The cart rumbled slowly down the grimy street, leaving wide wheel ruts in the half-dried mud stirred up by the night's rains. A fearful sort of silence hung over the street; shutters were closed and barred, doors locked. The air was heavy, bereft for once of children's shouts as they played their war games in the gutters. Overhead the sky lightened as dawn gave way to day.

Reaching the end of the street, the cart lurched around another corner. A pair of dark, resigned eyes blinked at the disruption as the world tilted, before righting itself.

Once the cart was gone, doors and windows unbarred; pale, fearful faces glanced cautiously around.

The people emerged, silently. Some soundless call drew them, they gravitated in the direction the cart had gone. The scene repeated itself as the cart, with its human burden, proceeded through the still town.

The wooden platform and the scaffold stood starkly against the backdrop of the green field. The cart slowed its progress, stopping with a groan of poorly oiled wheels. The people followed after, crowding silently around.

With a creak, the ramp on the back of the cart dropped open. People fled to avoid it, and the gathered drew back. The air was charged with anticipation-- and fear.

Three figures emerged, moving slowly. Two burly men held another by the elbows. This man, feral and bestial in appearance, glared at the world through sunken, black eyes. Ragged, tangled hair reached his shoulders, half exposed-- the grey shirt was torn and tattered, the pants frayed; he wore no shoes.

His hands were bound behind his back, his steps hobbled. He was half-led, half-dragged toward the scaffold, and the crowd parted to make a pathway for the him. As the men passed, white-faced mothers drew solemn-eyed children to their skirts; the children pulled away to see better. Somehow, out of all of it, this was the most disturbingā€¦ To see childish curiosity piqued as the man was led up the steps, to note the almost hungry look of anticipation as the knotted rope was secured about the neckā€¦ and the expression of satisfaction as the trapdoor was kicked open.

In the still morning air, the snap sounded like a gunshot.

The spectators waited a few minutes more. The men who had the led the prisoner to his fate now cut him down, and the body was returned to the cart for its journey to its place of interment. A sort of sigh went up, and the crowd began to disperse in twos and threes.

And life went on.