Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Hunt: conclusion

The Hunt: Part Two

“I shall now recite the accusations!” Cried Counsellor Timothy Hormone. “Accusation number one, as charged by Mrs. Amy Cruller!”

Mrs. Cruller gasped. “I didn’t know they were going to use my name!” she hissed in her husband’s ear. “I thought this all was anonymous!”

“Upon entering the cottage of Wendy McFwig she discovered the floor was spoiled by the presence of several pieces of straw!”

The crowd of villagers gasped.

“How does that make me a witch?” said Wendy.

“Silence, Accused!” roared Judge Horntoad. “You shall remain quiet until I invite you defend yourself against these allegations!”

“Yes sir,” said Wendy.

“Carry on, counsellor.”

He did so: “Stated Mrs. Cruller: Wendy explained the presence of debris by saying, I used my flying broom!” The villagers gasped again. “I presume I need not explain that only a witch might own a flying broom!” Wendy laughed, then opened her mouth to speak but immediately caught the judge’s glare and closed her mouth again. “Accusation number two!” cried Counsellor Hormone. “As charged by young Mr. Timbit McGuff!” All eyes turned to the youngster. “When delivering the morning newspaper to the cottage of Wendy McFwig, he did hear her inside the cottage, speaking in tongues!”

The crowd gasped anew. Wendy just smiled and shook her head. She looked into the crowd and met the eyes of a tall black man who met her gaze and shook his head ruefully.

“And sometimes her voice went really deep!” said young McGuff. “Like a – a demon or something!” The villagers grumbled at this.

“Accusation number three!” Counsellor Hormone continued. “As charged by Mrs. Mathilda Latte: When Mathilda offered Ms. McFwig a tub of homemade soup to take home with her, she brandished her magic wand and made it vanish into thin air!”

The crowd gasped and grumbled and hissed and shook their heads angrily. “Burn her!” someone cried out.

“Quiet, you!” ordered judge Horntoad. “We must practice diligence and burn her after establishing her guilt! Be patient! Now… Constable George McMacken. You were the arresting officer?”

“Yes, your honor,” said George, stepping forward.

“Did the accused come willingly or did she resist?”

“Oh, she tried to talk me out of it. And she tried to trick my deputies and I into eating her witch’s brew!” The crowd gasped.

“Oh please!” cried Wendy, stifling a laugh.

“This is your last warning McFwig!” cried the judge. “One more unscheduled outburst and we shall proceed immediately to the burning! Now… Constable, have you any further observations to add?”
“I’m afraid so, your honor. For one, her cottage door was unlocked when I arrived. I was able to open it unhindered, and after dark, no less!”

“Well, that is compelling!” said the judge. “What mortal woman would not fear the dark!”

“Only a mistress of darkness!” said McMacken. “Um… in my experience.”

“Indeed,” said Horntoad. “Will that be all then?”

“No, there is one other thing.”

“Go on then.”

“She freely confessed to me that she had put eye of newt in the brew.”

“Eye of newt!” cried several villagers. “Burn her! Burn her!” cried others.

“Quiet now!” said Horntoad. He shook his head.  “Ms. McFwig, as you can see, the evidence against you is overwhelming. Will you confess your witchy ways at once and volunteer to cleanse your soul at the stake of holy fire? It is getting late after all and tomorrow is festival day; a big day for us. We all would like to be up early! Please be considerate!”

“Is this my opportunity to defend myself?”

“If you insist.”

“Well I also would like to be up early tomorrow morning and not lying about in a pile of ashes, so yes, I do insist!”

Horntoad sighed. “Very well then.  To the charge of owning a flying broom, how do you respond?”

“I own no such thing. Amy misunderstood me.”

“Mrs. Cruller,” said the judge. “Did you witness the flying broom personally?”

“I beg your pardon!” shouted Mrs. Cruller.

“Did you see the flying broom for yourself!” Mr. Cruller shouted in her ear.

“Well, no, but she said…”

“I said fraying broom!” said Wendy. “Fraying. Not flying. My old straw broom has been fraying, hence the loose bits of straw on the floor. She misunderstood me.”

“Mrs, Cruller?” said the judge. “Is that possible? That you misunderstood Ms. McFwig?”

“I beg your pardon?” said Amy Cruller.

“I said, is it possible that you misunder-“

“I’m sorry!” shouted Mrs. Cruller. “Can you speak up? My hearing aid is on the fritz!”

Judge Horntoad rolled his eyes. “Mr. Cruller, how long has your wife’s hearing aid been on the fritz?”

“Oh – ah – a couple weeks now.”

“Since prior to her visit with Mrs. McFwig?”

“Yes sir.”

“Right. It seems we must dismiss accusation number one. Now… as for accusation number two, Ms. McFwig, that you were overheard speaking in tongues: what say you for yourself?”

“I would appreciate some clarification from young Mr. McGuff, please.”

“What is there to clarify?” said Horntoad.

“With regards to my voice going deep, I would like to know how deep. For instance, was it as deep as the voice of Mr. Ouagadoudou there, for instance?” Eyes turned to the tall black man whose head stood above the crowd. He was known to have the deepest voice in the village.

“What do you say to that, Timbit McGuff!” said the judge.

“I’m not sure!”

“Mr Ouagadoudou, will you please say something for us?”

The big man stepped forward and cleared his throat. “Um… testing!” he said in a very deep voice. “One two three testing! Boom chugga lugga! Elvis has left the building!”

“Thank you,” said the judge. “Well, Timbit?”

“Yeah, I suppose it was about as deep as that. But just some of the time. Sometimes it sounded just like her own voice.”

“You suppose?”

“Yeah, I’d say so.”

“Mr Quagadoudou, will you say a few more words so we may be clear?”

“Well,” said Mr. O, “I think I should say what I’ve been up to these last few weeks. That is – I’ve been spending my mornings at Ms. McFwig’s cottage. She’s been teaching me how to cook and I – Well I’ve been teaching her how to speak Swahili. My native language.”

“Oh really?” said Horntoad.

“Yes sir.”

“Will you say a few words in this uh - Sawheelies language for us please?”

“Very well,” said Mr. O. And here he rattled off a string of sounds which sounded very strange indeed and not one villager could understand a word of it. In fact, what he’d said was, Lord but you’re a bunch of precious little pale-faced idiots! Anyone tries to light Wendy here on fire, I’ll knock you the hell into next week! But no one had a clue as to these sentiments.

“Ms. McFwig,” said the judge. “Is this your allegation? That you have been speaking Waheelies with Mr. O?”

“That is the truth of it, your honor.”

“So you say. Now what about this matter of the witch’s brew which constable McMacken caught you stirring?”

“Why it’s the festival soup of course! I’ve been making it every year! Everyone in the village has drank of it!”

“And every year you’ve poisoned us with newt eyes, have you!”

“Of course not. It was George who made the eye of newt joke and so I went along with it. At least I thought he was joking. I had no idea this all was coming down. I’ve never been anything but a friend to every one of you! Witchcraft indeed! This is preposterous! Go search my cottage if you wish. You won’t find any flying brooms or newt eyes or magic wands!”

“Then what say you to the door being unlocked!”

“I say there is no need to lock my door! Who among you should I fear! Every year on this night my neighbors drop by to taste a sample of the soup and tell me that it needs a little sugar or a little salt or just a pinch more sage! It’s tradition! I leave the door open for them!”

“Then what do you say about the vanishing trick!”

“What vanishing trick?”

“You cast a spell on Mathilda Latte’s soup and made it vanish!”

“I did no such thing! I took it home and ate it. It was delicious!”

“Mrs. Latte,” said the judge. “Did you see Ms. McFwig dispatch your chowder into thin air? Did you? With your very own eyes? Speak the truth!”

“I did not, your honour! But she told me herself the next day! She said she made it disappear!”

“I said it disappeared as a clever way of saying that I ate it all. Are we done with this farce yet? I’d like to get back and finish with the festival soup in time to get some sleep!”

“If we burn her, what will we do for soup tomorrow at festival?” said a man in the crowd.

“That is of no consideration to this proceeding,” said the judge.

“It’s already taken care of!” announced Mr. Latte. “Mathilda’s been making soup for two days now! We’ve got it covered!”

“Hush!” hissed Mathilda, punching her husband on the arm.

“Ouch!” he moaned.

“What!” said Wendy.

“But Mathilda,” said judge Horntoad.  “How did you anticipate such a need? This trial was not planned!”

“It’s not fair!” cried Mathilda. “Every year it’s Oh Wendy! Your festival soup is so yummy! Oh you make the best soup! It gives me tingles! Well I’ll have you know that I make excellent soup! Why don’t I ever get a turn!”

“Is this how all of this started!” said Wendy. “Did Mathilda cast the first accusation! Mathilda, I would have happily turned over the festival soup reins to you! All you had to do was ask! You didn’t need to have me burned alive!”

The crowd erupted in chatter. Angry eyes were cast at Mathilda Latte. Other angry eyes were cast at Wendy McFwig.

“Quiet everyone!” shouted the judge.

“Quiet everyone!” aped Constable McMacken.

The crowd did settle and eyes turned to Judge Horntoad. “Ladies and gentlemen: the time has come to vote on the fate of Wendy McFwig. You’ve heard the accusations. You’ve heard the explanations. I must counsel you: This charge of witchcraft no longer appears very convincing. I am tempted to abort the trial and send everyone home.”

Villagers looked down at their gas cans and matches and lighters and torches and suddenly felt extremely uncomfortable.

“But...” said old Mr. Muffin. People looked his way. “What would we do next? We’ve never had a trial that didn’t end with a burning.”

“We would go home and rest and gather again for festival tomorrow!” said Horntoad.

“But won’t Wendy be there?”

“Of course. She’s the official festival souper!”

“Won’t that be kind of awkward? We just tried to have her killed! She’s not likely to forget about this!”

“He’s right!” cried Mrs. Eggbagel. “I don’t look forward to running into Wendy about town anymore! There will always be this elephant in the room!”

“We should just burn her,” someone muttered quietly.

“Yes, burn her!” spoke another. “It’s better for everyone that way!”

“She’s probably a witch anyway,” said Mr. Finegrind.

“We need not worry about ever running into Wendy again!” said Mr Ouagadoudou in his deep resonant voice which cut through the crowd like thunder. All eyes turned his way. “Wendy and I were speaking just this morning and she told me her plans.” Wendy looked at him curiously. She recalled no revelation of any plans. He met her eyes briefly. “She was going to make an announcement at festival tomorrow but under the circumstances I think you all should hear it now.” He looked around and saw that he had garnered everyone’s attention. “She was going to announce tomorrow that she is planning to leave the village and travel far away, never planning to return. She’s planning to leave the day after tomorrow, and with a heavy heart, for she loves you all muchly and mourns that she will never see you all again. And she was planning to make a recommendation that Mathilda Latte be considered for new official festival souper.”

Mathilda’s hand went to her mouth as she flushed.

“She said that Mathilda makes the best soup in the village – ah – leaving her own soup out of the equation that is.”

“Is this all true?” said Judge Horntoad to Wendy McFwig.

“Um. Yes, it is so. In fact Mr Ouagadoudou has volunteered to do all my packing for me.”

< ---------- {0} ---------- >

As Wendy McFwig rode along the bumpy trail, the reins of a two-horse team in her hands, a covered wagon full of belongings at her back, she thought in amazement of all that had transpired. What struck her the most was her own reaction. She could not summon an ounce of anger toward the people who had conspired to have her burned alive. She could only feel a detached fascination at this witnessing of the darkness of the human mind; that such a secret pleasure; such a yearning to see evil in others; for the excitement of scandal, that it eclipsed all the love she had shown them.  As much as her friends and neighbors professed goodness, and publicly regarded and awarded nobility, deep inside it was evil that excited them; evil they wished to imagine; evil they wished to seek and expose. And all it took was one coward to plant a seed.


The preceding story was essentially true.

However:  the names, genders, locale and pretty much every detail, have been tweaked or altered just enough to protect the identities of one innocent anonymous security guard, and a gang of bona fide cretins whose cretinship they likely came by honestly and innocently enough, given the soul-crushing malaise inflicted upon them by the corporation they are slave to; a corporation whose product has evolved into the soylent green of coffee and donuts; a corporation who exists in a dimension where only money is visible to the naked eye and for whom humanity is an obstacle. I shall leave them respectfully unnamed!

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