The Storyteller - the wit and wisdom of Frank Coughlin

Sarah's Dilemma


Sarah was caught between a rock and a hard place. Actually, that is where Sarah wished she was. It would be better than where really was. Her current predicament included a howling mob searching the woods for her, a warped warlock looking to possess her and Sarah stuck in the middle of the two. The mob wanted her dead and not just quick dead – they wanted to torture her until she died. The warlock wanted to enslave her and he was good at doing that. He had already started the process, and that is what got her into this mess. It would not take much for him to finish it. Just one more spell and he would have her enslaved for the rest of her life which would be a very long time – that is unless the mob captured her and killed. These two choices either dead or enslaved left little to be desired. Sarah knew there had to be another way, something that she had not thought of yet.

In the distance, there was the sound of barking dogs. The mob had released the dogs after her. They would either tear her to pieces or tree her. They had been trained to do this. If they treed her, the mob wound find her, chain her and take her back for a 'trial'. For a normal person that might sound like a cause for hope but the ‘trial’ the mob would give her would be a special trial – one given only to witches. There was no doubt that she was a witch, they had seen her use witchcraft – the whole village had seen her. She had no friends anymore, not in this village.

The truth was, Jason had used her. Jason, the black warlock, had cast a temporary spell and possessed her body. She had been horrified as he made her to go to the village and do his bidding. Her body did not respond to her will, rather she watched, prisoner in her own body, as he pulled the strings and made her march into the village. Once there, he used her own voice to demand to see the judge. When the judge appeared, he killed the judge with one single magical bolt. He laughed while watching the judge slowly die in pain. This he, Jason the black, did while possessing her body. Worse still, he made her wait in the town square while the mob formed.

It was only then that he released his grip on her. As soon as she was free of his thrall, she ran as fast she could she run, towards to the only place she knew she had any chance of survival – back towards Jason, back towards slavery, for he would have her, body and soul. Her only alternative would be to face the mob and their 'trial'. He knew she would never do that, he knew she would rather be a slave that to die that horrible slow torturous death.

The woods led to his cave, hidden among the cliffs. The villagers would never find her there. There was no other place to hide. He knew this. To re-enter his cave would be to submit to him. That is how she entered his cave in the first place, by entering into the possession spell willingly. The second time she invoked the spell, she would be bound by her own will to do his bidding for the rest of her life. She had already seen the horrible things he could make her do.

The barking of the dogs was getting nearer. She could hear the eagerness of their yelps. She knew they had her scent and it would no more than minutes before they were upon her. Just enough time to reach the cave or climb a tree. “Think, Sarah, think”, she pleaded with herself, “there has to be another way.”

The barking of the dogs drew nearer. They were just over the hill. She had a minute at the most. Her feet had brought her to the edge of the woods – there would be no time to climb a tree. The dogs would pull her down if she tried. She knew this. She knew the dogs would hold there on the ground content to take small nips, content to shred her clothes and content to wait until their masters arrived. They would not kill her. That was for the mob to do.

She was a dozen or so strides from the cave. She could already feel the pulsing of the spell that kept anyone from noticing it. That same spell would keep her trapped outside unless she spoke the words that would enslave her for the rest of her life. “Think Sarah think,” she kept repeating to herself. She turned to face the sound of the dogs. Even through the woods, she could see they had come to the top of the hill. She had only seconds before they spotted her.

She stood in front of the cave, at its hidden entrance. It was then that she tried the last idea left in her head – she prayed. “Please God, give me another way out of this.” An idea flashed in her head, an insane idea of which she would have rejected at any other moment, but now she was desperate and in her desperation, she embraced the idea.

Running with wild abandon, Sarah raced towards the cliff’s edge. The dogs had spotted her, how could they not as she let loose a primal yell from the pit of stomach. They watched as their prey ran to the cliffs edge and without hesitation, jumped. No one saw her land in the cold waters below. When the dogs’ masters caught up to their animals, they saw the dogs milling around the edge.

No one could have survived that fall. It was over two hundred feet. There were jagged rocks below. Yet, the body of Sarah Jameson was never found.

She called herself Bonnie now. Her hair was silver, a premature shade but she liked the look. One does not see thirty-ish women with silver hair, but this was California the land of different looks so she fit right in. The town she lived in was small but not that small – everyone here did not know everyone here. She liked that feature. She liked being hidden in plain sight. She did worry about mobs looking to kill her. She had not for a very long time.

Still she did not let down her guard. She kept to herself mostly, keeping a few friends but none of them for very long. She had to keep wary. She had to keep her eyes peeled for any signs of magic use. Magic meant danger for her – magic meant him.

The years had taught her this. Initially she thought no one would come after her and for a month, no one did. She did not know that he had been biding his time. He was not willing to let her go. He was not willing to admit defeat, not when he was so close to possessing her totally.

She had pretended to be dazed. She had hit her head on the rocks, but only enough to give her a bruise on the side of her head. She found a traveler who had taken pity on her. He gave her new clothes (hers were in tatters) and took her as far as the next town. He was a kindly old man with a gentle nature. She wanted to stay with him but he insisted she stay in town until she gets her mind back. He paid for her quarters and found her a job serving ale at the inn.

“Stay here,” he said, “until you find your mind or until I come back.” She still wishes that she had heeded his advice. Though he was an old man, the people of the town new of him and treated him with respect. The last thing he had said to her was to wear his crest about her neck.

” It is an amulet”, he said, “it will protect you.” She still wears it to this day. She fingers it as she recalls those days of long past. She worked at the inn for months. She was happy. Everyone was her friend – the patrons, the couple that owned the tavern, even the grouchy old man who owned her house.

However, the fear that lingered from that day by the cliff still haunted her. She would wake up at night in cold terror, thinking she heard the yells of a mob. The barking of dogs always made her jump but she had been able to make friends with innkeepers’ mutt, Daisy. Still dogs made her tense.

Even worse than her night terrors were the tingles. That was her name for an itchy tingly feeling she would get in bed. At times, the tingles felt like something was crawling beneath her skin and at other times the tingles would feel as if a burning fever was raging through her body. The worst of the tingles, were so intense in nature that she would pass out. It was in the thrall of these tingles that she would suddenly wake up and find herself somewhere else than her bed. Always she would be walking, walking in the direction of the warlock’s cave.

These tingles, the unconscious ones, did not come often. At first they came once a week, and then once every two weeks, and finally once a month. She jokingly called them her time of the month. By the time of the harvest festival, she had almost forgot about them.

The townspeople had now called her by the name of Miss Constance because she was constant in whatever she did. She never missed work and never was late. She constantly cleaned the not only her house but her landlord’s too. She even walked Daisy constantly whenever she could. She was happy. Until the harvest festival.

When she learned that travelers from all around came to the town for the harvest festival, she began to worry. She worried that someone from the other village would come and recognize her. She worried that they would take her away, take her away from this happiness. For once in her life, she was truly happy. She did not worry so much about what they would do to her, the trial and torture and such. She worried more about what they would do to the people who were aiding her. Would they think that they were in league with witches? Would they be tortured too?

She worried so much about this that she forgot the one thing that she should worry about more than anything else, the return of Jason into her life.