I knew we should’ve burned those books as soon as I got them. My wife, Marsha, knew when she married me that I had witch blood. What she didn’t know was that I had kept all of the heirlooms from that side of my family. Yes, of course, from my father’s side I was descended from good Christian stock. Goodman Libertas Jones, the leader of the Grand Purification, was my eleven times great grandfather from father to son for over 400 years. Original Wallace, my first cousin, eight times removed, was the chief sexton who rang the bells of the Temple-Church of Saint Solace the Upright to cover up the screams of the burning witches. Another ancestor, Fanny Melbourne, Old Suffer, as she was known to The Coven, tended the Eternal Flame in the Temple-Church’s crypt that was used to burn every witch. She would use it to light a birchwood torch which she carried from the Temple to Town Center, all the while repeating the Scripture, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” Then the burning began.
For a generation, the Grand Purification raged through Unpleasantville, but it burned itself out before it exhausted its fuel. Others kept the flame of witchcraft burning. Trethewy Sullivan—just a baby when Old Suffer burned his parents alive— collected The Coven’s surviving tomes and grimoires. According to legend, at age 15, he summoned the demon that extinguished the flame in the Temple-Church. By age 23, he had refounded The Coven with 13 members. By 35, he was mayor. It took centuries, but one by one, Unpleasantville’s positions of power transitioned into the hands of The Coven. When I was just ten years old, Grandmother Damascene revealed the secrets of my ancestry and gave me our ancestor Trethewy Sullivan’s books which I kept secret until my son found them…
Now, in these later days, the Temple-Church’s pews grow emptier each week and witches have revealed their power publicly. The hatred of their old enemies boils up and their passion for power lusts after Trethewy Sullivan’s grimoire.
I was a good Christian man, but I wasn’t a perfect Christian man. That whore, Pushpita, kept coming after me, but I never once touched her. She came by today and I sent her packing. Other sins occupied me. More than once, I opened the manskin leather book, but I never uttered an incantation and I never made a sigil. I should have burned it before my son, Winston, got to it. I will never forget the fire in his eyes when I caught him reading from it during the Witching Hour…but I could never bring myself to tell Marsha or burn the book.
Now, the sound of their chants conjured up strange ancestral memories in my blood. As the witches approached my house, beating their ceremonial drums, I felt my heart synchronize with their beat, but also fear gripping my heart. I knew my wife had been taken already. I rushed upstairs to grab the grimoire—and destroy it—but also protect my boys, Hamilton and Winston. I grabbed the Book from the secret spot in my library and the lighter that I kept with it and then heard the witches blast the front door in with their magic.
I heard the screams of my children as they were pulled from their beds. Hamilton, are
you safe? Winston, have you repented? Marsha, I am coming to you!
As I succumbed to the inferno, I smiled, seeing Trethewy Sullivan’s terrible book go up in flames.
Joshua St. Claire is a certified public accountant who works as a corporate controller in rural Pennsylvania, USA. He enjoys writing on coffee breaks and after helping his wife put their three sons to bed. His poetry is published in Kaidankai: Ghost and Supernatural Stories, Mayfly, The Heron’s Nest, Otoroshi, and Scifaikuest. He is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee and his work appears in the 2022 Dwarf Stars Anthology.