Author: 1st violin 22 PM
A story about people dying and a cowardly little kid. Difficult to describe. I know it's long but if you R&R this one I'll R&R one of yours.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Adventure/Suspense - Words: 1,985 - Reviews: 1 - Published: 12-08-08 - Status: Complete - id: 2606067
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"Thief!" The jeers of the crowd chiseled lines in the brow of the condemned man. He shifted his bound arms behind his back and set his jaw as he stepped up to the noose. His chest rose and fell in a shaky breath.
"Do you have any last words?" the executioner asked harshly. The thief shook his head.
"No," he muttered. The single syllable was inaudible above the screaming of the crowd. Without warning, the executioner opened the trap door and the thief's eyes widened in shock. His limbs shook wildly as if he were trying to swim. The look on his face was apparent of his inexplicable pain. Tears ran down his cheeks as he died. The crowd laughed at the coward. A small, fair boy watched the scene from the back, his young, angelic face marred by a look of terrible concern. He clasped his hands to his mouth and tore off in the opposite direction, barely able to get out of sight before he vomited all over the road. Behind him came sounds of cruel amusement. He straightened up, wiping his mouth on his hand. A crowd of older boys were strutting down the road, each with a grin on his face that clearly teased the young boy.
"What's wrong Jesse?" one mocked. "Can't stand to watch that piece of scum die? Did you know him Jesse? Are you like him?"
"Shut up!" retorted the small boy, Jesse. "I'm not like him. It's just…"
"Getting sick over watching a stranger die? You're more of a coward than I thought you were!" laughed the older boy. Jesse hung his head.
"Go away!" he yelled, frowning. They did, but not without calling "Coward!" over their shoulders at him.
It was true, Jesse discovered that evening. He tried to sleep unsuccessfully but the image of the dying man haunted his thoughts. It was certainly a terrible way to die… He rolled over uncomfortably in attempt to escape his thoughts. A high pitched scream jarred him out of the hell that his mind had created. Across the small house that his family shared, his parents stirred.
"Who was that?" his mother whispered urgently. The scream repeated itself, this time jumping into a higher octave. Clearly someone in a nearby house was in pain. Jesse buried himself in his covers, hoping to drown out the noise.
"I'd better go see what's going on!" his father muttered.
"Don't get yourself hurt!" his mother cautioned. "If there's any trouble come back here. Don't stay and fight!"
"I'll be fine." He pulled a jacket on, and lit a tapir. The rest of the family watched his shadow stride confidently out of the house. There were muffled voices outside. At long last, Jesse's father returned.
"A woman's been murdered," he reported somberly.
"Why?" Jesse's mother asked, horrified.
"The murderer wanted her gold jewelry, people think."
"Who killed her?"
"One of the gypsies who comes near town every so often. We caught a good glimpse of him as he got away but no one could catch him. They're sending out a party to search for him tomorrow."
"Do you think we're in any danger?"
"I doubt it."
The following morning the mayor of the small town called a meeting. Nearly every resident was there, eager to hear what he had to say.
"Where were you last night, Jesse?" The familiar voice of Thomas, the boy who constantly teased him surprised Jesse.
"I was there…" he muttered in return.
"You were not! You were too scared of seeing the dead lady."
"Shut up! The mayor's about to talk!" another boy called Gray announced. All three children shut their mouths immediately.
The mayor, a tall, graying man stood atop a rock at the town square. He raised his hands to quiet the group.
"First of all I'd like to send out my condolences to the family of Mrs. Jones," he announced, nearly shouting so everyone could hear him. After a brief pause, he continued, "We would like to see the criminal who took her life be put to a similar end. He can't have gotten far so I would like to send out a group to search for him as early as possible. Any men interested in joining should come to see me immediately." The rest of his short speech was unimportant.
"Are you joining?" Gray asked the bully.
"Of course!" he replied. "What fool wouldn't? Are you, Jesse?" The question was answered for him by the mocking look in the bully's eyes. Jesse nodded resolutely. "Of course!"
The search party's meeting was concise and to the point. The leader described the man they were looking for.
"He was a gypsy; tall and condescending. Like most gypsies, he had dark hair, eyes, and skin. His most prominent characteristic was long scar running down his left cheek. If you spot him, tell everyone else so we can out number him and catch him off guard." Jesse listened intently, dreaming, like the other boys, of being the one to spot and apprehend the murderer.
"I know who's not going to find him," Thomas announced.
"You're not going to find him either, Thomas," Gray snorted. "It'll be me."
"It'll be both of us," Thomas amended. "You and me. Not this coward over here." He directed towards Jesse, who looked away as though he hadn't heard.
The group set off at once, looking for common hiding places in the surrounding countryside. Night fell all too quickly and they were forced to stop their search for the time being. Jesse lay down his bags, his arms aching from carrying them. One of the older men lit a fire for them to sit around and eat the provisions they had brought. Jesse's attempts to avoid sitting with the other boys his age somehow failed and managed to land him sitting next to Thomas. He ate quickly, eager for an excuse to retire to bed and not have to be included in the conversation.
"It's nice to be away from our parents," Thomas commented brightly. Gray agreed whole heartedly. Jesse ignored them. Thomas's statement was true, but he didn't want to talk to them. Unfortunately, that was the wrong choice.
"Jesse wishes he were still with his parents. I bet he's scared. Do you miss your mother, Jesse?" Thomas prodded him with his finger. Jesse ignored him.
"You miss her, don't you? You need her to protect you," Thomas continued.
"Stop it!" Jesse snapped.
"You're denying it. That's because it's true!" Thomas said, laughing lightly. Jesse got to his feet. He stared at Thomas through narrowed eyes before turning quickly and stalking away from the fire, hearing muttered exclamations of "good riddance!" behind him. He didn't know who they came from.
How far Jesse walked was difficult to tell. Eventually he came to a clearing. The full moon shone on the grass and cast shadows from the surrounding trees. In the middle of the clearing sat a man. He was staring intently at something on the ground in front of him. Even bent over, it was obvious that he was tall. Tangled dark hair hung over his forehead and he pushed it back absentmindedly, revealing a young face with skin the color of milk chocolate. A gypsy. Jesse's eyes widened with surprise. He tried to yell for the others, but his voice didn't seem to work. They wouldn't have heard him anyway. Trembling, he turned to leave the clearing. The gypsy looked up, startled. He smiled at Jesse, a terrible evil smile masquerading as a kind grin.
"Don't hurt me!" Jesse managed.
"Hurt you? Why would I hurt you?" the gypsy asked.
"You killed an innocent woman in my town!" Jesse cried accusingly. The confusion on the gypsy's face seemed almost genuine.
"I've never killed anyone," he said as though it were true.
"They said a gypsy…"
"There are thousands of gypsies," the man said. "But I believe I heard of that attack. They said he had a scar." The man turned his left cheek so Jesse could see it. There was no mark.
"See. I'm not the killer you're looking for. Sorry to disappoint." He went back to reading his book, holding it out so the moonlight could catch the pages.
"What are you reading?" Jesse asked. The man showed him the tattered cover.
"King Arthur. I'm only learning to read so it goes very slowly."
"Good luck with that," Jesse offered. "Say, I think I'm lost. Would you be able to help me find my way back to the rest of my group?"
"As long as your companions don't come to the same conclusion you did," the man said, smiling. As it turned out, the man knew the area very well. With Jesse's description, they were able to locate the campsite within the hour. On the way they talked about Arthur and his knights and the other heroes of the famous stories. All the members of the search party were asleep by the time Jesse returned. He thanked the gypsy quietly and crept over to his bags. As silently as possible, he unrolled his bedding and lay down.
"Who's there?" a voice cried in the darkness.
"It's me," Jesse replied in a low voice so as not to awake the others.
"No not you, coward! Who's there?" Thomas lit a candle and held it out towards the surrounding trees. The gypsy strode into the light, confidently and resolutely, his fingers holding his book open so he wouldn't loose his page.
"That's him!" The whole campsite except for Jesse surrounded the man in a matter of seconds.
"He doesn't have a scar!" Jesse yelled.
"It doesn't matter. Otherwise he fits the description. We need someone," a gruff voice replied.
Every beat of the snare drum was like someone driving nails into Jesse's stomach. The friendly gypsy didn't struggle as the cloaked executioner bound his hands. His unblinking eyes were trained on the ground as he approached the noose.
"Do you have any last words?" the executioner barked. The gypsy looked up.
"Yes," he replied in the deep voice of a leader. The crowd quieted to a dull murmur.
"I want you to go back to the woods and find the gypsy camp," he continued. "I want you to- I want…" His powerful voice faltered. "I want you to tell my family that I didn't leave them. That I didn't mean to. That I was at the wrong place at the wrong time." Horrified, Jesse watched as the gypsy stepped forward to the noose. Adrenaline pushed him onto the platform. He stood in front of the crowd.
"Be quiet!" he screamed so loudly that his voice broke. "This man is innocent! You were looking for a man with a scar, which he does not have. He doesn't fit your description. You just wanted to pick any gypsy so you could have someone to hang, someone to blame. You picked the wrong man!" His blue eyes darted across the faces of the members of the search party, who shifted uncomfortably under their guilt. He turned to the executioner.
"Don't kill an innocent man!" He was crying now. "You know he's done nothing!" The executioner grabbed the boy and threw him roughly to the ground.
"Look at this coward," Thomas said scathingly above him. "He's too much of a coward to watch a man die." The stars stopped dancing in front of Jesse's eyes just in time for him to see the executioner open the trap door.