I couldn’t help responding to Sue Vincent’s photo prompt from last week.
Ellen looked at the crowd of people around the cage in which she hung, their red faces contorted as they shouted cruel words at her. “I’m not a witch,” she yelled over and over, until her throat was raw. “I’m innocent!”
The Elders hadn’t listened to her either, and she knew what awaited her – either the ducking stool or the hangman’s noose. Maybe even fire. She sank to her knees, weak with fright. Then she heard the sound of tramping feet and looked up to see the Elders approaching her cage. Someone lowered it to the ground and unlocked the door. Arms roughly dragged her out and along the dirt road to the river, her heels leaving two lines in the dirt.
So, it was to be the ducking stool. She felt the faintest glimmer of hope.
They tied her hand and ankles with rough rope and placed her on the chair at the end of a long pole. Their last step was to bind her loosely to the chair. She knew if she struggled out of her binding and came to the surface, she would be deemed guilty. If she stayed down, she would drown and be proclaimed innocent.
Elder Williams pronounced, “Ellen Sayers, you have been judged a witch. You proclaim your innocence. Now you have a chance to prove it.”
Ellen took as many deep breaths as she could before they lowered the chair, weighted by a huge rock, into the deepest part of the river. Wiggling out of her binding, she expelled some air, which rose in bubbles to the surface and helped her stay at the bottom, where she swam dolphin style with the faster-moving bottom current. Hold on, hold on. Don’t breathe out. Follow the flow. God help me.
She finally emerged from the surface out of sight of the crowd, knowing they would soon pull the chair up. She maneuvered to the opposite bank, imaging what the townspeople would think. Working the ropes from her ankles, she climbed out of the river.
They didn’t know she’d been taught to swim by her grandmother and loved the water.