The Witch Bridle

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Chapter 56

John Proctor granted Oona all the privacy she and Louis needed. The boy dosed at Oona’s side in their parlor while Oona reviewed in her mind the deeds which needed to be done. Oona preferred not to be left with too much time in Salem Town, and to visit the Evil One closer to the time of her preordained execution at dawn.

John and Elizabeth provided their visitors with ample provisions, some coins, shoes, and clothing. They said their goodbyes and Elizabeth eventually went upstairs to bed, followed a few minutes later by her husband. And once their hosts retired to bed, Oona stifled her own exuberance and Louis’ as well, and they rested for a while. At 4AM the bloodied but unbowed travelers quietly set out for a one hour’s journey to Salem Town.

More than enough time, and not too much.

There were giant flakes of wet snow which fell silently straight from the sky. Cotton balls of snow stuck to the surface of the Salem road and the blotched, spongy ground of beautiful empty spring fields. In a short time, there was snow everywhere and on everything including themselves.

Louis watched for locals and Oona kept to their easterly course. In the vicinity of Gallows Ledge and behind a place called Normans Rocks, near the Ledge, Oona carefully arranged corn husks in a heart shaped fashion, and stuck sharp sticks through each. As Louis stayed on the lookout, Oona scratched and clawed her way into the ground with her knife and the husks. Then she placed them into a small “grave.” Oona drew blood from her hand and dripped it onto the husks and took a small bottle which the farmer had given her and poured from it a foul smelling liquid. After a soft and sustained incantation, Oona stamped on the bottle and then smashed it with a rock six times, then six times again, and six times again. She arose and steadied herself, then called for Louis to join her.

“When this ground bursts, so shall her black heart burst.”

They set out from Normans Rocks. Oona divined that Lucia’s body was cut up and cast into the waterway just beyond the old turnpike to their left.

Let thine enemies be scattered.

Here by the North River Oona and Louis needed to act in complete secrecy.

“Go to the river bank and kneel,” Oona commanded Louis. “Once there, take water in your hands. I shall be there beside you.”

Louis and then Oona discreetly crossed the road and needed to walk only a few feet to the river. Louis positioned himself and, as instructed, he submerged his hands into the icy cold water of the gushing stream.

Oona stood and faced to each of the four directions and she chanted in Creole.

“Now, boy take the water in your hands and pour it onto the ground, here.” And Oona pointed to the place with her foot.

“In the name of the devil,” Oona proclaimed, “So in the name of my enemy, may the life of the Evil One pour out just as this water. May Lucia lay lifeless to your demagogic rhetoric and for all Eternity helpless in diabolical parody to your true evilness.”

They felt the ground beneath their feet shaken by the tremors of hell.

“Stand firmly amid the storms Louis,” Oona called. “Go yonder, to the well over there. See? There, go backwards on your knees and then cast this stone in his name (he understood she meant the devil) into the river. Say, ‘So I curse on’.” Oona made the boy repeat the words and then sent him on his way.

Louis reached the well and did as his nanny instructed. He repeated the words perfectly. Ironically, or perhaps absurdly the air was fresh and pleasingly wet. With the snow squalls subsided, Louis could see the beginnings of a Blood Sky at dawn which was as rich as nothing he had ever beheld.

While Louis was engaged at the well, Oona considered the many methods attributed to hydromancy. This time she took particular note of the cascading ripples and, to a lesser extent, the ebb and flow of the river water along the edges. The water color was pure and crisp, and as yet unharmed. Oona edged to the water and from a small vial, cast urine of the virgin boy Louis into the fast running stream. She swung back and forth and chanted strange phrases.

And how starry was the lessening night warmly lit against the lingering blackness of the sky and forest?

Sunrise neared the morning of Thursday, March 31, 1692. Execution Day. So far it seemed they had drawn no suspicion, though that could easily change as the day marched on. They entered Salem Town nearer to dawn, and Oona wondered whether there ever was an official record by which Lucia’s last moments on earth were recorded? She supposed it did not matter anymore. Just curious. There was sufficient time for Oona to quell her angina, though a deep inner conflict nearly brought her to despair. “To do such a horrible thing to a fellow witch.” She conceded a guilty admiration for Lucia and much of what the Dark Witch accomplished in her shocking life.

The entered Salem Town and, as instructed by John Proctor, Oona and Louis walked a few blocks through what looked like a movie screen set, toward the Ship Tavern, closed at such an early hour, and where they turned left. They proceeded quietly to the gaol and caught their collective breath when they approached the small wooden gateway. There was no one in sight and Oona pulled the barrier aside. Then a Night Watchmen, only a few feet away and evidently drunk, forced himself to rise from his stupor and approached them.

“I must seeth the Constable,” announced Oona. “I am, and in spite of our appearance before thee, a representative of Their Majesties’ Governor Phips.”

The Night watchman swayed and offered a puzzled look at the good witch Oona. “Did you say ’Governor Phips?

“Aye, it is very important to see the Constable.”

There is no Constable here. I am all alone.”

Oona was relieved.

“And Simon Bradstreet is the Governor!” The Watchman moved toward Oona in a threatening way and Louis suddenly distracted the man with a kick to the knee.

The Watchman turned his drunken attention to Louis who ran circles around him.

With great relief, Oona passed by the Watchman unnoticed. After many disappointments with the young boy, Louis had fulfilled an enormously critical task. How she grudgingly endured his drag on her mission, with his incessant questions and his curiosities as they trudged their way first to Boston and then here to Salem. How ashamed she now was with herself.

Oona turned to the now-half crazed stumbling Watchman and cast a Spell of Sleep upon the idiot. Almost immediately the man stopped in his tracks and fell to the gaol yard ground in a deep, drunken slumber.

“He will not notice a thing, and we have to move fast. Louis: take a discreet position over there.” She pointed. “Watch and alert me only if necessary. Pay no heed to the sleeping Night Watchman, but find me immediately if others appear.”

Louis nodded and deployed to the darkest corner of the gaol yard.

Oona stood at the entryway and cringed at the known presence of the witch therein; her presence certain. With great care, Oona gripped the door-handle and, with a loud and sustained creak, she pushed the door open and entered into a dim and dank area with blank stone walls and rough-cut pine flooring. The good witch strained her eyes for keys which she found hung on the wall nearest an interior door which she surmised would lead to the dungeon. She could see no witch bridle.

All her planning coursed through her brain repeatedly, and with so many known and unknown unknowns. Oona drew a deep breath and opened the door.

She descended a series of shallow stone steps to a windowless enclosure where a torch burned brightly, under the black sooted stone ceiling above. With the torch Oona reached a narrow passage and counted four cells, two on each side of the cold uneven stone floor. Two cells were empty, a pair of ragged prisoners were in the third. Oona quickly threw spells of Sleep upon the two unfortunate ones and continued on her way. In the fourth cell was the Great Witch herself, the high priestess, Lucia, cruelly chained by the neck to the cold stone wall, fully shackled with leg irons and handcuffs. The pathetic creature was in a condition too horrible for any human being to suffer. Swollen black eyes, bloody rags on her body, blood from between her legs. Torture; sustained torture. Only through her Din Powers could Oona determine the motionless Evil One was conscious. A witch bridle hung nearby, on a crude hook fixed into the wall.

Oona exerted tenacious strength to block her mind as best as she could from Lucia’s. Rather easily she selected the correct key off the large round metal ring, then slowly and thoughtfully unlocked the ingress and entered the filthy cell.

Lucia moaned loudly and without words. She moved her bound hands out in front of her, and tried to stomp her feet.

In spite of her painful appearance, Oona was struck by Lucia’s presence. Her unsuppressed aura of refulgent Arawak attractiveness was testament to their common ancestry among the Caribbean peoples of Hispaniola and St. Lucia. She cautiously approached the Dark Witch. Oona noticed the awful scratching of rats somewhere close by.

I am here to end your suffering.

Oona suppressed all thoughts of how awful she felt about what she was there to do. Instead she spoke softly and tenderly to Lucia. She approached the Dark Witch with great care, her one hand extended in peace, as if she approached a rabid dog. She held a small golf size ball in the hand which at the moment also held the torch.

“I will ease your pain,” Oona said kindly, and carefully kept her distance. Power can trump truth.

The Dark Witch was highly suspicious. Her coal-black eyes burned behind the slits in her swollen eye sockets.

Make a lie believable.

Oona believed the Dark Witch, though greatly depleted in her appearance, had stored ample strength to invoke the Spell to the Devil at dawn. Oona paced to the wall to create a bit of noise and commotion, and then casually removed the witch bridle from the hook.

Lucia would have none of it. She howled and hurled unintelligible sounds at Oona whose mind-block of the Evil One managed to withstand her foul curses. Oona swiftly moved in to burn both of Lucia’s locked hands with the torch and then took it to her blood-matted black hair. When the Dark Witch reached to her burned scalp with her scorched hands, Oona dropped the torch onto the floor and picked up the bridle.

Lucia writhed in her near total restraint and viciously attacked any part of Oona within her hobbled reach. She lunged at Oona’s breasts and at her clothes, her pelvis and her elbows.

With her free, ungloved right hand, Oona stretched open the mouth of the vicious prisoner and then took her left hand to force the wound ball of filthy horse hair and feathers deep into the witch’s mouth. The neatly wrapped ball contained roots with sedatives and mild poisons of special herbs, and was held together in its shape with pin-like sticks which coursed through it.

As best as she could, Oona left the bridle pressed against Lucia’s bloodied and burned head. Her skin and scalp were mixed on the bridle and mangled tissue fell away from her skull, as if it were cooked flesh from a bone. Oona kept the ball in the mouth of the witch, covered by her left hand. She felt the smashed teeth of the witch bear down on her fingers and the warm blood that streaked her left hand. She knew she had been wounded from the terrible scuffle, wounded by the Evil One whose curses also battered her paranormal defenses. Oona herself was terribly drained though not yet helpless. And with all the strength that remained in her body (and mind) Oona tried to force the iron muzzle down onto Lucia’s head. Then the bridle fell to the floor.

Before she could panic, Louis burst into the cell.

“Pick up the bridle!” Oona commanded Louis and gestured to it with her right foot. She managed to keep the wound ball in place with both her hands positioned over the witch’s mouth.

There, terrified by the sight, Louis looked evil in the eye and conquered it.

Lucia howled in convulsive and undecipherable noises of all the dark forces of evil. Yet another one, with the bridle in hand, hast come to harm me further.

Oona slid the bridle bit, which was of sufficient length, through Lucia’s lips and several teeth, to project deep into her mouth to press down on her tongue and block her throat. The bridle was secure when Oona was able to finally close and key the iron muzzle. She backed away and took a deep breath. The bridle was securely locked onto Lucia’s head, and the curbed iron plate made speaking impossible for her. The iron framework was completely enclosed on her head and still left Lucia’s neck perfectly free to be broken.

Spew forth your curses now.

With extraordinary effort Oona welded closed the bridle’s lock, frozen, useless now even with the key. Louis left the cell first and brought Oona an old broom which she used to obscure the signs of their time there with Lucia. Oona and Louis left the cell with Lucia in utterly stifled hysteria, unable to chant her chants to the devil.

Once upstairs in the main room, Oona was careful to put the torch and the keys back in their places. She wrapped her bleeding hand, careful to contain it, and covered her soiled and disheveled clothing. She used the broom to dust their pathways on the pine floor. Once they left the gaol, Oona dusted the trodden path back to the main road. She was elated to see that most of the wet snow had merged with rain water and runoff, and had already melted.

“It will be 320 years until we never meet, if we never do.” Oona motioned to Louis to follow her back onto the street. Her left hand was bound in rags torn from her own garments. They eluded discovery and left the Town. And only then did Oona think to ask Louis why he came to her in the gaol.

“I was just bored. I wanted to see you.” He paused slightly then added, “Then I heard the fighting and ran toward the noise.”

Oona smiled a smile of complete love. “I thought you were deaf?”

“And dumb,” he replied, and they both laughed.

At the gaol, just past sunrise that morning, Samuell Goodberry and the First Minister of Salem Town, along with the Chief Constable of the garrison posts, and six burly Watchmen entered the cell to the sight of a surprisingly sedated killer. A witch bridle was securely affixed to her head with no apparent way to remove it. Lucia hung motionless in her chains, as if she were dead.

“God’s work,” proclaimed the chief gaoler and torturer of Lucia, Samuell Goodberry, the man not worthy of the “Goodberry” name; an abuser who thirsted to see Lucia die.

“God’s will,” proclaimed another.

“Truly God’s work,” said the First Minister. “She who would do anything to break free of her captors.”

“Aye,” said the rest of the party.

“This Act of God shows the necessity and appropriateness of her just sentence. It is further proof of His Divine Intervention. His Final Perseverance.”

With no argument, the Watchmen freed Lucia from the neck chain and then frog walked the helpless killer up the steps and out onto the street, only minutes after dawn. Her four limbs writhed in slow motion. Her sole gaoler from the evening, who swore he had no recollection of the past night, was removed to a cell at about the same time.

Lucia was brought out of gaol and carried against her will, face downward with four Watchmen who held each of her twisted limbs, and two others, one each at her head and feet. They hoisted the prisoner onto an ox cart and began the deathly procession. Townsfolk, Oona and Louis among them, walked in line both in the front and in back of the cart escorted by Watchmen. They were mindful not to draw too close to Lucia. And all processed toward Gallows Ledge.

Oona and Louis followed a muddy trail up to a high green. It was lavished all around with buds of new life and a clear view to the Ledge where Lucia would hang. A large crowd gathered around, children played and the birds sang. The skies began to clear.

With all she had learned on the subject, Oona still found the entire morning bizarre. And there were more than a few natural distractions in view.

“Oh, if this were only the right time,” Oona lamented, as she profoundly noticed a young maid. Their eyes met. A striking woman by any measure. Oona and the boy found a vantage point on high and secure ground, and amidst the spirited, foul air of the morning, Oona endured the horrible but necessary vision of death.

I will not attempt a return to my time unless and until that moment arrives.

The ox cart came to a stop at the Hanging Tree which was situated at the edge of the Ledge. Lucia was pulled out of the cart and carried onto the small scaffold under the tree to which her noose was tied. The scaffold stood about four feet high. The noose hung from about six feet, and was placed over the bridle and tightened around Lucia’s neck. Two Mounted Watchmen held Lucia by each arm and kept her as erect as possible while the sentence was read aloud.

Oona quietly recited: “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” She blessed herself three times and said, “From dust you came and to dust you shall return. Take away your wickedness and remember, woman, you are dust and unto dust you shall return for all eternity.”

As if Lucia had heard her words, she thrashed around as best as she could to be free of the horsemen. Oona could see that the Evil One would not easily accept her fate, and it sickened her. Lucia struggled in vain and her conduct turned to hopelessness as she waited for the scaffold to finally be knocked aside. Oona could barely see Lucia’s panicked eyes a moment before she descended with a muffled shriek to Eternal Oblivion. Her visible features were horribly contorted. The air filled with a carnival presence once the living corpse kicked out her last breaths. Lucia’s curses died on her lips, and fell harmlessly by the sword of Oona’s fury.

The curse which would have brought forth Lucia to the year 2010, dies with her this morning.

“Begone Satan! Oona whispered. “Consign thee to the dark depths of hell!” And at that moment of death, Oona knew no official account of the execution survived.

“Some people are meant to burn in hell,” she confided to Louis. Considered to be beneficial to her careful alteration of the Past, Oona was nonetheless concerned for how the sum of their actions had affected all that had already happened. She thought of the brigands she killed, and of the children they might have had or the others they might have killed. She thought of how she mingled with Samuel the farmer, and with Angry Indian. What would come of those actions?

And for Oona her concern included even the twenty-first century encounters with Lucia.

How might things otherwise change?

And with the last of her deeply depleted magic, and Louis’ remembrance of what he witnessed on the Ledge forever burned into his brain, Oona cast on him a simple Spell of Bravery. Their mission did not end there. And from a discreet distance Oona witnessed the dismemberment of Lucia’s body at the North River. Once she saw that with her own eyes, Oona was finally content.

“You get to a point in your life when you realize how fortunate you are, and then your life ends.”

“And when was that point in time for you?” asked Anton.

“Right before the plane crashed,” Drew said with no hesitation.

“Time to break now from the world you knew, Lieb.” Things are alright. Take leave of your earthly past now, or your soul’s redemption will otherwise be forfeit.”

Drew felt as though Redemption was out of reach. “Why is the whole thing so time-sensitive anyway? And by whose clock?” he thought.

KC walked along the shores of the mostly frozen lake and crept slowly out onto the wet ice. She prayed for her kids and for Oona’s mission. “And I’m still in love with him.” KC knew she had to move on either way. No matter what happens.

Which way do I go?

KC had the horrible, horrible feeling that they were never coming back.

KC moved slowly out onto the ice. One crack then another. KC was tempted to go out on the ice rather than return to Westbridge. She was so afraid. KC recalled how a fully charged electric screwdriver sent shivers of anxiety through Drew’s body, and not without good reason. Her husband railed against her home improvement methods, for such things in the wrong hands, he had said, can be destructive weapons against one’s best intentions. Her mind was a mess with things; everything was a mess. KC smiled sardonically and then paused. She had heard nothing from Charley and Thankful, and God only knew where Louis was. She inched out a little further on to the ice. Cracks and noises. Then her cell phone rang. A mysterious ‘unknown caller.’ And after some debate, KC took the call.

“Mom: ‘things are alright’,” she heard. It was Thankful! “See you soon; leaving now.”

KC turned back. How could she not follow through with the plan? She cried out loud and prayed now for her safe return to shore. The call was the first sign of anything from anybody. And what a quiet hell it had been. She lived incommunicado off and on with her husband’s cousin and his son, and at the downtown Boston hotels where she unassumingly walked to and from work. KC didn’t talk about the kids or the house, and people respected her space. Her own son and daughter fled with Frank’s wife to Minnesota while KC presumed that Oona, and possibly her middle child Louis, traveled together to the past.

And then her heart was greatly uplifted. After nearly two weeks, and only days before the “D-Day” invasion of their abandoned house, KC would not abandon her family and would not join her deer, departed husband just yet.

Unless she could be saved by a Willing-Witch, the Great Witch Lucia knew she was doomed; slowly starved in an empty house, powerless to replenish.

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