Mary sat in her cell in an old wooden chair, staring at the stone floor beneath her. Her eyes traced the cracks in it, trying to keep her mind busy. The light was starting to wane as dusk settled in, and she remembered how only yesterday she had been sitting outside reading, enjoying the fresh air. Now the air was putrid, and she had no idea where her book was. All she had was her chair, and a bucket in the corner.
She could not understand how this had happened. Did people really think she could be guilty? For all the issues she had with people and they had with her – John especially – she had never thought they would allow something like this to happen.
But it had happened.
She kept looking up at any sound, hoping it was someone coming for her, eager to apologize – even to laugh about how absurd this entire thing was.
She hoped it was Vicar Price.
Outside of her own circumstances, she had been devastated to see how quickly everyone had turned on him as well. For as much as he raised his voice and pleaded her case, the townspeople had shouted him down, some even throwing rocks at him. A few of the men shoved him away while others carried her off to this pit of hell.
If she ever got out, she would leave. She could never stay here after this. It didn’t matter if she had to beg on the streets in some new town.
But the question of if she would ever get out weighed on her, crushing all other thoughts. She knew she was facing death, and that she may not see this time tomorrow. She realized this might be the last dusk she ever saw. It might be the last evening. Tomorrow might be the last morning.
She had trouble breathing, working herself up thinking about all these things. She stood up and walked to the corner, then dry heaved. She had nothing but bile left over, having already been sick twice before.
The door opened and she walked to the front of her cell. Hopkins stood in the doorway, the two women behind him. They carried lanterns, and their glow added a sinister, wavering light to the room.
“Raise your arms in front of you, where we can see them,” he said.
She raised her arms, and he took several steps forward. The women walked past him and stood on either side of Mary.
“The women will prepare you for the final test.”
“I swear to you, I am not a witch. I am a God-fearing woman, and have never…”
Hopkins raised his hand and she fell silent.
“Good, you’re starting to listen.”
He turned around, facing away from her.
“We must search you for the mark of the devil,” he said, his voice echoing against the stone walls.
“I swear to you, by the scriptures, on everything holy and sacred, I have never …”
“If you refuse to comply, then we must assume your guilt. If what you say is true, then you have nothing to hide, and nothing to fear.”
Mary felt her heart racing. She was feeling sick again.
He kept his back to her.
“Please … don’t …” she began, but he interrupted.
“There can be no more delay.”
She tried to steady her mind, and began to take her clothes off. The air was cold and damp, and the moment her skin was exposed it felt violated. The women stood still on either side of her, watching her every move.
She held her clothes in her arms, bundled up in front of her, trying to shield herself. She shivered, and her bare feet ached from the cold of the stone beneath her.
“Once you are finished, hand your clothes to Grisell,” he said.
One of the women stepped forward and took the bundle of clothes, leaving her completely exposed. Grisell walked over to Hopkins, laid the clothes at his feet, then returned to Mary’s side.
“Good. You’ve been obedient. They will inspect you now.”
The women stepped near and began peering over every inch of her body. They placed their hands on her, indicating her to move or to shift a part of herself more toward the light of the lantern. Their touch was worse than the damp air or freezing stone. She squeezed her eyes shut and bit her tongue, trying to endure. A tear fell down her cheek. One of the women wiped it away, and Mary shivered more.
Then they stopped, and Mary gasped for breath. She hadn’t realized she’d been holding it.
“We have found no mark, sir,” she heard a harsh voice whisper.
A ray of hope tempted Mary.
“Very well,” Hopkins said. “Please sit down in your chair.”
“Sir,” Mary said, shivering. “If I could take my clothes back and …”
“Sit…” came a vicious whisper from one of the women.
Mary hesitated, then sat down in the chair. She looked at the woman who had taken her clothes and saw her pulling something out of her cloak.
Before Mary could protest and with a strength she would have thought impossible, the women quickly bound her to the chair, keeping her seated while she struggled against them.
In the end, it was no use.
Mary was frantic.
“Please, they said they found nothing. I’m innocent. I’ve done nothing wro…”
She caught her breath as Hopkins turned around. He had a box in his hands. He walked forward.
“The devil is a master of deception. Sometimes his mark can be hidden or camouflaged. There is one tell tale sign, though.”
Hopkins opened the box, revealing a set of needles.
“His mark does not bleed.”
Mary stared at the needles, then looked up at Hopkins. The flames from the lanterns, reflected in his wild eyes.
He lifted two long needles from the box, handing one to each of the women, then retrieved one for himself. He held it against the lantern for a few moments.
“He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested…” he said, his eyes piercing her.
He removed the needle from the lantern, and stood in front of her. Mary tried to keep a strong face, but felt one hot tear follow another.
“Please …” she whispered, her throat dry and her heart pounding so hard it shook her.
“… that he might destroy the works of the devil.”
Hopkins stared at her, his eyes piercing. He grinned.
“I know your tricks,” he said.
“No tricks…” she pleaded.
“I can always sense a witch. It’s a gift God has given me since youth.”
Mary watched the needle, leaning back as he drew nearer.
“It’s always a woman who would tempt me to sin … one who would lure me from God with the unholy lusts of flesh …”
He thrust the needle into her.