FathomOnline

 

 Fathom 2006

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Inside Cover

 

Poetry

 

Wesley Colbath (2)
Colby Gaudet (3)
Ami Harbin
Chrissy King (2)
Jean-Marc Prevost
Sarah Robart
Heather E. Thomson (2)
Johanna Bargman

 

Prose

Melissa Barr
Deanna Foster

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Deanna Foster

 

 

Hanged

1817
     He watched the rain bounce off the wooden platform he stood on. He listened carefully to the sounds made as each droplet hit the grey wood, producing a dull thud. So faint only he could hear, for he was concentrating harder than ever before in his eighteen years of life. The idea of looking up from the wood light crossed his mind like a breeze, but he dismissed it. He was too determined to keep his dignity like the others he had heard about, and though he was not dressed in silk – only because he could not afford it – he was dressed in the finest clothes he owned. The others, who had laughed with the drivers and drank wine all the way through the procession, simply prolonging the inevitable, were legends.
     To everyone around him, the rain was so cold it caused deep chills to invade their bodies and made them shiver. The other men on the wood wanted this to be over quickly, so they could retreat to their warm homes and dry robes.
     He thought he felt a hand on his shoulder. Then something whispered into his ear, perhaps, “you’re a brave lad,” but he could not be sure. Brave? Not really, for he had given in. The rain covered his tears, but he had given in to the fear, and he was crying. He was not sure when he started, but he knew when he would stop. If someone had looked closely, they would have noticed the red in his eyes, but no one would look that close. Not until after. Another feeling passed through him, another feeling that he ignored. Each new touch, each new tap, each new word he felt would take him closer.
     Suddenly his eyes were closed, but yet he could still blink. No, not closed, but everything had gone dark. He blinked again, and heard the faint whisper of his eye lashes brushing a cloth, so he closed his eyes for the final time. Now, there was no more cold rain on his face, only hot tears he could not feel. Rough hands moved him slightly and his feet moved with them. Soon he would go­ –
      –Down! The crowd watched with hisses and screams as the rope went tight, and dangled from the tree branch, under the weight of the young man. Those up front could see his feet through the rain, barely scrapping the edge of the wood where the trap door once was. They heard him choking through the black mask that covered his face, saw his body twist and jerk violently. Then they heard something over the rain, a sound that was only heard during a hanging on very few occasions. It caused them to take their eyes off of the young man, and look up to the tree branch his noose was tied to. The crack was dry through the rain.
      He didn’t hear the crack as he was choking to death, but he felt himself falling the short distance to the scaffold. His upper body landed outside the hole, while his legs hit the ground, sliding forward in the mud. If the ground had been dry and did not give way, he would have broken both his ankles. When his stomach hit the wood, all wind was knocked out of him and he continued to struggle for air. In half a second he fell again, this time banging the back of his head on the other end of the hole, knocking off his mask. The pain in the back of his head began to throb, taking over the pain he felt every time he inhaled. He looked up to see the rain falling down on him and a large spike protruding from the tree, instead of the branch he was to be hanged from.
      Other men took the place of the sky and tree, surrounding him with their wrinkled and frowning faces. “Bloody hell,” one said.
      “A surgeon, take him to a surgeon,” another said, and then all went black, as the young man slipped into a mild concussion.

     Loud cries and shouts broke his concentration. Sighing heavily in frustration, he put down his book on medicine and rubbed his forehead. Outside he could hear the mob moving through the streets now that their blood lust had been satisfied. He knew it was foolish to be the only business open on a hanging day, but still he refused to take part in the public display of injustice – ­even if he went to protest like so many others. But then there were the others who went just to watch a man strangle painfully to death, and the women who called out when the body dropped.
     Shuddering at his thoughts, he I lifted his book and tried to concentrate. But the voices would not be silenced; in fact they were growing louder. Louder than they should have, since the mob had no reason to be this close to his practice. He could hear fragmented words through the screams of the drunks; “only one. . .not . . . watch.” Before he could move to his feet, the door to his waiting room burst open, followed by the inner door to his operating room.
     “What the hell?” He said, standing quickly while the book dropped to the floor.
     “Revive him,” someone – the local JP it looked like – said. Looking down at the body brought in, the surgeon felt his stomach tighten with fear.
     “What the hell happened to him?”
     “He was supposed to hang, but the tree broke and he’s out. We need you to bring him back so we can hang him again.”
     “You’re out of your mind.” He answered, unable to take his eyes of the young man. “Jesus Christ, he’s just a baby.”
     “That baby stole two pigs!” Sheriff Hathworth said,       moving close to the doctor.
     “And he was only hanged?” He said bitterly. “No, this is–”
     “Doctor Slayde,” the JP started, “I know you have some little qualm about attending the hangings, but if you don’t bring him back you’ll be up on the scaffold next.” Dr. Slayde looked at the JP in silence for a moment before turning his back on the small group of men and cleaned off his operating table.
     “Lay him down,” he said, moving to his counter and cupboards for the tools he would need. Behind him, he could hear the body being dropped on the table and the men shuffling away. “I want you all out of here, I can’t work with you near me.” He turned back to face the men, and slowly, one by one, they retreated from the operating room.
     “Guess we was lucky you’re open today, eh?” The sheriff said before leaving with the rest of the men to the waiting room.
      When the men of power were gone, Dr. Slayde turned to the poor boy on his table. With shaking hands, he removed the nose the bastards had not bothered to touch. “Animals,” he whispered. Sweat began to form on his brow as he went about retrieving the young man.
      The wide operating room was built into the main floor of a large house that rested at the edge of the town. The town itself was large enough to host at least six hangings a year, all of which Dr. Slayde refused to attend. He had seen his last public hanging when he was ten, and would never watch another after that day in Newgate. To the far end of the room was a large window to let in as much sunlight as possible, but since it was raining today Dr. Slayde pulled several oil lamps down from the shelf above the counter. He looked out the window as the rain fell down, and an idea formed in his mind. It was a stupid and dangerous one, and would probably do nothing to help the boy in the long run, but it would be worth a try.
      Finally the boy’s eyes began to flutter open, but before he could speak Dr. Slayde covered his mouth. When the eyes were fully opened, they were wide with fear. His arms began to push at Dr. Slayde, who held the patient tightly. “Hush,” he whispered, “you’re safe.” He slowly released his patient and moved back slightly, so he could speak in a whisper and still be heard. “I’m Garrett Slayde, the surgeon.”
     “Is this heaven?” The man asked weakly, his voice raspy from the strangulation.
     “No, you’re not dead.”
     “But I was hanged.”
     “The tree broke and you were knocked unconscious. They, they wanted me to bring you back to. . . hang you again.” He felt a sickness wash over that only increased when he saw the look on the man’s face.
      “All over again,” he whispered. Tears began to fill his eyes but he wiped them away, for now there was not rain to hide them.
     “Listen, I have an idea to get you out of here. What’s your name?”
     “Eric Pickett, sir,” he said.
     “Eric, listen to me. You’re going to go out that window, and leave town. They can’t get around to the back because the buildings are too close together, so you can run down the back ally.
      “I’ll find your family later and tell them what has happened. Once you’re gone,
      I’ll wait as long as I can, then act out a struggle to say you escaped and there was nothing I could do.” Garrett watched as hope filled the young man’s eyes while he quickly explained his plan to save the innocent.
      “What if I get caught?”
      “Then they will hang you again,” he answered, swallowing painfully . “You’ll have to stay out of sight for a few days until I the burns heal around your neck, or you will be noticed by the wrong people.”
      “My folks, they can’t pay you noting,” he said, looking at the floor.
      “I don’t want anything, just for you to go out that window before they come back in. Here,” he reached into his vest pocket and pulled out four one pound notes.
     “I can’t–”
     “Without money you might as well let them take you back to the scaffold. Now go,” he shoved the money into Eric’s hand and pulled him off the table. Without saying anything else, Eric pushed the window opened and climbed out, into the back ally that would take him to freedom.
      When the young man was gone, Garrett lay back against his counter and looked cautiously towards the door to the waiting room. What if they heard everything, and were waiting for the poor boy at the end of the ally? And then what would become of him, or me? he thought. He picked his book off the floor and tried to read, but he found himself looking at his pocket watch every three seconds. He started to worry about pretending he was being he was attacked. Should he shout, or break something to be convincing? He decided to wait another five minutes, because any longer would cause him to perish of stress.
      The counter took his breath away and the cupboard bruised his forehead after he ran at them. He pushed three vials that stood on the counter to the floor. Once more his head hit the cupboard, then he called out for help. He watched from the floor, clutching his stomach, as three men rushed into the room with expressions of confusion on their faces. “He went out the window,” Garrett said, avoiding their eyes at all costs.
      “What the devil?” the JP asked.
      “He came back suddenly and over whelmed me,” Garrett said, wincing from the pain and his terrible lie, slowly pulling himself to his feet since it was clear none of the men were going to help him.
     “You spineless git!” The JP shouted and then turned to the sheriff. “Don’t just stand here, go get him!” As the other men were running out into the rain, the JP remained and looked deep into Garrett’s grey eyes. “You’re responsible if we don’t find him.”
      “You will have to find someone else to take the blame, your honour,” he said with words colder than ice. The JP whirled away and left, leaving Garrett alone.
      When the final door closed, he collapsed on to the floor again out of mental exhaustion. Never in his life had he lied or broken the law for fear of the punishments he was too familiar with. He sat on the floor for a long time as the oil lights went out, one by one, until he was in total darkness. His breathing was shallow and irregular, but he was breathing. Not like all the others who had fallen through the trap door.

 

last updated August 17, 2007 | © 2007 Fathom Publishing
poetry, prose, and artwork © individual authours | website created by Alana Paul