On a dreary evening in early October, a hooded figure fled through the streets of Salem. The figure's dark cloak streamed in the silent breeze, giving it a bat-like appearance. There was no click-clack of metal boot-soles against the cobblestones, no heavy breathing to match the pace – it moved with ghostly grace and agility.
It was not nearly late enough for the citizens to turn in to bed – the sun had just gone over the horizon and still lingered as a thin orange ribbon in the sky.
Paranoid faces appeared in the candle-lit windows that lined the deserted lane; their eyes, in sync, following the bat-creature whose late commute was taboo.
Beware of witchcraft, some called. Others were more suspicious of the figure itself than the danger that may lurk around any street corner.
It's the witch! they would exclaim, their faces white. Nobody in homes like these would move an inch, except maybe to close the curtains or blow out the candles, as if that would keep them safe from evil magic.
Soon, however, it became evident that the figure was not a witch as it made its way up the church steps, without so much as a glance in the direction of the cemetery. Faces, disinterested, turned away from their windows and continued with their present task.
A bony, white-knuckled hang rapped sharply at the great doors of the church, A few moments later, the heavy door opened. The pastor stood there, bespectacled and tired-looking.
"Goody Samson!" he said with surprise. "What are you doing out at this late hour?"
"Father," Goody Samson said bitterly, her face illuminated by the pastor's candle. "My son has been bewitched!"
The pastor's tired face perked up immediately. For the last year or so, there had been many reports of witchcraft in the settlements of New England, and the town of Salem, Massachusetts seemed to be the core of it all. Children woke in the middle of the night to see horrific hags standing at the end of their beds, livestock were dying without explanation, and crops failed continuously. All were said to be the result of witchcraft, evil used against the church. Reports of witchcraft typically went to him, as he was the religious leader in the community, and that was exactly the reason Goody Samson was standing before him on that very October evening.
"Bewitched, ma'am?" he asked the woman. She stamped her unnaturally dainty foot impatiently.
"Excuse me, sir, but may I come inside and speak to you where we will not be overheard?" she hissed.
"Er, yes, come in," he said and held the door open as Goody Samson stalked into the chapel.
She was average in height, maybe five and a half feet, and thin as a rail. As she lowered her hood, the pastor saw that her mousy-brown hair was tucked into a conservative bun, but it was a bit more wild than usual and some strands stood up on end. This accentuated her long nose and sharp cheekbones, on which the shadows danced.
As soon as the door slammed behind her, Goody Samson launched into her explanation without prompt.
"My son, Alexander, has fallen into a fitful state within the hour. Blabbering nonsense, you see, and it is not tongues. And I have reason to believe it is witchcraft," she said fiercely. When the pastor did not say anything, she continued. "It was that awful Jameson woman, you know, Lucy? I caught her staring at my son from across the road as she played earlier this afternoon. She was putting a hex on him, I know it!"
"Goodwife Samson, Lucinda Jameson is a kind, God-fearing young woman—"
"—one who stares at nothing during prayer, and one who lives alone without a male guardian!" the woman spat.
"Well, in that instance," the pastor said, placing a finger on his chin. Goody Jameson was an odd sort of woman, and what Goody Samson said definitely rang true. "Thank you for your report, Goody Samson. Goody Jameson will be investigated and tried. Please, take me to Alexander, he needs the help of God."
And with that, the two exited the chapel and scurried down the cobblestone lane, past the house where the young witch named Piety Evans slept, unaware of the circumstances.