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Monday, September 22, 2008

Lucifer’s Crown

Category: Issue 12

Inspired By True Events…


There was silence when the boy was hung.  First the monkey, then the boy.  Though whether the boy was as guilty as the monkey – of course, there had been some debate.  But as the monkey had singled out the boy during the trial, the judges had no choice but to hang them both.  Yes, that’s justice for you!

Yet whether the silence that ensued was because Molly Thirkettle had just hitched up her skirts (revealing a very sordid sight indeed) or due to the comet that tore through the sky (which was always a portent of bad luck) no one could quite agree.  There were many in the crowd that had wanted to howl at what exactly was hanging between Molly’s bow-legs and indeed there were some that had vomited at the sight but to say it was a crowd silencer was surely missing the point.


So, back to the boy: how deep was he really involved in this sorry situation?  Well, for starters as he could neither speak nor hear, then the question of how good a spy he could be was raised.  But just as his use was doubted, a drunkard (one Thomas Cryer) mumbled that there was nothing wrong with the boy’s eyesight was there? – And so, to that end, everyone concurred, the boy was tried, guilty declared and led to the gallows was he, hand in hand with the odious monkey.

As was the norm with such spectacles, there was to be some rumpus as the guilty pair began their march along Traitor’s Path.  To be expected, they were pelted with rotten vegetables, fruits and other sweetmeats and because of this it took a seemingly never-ending time for them to reach their destination.  Of course, the boy wasn’t helped by the fair-weathered monkey who couldn’t cease stopping every now and again for a quick bite of an ankle here or a squat to release its bowels there.  Many began to curse at the top of their voices: ‘familiar’, ‘incubus’ or ‘devil’s imp’ – though of these there had been no divine proof – but it was said Mistress Cordwangle dropped dead right there on the spot when the monkey fixed her a wanton stare – which went some way to prove their accusations.  Of course, it was conveniently forgotten that she had been suffering from Black Pox (given to her, they claimed by Mayor Munson and his cucumbered cory).

After the Thirkettle debacle and once the comet had passed through the sky, the crowd fell silent for nigh on an hour. Once satisfied that justice had indeed been done they started to return to their respective hovels for their own brand of merry-making.  It was strange that no-one remarked why, as was the usual decorum with festivities such as these, that no cheer had gone up when the ropes were pulled and the necks snapped broke. Instead, there had just been an ominous silence which waited above the on-lookers threateningly.  Threateningly because there in the clouds, in the wake of the comet’s tail, a savage storm was about to be loosened.

 

The lightning, the thunder, the torment of rain that fell from the angry sky drenched those unlucky enough not to get to shelter in time.  The local Tup, the Green Dragon, was full to bursting as the mead and bad wine was flowing.  Parties were in full swing as they ignored the furious elements outside, leaving Missy Cordwangle’s body to rot in the gutter with the stream of effluence.  Molly Thirkettle was out plying her trade as best she could, though her reputation had been sullied somewhat with her tail well and truly between her legs.


But wait a moment, what of Thomas Cryer, he who had spoken out against the boy and the simian? Well, with no money and no credit he sobered up soon enough and must have tasted Epiphany for he realised that what he had said, his words, his accusation against the boy, had been meant as mere observation and not necessarily hard evidence.  Whilst he couldn’t accept responsibility for the demise of the monkey (after all they didn’t carry the Divine Spark did they?), the boy was a different kettle of fish.  The lad had been hung on what he, Thomas Aloysius Cryer had muttered – which was definitely more than either the monkey or the boy could do – after all the boy was a mute, and no-one could be sure exactly what language the monkey spoke.


These then were the thoughts that sloshed from side to side in Thomas’s head whilst he lay in the horse-trough, dumped there by Henry Pickle, landlord of the Dragon and Justice of the Peace – ironic that only hours earlier Pickle had slapped Thomas on the shoulder and called him a hero for his evidence that had led to the hangings.  But that was then, and now, here he lay, battered by the rain and holding his ears from the thunder and praying, by God was he praying, that he didn’t get zapped by the lightning.  And as the effects of the drink drained further away, he began to firmly believe that he had made a mistake. As best he could, he sat up and cast his eyes across the town square to where the spies hung.  Their bodies bruised blew this way and that in the tempest’s tumult.

After a severe bout of flatulence, which made even Thomas’s eyes sting as it brew through the fetid water around him, he concocted a plan. Summoning up all his courage he climbed out of the trough and headed deeper into the melee.  Most of his energy was spent as he headed towards those hanging bodies.  Many a time he was knocked off his feet by the gusts, sending him back as far as he had come, but then, as seemingly hours had passed and now unsure whether he was doing the right thing, he made it to the scaffold that surrounded the Hanging Tree.


He fought for breath and hung onto the trunk for dear life, staring up at the bodies.  The boy, not far from being a man, and the monkey (well no-one was sure whether he was old or young) in Thomas’s eyes looked old and ancient, though not necessarily wise.  In the storm they danced like marionettes and tellingly, their entertainment value was similar, bringing a wry smile to Thomas’ parched lips, if only he had a couple of farthings to throw them he could take his leave.  But, his purse was empty and he had a debt to repay.

 

His smile soon became a frown.  A frown of determination.  Thomas had decided that the very least thing he could do was cut the boy down and give him a decent send-off.  It would be hard work for sure, but the lad deserved a Christian burial, spy or not.  As for the monkey, whilst they thought him heathen, Thomas didn’t doubt there was a good heart in their somewhere, and though creatures such as he didn’t go to heaven, it wasn’t decent to leave him to the birds and their beaks and claws.

How though he was going to get to the top of the scaffold in this weather was open to conjecture, there were no ladders, nor horses to aid him.  A rather expressive explosion of light revealed that not too far away lay a length of rope.  He guessed that if he was to tie one end around his leg, he could throw the other over the top of the scaffold and hitch himself up.


Of course, it wasn’t as easy as he had imagined.  And far from the storm moving on as he had hoped, perhaps towards Everville, it was eerily apparent that it was here to stay.  Many attempts later however, he managed to get the rope over the top and with great aplomb, he began to winch himself up.  Despite the rain, it was hard work and his hands were burnt by the coil, the blood soon flowing from the deep calluses that had formed in the skin.  He cursed himself too, he hit his head many times on the scaffold, but rather than knocking sense into him, it only made him more determined to finish his promise.


Sometime later then, with still no let up from the firmament above, with only feet to go, he could smell the shit and other fluids the ape and child had excreted during their last moments on Earth.  It was true what they said about the human body and so it had proved to be with the simian – though whether any witch or Quack’s Nightingale had been waiting underneath to catch their semen he couldn’t be certain.


Suddenly, Thomas ducked.  An almighty fork of lightning hit the scaffold only inches from his head and an ear-splitting roar of thunder that loosened his own bowels.  He knew that God was angry and he didn’t have that much time to get the hanged pair down.  He cursed himself again, he had forgotten to bring any kind of cutting instrument with him so now the only option open was to physically untie the rope from around their necks.

Which was far easier said than done, this high up from the ground and those vicious elements conspiring against him.  This close to the bodies, Thomas noticed that they were holding hands.  Interesting, he thought, that they hadn’t had their hands tied behind their backs, as was the norm for these kind of executions.  Strange perhaps also, that with their hands free, they hadn’t tried to untie themselves.  Though that was seemingly the truth, they had both accepted their fate.

Thomas threw one leg up onto the top of the scaffold.  And with his other leg still in the rope, one hand on the wood, he would use his other to untie the nooses.  It was impossible to stop the bodies falling to the ground, and no doubt they would break a few bones on the way, but what the hell could he do about it?

The noose to the monkey was damn difficult, refusing to budge most of the time.  He tried getting his fingers in between the rope and the monkey’s neck, pausing only to realise that this was the first time he had ever touched the hide of such a creature.  If he wasn’t in the act of rescuing it, he spared a thought to using the pelt for a hat or at the very least a pair of winter mittens.

Thomas swore then apologised.  After all, it was out of order to take his benefactor’s name in vain.  His curses made no difference – his tinkering had tightened the noose so much that now his hand was stuck.  The wind had started to blow the boy’s body towards him, almost sending Thomas flying off the scaffold into the eye of the storm.  He realised now that this was a stupid idea and once out of the horse-trough he should have headed straight home.

And the damn pain!  His leg, high up above him, was smarting and he knew he couldn’t keep this position forever.  Very soon he would have to let himself down before he fell and broke his own neck.  Thomas decided to give it all he had got, so tugged and tugged, used his swinging weight to try and get his hand free and loosen the noose.  But was the use of that?  Nowt of course, it didn’t even release their hands, which were grasped so tightly.

Yet just then, when Thomas thought all was lost, there was a break in the squall.  He heard a crack and rejoiced as the rope gave way.  Though that moment of adulation passed quickly when he saw that it was the scaffold that had cracked and was now beginning to splinter away.  Thomas spat and cussed so appallingly that he didn’t care who heard it.  He closed his eyes as the wood totally broke away and he, the boy and the monkey, plummeted to the ground.


Sod’s law of course.  Thomas landed first.  And because of the awkward position his body’d been previously, he settled oddly, breaking numerous bones in the impact.  The boy landed next, on top of him, cracking more joints and damaging several of Thomas’s internal organs.  Then, the monkey, it plunged straight onto his head, squashing Thomas’s skull.

In his own mush, Thomas, or at least what was left of Thomas’ consciousness, considered his position and so typical he thought that the storm had ceased, disappeared almost as quickly as it had arrived.  All he could see was the Morning Star, shining brightly for lost travellers to find their way home.  And just as he was about to pass over, Thomas noticed something fall from the boy’s mouth.  A roll of paper, that once outside in the elements begun to uncurl itself.  It was covered in writing, minute of course, and in some form of code!

So then, he had been right after all, the boy was indeed a spy.  What a waste of time this had been!  He should have left them hanging there to rot.  But in this final moment, a moment which lasted forever, he was sure he’d heard an almighty cheer and a round of applause that filled his bloodied ears.

Just his luck to have missed all the fun.  He wondered what the hell they were laughing at.

 

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Old Comments

  • I really liked the ending.  All along you think the boy is innocent and Thomas should at least do what he is doing to make up for his misdeed then boom…he wasn’t.  I liked Thomas’ train of thought while he is trying to get the monkey and the boy loose.  I was a little confused in the beginning.  I know you were trying to create the jovial atmosphere of the times when there was a hanging and then brought it back in the end with Tom’s demise but I was a not sure about where the story was going.  Maybe that’s okay.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  09/22  at  05:54 PM
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