File 5: E for Effigy

Murder and intentional physical harm were illegal.  Besides that, causing emotional trauma was so much more effective and satisfying than physical pain.  And it wasn’t like there was a multitude of people the town was afterーafter all, there was only one.

The target of the town’s hate was a mute woman with a missing eye and a huge scar across her face, starting from the hairline on one side, passing through the empty socket, taking out a piece of her nostril, slashing through her mouth, and finishing at the neck on the other side.  No one knew when or how she had gotten the scar, or even where the woman herself had come from. She and her nasty scar had just appeared in town one day, slowly shuffling along, barely moving with each step. No one knew where she lived, but it was rumored that she resided inside of a hollow tree near the edge of the woods, and that she used the mushrooms, roots, and small animals she found in the woods for her potions.  They believed she was a witch because of her ugly visage, and because of the tattered black cloak she wore over her rags every time she was seen by the townspeople.

These rumors were enough to make people avoid her like the plague, but alone, the rumors were not enough to make the town want to frighten her into leaving.  It was the common knowledge that anyone who made direct eye contact with the woman’s one eye would hear a single whispered wordーgoneーescape her lips, unheard and unseen by any other, and would fall ill and die in their sleep that very night that did her in.  There was proof as wellーthree people had died in this manner in the year since the woman’s arrival.

The third person just so happened to be the young son of a very successful, well known, and well liked man.  The man had seven daughters, but every son born had died before his first birthday, except this one who had survived.  The young boyーonly seven years old at the time of his death, with glossy brown curls, bright eyes, and pink cheeksーhad been the older man’s pride and joy, and though he loved his whole family dearly, the young boy was, understandably, the favorite.  He was the favorite of his mother and sisters as well, but he was especially important to his father, so his death, blamed on the scarred woman, was devastating. So, as any mourning parent would, he set out to get revenge on the person who had brought about the death of his son.

The plan was to frighten the witch to the point where she would leave the town of her own accord.  The man got all of the important people in town to begin on the plan by creating a straw figure in the image of the woman and burning it in the town square.  The woman would be found and tied to a tree, and forced to watch her straw counterpart burn. When the figure was ready to be burned, it looked exactly like the woman, down to the precise angle of the scar and the location of the rips in her clothing.

There was just one issue…

On the day designated to burn the figure, everything was going smoothly.  They had tied the real woman to a nearby tree and the straw woman to a stake.  The fire was started and the crowd began to cheer, until a noise of astonishment passed through the audience.  The straw woman had moved as if of her own accord, seeming to struggle against her bonds. As the fire began to do serious damage, a dreadful howl escaped her lips and her head shot up.  As her single eye swept across the square, a low howl was clearly heard by all in attendance: GONE.