74 Are You Challenging Me?


(Credit: EricMargera on DeviantArt)

My tongue burns from the tea I drank too quickly, but the burning from you insult is worse. Sitting there with your can of Monster energy drink like it is nothing. What are you saying with that? You open the can with a click and a fizz and I can already smell the sickly sweet additives polluting our breakfast. Are you saying that I will not dare say anything to you? Well, you are wrong mister.

‘This is MY house, we play by MY rules here, and don’t you forget it!’

You stop with the can at your lips. You lower it. ‘What?’ you say, raising your eyebrows.

‘Get that affront to everything out of here.’

You look at the can in your hand. ‘What, this?’

‘Don’t you act all surprised,’ I say, ‘you know perfectly well how I feel about stimulants.’

‘But it’s just an energy drink,’ you shrug, ‘what about coffee?’

‘Coffee’s traditional. Now get it out of here before I ground you.’

You pick up your school bag and the Monster can. I hear a ‘whatever’ before you slam the door behind you, and I know that the war is not won yet.

04 Monsters 5 of 5

5. The End

The sky was an untainted blue with only a few baby-clouds in virgin white scattered with a careless hand. The sun had dried the streets. What was mud yesterday was now well-stamped earth. The crowd would not raise much dust when it came. There was no wind to speak of and the air was only slightly chilly. A perfect day for a burning.

Everything was ready in the square. The wood, the kindling, the stake, it was all there waiting for the hour of justice.

A witch had been found. It was she, who had made the smith’s horses ill. Old Man Harold was found dead in the gutters last week; no doubt he was lured outside by the witch.  Henrietta had been devastated. Even Gottfried, who was known as a very god-fearing man and never missed a sermon, had not been protected from her evil. His wife had miscarried for the third time because of the devil worshipper.

She would burn this sundown, and everyone would be there to witness it, mostly to show their contempt of the witch, but also because no better entertainment could be found for miles around.

The first to arrive were the merchants. They set up their stalls two hours past noon with many a joke. They reserved their rivalling for when the customers arrived. The first of these trickled into the square not long afterwards, and of course began to browse to pass the time. If you wanted to be close to the fire, you had to be early. And at this time of year it soon became cold when the sun disappeared.

A group of five boys ran around the square. Two of them waved newly cut dog’s tails about their heads. The others squealed with glee each time one of them came close to hitting them. A few of the browsers looked reproachful, but boys will be boys, and no one said anything.

Soon Henrietta showed up with her husband, both dressed in mourning. Their first stop was the tailor’s, and Henrietta went straight to the most expensive fabric she could find. She whispered in her husband’s ear, and they both laughed. When she came out again she had been measured, and in a week she would come back for no less than five different dresses. Next stop was a stall filled with all kinds of jewellery. It was a small comfort, but at least she would no longer have to worry about money.

Not long afterwards Gottfried and his wife arrived. Many people offered Gottfried their condolences, to lose the chance of an heir, and so soon after the last one. He thanked everyone. It would ease his heart, he said, when the witch was nothing more than ashes in this world and burning in the next. They all nodded their understanding. Gottfried’s wife wiped her cheeks with the back of her hand.

The couple went on to buy vegetables. Gottfried wanted to buy them now to be sure to get the best ones. In an hour’s time all the good ones will be taken, he said. The woven basket his wife carried around with her was soon full. They began to make their way to the front of the crowd that was already gathering around the stake.

Then Gottfried’s wife stumbled seemingly over her own feet, and everything in the basked tumbled out onto the ground. Gottfried’s wife sat in the dirt for a second, tears welling up in her eyes. Then she rose to her knees and hurriedly pulled down her sleeve over purple bruises. She apologized and at once gathered together all the vegetables and put them back in the basket. Some in the crowd shook their heads, some looked exasperated, Gottfried only smiled; he was such a generous man.

As sundown neared the excitement mounted. When the sun first touched the end of the world, the cart began its journey from the prison. Some villagers had assembled outside the prison to be the first to throw insults and rotten crops at the evil one. She was quite silent and kept her head down. No-doubt she was praying to her false god for protection. None would come. The villagers shouted even louder.

The cart was driven around the square a few times before the witch was tied to the stake, stained with dead crops and spittle. The charges were read aloud, and there was a great answering roar from the crowd. The witch was still silent. The crowd pushed closer, shouting and raging. They threw anything at her they could get their hands on. A severed dog’s tail landed at her feet.

The kindling was lit, and for a while nothing happened. Then a piercing scream rose from the monster’s throat. The ear-splitting pain in that cry released a sigh from the bystanders, and while the sun stained the west in the deepest crimson, satisfied smiles blossomed on their faces.

04 Monsters 4 of 5

4. Idealistic

It was a disaster. The smith’s horses had fallen ill, Old Man Harold died last week and now Gottfried’s wife had miscarried for the third time. Everything was going wrong and the priest could not fathom why. He had preached to his flock every Sunday. Why would the Lord be punishing them so? Unless… There was a particular young woman whom he had not seen in church for some time.

He gathered some men from the village to help him hold her. When he asked the people of the village, the evidence against her was overwhelming. One of the boys swore, he had seen her naked in the woods, Henrietta said the woman had tried to sell her poison and Gottfried remembered that the very same woman had tried to entice him to sleep with her when he met her in the forest. The priest shook his head. He told himself off for being a fool. Why did he not see it before? He should have nipped this in the bud.

He tried to make the woman repent, but she kept denying her sins. The priest sighed. She would have to burn.

It was the only right thing to do.

04 Monsters 3 of 5

3. Demonic

Gottfried sat on the front pew in church with his wife. As the priest promised them all fire and brimstone, his wife stared at the cross behind the altar with empty eyes, stroking her round belly with one hand.

When the priest had blessed them all, Gottfried rose and offered his arm to his wife. She cringed and then quickly accepted it. A little too quickly perhaps, but no one would notice. Gottfried smiled.

When they were home and Gottfried closed the door, his wife’s eyes darted to the whip on the wall. Then she looked at the floor. As Gottfried took back his arm, she trembled.

‘What are you afraid of?’ said Gottfried.

‘I cringed in the church,’ she said, ‘please forgive me.’

‘Don’t worry about it,’ said Gottfried, ‘you know I’m a generous man, I can forgive you. Now fetch me something to eat.’ Gottfried sat down at the table and his wife hurried into the kitchen. She came back with a plate, and knife, then black sausage and bread.

‘And something to drink,’ said Gottfried.

‘Of course husband,’ she whispered and did his bidding. She placed a cup on the table, Gottfried grabbed it. Very carefully she poured ale from a clay pitcher. When Gottfried moved the cup slightly to one side, she followed his movement with clenched teeth.

‘Hurry up,’ said Gottfried, ‘I want something to drink today.’

‘Yes, husband.’ She poured until just under the brim then stepped back and stumbled over Gottfried’s foot. The pitcher flew through the air with a trail of ale. When it connected with the wall it smashed. The rest of the content sprayed out over the room. Gottfried smiled. His wife sprawled on the floor.

‘Please,’ she muttered, ‘please.’

‘Don’t worry my dear,’ said Gottfried, ‘I’ll teach you not to be clumsy.’ He rose from his seat. ‘And this time, I won’t use the whip.’ He smashed his foot into the cringing figure on the ground.

04 Monsters 2 of 5

2. Instrumental

Old Man Harold was not only the oldest man in town, he was also the richest. His only child Henrietta was very aware of this. So was her husband.

And although they led a very comfortable life as it was, Henrietta was rather in need in a new dress or two with matching jewellery, and her husband could use a new horse. But Old Man Harold was careful with his money and would not hand it out to be spent on extravagances.

So they made a plan.

Henrietta bought some sleeping mixture from a young woman. They poured it in Old Man Harold’s drink. When he was fast asleep and everyone else in the village had gone to bed, Henrietta’s husband carried Old Man Harold outside and placed him in the ditch just outside his own door. Then they hurried home through the cold night air.

The next morning Old Man Harold was cold and stiff.

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