“Burn it all!”
“But Sir, some of these are just books of poems.” The young man held a book in each hand, and seemed very confused.
After many decades in his job, Witch Hunter Sanus, had seen that look many times before. He put his hand on the man’s shoulder and grimly said, “They may look like innocent books of poetry on the outside, but God knows what evil spells the witch has hidden within.”
The young man nodded, and Sanus patted his shoulder and quietly said, “Good man.”
Turning back to the other townsfolk, he cried, “Burn it all!”
The witch’s hut was soon emptied: all of her books, clothing, even furniture was piled in the town square.
Grabbing a torch from one of the townspeople, Sanus walked over to the witch who, despite her shackles and being surrounded by his deputies, calmly watched the proceedings. “Your days of threatening our children are over, witch.” Glancing at the pile, he asked, “Any final plea to save your possessions?”
The witch just smiled and replied, “I’ve already taken precautions.”
Sanus nodded to his deputies, and they dragged her off to a waiting cell.
Sanus walked back to the pile and set it alight. The flames quickly engulfed everything, and activated the intricate spell laced throughout the books. The townspeople paid no attention to the ash that settled on their homes and in the surrounding fields.
The next day, after her trial, the witch was burned on the same spot.
The townspeople went on with their lives, blocking out memory of the witch. And Witch Hunter Sanus moved on to save other villages. But a few years later, he received a letter begging him to return to the town to deal with a new issue, one the letter didn’t explain.
Sanus rode into town shortly before noon, but the streets were deserted. In his years of service, he had seen many disturbing things, but a town empty of children’s laughter was always the worst.
The mayor’s door opened before he could even knock, and the mayor rushed out to embrace him saying, “Thank God you’ve come.”
“What is the matter?”
Stepping back, the mayor said, “It’s the children.”
“What has happened to them?”
“They’re reciting … poetry.”
Sanus had braced himself for all manner of evils, but poetry was so unexpected he assumed he had misheard. “What?”
“My granddaughter,” the mayor explained, “who just learned to speak a few months ago, will spend hours reciting haikus. She’s not the only one. All the children born since … you were last here, all recite poems. And,” the mayor stepped closer, “it’s started to spread to the older children.”
Stepping back, the mayor pleaded, “What do we do?”
This story was inspired by a microfiction story by ShouldbeWriting.
For each story I publish, I like to give the backstory, or anything interesting that happened while writing it. You can see what I wrote for this story on my Published Works page.
Go back to the main Monthly Story page, or the main page of my website.
If you liked this story, you might want to check out Political Pies, my collection of forty stories of a political nature