Saturday, April 16, 2011

Peabody's Hex; Flash Fiction Friday-Cycle 27

**Author's Note** This week's installment is another themed word list with the provision that it is a courtroom drama and under 1000 words, but money, foolish, kneecap, trace, and widow must be among them. Enjoy!

The Village of Peabody, Near Salem, In The Year Of Our Lord, 1692

"Reverend Breedlove and the honored deacons of the church, there is much to this trial that remains to be seen. The widow Mary Selby stands accused of witchcraft and much evidence has been brought to light. Mr. Mason has gone to great lengths to convince you of her guilt of being a witch while I am not so certain. There is no doubt that on the night of November first, All Saint's Day, she went to the farm of William Smith, a close neighbor of hers. She visited after dark and spent some time at their window without knocking. She stayed long enough to observe them at their evening prayers and to trace a heart in the snow with a stick. Mr. Mason suggests that this was part of her spell to summon the Evil One. I say she went to see a happy family at prayer because she missed her departed husband, Peter Selby, a man that no one could impugned of being impious, and drew a heart to represent her lost love. She was lonely and heartsick, seeking comfort in the Lord by watching William Smith and his family pray." Nathaniel Saltonstall clasped his hands in supplication and then continued.

"Mr. Mason calls as evidence the imprint she made in the snow by the road. He says that this is where she had congress with the Horn'd One and sites the blood found there the next day as proof of how he used her rudely. I say she tripped over the stump that was hidden by the snow and cut her kneecap when she fell. Her footprints and her wound confirms it. Mr. Mason says that this is where her familiar, the hog, came to suckle after her deal with the Dark One. I say this is an untruth." Saltonstall dabbed his forehead with a handkerchief and paced the meeting house, but his eyes never left Reverend Breedlove.

"Mr. Mason makes much of the fact that Mary Selby owed a debt of money to the amount of three shillings to William Smith for the purchase of shoes for her son Elijah. A debt that was promised to be repaid in the spring with the slaughter of her hog. Mr. Mason cites this as the point she slipped into the clutches of the Evil One. That this and her coveting the husband of Patience Smith is what drove her into a pact with the Deceiver, and from then on, she was His agent in Peabody. This, he claims, is what drove her to make Mrs. Patience Smith to lose her unborn child." Saltonstall looked at the deacons and they seemed to be listening.

"I would ask you to not be foolish and hear the unfettered voice of our Lord. Listen to your God-given reason and return a verdict of Not Guilty." Saltonstall bowed his head. "Only He can guide you now."

Reverend Breedlove roused himself from his inattention and banged the gavel a few times when he realized that Nathaniel Saltonstall had finished speaking. "This court will reconvene at the summit of Gallows Hill where we will hear her confession."

"But Reverend, she hasn't confessed yet," Saltonstall sputtered.

"Well, we will already be atop the hill by then and there is still the flogging that needs attended to," the good Reverend mused. "Sheriff, do your duty!"



  1. Simple put this was an excellent and weirdly depressing story. The writing was professional and the story riveting but what got me down was that while it has been way over three-hundred years since the setting I don't believe people have moved much beyond such behavior.

    If its isn't religion based craziness its political, tribal, or ethnic.

  2. I've been staring at the bottom picture and I swear I can see a face in the tree with it's branches forming horns and ears. Am I the only one?


  3. Whoa! Great (depressing) (totally authentic & truthful) story! I love the names you come up with for your characters :)

    And yes, I see the face in the tree, too.

  4. This story is the product of ten minutes of intense research on the Salem witch trials. I looked at a map of Salem and noticed a little town of Peabody was near there. I don't even know if it existed in 1692. As for the names, I read that Nathaniel Saltonstall was the only person to back out of judging the "witches" so I made him the lawyer for the defense. Mr. Mason is from Perry Mason. Breedlove is a name I have used before because I just like the sound of it but he always winds up being the villian. Mary and Peter Selby are named after a friend of mine from kindergarten. I'm not even certain that they used the title sheriff or if he was still called the "shire reeve".


  5. Defense lawyer can be a pretty thankless job sometimes! Very nice job.

  6. Very true, I think, to how these trials really went. Didn't matter what you argued, you were more than likely guilty if accussed.

    Love the way you plant little clues throughout the story about the outcome. Saltonsal 'thought' the deacons were listening, the judge didn't even seem to realize he was done, etc. For me, that was the most powerful part of the story. A woman's life hangs in the balance and the officials can hardly be bothered.


  7. Excellent story, and unfortunately, extremely accurate as to how things were done. Even though now we're supposedly at 'innocent until proven guilty', one has to wonder just how far we've actually come.

    I know I've read instances from that time where they would accuse someone of witchcraft and then drown them. If they survived the drowning, they were declared a witch and burned at the stake. If they actually died, they were innocent. Now, THAT makes sense...

    This really showed the mentality of that time. No matter what was being said, their minds were already set on how it was all going to end. He was playing to an audience with deaf ears. Well done here.


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