“Eliza Smith, Broken Witch” by Elola Eckford

Ok, I did look like a witch. My jet black hair billowed down to my waist. One of my irises was green and the other one was blue, and I was unnaturally small. But that didn’t mean I was a witch. However, my opinion didn’t count—it was the village elders’ that did—and they said I was a witch. Was to be sentenced to death. At the age of 14. And my parents didn’t even get a say in it. Well that was usually the way, since they were dead, another of the reasons I was particularly “witchy”—they had died the second I was born. But against all odds, I had survived up until now. I had kept a low profile. I had made sure I was nowhere near anyone when they died. I had made do all by myself.So it was a real shame when the lord’s idiot, slimy son had died of an unknown cause, or, that is “curse.” A real shame when one of the servants had let slip that I was the maid that had served him his soup that very day. And a huge shame that I was sitting in a jail cell a few hours after that unfortunate incident, waiting for my death day . . .

That is exactly when I decided I wasn’t going to die on that day, or any other day soon. In fact, I was going to live up to a ripe old age, though how I was to accomplish that amazing feat I didn’t know.

I bashed my fists against the cold, grimy stone slabs that made up my lovely cell. Finally looking around at my surroundings, I realized that there were sharp little cracks running all over the walls where bigger, stronger prisoners had evidently tried to break themselves free. The ceiling was made of metal bars crisscrossed against each other widely, so you were let loose to the weather but weren’t able to get out. Weren’t able to get out, that is if you were the huge, heavy figure that the town elders had to wrestle into the prisons usually. Fortunately for me, I wasn’t that huge, heavy figure but unnaturally small. Small enough to fit through the bars. Small enough to escape.

Hurriedly, as I didn’t know when the guards were to take me to one of the numerous death machines that they used on witches, I scaled a cracked wall, being sure to avoid the slippery moss patches that speckled the cell. The simple effort of hauling my body up toward the ceiling brought whole rivers of sweat cascading down my brow- my usual job as a maid didn’t require this amount of personal strength. Just as I reached upwards to one of the metal bars, I heard the heavy stomp of my guard, the jangle of my cell keys and the screech of the knob being turned on the cell door. My time was up.

The guard slowly dragged his feet into the cell, sending huge clouds of dust billowing upwards with every footfall, as he bellowed at the top of his voice (an unnecessary feat) “Alri’ you ‘orrible witch girl, today’s your lucky day! We’re sendin’ you ta the gallows!”

He stayed there for a few painful seconds, grinning around madly with an expectant look to his face, as if he was used to prisoners jumping up merrily and saying back to him in the happiest tone ever, “Oh thank you so, so much for getting me the gallows, it was the nicest thing you could have done, I’ll go there right away!”

If that was the case, which I suspected not, then this certain jailer was in for a surprise. I was not wasting my life or the excellent hiding place that I had found inside an air vent in the corner of the cell by answering, just to please an evidently delirious prison guard!

This certain prison guard was apparently not pleased. He sent his fists the size of sledge hammers crashing against the wall violently while yelling with utmost fury ,“Thas’ it, I gave you your chance! I was nice ta you! You will pay! You will be tortured! You will get out here right now! ***!!??!?!>@£$&%!!!??!?***” (That was too much of rude language for your ears).

Finally realizing that I wasn’t going to come to him willingly, he squinted through his tiny, beetle-like eyes around the miniature cell. I was nowhere to be seen. As his seemingly miniscule brain apparently couldn’t handle any more intolerance, he bellowed out at the top of his lungs, “EMERGENCY!!! EMERGENCY!!! PRISONER ESCAPEE!!!! CELL 201!!! I REPEAT CELL 201!!!” With that, he strode merrily out the, rather a bit too tiny for my likings, room!

I needed to act quickly: I knew that the other guards wouldn’t come in here straight away. They would probably check the courtyard first. That would have been a dead end escape route if I had somehow gotten out through the door. However, they would eventually realize that I had somehow fooled the exceedingly stupid guard they had given me.

As quick as a flash, I popped my head out of the air vent and reached up to one of the bars to try and get a firm grip. I slipped and my hand came off the bar black and encrusted with rust. I was going to have to tackle this certain problem differently.

Ripping off one long strip of material of my grubby, jail smelling shirt, I tied this on to the bar, and a much better result came out of it. I was able to cling on to this while swinging back and forth, back and forth gaining speed and height. The second my toes touched one of the bars, I wrapped my legs around the bar, getting as tight a grip as I possibly could. Squeezing my slender, miniscule body through the gap, I gasped in the fresh air around me and felt the icy wind whip up my hair.

For a second I thought I wasn’t going to make it. My hips had got jammed in a tight spot and I couldn’t seem to be able to budge them. But then, with a mighty heave, I was able to make it through the bars and out to freedom. Or so I thought.

My first thoughts were, “Oh no” and then “Just my luck!” and that was exactly the case: it was just my luck.

Just my luck to have escaped out of my cell when a whole troupe of the very soldiers who were looking for me strode past my cell, just far away from the wall to see me. Yep just my awful flippin’ luck!

It took a moment for the highly astonished guards to realize what on earth was happening. Thinking back on that moment, I realize that moment probably saved my life—so thank heavens that I used it wisely! My head of wiry, black hair had just ducked back into the cell, my hands gripping onto the strip of shirt tied round the metal bar as the bullets started zipping over the roof and around the prison block.

It was a miracle that only one of the guards on the scene got killed by the rain of sharp, metal bullets that was probably coming from behind him. The rain of bullets that was meant for me. One of the guards yelled, “You idiot, Corban!” (evidently the man they thought had killed the other guard). “That’s a crime, you killed one of your own kind—the punishment is death!” Sneered the speaker, with a tint of anger in his voice. All of the jailers laughed and jeered, then the speaker announced, “Danny, you kill ‘im, your the best shot. The rest of you, scrapper: get to the witch girl’s cell!”

I only knew that another man had been killed by the short, sharp, guttural, almost animal cry of pain that escaped his lips before he took his last breath. That and the loud bang that came from the rifle, and the cloud of smoke that drifted over the prison.     

I shook myself free of the trance that I had been held in. The guards would be closing in by now. Swinging my legs up to the metal bar, I squeezed my body through the gap again and came up on the roof of my cell. Hauling my ever-tiring muscles up, I started to jump from cell top to cell top, making my wobbly way towards the fence that marked the end of the prison and the start of the forest that encased our little village. I urged myself onwards, making bigger and bigger leaps, not letting myself think about the horror that had just occurred.

Shouting and cursing coming from the direction of my cell (that was a few hundred yards away now) informed me of the fact that the guards had—once again—found an empty room. I felt so sorry for them. Well I would, if they weren’t out to kill me.

When I did reach the end of the line of cell blocks, I realized that the gap between the last block and the fence (20-meter-high, brick wall) was larger than I had expected. Well, every day seems to come with surprises. Especially this one. Thinking hard, I tried to come up with a plan of how to get over that darned wall. Nothing happened, so, as carefully as I could, I leaped off the cell and made my way toward the wall.

Halfway there, I stopped dead and stared. I couldn’t believe my luck. And—this time—it was my good, splendid, amazing luck! There was an average sized hole that had evidently been broken into the bricks, as there was a pile of rubble next to it, just in front of me. A hole just large enough for me to fit into. A hole just perfect for me. I stepped forward eagerly, delight giving my footfall an unusual spring, as I thought to myself: I might actually make it through this awful, painful nightmare! I let a smile slip onto my face -just a small one mind- to express my feeling of accomplishment!

Then, again, I stopped dead—though this time it was out of horror. A human head—a man’s head had just rolled out of the hole in the wall. It’s eyes where glassy and staring at me, a look of utmost pain mixed with terror was fixed on the face and blood -probably it’s own- was splattered across the whole head and encrusted into the hair.

My mouth opened in a scream that never came out. Without thinking, without knowing I ran as fast and as far away from that hellish hole as I could. It had, now I think about it, been some kind of grisly, pain-inflicting death trap that had fooled other desperate prisoners that had tried -and failed- to escape. Had fooled other prisoners- and me. I squirmed to think of what my head would have looked like decapitated, what would have happened if that other one hadn’t gone astray.

My mind swirled as I realized that I was going round in a circle, left here, right here, left, right. I hadn’t realized that I had collapsed into a small, unnoticeable gutter opening until the huge wave of tiredness hit me. It was like being punched in the face by a brick wall: my head spun wildly, I kept whizzing in and out of consciousness and my stomach growled like an angry tiger, trying to escape from its cage!

The stomp of guard’s feet woke me from my restless slumber I didn’t even know I had fallen into, my body was plastered in sweat and my head was filled with images of the faces of the guards that had been shot and the beheaded one that had rolled out the wall. They had been taunting me, saying, “We died, we died because of you. You murdered us. You will pay. You will pay with your life” in hoarse, malice filled tones. And to back it all, the guttural cry that escaped the soldier’s lips before he left the earth still ringed in my ears even when I had bravely decided to haul my tired body out of the gutter, even when I had actually found my way out of the dreadful maze of a prison, even when I crept silently to a huge metal gate at the edge of the wood—at the complete opposite end to which I had been yesterday and even when I waited patiently at that gate for my chance to escape.  



Leave a Reply