It Was Never Just About Witches || Kendra Jackson


It Was Never Just About the Witches

by Kendra Jackson

It was never just about witches. 

The rope is wrapped around her waist and cinched tight. Farmer Jones takes his time securing it over the linen shift they’ve allowed her to wear in the interests of decency.  His hands linger just that little bit too long as he ties the knots. It’s not the first time he’s placed his hands where they don’t belong, but this time she can’t just slap him in the face and threaten to tell his wife of his misdeeds.  

It was never just about potions.

Apothecary Browne sneers at her as she’s led through the village.  She’d provided alternative, more wholesome remedies than those he mixed in his shop.  She’d taken less coin as well, sometimes even giving freely to those of greater need than her own.  He’d accused her of contaminating his supplies, but she knew that he simply adulterated them himself to make a greater profit.

It was never just about spells.  

The priest stands before her and urges her to confess to her witchcraft.  Seducing the good farmer, tainting the apothecary’s stock, and so many other things like speaking out of turn or disrespecting her betters, by which he meant men or more specifically men of means.  

It was never just about witchcraft. 

The baying crowd that surrounded her. Many of them didn’t care whether or not there was a witch on the end of the rope. They just wanted to make an example of her. To show all women what would happen when one of them dared to step out of line, to speak out of turn, to dare to believe that they mattered just as much as the menfolk. 

And it wasn’t just the men, there were women in the crowd, eager to see her put in her place. Whether through envy of her daring or fear that all would suffer for the sins of one, she didn’t know.

But then there were others too, both men and women, who hung their heads in shame, unable to speak for fear that they too would end up on the end of the rope in the water, not knowing whether it would be worse to sink or float, to drown today or burn tomorrow. 

She looks disdainfully at the priest as he finishes his futile attempts to elicit a confession from her. She would be perfectly willing to stand up and acknowledge every deed she has done, every villager that she has helped, every foe that she has challenged, every fight that she has taken on to survive.  She would admit it all and be proud of it, defiant to the very last.  But she knows it would be a waste of time, those that have condemned her will not listen, those that might listen have no power to change her fate. 

The push at her back comes without warning and she falls towards the water, barely able to take a breath before it closes over her head.  The blurry dwellers of the village are the last thing she sees.  

For an instant she feels motionless, her body static in the water as if trying to decide whether to sink or float. Drowning or burning, that is the choice that they give.  Let the waters take her now, or struggle to the surface only to end up standing on the village green on the morrow as flames lap around her.

The rope grows taut as her body fights against it, making the decision for her.  She will not sink; she will not drown. 

She will float… and then she will fly.  

It was never just about witches, but sometimes it was about a witch.

By day, Kendra Jackson crunches numbers for a living. By night (and sometimes into the early hours of the morning) she expresses her pent up creativity by crunching words instead. For many years, those words consisted of fanfiction under the name Cein/Ceindreadh, but now she's switched to original work.

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