Claimed *Completed*

"I'm already living on borrowed time. When it comes to it, it will be my time to go."

500 years ago Cathy should have died, but she didn't. She was saved by the Devil.

"I agreed to something ... Something that cant have been important then, it seemed too far away.
I'd agreed, after five hundred years, to hand myself over to the Devil, to become his."

Now her time's up, but back in the city where it all started, things are far from over. Cathy finds out that there is more to the Devil than she ever thought. A new boy, a best friend and a deadly enemy, things are about to get complicated...

"No one's that good or bad, it's not that simple, nothing's that black and white. It's more grey."

*Hi, this is my first Movella, so I'd love some feedback and constructive critsism! Thanks :)

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9. Saturday, 17th January 1562

Saturday, 17th January 1562

 

 

 

 

 

  I have a small house sitting at the edge of the village. Brady-on-Tyme is a quiet little place where everyone knows each other and nobody can keep anything secret for long because the town gossips can easily pick up on it. Mrs Tailor is the worst of them; she’ll listen in on your arguments and before you know it the whole town knows about your illegitimate child or the debt you can’t pay. To make matters worse the whole town is so superstitious and God-fearing that even and oddly shaped potato can be seen as a mutant sent by the devil to poison them all.

  So how I kept my secret quiet I have got no idea. The villagers have accepted me readily enough, but they always wondered where I came from. I told them I was fifteen when I first came, I could help the ladies sew up dresses as easily as I could help the men plough the fields, so I made myself useful. But often I ended up as the nanny of the village: the one people leave their children with when they are too busy or had to travel to the nearest town.

  I enjoyed the simple life I lived in the village and I was often joined in my babysitting duties by my best friend, Jane. We’d become close friends and spent most of our time together until Jane’s mother would drag her away to do the house work.

  Three blissful years I spent in that existence until, on what was meant to be my eighteenth birthday, everything changed.

  “You don’t look a day older than the day I met you.” Jane says. An innocent (and perfectly true) remark: It still makes me feel guilty. I’ve always liked Jane, but I just don’t know how to tell her.

  “Jane...”

  She doesn’t hear me, “Oh, look what I baked, I know you don’t have much food at the moment, so I persuaded my mother to let me use some of the leftover flour and sugar we had.” She pulls out a cake from behind her back and presents it too me like she’s just given me the crown jewels. It’s basic and lumpy, but my heart swells when I see it; nobody has much food at the moment because of the bad harvests we’ve had for the past few years and the fact Jane has spared the ingredients and time to make a cake really touches me. My smile says it all.

  She presses something else into my closed hand. I bring up my hand and unfurl my fingers from around the soft material in my palm. It’s a bracelet plaited with lengths of cloth and ribbon and fasten with a knot.

  “It’s a friendship bracelet, see?” Jane holds out her wrist and I see a similar bracelet on her wrist, “We’ve both got one, now we’ll always be friends.”

  “Thank you, it’s beautiful.” I whisper, and I mean it: no-ones ever given me anything so lovely. I feel tears picking in my eyes.

  I have to tell her, I think, what’s the worst that can happen? She takes the bracelet back? The thought makes me wince, but I need to tell her.

  Jane turns to cut the cake, but I catch her hand, “I need to tell you something.”

  She looks worried, “You don’t like it?”

  “No, no, that’s not it, I love it.” I take a deep breath, steady myself and say, “I’m not eighteen Jane.”

  She looks confused, “Well, when’s your birthday then?”

  “What I mean is I am sixteen. I’m still sixteen”

  “Still?” She narrows her eyes.

  “I’ve been sixteen a long time, since I first came here.” I cringe; this probably wasn’t the best place to start.

  She laughs, “No, you came here three years ago, you can’t have been sixteen this whole time. You were fifteen when I met you.”

  “You said yourself I hadn’t aged a day.” I point out. She studies me closely, checking for any hint that I’m joking. Her smile slips away, leaving her looking confused.

  “I’ve been sixteen a long time.”

  “How long?” She winces as she says it; she doesn’t know if she wants to know the answer. I don’t know if I want to tell her.

  “Fifty years today.”

  Jane stops. Slowly I can see her brain whirring. She starts to back away from me, knocking the table. It wobbles and falls. The cake falls to the floor. This time I wince, but Jane doesn’t seem to notice. “No. No, no, no. I thought you were my friend, but you... you...” She can’t find the words, but I can have a pretty good guess at what she’s trying to say.

  I step towards her, but she backs away more quickly, “I’m still your friend, nothings changed: I haven’t changed.”

  Jane just shakes her head vigorously and carries on towards the door. When she reaches it, she turns and runs in the direction of the village centre. As soon as she runs out of sight I sink down into a wooden chair and I let my head fall into my hands.

  What have I done? How could I make my best friend run away from me? I close my eyes, but all I can see is the fear in her eyes. I take a deep breath and sit up. I suppose it could have been worse. I’ve lost a good friend – but maybe I can still stay here?

  I don’t know how long I sit there for, but eventually the pounding in my head becomes a word, witch-witch-witch. Was that what Jane thought I was, a witch? She’s never been as superstitious as her parents, but she’s lived in this God-fearing village her whole life, so it was bound to rub off on her. Besides I had practically confessed to being a witch.

  Witch-witch-witch, the pounding continues, getting louder; witch-witch-witch, WITCH-WITCH-WITCH. That’s when I realise that it’s not in my head: it’s people, chanting, screaming.

  I stand up and move quickly to the window. Down the lane I can see what looks like the whole village marching towards my house. They’re carrying anything they can get their hands on: pitchforks, spades, even rolling pins. No burning torches. Yet.

  I’m too shocked to move, I know I should run; run and run and not look back, but I’ve been caught by surprise. You really shouldn’t be, a rational, still working part of my mind tells me, did you really expect Jane not to tell anyone? Have you learnt nothing in the last fifty years?

   The human race is unpredictable. Which make it hard to trust anyone, but that’s another big flaw in humans; we still trust: friends, family. Even I’m still human. I trusted Jane, but look where that got me.

  The mob is right outside and my brain suddenly kicks into action. I look for an exit, but the splintering of wood makes me spin around. My door is being smashed down. I stare in shock and before I can do anything it completely caves in. Men burst into the room and grab my roughly by the arms. Another has a rope and ties my hands behind my back. It all happens in a matter of seconds. I know the rope is so tight it should be digging in painfully, but I can’t feel anything apart from a gentle pressure. I still struggle to break free, but there’s too many of them. I kick out, but my legs collapse underneath me from a hard kick to the back of my knees.

  Other people come in and start to smash my few belongings, throwing the remains of them at me. I am dragged out through my door and thrown to the ground. Things are still being thrown at me, the mob are wildly shouting insults and suggestions of what to do with me. I hear a few shouts of, “Where’s the barrel? Get the barrel!”

  I vaguely realise they want to test out the floating witch theory, but I’m too distressed to think about it properly. I know that I’m in no real danger, but these are all people I’ve lived and worked with for the last three years, but now they’ve turned against me like I’m a stranger.

  I hear a very familiar voice, “No, just burn her! She’s already confessed.” It’s Mrs Thatcher, Jane’s mother. Confessed? I’m not a witch! I’m not a witch! I want to shout out, make them listen, but I’m lying, humiliated on in the dirt. I struggle to sit up and spit the mud out of my mouth, but I’m beaten back on to the ground.

  A face appears right in front of mine, not angry like the rest, more disgusted and disappointed. It’s Mrs Peterstone. “I trusted you with my children.” Her voice is low, her breath clouding my vision. “They would look forward to their visits to Aunty Louise, they wouldn’t want to leave, they’d come home full of stories you’d told them and the games you’d invented. It’s sick, Witch. You’re sick and twisted and I hope you go to hell for the way you used my children and everyone else’s children.”

  She pulls away and a deep sadness engulfs me. It’s worse than all the other comments hurled at me. She’s right. I used them – I didn’t even realise, but I used them to earn peoples trust, to stay here.

  I make myself a promise, lying there on the ground; I will never again bring children into my life, they don’t deserve it.

  Mrs Peterstone stands up and shouts to the already roaring crowd, “Burn her things, burn her house and burn her!”

  I’m hauled to standing and I see a flash of orange flames as my cottage begins to burn. “Build a bonfire!” The man holding me calls, “Gather all the wood you can and pile it in the centre!” Most of the crowd hurry off to do as he says, but a dozen or so stay behind to throw insults at me as I’m escorted to my burning.

  I block out the voices around me, even though I know I deserve to hear them, because most of the insults are true. I block out the memory of Mrs Peterstone’s words. I block out the crowds cries of ‘witch’. I train all my senses on the primitive survival instinct. To get away is what I need to do now, but I don’t know how. I know my body can survive quite a battering, but I’ve never really wanted to test just how far I can push it. I don’t know if I can survive the heat in the middle of a bonfire.

  I test the bindings holding my wrists again, I reach my fingers up to try and find the knot, but I’m spotted, “Oh no you don’t, Witch.”

  He shouldn’t have said that - I sense a challenge and I’m not one to back down. Determination sears through me. They want a witch, so I’ll give them a witch. There is no way this superstitious bunch of villagers are going to get the better of me. Not after this.

  Bring. It. On.

  We’re coming into the village square and already the bonfire looks huge. It’s not lit yet and people are still throwing wood onto the pile. Someone has found an old beam and has somehow managed to haul it upright so it stands at the centre of all the wood. I’ve been in some tricky situations, but this tops them all.

  I assess the situation - I know that there is no way I’m going to wriggle my hands out of the rope because it’s tied to tightly: a few moments wriggling confirms it. I would have been able to take these men on if only my hands were free, but as it is, I’m not taking anyone on. I’m led up the mountain of wood and the bindings loosen momentarily but only to tighten again, this time around the beam as well. A new piece of rope is used to tie my rope around ankles to tie them to the beam too.

  Hmm... How on earth am I going to get out of this one?

  The whole village is gathered around my pyre. I can see all the children I look after. No, looked, I remind myself, I looked after them. They all look so confused as to why I’m tied up here, some of them a tugging at their mothers hands, asking what’s happening. I hear one piercing voice, “Mummy, what is Aunty Louise doing? Is it another game?” I turn to see little Emily Roberts looking up at me, when she doesn’t get a reply from Mrs Roberts she walks to the edge of the pyre. No one seems to have noticed her, so nobody rushes to stop her.

  “Aunty Louise, why are you up there?”

  I gaze down at her face, wide eyed and innocent. She has eyes that could melt butter. She shouldn’t be haunted by the memories of me. Too many other people have, but not her.

   “Is this game? How do we play?”

    I lean down as far as my bindings will allow, “Yes, Emily, it’s a game, but this time the whole village is playing. What ever happens Emily, don’t be scared, it’s only a game, I’ll be fine.”

  Emily frowns, her forehead crinkling, “Why are you up there? It’s not a very good game.”

  I smile, “No, it’s not a very good game, but the village wants to play, so we have to play it with them. You might not see me again after this, Emily, but just remember I’ll be alright.    You don’t understand any of this yet, but you will when you’re older. Just remember Louise Darnley, and remember that they got it wrong, whatever you see they got it wrong.”

  Emily’s looks even more confused, but I know that she’ll remember this. And that’s all I ask for. It’ll make sense to her when she’s older. Well maybe not completely.

  Mrs Roberts turns and sees Emily, she runs over, and drags her daughter back by the hand, “No, Emily, no! You can’t talk to witches!” She glares up at me and pushes Emily behind her, as if to protect her from my gaze.

  Someone lights the wood at the bottom of the pile, and I’m instantly distracted. I see the flames licking at the dry wood, jumping from log to log. I can already feel the heat of it and I struggle pointlessly some more.

  I give up and scan the crowd, looking for any weaknesses in the line of hard eyes, not that I’m really expecting anyone to stamp out the fire, let me down and apologise for making such a big mistake. But I notice a face is missing. Jane. I feel a fresh anger rise within me. She caused all this and she can’t even stick around to watch.

  I have more pressing matters to deal with though, like the flames that are now flickering up my ankles. I sigh with relief when I realise that I can’t feel the burning heat, but it’s more like a putting on a thick coat on a warm day. Uncomfortable I can deal with. The relief is obviously showing on my face, because the crowd starts to look confused.

  The flames quickly eat up my shoes and the ropes around my ankles. My feet move freely through the fire now without being burnt. I start to feel impatient as the flames lick the hem of my skirt, I still can’t get free until the flames reach the ropes around my wrists. By now the villagers are starting to back away, I’m obviously a very powerful witch if I’m not yet screaming in pain. Burnings usually work for killing witches. I catch sight of Emily’s wide eyes peering out from behind her mother.

  Finally the ropes around my wrists crumble, I twist my wrists around to loosen them and then pull them free. I grin.

   I’m too hot for a February, so I decide that it’s probably time to go. I hop nimbly thought the rest of the fire, scattering the remaining villagers.

  I spot a horse let loose by one of the fleeing farmers.

  I’ve always liked the sound of Italy. I grin, ignoring the continued niggling feeling of betrayal. Italy, here I come.

*

 

  The same blackness comes after this vision as the one that comes after all the others, but this time a faint voice interrupts the black.

  “That’s right, my dear... remember...”

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