The ropes bit deeply into her wrists but she held her head high. Around her, villagers chanted, ‘witch, witch, witch!’ She ignored their cries and walked bare footed to the edge of the pond.
Everything was already set up, the witch hunter hadn’t delayed. He pushed her into a chair and she was tied into it. More ropes cut into her skin and cold prickled through the under dress she had been stripped too.
She said nothing. Knowing there was no sense in talking to anyone. They all believed what they wanted to believe and how could the single voice of the accused sway a crowd like this?
A crank handle was turned and slowly she rose up. Men pulled her out over the surface of the water. The villagers started yelling and waving their farming tools or whatever else had been to hand before they had come storming to her hovel.
The witch hunter called for silence and spoke out, ‘if she floats she is a witch. If she sinks she is not!’
‘Witch! Witch!’ the villagers yelled.
She felt the cold swirl of the pond water against her toes then her whole body was plunged into the water as the rope holding her snapped. She heard the screams of the villagers then nothing as the water closed over her.
She clung onto a piece of driftwood, praying for daylight. Around her, the sea and the fading storm echoed in her ears, blocking out every other sound. A huge wave slammed into her and she clung to the plank with all her might. Trying not to cry out and keep her eyes shut, she let the wave roll over.
The driftwood popped out and she come up with it. Spluttering and gasping for breath, she opened her eyes and tried to looked through the darkness. She could not see anything but the dark sea and the black sky. Tasting nothing but salt in her mouth, she pulled herself further up the plank and tightened her grip.
She wanted to rest her head on the wood, exhaustion was dancing before her, but somehow the strength came back to her as another wave came and sent her into a spin. Fighting down a scream, she let the sea do it’s worse whilst still praying for daylight and land.
The wave hit, catching her the skirts of her dress and dragging her down. She wrestled against the current then she popped up again, dragging in lung fulls of oxygen. Untangling her hand from her skirts, she clutched the board again.
Something hard brushed her bare feet. What was it? She tried to explore more with her toes, but couldn’t decided if it was rocks, the sea floor, an animal or something else. Trying not to panic and knowing she did not have the energy for it, she let the next wave carry her further forward.
Fighting the pull back, she put her feet down and felt confident it was only rocks under her. Battling the sea, she walked using the plank to keep her a float. Suddenly, the rock changed and she felt sand between her toes. Crying out, she used the last of her strength to struggle onto the shore.
Climbing up out of the sea’s reach, she collapsed on to the sand and hugged herself. Trying to look around, she saw the beach was as dark as the sea. A bolt of lighting far in the distant had her gaze darting back. A rumble of thunder followed, but it was nothing compared to the roaring of the sea.
She carried on watching, but could not see anything else then there was a glow of light on the horizon. She watched it growing and slowly realized it could only be the coming dawn. Her prayers had been answered.