So, I'm not sure if any of you actually read these but I decided I wanted to start writing a story in short installments.
Thirteen men hung from the gallows on the trees just out of the city's limits. As they had walked to the rope cords hanging from the branches, toward their own demise only caused by themselves, their faces held none of the tell-tale fear of the ending of one's life. Simply humor. What could be so humorous about walking to a fate worse than any other? Yet, the men smiled.
As they approached the nooses, whispers went through the crowd. For the first time, the number of men could be counted by all. Thirteen. Was it fate telling them something? That thirteen, the most unlucky of all numbers, should die at once after murdering innocent people? Did they need to add more blood to the river already flowing?
Nonetheless, the men approached the stands beneath the large oak and stood upon their platforms. A figure clad in unidentifiable black was placed next to them. The thick, fibrous ropes were placed around their necks. A unanimous whisper from the watchers and the lever was pulled, dropping the floor from beneath them.
The men's bodies fell, the cords tightened, lips turned blue as the simple fall was not enough to kill some and they gasped for air. Soon enough, all the corpses hung limply, swaying in the wind like an omen, warning all those who might commit such a crime as well.
The execution finished, the crowd began to disperse.
Until one courageous child lifted a finger to point at the figures. "Mommy, why do they move?" He inquired in a meek voice. As a group, all present turned to look.
Indeed, the men hanging by their necks, victims to a sure death, all were slowly lifting their hands to the strands that held them aloft. As if in a trance, they all began to use their fingers to claw the rope bit by bit apart.
The heavy silence was broken by a shrill female scream. Everything began to crumble apart. Women reached for children and panicked citizens ran as far as they could from the scene. Except for one man, clad in black and white while holding a bible. He stared at the figures as their bonds began to snap with each strand they picked apart. "God bless us all, for when the dead come to walk once more, the living shall join them on their return." Making the sign of the cross, he began to leave the ominous scene.
A grim look spread across his face as he returned home to his small abode in the middle of the city. As he walked in the door, a young woman pounced upon him. Her eyes were wide with fear as the sound of screams resounded around them. "Love, what is it?" She asked him, trembling with the effort to stay calm.
"We must flee. Flee or fight." The priest told his wife. The severity of his words carried throughout the room to their two children.
The children stared at their parents, large eyes confused by all that was occurring around them. Their small curls bounced as they stood up to approach their parents. But with a small sob from their mother, they halted their advance.
The woman put her hands over her face and cried out once more before steeling herself. She looked at her husband as she removed her hands. "We will stay. We will fight for this is our home. But, love, you must explain to me what occurs. I cannot begin to fathom what you might mean when you say such things. Wait," She said as he opened his mouth to explain. She turned to the two children, the eldest a boy of six and his younger sister of merely three. "Gather your things, Jacob. You and Sarah are going on a trip! A most wonderful trip indeed. Aunt Elizabeth will take you."
As the two young ones ran from the room, she turned to her husband, the light from the fireplace in the corner flickering over her features. "Now, tell me what has happened so I may better prepare myself."
He shook his head for a brief moment and averted his eyes. How could he possibly explain to her the horror of what had fallen upon them? His job was to protect her and to keep her out of all harm's way. Perhaps if he told her, she would plunge head first into the new frontier and endanger herself. But he knew if he did not that she would find out in her own way.
He led her to the small wooden table in the center of the room and sat her down. He took her hands and stared into her worried eyes. "My dear, I fear the worst has occurred just this night. As you know, the execution had been set for just moments past. But... the spirits most foul have played with the fates. The men, as soon as their necks hung broken and limp upon their wires, revived themselves and began to pry their bodies loose. I fear some mischief has taken part. Witchcraft perhaps..."
The woman across from him began to shake with terror. It was due, if only for the possible outcome of the night they experienced. She then looked up at him, trying to calm herself. "Then we must stay. You are the sole creature in the town able to cure such an ailment of the life itself. You carry the words of God, you will purify the demons within them and send them to their graves once more."
"Lucinda, I fear if the first attempt was not enough, neither will the following be. How do you think of me to face an enemy of which I have no understanding? I cannot do such a thing. You would be best off to flee."
"Oh, kind priest, I would not leave you alone in this adventure. When had a woman the chance for such an opportunity to stand beside her partner in action? I shall not let you disgrace mine own dignity." Her eyes were frightened but they held the warmth for the one she loved.
The man sighed and brushed one hand over his eyes. He knew there would be no chance to persuade this woman to behave otherwise. He slowly nodded. "Indeed, but stand firm in this decision if you will for there is no returning."
"Father?" The two children intoned as they entered the room once more. They each carried a small bag with clothing and toys tucked inside. Their mother ran over to them and swept them up into her arms. She smiled at them reassuringly as any mother would. "Are you ready for an adventure with Aunt Elizabeth?" She asked them quietly before heading for the door. They simply responded with a curt nod and began to play with the ringlets in her hair.
The attachment between the three family member was as strong as any as their father watched from a few steps behind. Together, they walked out into the burning world, prepared for anything.
But not knowing what they were going to get was far beyond their imagination.