The Reverend Jonathan Willard was a stern faced man, his features old and withered. The old man surveyed the captives, two women and a man, each tied to a stake, kindling wood piled high over their legs.
“Who doth accuse these wretches of witchcraft?” the Reverend asked as he raised his flaming torch in the air. “Step forward and make your accusations known.”
The crowd parted to make way for three teenage puritans.
“Ernestina Meyer looked at me cross. I’ve felt peculiar ever since!”
“Hortense Tallmadge has a peculiar odor! It is of the devil!”
“Jericho Turner fills his home with books! What could he be doing with so many volumes if not using them to trap men’s souls?”
The Reverend shrugged his shoulders. “Eh. Good enough for me. Let the burnings begin!”
The crowd applauded.
Mason Prendergast, Mayor of Salem, was a bearded man who wore a buckled hat. He pushed through the crowd until he reached the Reverend.
“Reverend Willard,” the man said. “What you are doing is most uncouth.”
“Away with you,” the Reverend said. “This trial is being conducted in accordance with biblical law.”
“You call this a trial?” the mayor asked. “‘A woman looked at me funny so let’s set her ablaze?’”
“If these three are indeed practitioners of witchcraft, they shall use their powers to shield themselves from the flames and be saved,” the Reverend said. “If not, they will all die good Christian deaths and be welcomed with open arms by the angels in heaven as martyrs in our ongoing war against the devil. I’ve thought it all through, Mayor. My logic is impeccable.”
“Your logic is non-existent!” the Mayor said. “The Governor has assured me that he will arrive in a week’s time to investigate your so-called trials. I urge you to stay your hand until then.”
“The Lord’s will cannot wait,” the Reverend said. “And besides, you don’t want bloody witches lurking about all willy nilly do you?”
“Smelling peculiar makes you a witch?” the Mayor asked.
“It doesn’t not make you a witch,” the Reverend responded triumphantly.
“And reading books?” the Mayor asked.
“Story books are tools of Satan,” the Reverend said. “Souls of men and women are trapped inside the pages and their lives turned into printed words. The bible is the only book that one should ever read. Everyone knows that. These three are vile sinners I assure you.”
The Mayor sighed. “Allowing this charade to go on for so long is my sin.”
Mayor Prendergast turned to address the crowd. “Will none of you join me in stopping this?”
The townsfolk looked to each other for a moment and then shouted in unison. “Burn the witches! Burn them!”
The Mayor shook his head. “May God have mercy on us all.”
The Reverend walked over to Ernestina. She was an older woman in her mid-forties, some gray in her hair.
“Do you confess to witchcraft?” the Reverend asked.
“Umm,” Ernestina said. “Should I confess to witchcraft?”
“God looks upon those who confess their sins with favor,” the Reverend said.
“Then…I am a witch?”
“I knew it.” The Reverend set his torch against the kindling until it was ablaze.
“Blast,” Ernestina said.
Hortense was a young woman in her early twenties with long red hair.
“Do you confess to witchcraft?”
“Pater huc me,” Hortense mumbled.
The Reverend looked to the Mayor. “Do you hear this? She speaks in tongues!
Hortense’s eyes rolled into the back of her head. “Audite me, Pater.”
“Please,” the Mayor said. “You’ve frightened the poor woman into some type of fit.”
As the flames licked Ernestina’s legs, she cried out in agony. “Agggghhhhh! I’m not a witch! I swear I’m not a witch!”
“Silence you!” the Reverend shouted at Ernestina. “Only a witch would deny being a witch!”
Hortense’s chants grew louder. “Convertimini ad me in captivos igni.”
“Enough,” the Reverend said. “I’ll hear no more of your devil’s talk.”
The Reverend set the kindling underneath Hortense ablaze.
Hortense kept chanting, louder and ever so defiant. “Et offeres super eos , ut propter audaciam!”
“And you,” the Reverend said as he reached Jericho. “What have you to say for yourself?”
Jericho was in his early thirties with a gentle, round face and long brown hair tied back behind his head.
“I apologize, Reverend,” Jericho said. “I get so very lonely sometimes and the story books…I do so enjoy reading tales of great deeds I shall never accomplish but…had I known it was an offense…”
The Reverend was clearly not swayed.
“Please Reverend,” Jericho said. “I’ll burn every book I own the second I arrive home and never look at another one again.”
“I can’t take the risk,” the Reverend said. “Warlocks are even more powerful than witches.”
Jericho closed his eyes as the Reverend set his torch upon the kindling.
Ernestina had been consumed, her remains fully charred. Jericho winced as the heat grew strong underneath him.
To the Reverend’s dismay, Hortense remained unscathed, despite being surrounded by flames. The fire simply bounced off of her.
“What in God’s name?” the Reverend asked. “You…you really are a witch!”
“Salvum fac servum tuum patrem,” Hortense shouted. “Et destinatam voluntatem semper erit!”
Whoosh! The fire that danced around Hortense’s body erupted into a massive fireball that spread its way forth, consuming the other captives, the Reverend, the Mayor, and the hundred or so townsfolk in its wake.