The pond was idyllic. Rays of late morning sun played across its mirrored surface as iridescent dragonflies darted about their business. She took a deep breath and rolled her eyes. They’d spent an age now trying to attach weights to her ankles. It was a woefully poor job and she was tempted to offer some pointers, but it would be a little difficult with the gag.
“Sp .. Spawn of satan,” Jones stuttered.
Here we go she thought. About bloody time. The bindings on her wrists were starting to ache. Shame they hadn’t got the same fool to do her ankles, at least he knew how to tie a knot.
“You have been accused of the crime of witchcraft,” spat Jones, getting a taste for the role. “How do you plead?”
Idiots she thought. She gave him a stare that left him in little doubt of her thoughts on the subject.
“So be it. Throw her in,” barked Jones.
A hefty villager on each limb they swung her back and forth until there was enough momentum to launch her clear into the middle of the pond. A long rope tied around her waist trailed after her, presumably for if they had a change of heart. This was not her most ceremonious dunking by a long mark, standards were slipping. What had happened to a good old dunking stool?
The cold shock of the water jarred her back to the task at hand. The heavy boulders dragged her down. She would need to calm down and relax. She was on borrowed time and there was still a performance to put on. Looking up she could see them all staring down at her through the crystal clear water.
A moment later, her searching hands found the fabric of the coarse bag, her survival bag. It had been a cold misty night when she had dragged it out into the middle of the pond. It was obvious when Jones’ brother had died that they would come looking for the usual scapegoat. That’s what you get for helping, she thought.
Finding the sharp knife tied to the neck of the bag she quickly cut the ropes on her wrist, ankles and waist. She was careful not to float back up as she rubbed her aching wrists. That’s better, time to get to work.
Cutting open the bag she pulled out two large jars before tying it closed with the rope that had been around her waist. They would have their scapegoat.
“She’s struggling, I can see her squirming,” said one of the excited villagers.
“Yeah that’s what a witch would do,” another helpfully added.
Time was ticking. She twisted open the first of the jars. Red Hibiscus dye oozed out in the water and she swirled it around her like a deathly cloak. The villagers looked on in horror.
“There’s blood,” one screamed, as the red dye billowed out. “So much blood!”
“See, she IS a witch,” Jones wailed.
If there were any doubts in their minds, and there had been plenty. They were all dismissed as they cowered in terror at the thought of the vengeful demon that now lay at the bottom of the pond. And so they should!
In her crimson veil, she unscrewed the second jar and placed it carefully in the silt. She had a minute left at most as she swam for the thick reeds on the far bank. The pond was now a blood pool. Panicked villagers were arguing between pulling her back in or better still running for the hills.
At the bottom of the pond, the waxy bung in the top of the second jar slowly dissolved to expose the potassium. It only took a split second for the reaction to take hold. With a deafening crack, the blood pool exploded. The villagers were thrown to the ground before a pitter-patter of blood drops rained down.
It was too much for most. Desperately trying to wipe the witch’s blood from their faces they fled into the woods screaming. It would be a few weeks before the stain of their mistake would fade.
Jones, however, stood firm and surveyed the apocalyptic scene. His two farmhands were only now shakily getting to their feet, covered from head to toe in claret. The trees, the ferns, the reeds, everything bled as he looked down at his own shaking bloody hands.
“Pull her in”, he snarled, trying to wipe the blood from his eyes.
All three men pulled on the slippery red rope. She was heavy. When finally they managed to pull ashore the bag, they all looked on bewildered.
“Open it,” Jones ordered.
Neither farmhand would touch it. Jones grabbed one of their knives and slit the bag open himself.
The putrid smell hit them first. A smell of rotting death as out of the bag slipped the decomposed head of a goat, its one cloudy dead eye stared up at them. Jones wretched as a cackling of mocking laughter echoed around the clearing. They ran. They ran like the devil himself was on their tails. Jones would never stop running from that mocking laughter.
It didn’t take her long to find the rucksack of spare clothes. She was still laughing as she pulled out the bottle of white spirit that would wash off the worst of the dye. It never got old, unlike her. You don’t get to be a wise woman in this age if you haven’t got a few tricks up your sleeve.