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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Eek! (02/25/10)

TITLE: Dark Hearts
By Rachel Phelps


The gusty wind was playing hide and seek with the clouds and moonlight, twisting and lengthening the shadows at will. The intermittent moonbeams gave the snow an uncertain glisten where it drifted against buildings and the picket fence around the cemetery.

“Father would tan us good if he knew what we were doing.”

“He wouldn’t tan us, Josiah, he’d tan you.” His twin sister had picked up on the pride in his whisper and was doing her best prim impression of Great Aunt Prudence. “He’d only reprimand me for giving in to your devilish persuasion.”

Josiah muttered under his breath, knowing all too well Chastity was right. In the eyes of Salem Village and their parents, Chastity was about two curly hairs short of angelic. What he wouldn’t give for them all to see her now, creeping around out-of-doors after dark like a harbor-town ruffian. She had been the one to demand he accompany her on this expedition – not that anyone would take the word of the preacher’s layabout son over his darling sister’s.

“Hurry up, Josiah! We’ll miss it if we don’t keep a good foot under us.”

Chastity attempted to push past him as she hissed the words. Josiah planted his feet in the snow and let her try, chuckling as she glared up at him. The wind gusted again, whistling through the eaves of the houses and freezing Josiah’s laughter. The creaking of the icy trees made him jump, but Chastity was insistent.

“Mercy Lewis said she saw Goody Osborn flying on her broomstick before the last snowfall. If I was her, I’d be flying away tonight before they charge her. She’s got to know it’s coming!”

Chastity’s breathy whisper was tinged with a certain glee that startled her brother. He had seen Mercy and Ann Putnam tell their stories about Goody Osborn and Tituba the maid and found them to be long on hysteria and lean on substance. He was surprised when his father and elders took note of them. The air was rife with tension as the accusations mounted.

“Come on, ‘Siah!”

“Oughtn’t we turn back?” Josiah saw the incredulous look, but didn’t back down. “We’ve no business trying to catch a witch.”

“Afraid that Father is right and fifteen-year-old boys really are the devil’s favorite target?” Chastity teased, lifting her hem over a deeper drift.

“Aren’t you afraid she’ll do the same to you as she did to Mercy and Ann?” Josiah let her drag him a few steps closer to the cemetery even as he mouthed the protest.

Chastity shot him a look that was pitying at best. “Please don’t be ridiculous, brother. You mean you believe them?”

His hand tightened on the gate. “What?”

Chastity pushed at him to avoid meeting his eyes. “There’s no use standing out here in the open, you know – we have to go through…”

A rush of blood heated his wind-chilled face and rang in his ears. He grabbed Chastity’s arms and pushed her back from him. The weak moonlight through her face into a sharply chiseled relief – eyes in shadow, but the fine lines between her eyebrows clearly defined.

“Mercy and Ann and the others – they’re lying?” His fingers curled tighter around her upper arm. “You know they are?”

“’Siah, you’re hurting my arm,” Chastity whimpered, eyes glinting in entreaty. “I don’t know, honest - I just – I know that Goody Osborn has been terribly rude to them many a time. Seems like a perfect chance to … ”

A keening wail shivered on the wind, cutting off her words. Both children stilled, eyes riveted on the cemetery. The moon broke free from the clouds for a heartbeat, revealing the huddled, dark figure by one of the graves. It seemed frozen, but as they watched, it made a sudden, lumbering motion to stand.

Chastity’s scream was short but piercing. Josiah swept her close, trying to control his own tremors. Blood was pounding in his ears, and fright was making it difficult to breath.

The figure turned toward them, face shielded by its cloak hood. The wail came again, though this time the very human sound of sobs accompanied it. Chastity all but fainted. From behind them, sounds of adults rushing outside added to the terror.

“Children?” It was their father’s voice.

Chastity looked up at Josiah in panic. He squeezed her hand, heart trembling as he saw the idea forming in her eyes. He shook his head, but she didn’t heed. She flung herself into Father’s arms – pointing back to the cemetery.


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This article has been read 794 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Leah Nichols 03/05/10
The story ended on the right moment, but much is left unsaid. Although a lot is revealed here about her character, and the title fits especially well.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/05/10
What a suspenseful spooky but terribly sad tale. The title certainly said quite a bit. This would make a great historical fiction novel. There's so much more story I'm aching to hear.
Catrina Bradley 03/06/10
Wow, the tension, the excitement, the drama! The dialog carries the action and builds strong characters. The ending had me gasping. How easy it is to get swept up in hysteria, especially when looking for someone to blame. Chills.
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/08/10
You really have a gift for drawing your reader in. I love how you proved the title with actions...though not of the ones being accused.
william price03/08/10
An opening chapter to a longer work, perhaps? You more than have my interest. I would like to read on. As it is you told a great story. But being greedy, I just want more. The pace was good but the piece's intensity kept up the momentum. Great job. God bless.
Sarah Elisabeth 03/08/10
Okay, girl, I'm ready for the novel, seriously! This had so much, such a depth it left me aching for more. Please???
Gregory Kane03/09/10
What a horrible rapscallion! Delightfully paced and executed.
Kate Oliver Webb 03/10/10
Excellent atmospheric tale; the dialog fits well with the period and the action. Keep 'em comin' -- you'll have your novel in no time.
Sally Hanan03/10/10
Very well written, and you have the added advantage of everyone already knowing the story of Salem. You have somehow dug into human weakness and fear to have us sympathize with the murderers.

This might sell very well as a novel to the Scholastic market.
Beth LaBuff 03/10/10
Gripping historic tale... excellent writing!
Carol Slider 03/10/10
There's so much tension and emotion here, and I'm still pondering that ending. You have such an incredible gift for setting the scene and keeping the reader hooked. Exceptional writing--well done!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/11/10
Congratulations on the top 40!