The Cleansing by R.N. Drum

The Music Be The Food flash fiction event continues with round two. This time, the song is from a delightful band called Broods. The song is “Freak Of Nature”. Give a listen to the tune and then read the first flash fiction piece, by the incomparable, R.N. Drum.

The Cleansing

The skin on her wrists, so delicate, so white – so pure – had been bruised and torn. The chains had done their damage, but it had been the rope that brought forth the blood, which had flowed downward like streams toward the sea.

Those stream beds had long dried and her stained fingers looked as though she had been desperately clawing through the ruddy clay that lay beneath their feet. She may have been. There was no way for Samuel to know, and Gisel had refused to utter a sound after her sentence had been read before the council.

There was no procession or celebration as she was led by horse from her cell to the top of the hill that stood between the town and the ocean shore. The accusers, gathered as witnesses, remained silent.

Just as they had at the trial, having only raised their hands to signal their agreement with the charges that had been written.

Just as they had when Samuel cried out that they were wrong, that she was not guilty, that she was a woman of God. His protestations had reached such a fever pitch that he had been removed and held at the point of sword outside until the trail was over. He had glared at the accusers as they filed out of the court, daring them to see the rage inside his eyes. Not one of them did, of course. Samuel could only watch, helpless, as they went back to their homes. To their families. To their children. Samuel was not sure if he was more angry at them or the charges they brought against his wife.

Gisel’s only words throughout the trial were, “Not guilty,” and “no”. She had spoken calmly and plainly. She seemed to know that the proceedings were a formality and that there was nothing she could do to change her fate. Why did she not protest? Cry out? Why would she not look upon her husband? What those people said hadn’t been true. Couldn’t be true.

The executioner removed the rope from the hurdle and led Gisel to the platform. He was gentle with her, even helping her regain her footing after she stumbled upon the last step. Her hands were freed for the briefest of moments before they were tied again behind the stake. She did not look down to the dried hay and wood that had been collected below her feet. She did not look upon the accusers. Nor did she look at the friend who had betrayed her trust. Had shared her secrets.

Instead, she looked out to the horizon, where the sun had been setting and the remaining light sparkled upon the water like a million sprites inviting her to break her bonds and dance with them.

Samuel watched as the executioner dropped another rope. A noose. He tightened it around her neck and then climbed down to his station. There, he tied the other end of the rope to the saddle of his horse and waited for the nod from Mayor, who read aloud the death sentence.

After all was said and done, some people would insist that Gisel had been wailing softly, chanting perhaps, to herself as the sentence was being read. Samuel did not believe it.

When they Mayor stopped speaking, Samuel turned his back. He couldn’t bear to watch her die. The nod came, and the executioner led the horse forward from where it had been feeding on some grass, waiting to carry out its grisly duty. There had been some gasps from the watchers as she was lifted above the platform. Most of them had never seen an execution before. Then came the sound of Gisel fighting for breath and the smack of her head and bare feet on the stake as she convulsed like a fish on a river bank, only feet away from safety.

The fire was lit only moments after she had stopped moving. The crowd began to dissipate as the smoke had begun to rise and then drift inland on the breeze from the open water. Some stopped at Samuel’s side as they made their way back down to their lives, patted his shoulders and assured him that he was blameless in the business of the day.

They said that the fire was to cleanse her soul. Samuel wanted desperately to believe that it had. He saved his tears that night until after his daughter fell asleep in his arms.

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