Abbie Hoskin is an English & History Student at the University of Plymouth. Today, she invites us to read a short piece she has penned to commemorate the Plymouth Pilgrims in Mayflower whom in which celebrates their 400th Anniversary this year.
Abbie would consider this piece Historical Fiction and explains her influence for the piece: “The world is changing; and with it, values and concepts. With the 400th anniversary of Mayflower taking Plymouth by storm, I wanted to delve into a period of New English history that was impacted by the new age of America.”
Abbie clarifies: “I have always preferred the realms on nonfiction, mainly because I like debate. With more confusion in the world than ever before, and even more mistrust, I find it necessary to help educate others, and to expand one’s own knowledge, which leads onto a love of historical fiction.”
When asked how she would describe her piece, she explained that it is to be read as though we’re in the mindset of a woman we hardly know anything about – that being – due to the onset of Slavery and racism in New England.
Interviewed & edited by @gemmoconnor
The piece is based in the perspective of Tituba at the hanging of accused Sarah Good in the Witch Craze of 1692, a period of hysteria directly influenced by the beginning of New England after the mass Emigration, including the Plymouth Pilgrims in Mayflower, which will be celebrating its 400th anniversary this year. The Salem Witch Trials caused death and pain to many innocent women, and we find it necessary to remember that Mayflower began so much pain for so many, including Native American Tituba.
The bodies sway with an eerie rhythm in the wind, tattered and muddied gowns catching on the rocky ground below. There is peace after the violence and death and hopelessness, but only for the naive, the ones with clouded judgement and shielded eyes. The clouds protect them from the wind, but the wind is still there. It never stops, even as a gentle breeze or a violent storm-but now the storm is gone, just for a few moments, and there is silence. The Slave casts her eyes up, and steels herself. She is used to sights worse than this-always has been since her life isn’t her own anymore-but this one makes her eyes sting like the wind. Sarah’s hands are blue, the only skin revealed to Tituba as she stands in front of her. A rag covers her face, but it clings to her and vanishes like the wind in certain places from the food thrown at her in disrespect, and suddenly Tituba can’t breathe, and she laughs bitterly in outrage, the sound catching in her throat as the air steals it from her. The air seems to steal plenty of life at this time in Salem. The fire kindling inside her needs air to devour, to hurt and burn and take, and this is all Tituba wants. She is not a witch, but for one fleeting moment, she wishes she was. If everyone else, everyone so different from her and Sarah prays to the wind for a God, maybe she should pray to the fire for the devil. If everyone assumes her for a witch, maybe she could become one. If there is no Satan here (because there isn’t-Tituba has grown up with Voodoo all her life, and she knows the difference well) and Salem is already like this-full of misery and death and paranoia-maybe God has left them. She knows she shouldn’t think like this, but Sarah Good’s face paints a picture that seems shaped by the ministrations of hell itself; eyes bulging and wide open, unseeing, mouth stretched open in desperation, craving air but never receiving it. The only thing that stops Tituba is the gentle push of Sarah’s corpse towards her from the rhythm of the breeze, and Tituba doesn’t realise what she’s doing until she is halfway up the jut of rocks that count as a platform. It’s a sorry excuse for a Gallows, and anger hits her like the crack of a whip again. It was done on purpose, to invite pain and humiliation, the emotions that follow Tituba and the others like her like a phantom. The ledge hangs a metre above the ground, intentionally small. There’s an art to hanging, morbidity in its complexity; if high enough, the pain is quick, caused by the snap of the neck. Like this, though, there is only agony and anguish, lasting minutes-minutes that feel like hours, maybe days. Tituba imagines that with the rush of panic that must surge through the body as soon as oxygen cuts off, time has either no meaning or every single meaning. It is not the mind, but the body that sets of the timer for death, and Tituba feels her own body counting down until she is the one whose corpse will be flung down the dirty ravine with the other bodies of her fallen.
Tituba is angry with the wind. Perhaps the wind is angry with her. Maybe it was the wind who flung her fate into the hands of her owners, the same air that guided the ships towards her homeland before the Holocaust of her people. There is acid on her tongue as Tituba reaches out as an anchor and starts to untie the noose holding Sarah. She will get the other bodies down later, but Sarah was always the important one here. She was not a nice woman by any account, but her fate was sealed by other people and the rope that took her life, and Tituba mourns. They did not know each other, but there was a closeness from the isolation they both endured. Two orbs of light, shrouded in darkness and oblivion, will find each other no matter the distance.
Now Sarah is on the ground, and Tituba pulls on the rag, dropping it to her side. She does not gag or flinch, instead working methodically. She is a Slave; her whole life has always been there for the taking, day after day. She has never given before. Given assures a choice, and this feels like the first thing Tituba wants to give as she closes Sarah’s eyes, unties her hand, and drags her down to the valley where the other bodies rot. If the others do not find her body there, Tituba knows she will be hanged immediately after, so she leaves her a few metres away from the other bodies and does her best to make her seem at peace.
After, Tituba washes her hands in a stream and walks back slowly to her mistresses’ house. She is old, now, and Mary Sibley is probably too distraught to care that she left the house. So, she stands on the top of Gallows Hill and stares down at Proctors Ledge. It is full of peace, a beautiful oxymoron, torturously picturesque. The end of July dawns searing heat, the sun burning bright and clear as it descends beneath the trees of Salem Town. Everything is orange and red, full of fire, but the ice in Tituba cannot melt. She is already frozen over; perhaps she always has been. The wind is strong on top of the hill, nothing to break it, and Sarah’s swaying body flashes in her mind. Tituba closes her eyes, takes a deep, shuddering breath, and her scream is lost to the wind.
Dedicated to the victims of the Salem Witch Trials, who suffered torture and false accusations due to the paranoia in Salem.
If you would like to follow Abbie’s Journey further, you can find her on Instagram
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