This Weeks Prompt:46 . Hawthorne—unwritten plot. Visitor from tomb—stranger at some publick concourse followed at midnight to graveyard where he descends into the earth.
The Research: The Sins of the Father
The court room held their breath for the sentence that the right honorable Waites would hand down. The good judge had been holding private counsel for around ten minutes, examining the various notes and passages of law that lay at his access. The anticipation and dread in the room reverberated, and killed the noise of animals around. The birds seemed to sing more quietly, less they disturb the elder thoughts of the right and honorable judge.
The only noise produced at all was the quiet crying of the Fisk boy. He had been afflcited the least by his ancestry. His eyes didn’t have the strange shaped pupils yet, the dark hour glasses that seemed like a goat’s gaze. Unlike his miscreant brother and deceitful sister, his fingers seemed firm still, not slightly long and perpetually bent like claws. Hands that seemed almost webbed at times and jointed in the wrong places. His hair was still dark, not yet the motley red and orange of his sisters. The youngest Fisk, if it weren’t for the company he kept, might have been mistaken for a normal child.
But the court knew better. The right and honorable judge Waites had seen each generation of the Fisk family. They lived in the woods and hills, among strange and wretched things that they often took as wives and husbands. Elfin creatures, the Fisk children always looked the part of Adam’s children at first, but grew into Lilith’s before all was said and done. Some grew horns, small though they were, in their hair like rams. Some had shining eyes, and over the years the charges of witchcraft merely grew. The Fisk women bewitched husbands from town to continue their awful brood. If Leah Fisk hadn’t done so yet, it was only because she had not been given the opportunity.
Leah Fisk dressed in decadent finery as it was. Even in court, she wore a long red dress with sewn patterns along it’s edges that guided the eyes and entranced them as she walked. The right honorable judge need no witnesses of her character to know what the purpose of such adornments were. Her gold earings, enameled with red gems and sea shells. The work had been in the Fisk family for sometime, and they had paid little mind to the pastoral warnings against such vanity. Gifts, the right honorable judge Waites was convinced, from their less than savory side of the family. Such ornaments were borderline idolatry for the reverence the Fisk clan held them in.
But that had never been enough. The Waites, and the Wyatts, and the Smiths, they had all known what the Fisks had done. The judge ponder the years of court cases, of slowly working down the Fisk clan one by one. They were numerous and hounding them down, whittling away their taint on the world, had taken decades. And here now was the last of them, only one willing to look him in the eye defiantly as he prepared to read the crimes and proclaim his sentence.
“Michael Fisk,” he said, staring into the hour glass of darkness. The edges of the eldest Fisks skin looked like they had been stretched over extra bones. “We find you guilty of bearing false witness against Jonathan Smith, Rachel Smith, and Timothy Wyatt. You are found guilty consorting with the barbarians of the woodlands and the demons with in their rites. You are found guilty of hersey and witchcraft employed in seducing the wives of your fellow man, sodomy, theft, and murder.”
Michael Fisk stared ahead at the right honorable judge, his eyes unwavering, unblinking. They seemed to stare through judge Waites own pupils, into his soul. The unearthly eyes did not dissuade Waites soul. His ancestors had hunted and hounded witches on the isle of Britain. He had no fear of demons.
“Leah Fisk,” He said, his eyes resting on the woman’s down cast head. “We find you guilty of false witness against Jonathan Smith, Sarah Wyatt, and Leah Waites. You are found guilty of hersey and witchcraft, of blasphemy against the Lord, and of inviting foul things in your home.
“For these crimes, the court finds fit to sentence both of you to death by hanging, to be carried out at the soonest possible interval. In light of the rampancy of these crimes by the Fisk family, the people of the parish have moved to preempt the degeneracy of the youngest, Matthew Fisk, and send him to his kin as well.”
There was quiet sobbing from Leah Fisk now, but the sentence was as expected. The only question was whether they would be hanged or crushed by stones. The right honorable judge Waites was wary of stones, despite the precedent set by the Old Testament and other works on the proper punishment being stoning. Being crushed by the weight of stones was too much like a proper burial for judge Waites’ taste. So they would hang. Judge Waites scanned the rest of courtroom as the Fisks were lead out. The gaze from the various parishioners was approving, some even nodding to each other and whispering about his wisdom. As he scanned the crowd, judge Waites’s eyes fell on a singluar figure in the back. He appeared to be an elder, dressed in proper black and with a pale complexion. His eyes were hidden by the shadow of his hair, but his grimace was strange.
It was not strange to see determination or even a degree of gravity in a court room. That generally was Mr. Waites posture as well. But as he descended from his seat and saw the strange man leave, he couldn’t help but feel there was something more to that strange expression. It looked rigid, like it was carved into a stone or worked into wood. It was a face that appeared to have taken on a form that was forever it’s own. Mr. Waites, finding himself out of his office of judge, realized that despite a familiarity in form and bearing, he did not know the man who had just been in his court room.
Mr. Waites was never one to miss an opportunity, even in his great and venerable age, to speak with a man possessing more age and thus more veneration. Power by association and education were well known principles in his profession. To be isolated was to be in danger. So on foot he followed the stranger out, walking along the road and out past the courthouse.
It was already nightfall when Mr. Waites set out, lantern in hand, to follow the mysterious man. There was only the dim light of the other man’s lantern ahead, and the moonlight all around. The trees took on a pale color, as if suddenly faded or seen through a thin fog of winter. But Mr. Waites, who would never forsake a path once he began unless danger was so overwhelming that his animal mind overcame his mortal soul, trekked on through the wets following the fair light.
At least, he came in sight of another building. An old wooden ruin of a small house. He passed by with out another thought. A few more such cabins dotted the path, as the flickering light grew somewhat dimmer. The flickering made the shadows inconstant, long things. Mr. Waites’s eyes caught them rising and falling, more than once mistaking the simple shifting of light for the approach of dread, shadow forms. His mother, God rest her soul, had once told him that in the woods, among derelict and failed ghost towns, there dwell creatures unsightly and unseemly. Dead things that were always hungry.
But he had walked the woods before. Mr. Waites was not lost. He knew these buildings, now that he had a better grasp. His prey had come through the old settlements the Fisks had, when men were foolish enough to trust them with money and wares. It had been a beginning of a great bush, a weeds roots that had been set fire long ago. Mr. Waites remembered. He was young then, when they burned it all down.
At last the light ahead stopped. Waites followed, and by lantern light saw the great broken steeple of a church. The graves beside it were arranged in neat rows, almost perfectly aligned. He watched as the old statesmen he followed walked slowly among the graves. At last, the man approached a long, open grave. The light of the stranger’s own lantern suddenly shone bright, brighter than anything. It was a green light that obscured everything else around it, a glimmering fog that rose out of the crypt. The man paused, and turned to look out at the world. His eyes settled on Waites, and Waites felt a chill down his spine and a great weight on his shoulders, affixing him to the spot. The eyes had that hourglass shape, that stark yellow hue, of the Fisk family. There was some judgement left in those eyes. The weight did not cease when he turned away. There was the sound of song and sea from the grave as the man descended, vanishing into the mist.