"How dare they."
The voice dragged out, drowning itself in the orchestra of the bush-crickets, which was pouring into the damp musty room through the cast-iron bars, high on the wall, hastily built with stone bricks, mossy or otherwise.
He laid there. There on the cobblestone, in a puddle of his own blood and vomit, recollecting his memories. The ones which had become foggy after 3 days of constant whiplashes and starvation. His head whirred, drunk with fatigue as it constantly lingered near the edge of abyssal limbo, which he could fall any moment into.
But each time he inched closer, he was pulled back from it. Though, it was hard to describe what pulled him back.
A drawl left his parched mouth. Suddenly, he felt extremely invigorated, as if he could run 10 miles in one go, only to be disabled the very next moment. This almost instantaneous regression in his state frustrated him. He wanted to punch a hole into the wall, but he found his knuckles bloodied. He wanted to kick the log door into splinters, but he found his left tibia fractured. He was completely and thoroughly incapacitated.
So, he cried.
Tears streaked from the beds of his closed eyes, blurring the darkness. He felt angry at incapability to remember it. It was almost as if a part of him was actively stifling it down. But he opened his eyes anyways. Even if knowing that the odds are against him, he did it. Letting the wetness drip away from his bleary eyes, he tried. Tried to remember.
The fair white complexion, so bright it could melt snow itself. Her cascading chestnut hair, which smelled of warm sunshine and trees. Her pewter eyes, soaking in everything she sees into its depth. Her warm luscious breasts, which was barely held by a linen blouse.
The most profoundly beautiful of all her features, though, was her smile. It was a simple smile, with no signs of dimples or creases. With her pallid lips, it just seemed like a small curve drawn across her face with a lead pencil. One can argue that it was the least enticing part of her features, but Joseph would argue otherwise. Even if he couldn't put it into words, he felt it. In his very being, he found to be the most prepossessing of all her charms. He loved it. He loved her.
And thus, he closed his eyes in the warm moonlight, and fell into the deep slumber.
His tired nerves shot open, as if they were all simultaneously yanked and cut. And his bloodshot eyes woke to the wan rays of the december sun. His skin felt weird, feeling the irritation from the sore blotches where the bottle flies tried to nest.
"Is he awake?"
Joseph felt a boot on his nape, along with the raspy pubescent voice, pressuring and lightly hitting it, as if the person is examining whether he's dead or not. He tried to open his mouth, in a futile attempt to signal, but all that came out was dry air and cough.
"Well, that's our sign."
Another voice, deeper and more gruff than the one earlier, responded. Joseph, still attempted to communicate to the pair, but all his coughs seemed like a foreign language to them. So, he tried to move, to show the pair that he's cognizant and desperately needed water. But that too was failed attempt, resulting in a weird slither, as if a snake stuck on glass.
"Hey, Reggie, go fetch this dead man some water.
"Huh... Why? Why should we feed this animal?"
"Reginald... Do as I say."
Reginald made another groan of protest, then, without saying anything, he slowly faded into the background. Then, the footsteps were no longer audible. A silence hovered over the dark room. Only, the other man remained in the empty room.
Then, out of the blue, a shock went up Joseph's vertebrae. His bones rattled, like a tree in a heavy wind. He lost his sense of touch for a moment, feeling as if he were a feather floating in an ever-flowing breeze. All his burdens were lifted off him and now he was finally at peace. But, the very next moment he was slammed down, back to earth. A scream left his mouth. A scream so wild, it could have been mistaken for that of a rabid beast.
"You fucking git," snapped the man, still continuing his abuse on the screaming pile of flesh, "How dare you do that to her. She loved you. She fucking loved you and you... you..."
He stopped for a moment, forcefully gulping a lump down his throat and cleaning his eyes before continuing in a tone weaker than before.
"Reginald was right. Why feed an animal like you? Maybe, I was too blind. Blinded by seeing my dear friend here, lying all ripped and broken. I trusted in you. You... you... FUCK YOU!"
"I... didn't... Herbert."
"That's enough... That's fucking enough. Don't make me hate you more..."
Joseph felt his wrists being yanked together, and a hemp rope slithering over and between, tying it together. In his mind, Joseph tried to resist it, but he was still too enervated.
At some point, Reginald had returned, equipped with a wooden mug. Herbert took it from his hands and put it up to Joseph's lips, who greedily guzzled it all down.
His senses were still extremely worn out, so he couldn't make out his surroundings properly, or even know where they were taking him. All he could feel was that this place was warmer and brighter than that mossy room. His ears were still ringing from that beating earlier. All he heard was condensed down to a weird mechanical whirring.
"Who is that man?"
Still, his ringing ears hadn't completely failed him.
He turned towards the soft voice. In his eyes, he saw her, standing there and waving. Calling out to him.
But, the moment his blinked his illusion broke.
And he saw their faces.
He saw it all around him.
Everywhere he looked.
He saw the repugnance on the faces of the women, who, upon seeing his very figure, jumped back in revolt. The look of pure anger, as if they would rip him apart to shreds. The mothers, yanking the hands of their kids and holding it firmly as they hid them behind their gowns. He saw the kids too, brimming with a childish inquisitiveness of the unknown and a childish fear at the same time. And beside them, he saw the anger of the men, their looks concentrated with rage and hatred, and their fist clenched and arms quivering with an undigested punishment.
It all came to him as a blow, a shock, as his mind filled with the memories he had lost. All of it flowed back into his head and it spun as if all the world's knowledge was injected into his brain. He would have fallen to ground and passed out if Herbert weren't carrying him.
He understood the meaning behind Herbert's kick. He understood the reason of these stares of grueling disgust. And Joseph, most of all, he understood his own sin.
And when he did, he cried. He cried at forgetting something so important. He cried at the hopelessness of his situation. But Joseph, most of all, cried at the incompetency of his own actions.
And so they reached the destination. An empty field surrounded by masses dressed in rainbow colours.
Herbert let Joseph fall to his knees. The latter, upon impact, groaned loudly in pain, but managed to retain this position. The nervous chatter of the crowd, upon seeing the near-lifeless body of Joseph, went up a notch. Seeing him so pityful, they all started to jeer at him.
"Die, you rapist!"
"An animal like you shouldn't even be born!"
With each insult thrown, the crowd's became more and more courageous, even going as far as throwing stones at Joseph, who desperately tried to shield himself with his tied hands. And they laughed. At some point, this became a sort of sadistic entertainment for them. Seeing him writhing in pain, crying for help and begging them to stop, they all enjoyed.
A new emotion planted its seeds inside Joseph. A feeling far more different any he had before. His chest got hotter and hotter, till it burned. Seething in a rage which was directed at everyone. It sickened him that this blind crowd was his judge. It sickened him that these blind people were his executioner. And it sickened him to the core that they were oblivious of there blindness. It sickened him. He hated it. He despised them. Burn them all alive! Raze them all to the ground! Flog them all to death! Stock them-
"Silence. Silence!" A voice roared, cutting Joseph's train of thoughts along with the sadistic jeers of the crowd. It was suffused with a special confidence one could only find in a figure of authority. It was without a speck of anger or frustration, only imbued with a certain discipline.
Suddenly, out of his peripheral vision, two legs entered, hidden by a pewter-black mantle. Its shadow obscured the ground, dulling the already dirtied lime and sepia of the earth. Joseph, still retaining that expression of fury, turned his face up.
And through his upturned eyes, he saw the face of the true devil. Its hideousness camouflaged by a sanguine smile and hopelessly optimistic eyes. Father Anderson stepped back and looked at him and through his thick round lenses, he threw him a fake look of pity, as if he were a lost child in the rain. As if his duty was to guide him to his home. To show him the way. To end his suffering.
What a farce!
A bloodlust overtook the remnants of Joseph's rationale. If he wanted, he could have killed him there with his bare broken fists. He directed the last of his power at his wrists, trying to rip the rope. He struggled and struggled, but he couldn't do it. Why? Why?! He prayed and prayed for power. Just this once. For an instant. Just enough to slaughter this swine. And then he would be ready any divine punishment.
Nothing happened. Slowly, his bloodlust faded, giving way to despair and utter doom.
In the end, he couldn't do anything to avenge Yolanda. He couldn't kill the pig who had taken her life. His entire existence seemed to shatter in front of his very eyes.
"We all have gathered here," began the sheep-skinned wolf, like he were beginning a workaday public announcement, "on the first day of this new year of our Lord, to bear witness to the vanquishment of evil. To bear witness to the birth of a new dawn, free from the misery and suffering caused by pestilence such as this. This- this vile sinner who had made a pact with the most insufferable of them all- Lucifer himself."
A fearful gasp left the crowd's mouth, as their bated breaths transformed into nervous chatter.
"We, all who gathered here, shall bear witness to execution of Joseph Cutter for the rape and murder of Yolanda Fletcher, who still remains warm in our memories." He paused for a moment, joining his hands together and praying for her safe journey to afterlife.
Then, opening his mouth again, he roared, "Creatures like this shouldn't have been allowed to born in the first place," and along with him, a braindead exclamation left the people's lips too.
"The only reason knaves like these are born are because our Lord is all too merciful to kill them in the womb!"
The crowd began throwing stones at Joseph, his incapacitated hands unable to shield his head from the throwing.
"You were abandoned in the chapel. In front of our savior. Yet, we treated a son of a whore like as one of our own. As a son, as a brother. We fed you, we dressed you and we gave you a reason to live. And this! This is how you pay us back! How you repay us! Kindness with blood and love with death! You- Scum like you should be-!"
And a hush fell over the crowd. The noise died out, as everyone became wide-eyed at this new development. Even Anderson who, till now, despite his harsh words maintained a composed expression, was amused.
"Enough of this shit! You took care of me? Fed me? Dressed me?! Are you fucking joking?! You- you all treated me like horse shit! Like cow fodder from the very beginning!"
No one uttered a word. Even the wind stopped. It was as if the entire world stopped to hear him speak.
"From the very first day, I was an outsider. No one tried to know me. No one tried to reach me. None of you. None of you!"
Joseph's words were only amplified by the uncanny quietness of the crowd. His deep-drawn breaths, his heavy exhalations, his words fueled by his fury.
"The only one that ever reached out was Yolanda. She taught me how to read, how to write. She played with me, even when others threw rocks. Even when you beat her for it, she didn't stop. I loved her... I loved her dearly! She gave me a purpose!"
"It was the same on that day. I was waiting for her at my cabin. She said she would come, so I waited. But, it was getting dark. So, I went to fetch her. I thought she was probably having some trouble at the festival. That's when I saw him. He -his head turned towards Anderson- was right over there, hidden behind a tree, over her bare lifeless body. He raped her! He killed her! Burn him at the stake!"
Again, crystalline beads streaked his cheeks. He sat there, after he had screamed his heart out. And he knew it was the truth. The absolute truth! He saw the entire incident unfold in front of his eyes and now they knew it too. Even if he was incapacitated, he felt like he were at the top of the world. He felt elevated, and just for an instant, he saw a flash of hope. He knew that everyone hated him, but still he knew that justice shall be served. It had to be. It had to be!
He looked around, at the crowd, with expectant eyes. He waited for someone to step up and kill that foul beast. Maybe it would Herbert, who would understand that his friend wasn't lying. Maybe Reginald, whose young heart could perceive the true evil. Maybe it would be that man over there, he fantasized. Maybe it would be this girl, he thought.
The crowd erupted into laughter. Their scrunched up faces enjoying the tomfoolery. Even, Anderson had a slight smirk on his face.
"It's true! I saw it with my own eyes! Believe me! Please! Please..."
But it was of no use. No one heard his voice over their laughs.
"Ahh, Joseph. That's the best you could come up with," Anderson said with that same all-knowing smirk, "You have told that story fifteen times now. Everyone knows I was the one who found you in the forest. You tried to kill me too! Have you forgotten everything already?"
"You fucker! He's lying! Everyone! Please!"
"Tie him up"
And so they did. They dragged him to the stake. They dragged all the while he begged. Pleading everyone to listen to him. But, his pleas fell on leaden ears.
"Please... Listen to me," but he couldn't say anything anymore. His voice choked on his own spit and his lungs began to give away and he felt as if they had imploded within his skeleton. Bile rose up to his tongue, but he couldn't get it out his throat. He had simply lost all his energy.
His eyes shivered within its sockets, but even with messy sight, he could see the world slowly being enveloped by a dark haze. And his ringing ears heard a derisive laughter.
"Curse you. Curse you all," he muttered with a contemptuous finality.
P.S. This is probably the first story I have ever written completely, so it may be rough around the edges. But I would greatly appreciate, if you could point out my flaws and errors. After all, to err is human.