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gallows

Grey skies

Hobbling towards the end of the prison hallway, the guard shouted “Open!” as two enormous half doors groaned, pulled away by the men outside. Looking up at the sky, for the first time in over a week, Bren squinted. Yet, instead of sunshine, clouds and gusting winds greeted her. Long hair, tousled by the breeze, covered her face as she thought, “Figures.”

Everything ached. She felt wretched and worn out, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Shuffling in small steps, she barely noticed the crowd assembled to witness her execution. Approaching the scaffolding, she felt numb, heart heavy as a stone. Several hours before, in utter confusion and despair, she’d given up trying to make sense of it all.

A tall, austere woman

As she passed by, a tall austere woman watched her progression with interest from among the crowd. Neither pity nor compassion graced her features, but a slight, sly smirk marred her otherwise pretty face. Bren thought she seemed vaguely familiar, yet in her fog, it was only a passing notion.

Coming to the crude wooden steps, she tried to manage one, slipped and almost fell, only being held up by the guard that accompanied her. She tried again, but no strength remained. The big man lifted her up to the gallows, feet dragging over the staircase to the top of the platform. There, an overdressed magistrate stood, grim and foreboding. Bren scarcely noticed, nor cared when he pronounced that, as punishment for her capital crime of murder, Brenzel Marie Finnegan would be hung by the neck until dead.

Gallows

As the guard maneuvered her over the trap door, her gaunt body barely stood as it shivered in the biting wind, blowing much stronger than when she entered the court yard. A storm was brewing in black clouds churning above her. The noose, made of thick hemp, scratched her neck as it was fitted.

The guard stepped back and all was ready. The priest came from behind and stood before her, face still covered. He said nothing, only waited. Finally Bren managed a, “Father, forgive me for I have sinned,” to which he replied,

“Confess you sins and you shall be forgiven.”

“I am sorry for the wrongs I have done in my life and I wish I could have made better choices. I was given a great gift, yet I despised it and turned my back on the one who gave it. Father, I repent and if I could do it again, I would keep my anger in check and trust more.”

The end

The priest stepped closer, clasping her cold, sweaty hands in his. The warmth of his gentle manner caused some of the heaviness in her heart to lift. “Brenzel, I forgive you.” Bren, confused, thought, “Isn’t he supposed to say God forgives me?

Taking his hands away from hers, she felt something soft in them. Opening her swollen fingers as much as she could and looking down she said, “What the…”

There, in the palm of her hand lay a blue feather, slightly moving in the breeze. The priest looked up, beard neatly trimmed, grinning as he said, “Don’t worry, it all works out in the end.”

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