This a 600 word story I wrote for the Commonwealth Short Story Competition back in 2009. Sadly though, we found out that my English teacher, who had recommended me to try it, had been mistaken and that I did not meet a certain requirement to participate. Something to do with age, I think. I forget. Anyway, my submitted story was probably disqualified, but I quite like how it turned out.
The title was "Devil's Hands" and the content of the story was left open to our imaginations. I was thinking about the abusive treatment of red-haired women back in the middle ages - ya know, the whole burn-the-witches-at-the-stake drama? - and how some people claim to have Healer's Hands. I decided to write a narrative of a woman who was labelled a witch and driven out of her village by the "normal" people. The idea seemed to tie up quite nicely with the title.
I kept her thoughts vague. I tried to avoid speaking of the matter directly (like writing, "I was exiled by my people because they thought I was a witch yada yada yada") and instead tried to describe it. You could say I was experimenting with my writing style; I wanted to see if people would understand it despite the vagueness.
Eighteenth century England – it was a time and place of superior lifestyle where people had enhanced outlooks on the world; or so we were led to believe. The lamentable truth was that, underneath that deceptively elegant exterior, there lay a hostile world engulfed and torn apart by millennia-old superstitions and beliefs; false notions that were passed down from father to son, and which were wholly accepted by young, innocent minds without question.
These same superstitions were the ones that had brought my life – which had never been of much significance to begin with – crumbling down to its very foundations. The tears that had been repressed by the feeble force of my willpower broke through and rolled down my cheeks, merging with the rain that fell down in torrents from the stormy sky overhead. I hung my head as I dug my nails into the soggy bark of the log on which I had been perched for the past several minutes, finally allowing myself to cry.
‘Narrow-minded fools,’ I thought bitterly, shivering as the cold downpour soaked into my simple grey dress. My sodden hair, with its vibrant red hue darkened to an unsightly shade of auburn by the dampness, hung before my face dripping water. A corrosive hatred began to rage within the confines of my heart as I glared at the limp, crimson strands with loathing in my eyes. How I abhorred that colour now! How I longed to tear it out with my bare hands.
Squeezing my eyes shut, I began to curse them: the unattractive tint of my hair that had alienated me from this brutal world, my God-given endowment of healing that had eventually lead to my undoing, the Lord who had paved a vindictive road for my life that had now terminated at a cruel destination – I cursed them all with the blackest oaths my mind could conjure. Most of all, I cursed those bigoted villagers that had exiled me from my parish with torches and pitchforks; my “brethren” that would have had me bound to the stake and burnt alive had I not managed to escape them – all that hatred merely because I was different.
The blasphemy gradually subsided, but not my fury. My resentful gaze turned to my calloused hands. “Healer’s Hands,” my late mother had called them, “a wonderful gift from God.” That declaration held truth to the extent that the power of healing was indeed bestowed upon me. However, it was no gift, but the very bane of my existence.
A red-haired woman with seemingly magical healing powers – it was hardly surprising that I had been driven away. Foolish superstitions about sorcery and Dark Magic still ran rampant amongst “civilised” society; their illogical phobia of such “evil” was embedded deep in their minds. It was no wonder that they had feared and despised me, but that did not lessen the pain in my heart. Nor would any amount of healing mend my shattered spirit; some scars could never be healed with time.
“Witch! Spawn of the Devil!” Echoes of their angry voices seemed to ring in my ears. Another sob escaped my lips and the agony within me intensified tenfold. There was no question of ever going back, that I knew, but to where would this merciless life lead me now? There was no hope of a future for myself, no silver lining on the clouds; just an endless void that stretched on forever. Thunder continued to roar and lightening flashed as the heavens wept, and along with them, my heart bled its loneliness and anguish out into an uncaring world.