I come to an hour later after I am returned from the torture of the rack. Somehow, I find the strength to get up. I don the spare clothes I have in my rucksack--a black Patagonia fleece and a pair of jeans...and discover the lockpick I've hidden discreetly in a stash pocket I sewn in the waistline. I'm happy to have some dry clothes at least to ward off the damp and the cold of this cell.
The soles of my feet hurt and are tender, but I learn to ignore the pain. I glance around and analyze my surroundings. I hear a guard pacing around outside, but I cannot see him. I stash the pick and start to pace around like a wounded animal, trying to build up my strength again that I lost from the torture. I wonder about my odds of cheating the noose and wonder if I could probably plead my belly, like the pirate women of old did; but highly unlikely with all the crunches I do. I do some kata, trying to steel myself for what's to come. Do I make my last stand in this cell? Likely I'll be overpowered, perhaps even killed. Suicide seems pointless.
I wonder if I can trust that guard who says he's on my side. Do I really have help? And do I have to wait until I feel the bite of that rope around my neck to get rescued? I've never liked the idea of being rescued, but the prospect of execution starts to worry me some. It starts to make me shiver. I'm trying to keep calm, but I'm starting to get terrified. I get to thinking about that witch that led me to this place, and I wonder now how things would be if our roles were reversed. Would I feel sorry for her? What if she was innocent? I realize that for the first time, maybe I am not conscientiously numb enough for this bounty hunting business. Maybe I've been bringing the innocent to their death all this time...?
Its nearly dawn, when I hear the main door creak and open...is it them? I got to think fast if I'm going to escape. I set myself in the corner, back to the wall when six guards fill the room and flank me, followed by that damned Inquisitor.
"Fuck you," I spit. "This is foolish," I exclaim as two guards take either of my arms and jerk me to my feet. They force my arms behind my back while the guard who has been my patron in this hell manacles my wrists together with a pair of heavy irons that prick cold on my skin. Leg irons encircle my already chafed ankles.
A commotion down the hall attracts the attention of the guards, and the Inquisitor is distracted. He takes five of the guards with him, while my patron is left alone with me.
"Trust me," He whispers. "We have to wait the last moment. When you will be on the trapdoor, my friends will come..."
"I got to wait until I'm in the noose?" I ask as I test my restraints. The locks seem simple enough.
"Yes. It's the only way," he says as I realize I might be able to slip these chains with enough of a distraction.
"I don't feel good about this at all," I say. Just then, the Inquisitor returns smiling that wicked leering smile I've come to detest. My stomach starts to sour.
"There's nothing to feel good about at all, Witch. You face the Inquisition's Justice. You will be executed and your body burnt as an example to other women who dare to forget their place." He nods to the guards, and I am marched out of the cell.
The cold irons chafe my wrists. I wish I could slip the sleeves of my fleece so they wouldn't chafe so much. I'm led through the hallway of the dungeon. Prisoners come to the doors of their cells to take one last look at me. Some offer silent prayers...some just stare mutely. With my strange clothes a contrast to everything else around me, I must present a sight.
I slump my shoulders as if I am resigned to my fate, but I am looking to exploit any opportunity. What I need is a distraction...only a minute and I can get these irons off. But I've got six guards on me, and from all the commotion I'm probably a high-priority asset and got most of their security on me. I should feel flattered, but they're leading me away to die. I don't think I might be getting away. I hope this guard isn't lying, but I better not be too hopeful. This looks like the end, Erin.
Still, I try not give them any satisfaction. And then they lead me upstairs to the courtyard, and there I see the scaffold and a heavy thick noose waiting for me. I try not to buckle at the sight. Stiff upper left, girl. You got this. Even in the face of death don't give up. I tell myself to have courage.
I shuffle my steps as much as my leg irons will allow. My gait is slow, but my mind races. Can I get out of these irons? Can I take these guards? Where's a distraction when I need one?
And then we reach the foot of the scaffold. There are thirty steps.
And I think to myself...this is really going to suck!
I hide my fear as I start to ascend the scaffold. My bare feet feel the contact of the wood.
Each step means that my death is near. A horrible death!
The Inquisitor is conferring with my patron, then turns to me and exclaims in a loud voice as if he's doing street theater. "I promised a short drop. The trapdoor will open under you. The noose will tighten around your tender neck, but not stop your breath totally at the beginning.
Your young body will start to shake and writhe. Your chained bare feet will try to search for something solid that not exist. Your pretty face will turn slowly red. Your tongue will try to escape from your sweet mouth. Your eyes will be wide open."
I ascend to the platform, and immediately I am dragged by a guard on each arm to the trapdoor.
The Inquisitor then faces the crowd. "And it can be long! Ten, fifteen minutes! An eternity of pain! Some people say that it's possible to feel sexual pleasure...but nothing is sure!" He takes my chin with his slimy, perfumed hand. "You don't want to die, do you? You think you are too young to die. You think you are innocent. You are so pretty tomboy, but women have their place and should stay in it! You should have stayed in yours, and now you shall die."
"Trust me." says the guard, as he reaches for the noose.
The Inquisitor stands near me, reading a proclamation of my crime.
"For the crimes of heresy and witchcraft, this prisoner, "Erin" has been sentenced by this Inquisition to hang from the neck until dead."
The collar of my fleece is unbuttoned to bare my neck and the noose is drawn over my head and placed around my neck, snug against my left ear and drawn closed. I feel the bite of the fibers against my bare neck. A passing breeze blows across it, and I'm cold. I fight the urge of my knees to knock. All I show is defiance, but I am scared shitless. I look upon the crowd. I notice a young woman clutching a cross muttering a silent prayer. Several jeering men make faces and mock me. A child stares at me blankly.
The impassive Inquisitor stands before me, a looming spectre of death. "Does the condemned have any final words before the sentence is carried out?"
Of course, I was preparing myself for this. I spit in his face.
"You all go fuck yourselves! I'll see you all in hell, where I might be allowed to torture you all for torturing and murdering me, and all the women you've killed! Curse you all until the end of time!" Immediately, the cries of "Hang the witch!" and "Let her strangle!" fill my ears.
I nod to my hangman. I don't know if I can trust him or not. I've lived my life knowing that words mean nothing and actions rule everything. There's only one way to find out if he means to help me or not, and whether my trust in you was founded and misplaced.
I look at him in his hooded eye. "I'm ready."
The hangman nods, and at once the drummers begin their staccato roll. I trace my finger along my hemline for the lockpick. My heart starts to race, and my teeth actually begin to chatter from the cold and the fear. I try to push it all down. But how does one push their fear down when they're standing on the brink of eternity and death, about to die in front of a bloodthirsty crowd on the whims of sick fucks who brutalize women just for kicks?
I am so fucking scared right now, and as I finger that pick I just wish I could click my heels and just blink and be back in bed with a warm cup of cocoa and some Netflix.
TO BE CONTINUED