witchcraft is not helping, and it’s only spreading more fear.”
“This does not involve you!” Sara Ann shrieked like a banshee.
“Not yet, anyway. How long till you point the finger at the rest of us and we are carried off to the gallows? If you keep this up, you will reap what you sow.”
“And what do you mean by that?” Sara Ann said, getting close, puffing herself up.
“It means I hope you eventually develop tastebuds in your anal canal so you can taste your own shit, Sara Ann. Or do I need to be more clear?”
At that moment, Sara Ann at once began to lose her strict composure and turned green and turned and ran to vomit in the gutter nearby. Only it was not bile that fell from her mouth. It was shit. Actual shit.
“Oh, crap.” And then I ran for it. I ran past the townspeople, who were still struggling to comprehend what they saw. Gran and Shannon were just as awestruck and watched as I ran by. I didn’t look back. I couldn’t bear the look on Gran’s face, and I didn’t want to see Shannon’s tears.
I just run. I run as far as my pointed shoes can carry me across the meadow, hoping they miss my wicked trail.

Just Passing Through by K.L Rasmussen

A cold chill crawled up my spine as I climbed out of our panel van. I was moving at a snail’s pace gathering my personal items from the back trunk. I could feel Patrick getting impatient with me. I felt the chill spread and slither through my body. The wind-chill took my breath away. I bundled my scarf around my face, and hung close to Patrick, who was still shaking off sleep long enough to get in the building. We’re aliens to this town. Strangers. Or rather, newcomers. And as a newcomer, I felt anything but welcome here.

The town itself was small. One main street that led straight through back onto the main road. A small cluster of local shops, but none looked as they had been open in a while. I guess I won’t be getting any souvenirs to remember this visit. And maybe I will skip the photo opportunity.The whirling snow and icicles falling of rooftops screamed holiday season, but there were no menorahs in the windows nor lights or wreaths hung. There were industrial buildings with neon lights, that was as close as it gets. I at once missed the last town, busy and full of life. Here, the streets were empty. There were no townspeople, tourists walking about the streets, which struck me as odd especially for being in the early hours of the morning. The town looked shut down, except for the gas station, mini food-mart and the motel. I tried to imagine the people who lived here. I cannot imagine there’s a large population, farmhands and landowners if anything. Not enough to call for much, if any, police presence. It was quiet here, and that provoked a weird sense of danger. It was a town that operated on silence. A powerful weapon.

This is a town to pass through, which was what I wanted to do, the lot in which we have parked was that of the grimly lit motel. We’d been driving all night, and all Patrick wanted was a real bed. Which I can’t say I blame him, but couldn’t we have stayed in the town before this? There we could have at least enjoyed a nice hot meal, a walk about town and a hotel that didn’t scream ‘murders happened here’. Heck, I would have stretched my wallet for a bouget bed-n-breakfast.

The motel lobby was grim and dark, like the attendant that stood at attention at the check-in desk. A long grim face and a tight bun to match, the woman looked like she belongs here. I could sense her bond with the town.

“Name for reservation, please?” she requested, sternly. I was surprised they even took reservations. Who the hell would vacation here by choice besides Patrick?

“We don’t have a reservation. We are just passing through,” Patrick replied, excitedly. But I doubt the woman cared about what we were doing there. But she seemed quite eager to get us into a room. It was a matter of minutes before we had signed the papers and checked in.

“I will have the room ready for you in about twenty minutes.” she says after a search on her dated computer. I could tell the operating system was Windows 7.

Ignoring my groan of impatience, Patrick replies, “That’s fine. Beats sleeping in our van.”

She disappeared down the hall and unlocked a room just three doors down. I watched for the door to open again, I was desperate to go to sleep.

I thought about what she might be doing in there. Leaving some kind of witch voodoo doll under my bed that would bind my first-born to her? Not likely. Cleaning up evidence? Plausible. I love a good mystery as much as the next girl, but I am too tired to engineer some fantastical murder mystery to give myself anxiety over.

Patrick looked over the map the motel attendant was hesitant to give us and started planning for our trip out of town in the morning.

“Not much here is there,” he said, not taking his eyes off the map. Breakfast was already on his mind.

“You can say that again. Something not right about that,” I glared at him. I was irritated now. What was taking that woman so long?

“It’s a commuter’s town, babe. You can’t expect much to be here.” he said, laughing. He knew not to take my irritability too seriously. I was cranky and we knew it. But I was laying in on the guilt trip. I had committed to that.

“We could have stayed in the last town. At least that was pleasant to look at.”

“Your room is ready,” We had hardly noticed her return, I nearly jumped a foot. I felt embarrassed for criticizing this town. It was her home after all. But maybe even she realizes it’s a crapshoot.

She shown us to our room, the same which she had gone into earlier. I half expected her to be carrying a candle to lead the way. The hall was dim and dark, as was the room. The bedding matched the yellow wallpaper. The bathroom smelt as if it had been over cleaned. An effort to hide something. Whatever. At least it was clean. The bed was springy. But it was a bed, clean I hope. And no bodies rolled in plastic stowed below. Patrick checked, after my insistence.

As we turned out the lights and climbed into the creaking bed, we heard a loud scream off in the distance. It sounded as if it had come from an animal, like a goat or a cat. My eyes grew wide and I looked to Patrick, hoping he’d have an answer for what we heard.

“I knew it,” he began. “There’s a cult here.”

“What makes you think that?”

“That was a goat.”

“And you know this how?”

“Don’t worry about it, babe.”

But I was going to worry. I was going to worry all night long.

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