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Helen's Night

Escaping Salem

By Colt HendersonPublished 6 months ago 19 min read

"Great mother, hear our cry.
Blanket us in the shadows of your protection.
Hide us away from the wolves' detection." The group of huddled women whispered as they picked up leaves and placed a small rock into the center and then wrapped that in burnt cloth.
The women, hidden among the brush of the forest, held their breath as a group of townsfolk wielding pitchforks and torches passed by them. They stayed perfectly still and watched as the armed people looked for them. The large group went from brush to brush, thrusting their pitchforks into them in the hopes of finding their victims. One man neared the hiding women and shoved his makeshift weapon into the bush. It came precariously close to piercing the eye of one of the hiding women.
"Anything over there, Jeremiah?" A yell came from a few meters away.
"No, Pa, nothing here!" Jeremiah yelled back.
With that, the townsfolk reformed their group and walked in the opposite direction of the hidden women. The women stayed still until the light of the torches completely disappeared. When a few silent minutes passed, the huddled group stood up slowly and walked in unison towards the clearing. Once there, the youngest woman, Mary Ann, burst into tears.
"We are never going to make it." The teenager cried out.
"Shhh, sister." The oldest and most experienced witch, Helen, started. "We can't afford them coming back. Stay your tongue, child." Mary Ann covered her mouth with both of her hands, but the tears just flowed over them. Helen looked around again before pulling the younger girl into her arms. "We will be out of Salem soon."
The cool air of the night brought the different smells of the forest to engulf the five women. The smell of pine needles and dirt mixed into a hypnotic cascade of goosebumps over the women as they started their journey north. It would be dawn by the time they reached the edge of the Massachusetts settlement, and it would be near dusk by the time they reached New France.
The night was long, and the journey was arduous, but the women kept a quick pace. The first stop for a rest was a widow's barn. The hay pile smelled stale, and the dirt was moist in the dilapidated structure. The widow always left a loaf of bread, and whatever vegetables came out of her garden. The stop was brief, and soon, the women were back on the move. Helen, having done this twice before, knew exactly where to go, which trails she needed to follow, and how to slip past the last outpost for the Massachusetts settlement.
The five women following their sister witch were scared, tired, and bleeding from having to jump into the thorn covered bushes at every slight noise that rang through the trees. Helen knew the people from the town wouldn't be this far out, but the people that got paid for every witch they brought to justice were roaming these parts. They rode horses and were accompanied by dogs, but instead of eating the food left by the widow, Helen had learned to use it as a diversion.
The next stop was a hedge witch that hid in the woods. This was where they would actually rest and eat the vegetables and whatever the hedge could offer. Helen was leading the others down a small trail before she stopped abruptly.
"Great mother, hear our cry.
Blanket us in the shadows of your protection.
Hide us away from the wolves' detection."
The women followed Helen's lead and repeated the words, picking up leaves, placing their pebbles inside, and wrapping them in the burnt cloth. The spell immediately took effect as the women disappeared into the brush.
"Helen, it's me." A tree spoke before losing the illusion, and a tall athletic woman appeared.
"Abigail," Helen stood and broke her own illusion. "You're getting really good at that."
"Practice," the younger of the two said before embracing her friend in a hug. "Practice is important, Helen."
"Are we this far already, sister?" One of the other women, Alice, asked.
"No, you are not, and the rest of you stay hidden." Abigail hissed, "the woods are rampant with those hunters. They know you're gone, and I came this way to help."
"We won't make it!" Mary Ann cried out and accidentally broke her illusion.
"Mary Ann, redo your protection, now!" Helen exclaimed through a whisper.
When the youngest member of the group finally became covered again, the hurried whispers began.
"They have three man teams patrolling the rest of the forest from here to French territory. We might have to engage to get there." Abigail said with a serious look on her face.
"I have novice witches with me, and none of them know offensive magic." Helen replied, worried for those in her care.
"We won't be able to sneak by them all." Abigail explained as she motioned for them to follow her. "Now let's get going. We are in for a long night."
Abigail conjured shadows from the surrounding area and blanketed it over the group. Now, they could move freely, as long as they stayed close together, which Abigail led the way. Less than an hour later, they had to hunker down and apply the individual camouflage spell as they saw lights from torches held by hunters in the distance. The group of hunters stayed long enough for leadership to discuss going around, but during the discussion, the armed men just walked away.
Abigail took the lead again, and they walked as quietly as possible through the dense thorn covered brush. Their pace was slow and steady, but they were behind schedule, and the sun would be up soon. The sun would render their hiding spells almost useless. Only Abigail and Helen knew this. The rest were new enough to the lifestyle that they were barely able to cast the spell to begin with, and they definitely didn't know the power they were calling on was the moon. They just did as Helen had taught them in their houses earlier in the night.
The rays of the sun streamed up into the sky before the ball of fusion appeared. It was still dark, but a peek of advancing light was slowly changing that. The front of the line, Abigail, broke through the last bit of brush and found a trail that would take them towards the New France border. They were still a few hours away from that border, but it was easier terrain. No one complained about the dangerous thorns, but everyone had enough of it and wanted a break.
"Stick to the sides," Abigail warned as she pulled the slowly disappearing shadows together and over the group. The group, relieved from the hard and sharp needle like foliage, stretched out and fell back in line. A few minutes dragged by before Abigail whispered, "Get down and hide, now!"
The almost quiet murmurs of the new witches gathered then disappeared as the spells took effect. As the group of women vanished, a cat appeared next to Abigail and meowed loudly. "Sebastián, what are you doing here?" Abigail asked as she picked up her familiar.
"Meow." The cat replied as he pawed her mouth.
"Everyone, stay where you are," the leader whispered.
The cat's head swiveled around towards a noise only he could hear at the moment. He head butted his owner's chin and then jumped from her arms and ran in the direction he had looked. Seconds passed before everyone heard what was coming. There was a loud hiss and meow from Sebastián and then a booming bark followed right behind it. The women could now hear a chase being played out by the cat and dog, but the cat was leading the dogs away.
A torch seemed to light like magic only a few meters away before a deep voice asked, "Why are you lighting that?"
"Yeah, the sun is coming up." Another disembodied voice spoke up.
"Why aren't we following the dogs?" The torch lighter asked.
"What are the odds we are going to come across a cat in the woods?" The deep voice questioned the two men, then stated. "It's their familiar. Now, spread out a little bit."
Abigail had turned into a tree, and Helen and her group had invoked the weak shadows of the pre-dawn light. The three men were now advancing towards them when a cry erupted behind the witches that startled everyone into breaking their illusion. Mary Ann, young and scared, had cried out and then ran back the way they had come. The hunters saw her first, but as they got closer to where the dark clothed woman had been, they discovered the rest of the group. Abigail, still a tree, started to shake her limbs, which caused the fake leaves to fall, and started growling at the men. Helen started to repeat, "Bind their legs, bind their arms.
Snare their mind through this charm." And at the same time, picked up some twigs and some vine off of the nearby bush. She started to wrap the twigs in the small vine as she continued to whisper the words, "Bind their legs bind, their arms. Snare their mind through this charm."
The first hunter, aiming his musket at the moving tree, was quickly grabbed by a series of vines and thrown to the ground. The vines then sprouted out all along the man's sides and wrapped him from head to toe. The dark to light green vines varied in size, but all started constricting around the first hunter. His body started to crack and pop as the pressure continued to increase. His lungs were squeezed beyond survival, and the muffled screams came to an end. The bones kept breaking until every major bone was in at least two pieces. After a few more seconds of squeezing the hunter to a pulp, the vines returned to the ground and disappeared.
The other two hunters just stared at the unrecognizable lump of red goo that was once their friend. The one holding the still lit torch, even though the sun was mere moments from breaking the horizon, cried out, "What just happened!" He and the other armed man turned and ran in the opposite direction, dropping the torch and their weapons. The women then turned and looked at Abigail for their next move.
"We should go get her." Helen said, to which no one said anything, just followed.
Abigail took the lead back after the young witch, but her reluctance was felt throughout the group. The trail was quick to follow as the fleeing girl stomped as she ran away from their position. The leader stopped again when the sound of more men caught her ear. They were talking loudly, and the group stopped to listen.
"What should we do with her, boys?" A calm voice wafted in on the cool breeze.
Then a familiar voice followed on the breeze and begged, "Please, don't hurt me, I am not a witch!"
"Then why are you running in the forest?" The calm voice asked.
"I, uh, I was … I was with witches, real witches. They could disappear and turn into trees. I can't do anything. I am not a witch!" Mary Ann pleaded.
Abigail and Helen slowly approached through the brush, being as silent as possible. They could now see Mary Ann knelt in the dirt in front of three armed men. The calm voice came out of the man holding Mary Ann's hair, "You sure are a pretty witch." He then started undoing his belt while saying, "You play nice, and you won't get hurt."
Helen, with a pissed look on her face, whispered, "Hell no." And started her spell by repeating."Bind their legs, bind their arms. Snare their mind through this charm." And wrapping more twigs with new vines. The leader's legs were quickly engulfed in vines, which threw him to the ground. This time, the two men didn't run but instead turned their guns towards Mary Ann. It was Abigail's turn to intervene, and she went with a wind spell that made the men tumble away from the young woman. In their rolling, both were able to pull the triggers of their muskets. One missed everything and dug itself in the soil, but the other hit Mary Ann in the shoulder, and she collapsed.
Abigail and Helen rushed through the brush to the injured woman, but Abigail said, "I got them," and walked towards the men trying to load their muskets. A few quick words and her body started to emit chains of lightning harmlessly into the trees, but when she grabbed both men at the same time, the lines of plasma traveled into the bodies of the men. This ambush of electricity even traveled down into the metal muskets, turning them red hot. The blackened bodies from being fried by lightning crumbled to the ground, and Abigail turned her attention to Helen and Mary Ann.
"Come Helen, let's leave this betrayer here for another group of hunters to find." Abigail turned her nose up at the injured woman.
"We can't do that. She still needs protection and a safe path to freedom." Helen replied as she knelt down next to Mary Ann. "This will hurt you more than me, just stay quiet, okay?"
"Okay, I'll try."
"No, you will stay quiet, or I will make you stay quiet." Abigail hissed again, "There are still groups of hunters out here, and they probably heard those shots, so keep it shut."
"Yes, sister."
"Oh, don't you dare call me that!" Abigail almost screamed, "We heard you betray us. You can't do magic, remember? I should squash you like a bug."
Helen, who was kneeling next to Mary Ann, stood up at that sentence. "You will not squash her like a bug. Now shut up. I need to concentrate on this." Helen resumed her knelt position beside the shot girl. She dug her hand into the cool and moist soil for a handful and brought it in front of her mouth. She whispered softly. "Earth mother, hear my plea, send your healing right through me. Take this soil as my soul, and heal this person whole." The dark soil began to change into the color of the alabaster skin that Mary Ann possessed. Soon, the hole was completely gone, and Helen was aged a year for her sacrifice to the betrayer. She helped Mary Ann up then whispered just to her. "Stay in the back and stay quiet. We will not save you a second time." Helen warned.
"I can't believe you would do that for her!" Abigail said, "It wasn't a life-threatening wound."
"The way she cries about everything, it would threaten our lives." Helen rebuffed.
Abigail nodded and walked back to the coven as the finishing touches spread out over the area of Mary Ann's shoulder. Helen got to her feet, then helped the teenager to hers, and they followed Abigail through the brush. When they got to the trail, Abigail caught their eye from the left peripheral. She was standing stoically while raising her hands from the waist to over her head while speaking another language. Mushrooms started sprouting from the ground, even appearing on the trees. They grew in a large circle around Abigail, who finally jumped over the thick foot grouping of mushrooms on the back side while the front continued to grow down the trail.
"What are those mushrooms?" Helen asked as they rounded up the coven and headed the opposite direction.
"It's a trap for the hunters." Abigail calmly stated.
"What kind of trap?" Asked Helen.
"One that will maim or kill."
"I really wish you wouldn't have done …"
"Why not?" Abigail interrupted, "They are shooting to kill us!"
"We are acting out of fear for our lives." Helen started, "They think what we are doing now is us all of the time, which is something to fear. But we don't act like this all of the time, do we?"
"No, we don't." Helen didn't really wait for a response, "We are peaceful people. We just want to be left alone like everyone else."
After a few seconds of stillness in the air, Abigail replied, "We need to go."
Without another word, the two older women gathered the small coven and headed down the trail. Their schedule had been destroyed as dawn had broken, and they were still a couple of hours away from the next stop. With the sun up, both of the hiding spells were almost useless. The tree spell didn't rely on the moon, but with more light, the color of the tree stood out. While most trees in the area were either coniferous or had few leaves and were grayish in color, the tree spell imitated both and became green instead of gray and had a lot more leaves.
The next hour was long as every way they turned, there were ditches. They would just walk around them, but it seemed the barriers were leading them to a specific spot. Instead of continuing straight, they decided to go left of all the ditches they could see. It worked for some time, but the women kept feeling someone watching them. They couldn't see anything through the trees, but the feeling never went away.
They finally reached the next stop and were met by no one. A certain someone started to freak out when Abigail volunteered to stay and find the next person. That's when the plan changed to venture off the trail a ways and check on the woman that should have met them. The coven was reluctant but followed anyway. After almost thirty minutes, Abigail spoke up, "We are here. Now, wait for me to give the signal." She then disappeared through the last line of trees and into the open.
"See guys, I told you they would come to us." A worn voice calmly called out. "Where are the rest of your kind, sweetheart?"
"I don't know what you mean." Abigail tried a French accent.
"We aren't going to play games." The older gentleman raised his right arm as a signal for two of the men to pull out some kind of metal like contraption. "I have played my fair share of witch games. Yes, I have met your kind before, witch!"
With that last word yelled, the man threw his hand down, signaling his two men to fire. Both fired at the woman with what turned into nets, but she cartwheeled to the left and out of the way. Next, she said something in another foreign language and threw her arms out at the older gentleman. What followed was a build-up of red energy, and then that energy rushed forth, looking like fire and dancing towards the man. Unfortunately, both of the odd gun wielding men jumped in the way and were instantly dissolved. The energy then dispersed harmlessly into the air.
"I have met your kind before, too, hypocrite." Abigail yelled as she threw another wave of energy at the man. "You use magic to hunt us!"
While Abigail taunted the leader of a group with at least nine people left, Helen to try and teach the coven a new spell, an offensive spell. She had them all, Mary Ann included, grab a few sticks and some vine from the ground and in the bushes around them. She then had them recite the spell a few times before interjecting with, "You have to mean it. And it helps to have eye contact with what you wish it to grab. Now, each of you pick a different person out there and do the spell. On 3. 1, 2, 3 go." Now the seven person coven plus Helen were concentrating on boots as Abigail continued to taunt the old man.
"I am far from a hypocrite, you disgusting creature!" The man screamed as he cocked and shot his pistol at Abigail, who sidestepped it, "I am a purist, witch. I only use man-made objects!"
"Oh, I am sorry the hypocrite doesn't like being called a hypocrite!" Abigail yelled before charging up her red energy again. This time, she overshot it, and the man was able to pull another loaded pistol from his side and shoot at her. It missed, by a mile. That is when the rest of the men tried to rush Abigail with their numbers, but only three could move freely. When the stationary men started to slam to the ground, the three still up right ran away. The only one left was the older gentleman.
"I will never surrender to you, witch!" The man said as he pulled two more loaded pistols from under his jacket.
"I don't want you to!" Abigail replied loudly before sticking her hand as far apart from each other as she could. Her eyes were closed, and she started to emit pure white plasma from her fists. She then brought them down together, which was quickly followed with a thick beam of plasma going through the old man, frying him in an instant. His guns fell to the ground unharmed from the lightning. In the second after the lightning hit, the thunder boomed above them. The novice witches, including Mary Ann, were awestruck at the power Abigail just held.
As the victors rounded the house that was the home of another stop along their trail to freedom, they saw what happened to the woman that had lived there. Her lithe body swung in the wind from a tree she had probably played in as a child. Her face was blank, and her eyes were frozen in place as she swung. As they passed the tree, Abigail cut her friend down and used her cloak to cover her face. Abigail and Helen wept for their fallen friend, and then they walked down the trail that wended its way into the first of many small French villages. They were safe now. They could start over. Helen hugged each of the coven members, but when asked why she wasn't coming with them, she just replied, "I have more sisters to help."


About the Creator

Colt Henderson

I usually write horror.

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Comments (5)

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  • Manisha Dhalani6 months ago

    Nice story!

  • Hey. This is some good writing, thank you for sharing it with me

  • Mother Combs6 months ago

    Unique story. I enjoyed this immensely

  • Babs Iverson6 months ago

    Evocative storytelling!!! Loved this!!!💕❤️❤️

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