| The Burning
By Rose Titus
From somewhere in the corner of the stone cold cell, she could hear the shriek of a rat. She had seen
them, scurrying about in the semi darkness. They would sometimes steal the meager food that was
shoved under the steel door to her dark prison cell.
She could not know how many days and nights she had spent lingering, locked away in this damp
underground. She did not even know if it was night or day because she could never sleep with the cries
and screams she often heard down the hallways, beyond the iron bars that imprisoned her.
Suddenly she heard footsteps and could see the faint glow of a torch at the end of the hallway of the
dungeon. And then she heard a rough voice, “Where is she? Is she even still alive?”
“She is alive, unfortunately. She’s down that way, sir.”
“The trial will be soon. Make her ready to stand before the authorities!”
She heard the steel door slam as the man left, and then her own cell door was suddenly thrust open.
There stood the jail keeper with his torch, “Come, witch!”
“I am not a witch!” she protested defiantly.
“That’s not what the authorities say! They say you are a witch! And your father was a heretic. Everyone
knows about your father and the evil books he kept! You’ll hang just like he did! Now come, girl. Get
yourself up off that floor and follow me. Or you’ll be beaten again!”
Weak from lack of decent food and sleep, she struggled to rise. The jail keeper gave her a swift kick to
her ribs to make her move along more quickly. She didn’t bother to attempt to straighten out her hair or
brush off her ragged clothes, even though she was to be on trial. It didn’t matter.
Nothing mattered anymore.
Soon she stood before the Judge. The charges against her were read before the courtroom, “…She
was warned, and nevertheless she persisted!” Again, she has been repeating the same sort of
superstitious and heretical nonsense that her father believed in! Again, she is telling the people those
stories of this imagined world of before. That once, long ago, there were medicines enough to cure most
ills! That people could fly through the air like birds! That carriages could run along the roadways, with no
horses to pull them! That people could speak to one another over vast distances, without shouting.
And she even claims that long ago, women could go to school and learn to read and write, and that they
even could own property –!”
The entire courtroom suddenly burst into laughter, except for the Judge, who was simply annoyed.
The Judge glared at her, “Girl, where dost thou get these strange ideas?”
She stared coldly back at the Judge, “From my father’s books.”
The Judge looked at the prosecutor, “Who taught this foolish girl to read?”
He answered, “We believe it was her father who taught her to read.”
“And why was that even allowed?” the Judge asked. “Never mind. The man was after all a heretic!
Teaching females to read! We could add it to the list of his crimes if he were still breathing,” and then he
looked down upon her, “Girl! Dost thou still claim all these wondrous things from what you call the world of
“Yes,” she said meekly. “Those things are all in my father’s books. I believe they are all true.”
The Judge roared, “And why weren’t those books burned? I gave the order that those books be burned
two years ago, when they hung your wretched father!”
“I could not bring myself to do so,” she answered. “They were all that was left of my father.”
“Well, they shall be burned! And if you are lucky, maybe you won’t, but those books shall burn! Take
her away! Enough of this nonsense! Lock her up, I say. Lock her up!”
And so she was dragged away to be tossed back into the dungeon, until the Judge finally decided what
her fate would be.
Finally she was released and ordered to do what she could not bring herself to do, but knew that she
must. She had to burn each and every book that she had, or she herself would burn. They were old books,
centuries old, her father had said. Under the watchful eyes of the guards she tossed them into a pile, and
a fire was lit. She felt sadly compelled to take one last look at one last page of one last book, but it was
roughly snatched away from her.
“Here, what is this?” said the guard holding the torch, “What does it say?”
“Be careful,” said the other guard as he took the book from his hands, “Those words might be
incantations and evil spells!”
“I want to know what it says!” it was taken back by the first guard.
“You can’t even read,” said the other. “You want to know what this thing says, ask her. They say she
knows how to read.”
“A girl? A girl can read?” He handed it back to her, laughing, “What do these words say?”
She took it and read quietly from the page he pointed to, “Scientists say that one of the possible
dangers of global climate change is social upheaval caused by the natural disasters which will result in
famine, starvation, and possibly even the complete and total destruction of what we consider to be modern
civilized society and a return to a more primitive and barbarous way of life…”
The book went into the fire.
|About Rose Titus
Rose Titus works two jobs
to support her writing
habit. She exists
somewhere in cold, dreary
New England, with two
manipulative cats and a
very out of date Macintosh
with which she creates
horror and fantasy fiction.
She also has a restored
classic car to ride around
while in search of
For travel she has stayed
for the night in an
allegedly haunted castle,
has taken a boat ride on
Loch Ness, and has
visited the fabled Bermuda
Triangle without getting
Her work has previously
appeared in Lost Worlds,
Lynx Eye, Bog Gob,
Times, Blood Moon Rising
Magazine, The Bugle,
Weird Terrain, Descend,
Wicked Wheels, The Dead
River Review, and other
literary magazines. Her
novella Night Home has
been published with
Bathory Gate Press and is
available with Amazon,
Barnes and Noble .com
When she’s not writing or
working or messing
around with her old Buick,
she waits by her mailbox
for the next issue of
Fortean Times to arrive.
|To read other short stories,
click one of the titles below.