Day 101 – Evil in Her Eyes

Word count: 1174

 

 

A fire crackled and burned in the suffocatingly small cottage. The warm glow of the fiery centrepiece served to battle the nocturnal frost and keep the chill from their bones. The cottage was simple; a thatched roof and tiny windows. There were only two rooms: one for sitting, cooking and eating and one for sleeping. There was only just enough room for four or five people at a time, but there were many more in the cottage that night.

Outside an owl screeched. Esmé the lugubrious little girl stared up at the lustrous stars and sighed to herself. Every night before sleep she would look out this very window and dream of somewhere different. She would always wonder who else was staring at the same constellations; who else was encapsulated by the craters of the moon and that star twinkling only just out of sight. Esmé had no siblings. She was the loneliest ten year old girl the world had ever known. By the age of five, her mother had died of disease and her father was left to bring her up by himself. Now, at the age of ten, she was not the same blue eyed angel that her father sung to at night to help her sleep.

A hand clasped her shoulder gently. It surprised her, though she did not visibly show it. Instead, her mystical gaze at the universe fell to the dark woods that surrounded the cottage. There was not another light for miles around. Esmé knew that she would be able to run into those woods and not meet another person for hundred and hundreds of miles. That freedom not only scared it, it excited her. She would often roam further than she was allowed and venture where the road did not take her. Esmé craved new places and new ideas; her father did not like that.

“Esmé, my child, it is time,” her father said solemnly.

His voice was dark, heavy and gruff. He was a forester – a man of the woods. They were all people of the woods around here. The village was no more than four or five houses and each one was filled with strange minds and mysteriously inward people. Esmé had watched since she was small. She had seen how they kept themselves to themselves and only tended to the archaic ways of life. They did not believe in medicine, instead believing that demons entered bodies. Remedies could never be found in plants or time, water or fire. They believed in fairies, or something similar. Esmé had never been able to understand. From a very early age she had learnt what fire could do; she had played with flowers and mixed crushed berries with leaves and spices and warmed them over a gentle fire. With these recipes she could heal unimportant ailments and make life easier, though no one would ever try them. They feared her, they did. They feared the little girl with beliefs beyond their reckoning. A witch they had called her.

Earlier that evening they had gathered in the house. Her father had tried to tell them of Esmé’s curiosity. Esmé had over heard them talking, whispering, accusing. They were conspiring to punish her, to torture the devil from her soul and to severe the demons from their prowess. Her father, though, had calmed their emphatic lust for primeval justice and had persuaded them to merely punish her emotionally.

An hour ago she was instructed to go to her room and to collect everything she held dear to her. Esmé had sat amidst her belongings and, one by one, reckoned their worth. She did not have many cherished affects. They were not a rich family. She had broken pottery pieces she had tried to make with her mother. She had sticks and twigs from the forest they lived in. From them she had crafted ornaments and decorations. These made her happy. These made her feel at home. She even had one shell from when they had walked for so long they had reached the sea. It was smooth and light orange, decorated luxuriantly with little black and grey dots. She held the shell tight against her ear and swayed her body as she imagined the tide crashing in against the jagged cliffs and rocks. But these were not dear to her, despite how much she loved them. After much deliberation, she picked a single stone that she had found in a river not long after her mother had died. It had been her inanimate companion for years. It was a friend to her.

The stone was locked in Esmé’s grasp as her father pulled her away from the window and took her other hand.

“Have you chosen?” he asked.

She nodded.

“Come along, it will not be painful,” he took her into the other room.

They were all standing around the fire; the flames licking their penetrating judgemental eyes. A few of them made signs with their hands, others clutched at beads and closed their eyes. One reached out a hand to snatch at her.

“The devil be gone! The devil be gone!” the hand’s owner had chanted.

Her father steered her away from the crowd and directed her towards the fire.

“Kneel down,” he instructed and she did, “Now, what did you choose?”

Esmé took her closed hand with the stone in it and held it in front of her. Every iris in the room was upon her hand. Whether they were expecting a spell book or a magical element of witchcraft, Esmé could not known. There were gasps of horror and fear as they anticipated the evil that she was about to reveal to them.

“May god have mercy on us for what we are about to see!” one woman shouted.

“Repent the evil from this girl, she does not know her own mind!” another echoed.

Carefully and very slowly, Esmé turned her hand over so that her fingers were now on top. Even more slowly she opened up her fingers like a flowering lotus and revealed the simple stone in the palm of her hand.

One man almost fainted, “The evil, the evil!” he cried.

Another jumped forward, pointing at her, “Her eyes, look at her eyes! There’s evil in her eyes!”

“Quiet!” her father commanded, kneeling down beside her, “Now cast it into the fire.”

She threw it into the fire and a roar erupted from the villagers.

“She be saved, she be saved!”

“The devil be gone, the devil be gone!”

“Her eyes, her eyes are free!”

Amongst the commotion and primal victory dances, her father put his arm around Esmé and whispered in her ear, “Why did you choose that rock?”

Esmé smiled, “I knew that you would ask me to ask me to burn something and I thought about what you said – something that was most dear to me – and then I knew. That which is most dear to you cannot be destroyed. That fire will just warm my little riverside friend.”

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~ by S.G. Mark on January 16, 2012.

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