by Ashlea Green [February 02, 2010]
A large rusted iron church bell inscribed with the date 1692 rang loudly, twelve times at the stroke of midnight.
Just outside the church where the bell swung, lived a weather worn plaque that displayed a myriad of names, names of those who had died during some sort of tragic, historical event. Witch trials perhaps, but I couldn’t be sure. At first glance, only nineteen names appeared, but before long, the list grew to thousands.
A heavy mist poured onto the grounds, making my shoes and ankles disappear. A swift breeze whisked me up into the dark, midnight sky. At first floating, then flying through the clouds until a sudden halt brought me to a lingering halt. High above, the moon lit up a path of uncountable graves that plagued the land of Salem; a ghost-filled churchyard. The transparent beings made my body tremble with utter fear.
With each ring of the bell, deafening screams of my name cracked through the silence, “Elizabeth! Elizabeth! Elizabeth!”
“Elizabeth Howe!” My body awoke, petrified, from hearing my aunt screech my name. “Elizabeth! Ye’ shall be tardy again if ye’ do not awaken soon.”
“I am awake,” I mumbled to myself, still in shock from my nightmare.
Hurriedly, I leapt out of bed and threw on my beige, hand-stitched school dress – not forgetting to fasten a crisp white apron around my waist. I ran to the water basin in the corner of my room and splashed my face with cold water, washing away the sweat on my forehead that still lingered from my frightful visions. I dried my face with a small cloth and jostled down the steep spiral stairs that led to the kitchen.
The smell from aunt Victoria’s infamous cooking, led my nose to the conclusion that pigeon pie was on the menu again. After Salem’s poor harvests a few years back, flocks of pigeons had become our main source of food, keeping the town from starvation. Sadly, even after crops recovered, pigeon was still a favored choice in our home, mainly due to its uncostliness.
Victoria, similar to myself, had dark brown hair and green eyes. She once described my mother as possessing the very same features. All smiles this morning, Victoria handed me a small portion of pie along with my beaten-up copy of the New England Primer.
“Eat up or ye’ shall be late,” she said as she watched me pretend to chew on the pigeon.
The front door closed behind me as I pondered how peculiar my aunt was behaving this morning. She was happier than she’d been in months, which I guess was a good thing, but the pestering was a new, unwelcome action. My thoughts were interrupted when my dear old friend, Bridget Bishop, appeared at the front gate. Every morning, Bridget met me promptly at the early hour of six.
“Good morning Elizabeth,” she waved. “I see ye are just as thrilled as I for school today.” Bridget stroked her golden locks and chuckled.
The wooden plaque engraved with my surname name, “Howe,” banged heavily against the iron gate as it shut – the noise shocking Ebony, our old family cat. I gave her a quick stroke before leaving to join Bridget. We walked through clouds of fog until we reached the Derby Canal where we were greeted by row boats; our only form of transportation to the schoolhouse.
Alice and Mary Parker were rowing not too far behind us. The two sisters had moved to our village three years ago and became instantaneously famous, for the people of Salem had never encountered twins before now. Quiet but intriguing, they were also dressed identical, wearing their hair in buns with matching cloth bonnets; it was a talent if you could tell them apart.
Making our way down the buggy canal, we glided effortlessly through the sleepy waters, passing nothing but wilderness and a couple of abandoned canoes.From the boats, we squinted to see some of the other students already arriving at the Salem Schoolhouse. Children’s chattering voices broke the silence that lingered upon the land as we approached the shore. Whispers of war echoed off of the Derby banks.
“The Iroquis tribe has allied with us, I think we have a fairer advantage over the French,” said Bridget in her know-it-all tone. “God knows that this land is meant not for the French, but for the Puritans.”
“Are ye so sure of yourself Bridget?” said George, one of the older boys in our school. “I could help myself from overhearing your strong opinion on this topic.” Bridget rolled her eyes.
“I have no hand in the matter, however I have heard news of the Algonquian tribes allying with the French. It appears that the Indians are more unpredictable than we’d ever believed them to be.” He looked curiously from Bridget to myself, waiting for a response.
Before, I could comment, Bridget jumped in again. “I know nothing of this, are ye sure ye speak the truth?”
“I heard it with thine own ears from a neighboring redskin,” George replied, as if it were enough proof.
The conversation soon dispersed as the bell rang; a devilish reminder of the bell from my nightmare. Children of all ages, headed towards the schoolhouse as Mrs. Sarah Wilde greeted them.
Mrs. Wilde took attendance, noticing one pupil was missing – Edward Hale. “Moving on, please open the New England Primer to page 66.”
She read aloud a story from Exodus 1:1 and preached, “If ye retain anything from this session, remember this, “thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Please repeat this line ten times on your parchments.”
It was the first time witches had ever been mentioned in the classroom, an odd choice for Mrs. Wilde, but nevertheless, I picked up my pencil and began writing.
By line three, I felt distracted, starring out of the side window of the room. I noticed a wolf standing still by a far away tree. I could have sworn it was starring straight at me, but it was too far away to tell. Its dull-grey coat blended in with the dull scenery, but its fierce, piercing blue eyes were closer now, fixated on mine.
Mrs. Wilde cracked her ruler so viciously onto my desk, I thought a storm had come over. Bridget and the other students who sat right next to me, followed suit in shifting with shock. I apologized and waited until Mrs. Wilde turned away before looking out the window again, but the wolf had gone.
Having no doubt about it – something was different about Salem today.
by Ashlea Green [Jan 20, 2010]
Walking up the stairs, you can smell it. The same foul smell that forever lingers in the air outside Charlie’s room. Reaching the second floor, the stench burned Paige’s nostrils, making it almost unbearable to breathe. She pinched her nose with her tiny fingers and looked from side to side to make sure no one was around. Paige turned the brass brown door handle, the same handle she had turned a million times before. This time was different however, because this time she was walking into his room, unwelcome.
Opening the door gently, the handle still managed to squeal. Paige moved swiftly into Charlie’s room, thinking she should have brought some WD 40 with her. She shut the door fast but without slamming it. If anyone was watching her from the outside, they would have thought she was up to no good. Perhaps they would be right.
The room looked exactly the way it had done when she last saw it, but as always the horrible stench from the hallways was somehow not apparent in his room. It was quite the opposite in fact, smelling of fresh laundry with a hint of musky cologne. Paige felt a pang of sadness.
The dark clouds shown through the half-drawn curtains, letting through just enough light to see his room but not enough to explore it in depth. Paige turned the dimmer switch on but not too bright as she didn’t want it showing through the crack of the door into the outside hall. The walls were painted magnolia, the carpets marine blue. Small particles of dirt and light brown wood shavings scattered across the floor.
Charlie’s king size bed looked comfy however, with beige Egyptian sheets and goose feathered pillows. The room didn’t match. In the corner, she spotted a wicker-hamper drowned in dirty laundry. His waste basket was also spilling over with Subway wrappers and crushed beer cans; trash that Charlie had obviously missed when trying to aim for the garbage can. The place was a pigsty because she hadn’t been there to clean it.
Looking from the corner of the room to the hand-made oak bed, the picture of Charlie and Paige on vacation was the first main thing to catch her eye. It was still stuck to the wall but only just, as it hung by one corner. The picture made Paige smile and think of their escape to Spain that past summer. Trying to forget the wondrous yet hurtful memories, she walked over to Charlie’s desk. Stacks of bills, scrap paper, and various rusty nails lay covering the surface.
Paige went through all of Charlie’s paperwork – piece by piece – careful not to ruin his organized mess. After reading a load of nonsense, she looked along the myriad of books that lined the shelves including Workshop Machines, Top Gear Tips, and Led Zeppelin’s Autobiography. Paige stroked the books with her fingers following each one carefully.
Turning to Charlie’s Macbook, she began searching though his history. Streaming sites (no surprise there), but dating websites and social network activity made Paige’s stomach turn. Reality began to set in; her eyes filled with tears. Pacing back and forth, she felt sad yet relieved knowing that the paranoia she felt was not without cause or reason.
The house was silent and all she could hear were the sounds of neighboring dogs barking and cars passing by. Paige sat on the bed with her face in her hands and sighed. This room reminded her of all the things she hated yet loved about Charlie. More than anything, it reminded her of their final fight; the one that ended everything.