Morning Pages 11/10/19

When he found the woman’s body it was unrecognizable. The smell of burned hair and clothes the flesh rose from the scene like mist of a dew-drenched field, but with none of its beauty. The husky corpses were all smoldering.
“Check them!” he called to his men. And they went to work checking for survivors. Byers knew they would find none.
He looked down at the skeletal head of the woman and his eyes strayed to her bloated belly. It had boiled and cracked open from the heat within it. Amid the blood that flowed warmer now for the fire within her, he could just make out the smallest of fingers. Had her whole body fissured?
It had heard of children cut from the wombs women in times of modern war. But he was no frontline soldier. No crazed beserk. He was a man of Arifel. A man of a God-Angel, and even Arifel, he knew, would not look kindly on this.
“What do you see?” he asked his men.
“Dead. Their all dead, Sir.”
He nodded and looked to more corpses and as his men said, they were all dead.
“Do you see the children?” he asked.
“Aye. Each one, aye,” said Worsten and captain Byers looked up to see the young soldier.
Worsten’s sandy hair was a mess of sweat and his smooth cheeks were streaked with dirt and grime and smoke from the seething bodies. He looked not a boy at all.
As Captain Byers approached the other bodies he examined their strange and distended stomachs. Each has burst even down through the womb and inside each, he could see a couple fingers of a tiny clenched fist. Even the men. Even the children.
“It is not possible,” said Worsten, behind him. “Men and children with child? It is not possible.”
Byers straightened from the corpse he examined. He had been burning witches since–since before Worsten was born. He thought he’d seen everything, and more than once. Aye. And now this. This. He looked at the young soldier and he saw the same fear and doubt in the boy’s eyes that filled his own heart. That the world was not neat. Not orderly and that there would always be magiks and gods unknowable to him was the only certainty.
He ordered his men back to their horses.
They road out not one speaking to the other. Each in his own thoughts. Each with the weight of an unknown world within.

Evening Pages 10/31/19

Their stomachs were distended. All of them. The fifty or so wuddies, as Worsten called them. Even the men looked to be pregnant. Or were they starving? No, couldn’t be from the cows milling in the small clearing, the chickens cluckin’ round their roost.
“Who’s in charge here?” asked Captain Byers, astride his horse.
the wuddies didn’t say nothing. They all looked at the Captain. In stark contrast to themselves, he wore shining armor, emblazoned with the fiery crest of Arifel. The town folk, by comparison, wore grubby sacks for tunics and if any knew how to sit a horse with any grace Byers’d be damned.
“I said, who’s in charge here?”
The congregation didn’t say a word.
They hadn’t since the soldiers rode up. Not a one had made a noise.
It’d been eerie riding up through the trail, their horses clipping along loose rocks and the occasional root and year no sound of talking, only the wind in the tress the occasional patter of water dripping from the trees as the wind blew the settled rain from branches. Byers didn’t like it. No more did Nemeth, his second, or Worsten, the young recruit they’d picked up a town or two over some days back. Right holy child he had been.
And they had ridden right up and seen all the wuddies working without a word. Some milked the cows, others tended the potat beds, and some simply nursed children or wove baskets. But no matter the job they did, Byers was yet to hear them speak a word.
The captain drew a scroll of parchment from a satchel at his side. He spread it open and read.
“By the law of the order of Arifel, I hereby order you to reveal and deliver unto us, the witch or warlock who has taken residence in your community. Failure to deliver and any attempt to conceal said individual shall be seen as a crime against Arifel himself, and merciless justice shall be carried out upon you.”
Byers folded the command and put it back in his satchel.
The wuddies exchanged glances. A middle-aged man looked to a young woman who was believably heavy with child. But the middle-aged man with red hair and beard carried the same strange and bulbous bump in his stomach. It seemed that his breasts had come swollen just as his woman’s had.
A couple rows back an old man with a staff pushed and prodded his way forward. He stood straight enough but leaned on the staff as though he carried a great weight on his shoulders. When he came to the front of the congregation and inhabited the space between the mounted soldiers and his own people he opened his mouth to speak.
At first, no sound came out. And then, slowly, as though he’d long lost the habit of using it, he spoke.
“Our people have no leader,” he said, like dried being set alight.
“Come now,” said Byers. “Even in primitive cultures like your own, someone makes decisions. Let him step forward.”

Free Write: 10/28/19

The guard pushed the old man out of the church, face forward. Douglas stumbled in the bright light of day, his eyes adjusting.
Somewhere nearby the creak of a wagon rolling by, the clucking of hens, the hammering of metal on metal, the smell of smoke from the smithy.
“Go on there, Dougy,” said the guard. “You think we’d not find out?”
Douglas couldn’t answer, he just mouthed his confusion. Not because he was innocent. He was guilty. But because he didn’t know how they’d found out.
“You look like a fish outa water, you do,” said the guard. “It’s right sick.”
The other soldier chimed in, standing on the stone steps of the church. “Witch out of Harem more like.”
The first one asked, “I thought only women’d be witches, don’t you?”
Douglas shook his head. The congregation in the church watching from the entrance to the holy building.
“Sirs, sirs,” said Pastor Barnaby, “Surely you’ve got the wrong man?” he asked. Then, “You’ve got the wrong man.” It was a statement.
“Nop,” said the first soldier. “Nop. I’m sorry, father, but this one ‘ere, he’s been hiding ‘ere for too long and thinking nobody’s the wiser.”
Douglas could feel the burning in his bones. He wished he could make it stop. Break the curse, anything.
“Don’t,” he said.
“Don’t” asked one of the soldiers. “Or wha’, you go’n turn us into little froggies or som’at?”
“I mean,” said Douglas. “Don’t hurt them. They didn’t know.”
“Like ‘ell they didn’t” said the first guard. “Been livin’ with a witch all this time and never thought nothing did they?”
“Nothing,” said Douglas.
“Right, well, Grand Master Picel thinks different, he does.”
The soldiers accosted him again. Douglas didn’t fight. He was all done fight. “Not a witch,” he said.
“Oh no?” asked the guard on his left, a boy barely past his childhood, if his facial hair was any indication. “Then what are yea, then?”
They walked him down the dirt lane, shadow’s stretching out behind them, and each step he took Douglas could feel the pain inside him grow. It was a burning, a trifle at first, but quickly strengthening.
“Look,” said Douglas, trying to explain. “If you kill me, This town. . . it will also die.”
“Ah, making threats now, eh? That’s more like it.”
Douglas shook his head. They passed the scroll and book emporium he had spent so much time in, since his arrival in the quaint town. It had been years and he loved it and he’d come to love those who made it what it was. A tiny town on the outskirts of Bath–but then why’d they come for him. He’d not done magic since. . .
“You’re a sick bastard, you are,” said the guard on his right. “Ask me, you deserve to be burned up.”
“My bones,” said Douglas. “There’s something wrong with ’em.”
“No doubt there’s something wrong with all witches,” said the boy guard. “It’s why they’re witches, right?”