Wrote this for the 'Midsummer Madness' themed monthly competition in the Den of Writers...it was chosen as winner. (I get to set July's challenge now).
Anyway, I thought I'd share it with you, 'cos I'm rather proud of this one. It's less than 400 words.
The Midsummer Madness
“Are ye well prepared?”
Aliz nods, her eyes wide and dark in her face. “I soaked the rope in rosemary water like ye said, an’ the pegs were whittled fresh from holly.”
“Good. And the other?”
“I have it.”
No tremor in her voice. Will she remain as unaffected if she is forced to use it?
“Good.” I tap my finger on my top lip and glance around the clearing. Have I missed anything? The symbol is marked on the floor with white flour, thick black candles stand at each of its points, the jug is filled with rosewater… “Let’s get on, then.”
Aliz sprinkles the rosewater and the scent of summer blooms hang heavy in the air, masking the rancid stench of fear.
The earth is warm through my shirt when I lay within the floured sign. I keep silent as the still-damp ropes bite into my wrists and ankles, their aroma sharp and cutting against that of the roses. The ground vibrates under me as the pegs are hammered in and the other ends of the ropes secured.
Curtains of black hair frame her face when she leans over me.
“Is all done?”
“Ye will stay by me, and watch to see if the madness descends?”
“Aye, my love.” She brushes my lips with her own.
“And if it does, ye will end me?”
Her eyes close then, shutting me out. But she nods. Again.
“Then move to yon trees and wait. Keep the blade near.”
I turn my face away so I will not see her leave. So little time we’ve had, Aliz and I, but if the madness descends on me, as it does on some men on the Midsummer of their twenty-fifth year, she will at least have something to remember me by.
Pray hope the babe in her belly is a girl, for I would not wish this uncertainty on any son. And I doubt I have Aliz’s strength to end a life if, by some miracle, I survive this night.