Tuesday, October 31, 2017

An Incident At Halloween by Anonymous


It was Halloween Eve and a slave stood upon a railroad bridge at Owl Creek, looking down into the swift water twenty feet below. The slave’s hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord. A rope closely encircled his neck. It was attached to a stout cross-timber above his head and the slack fell to the level of his knees. Some loose boards laid upon the ties supporting the rails of the railway supplied a footing for him and his executioners -- two Mistresses, with rifles across their shoulders, directed by the slave’s owner.  The slave’s own Mistress, her pistol holstered, stood with folded arms, silent, observing the work of her Domme colleagues, but making no sign. Death is a dignitary who when she comes announced is to be received with formal manifestations of respect, even by those most familiar with her. In the code of the D, silence and fixity are forms of deference when a slave is put to death.

The preparations being complete, the two Mistresses stepped aside and each drew away the plank upon which he had been standing. These movements left the condemned slave and his Mistress standing on the two ends of the same plank. If his Mistress stepped aside, the plank would tilt and the condemned slave go down between two ties. He looked a moment at the swirling water of the stream racing madly beneath his feet. A piece of dancing driftwood caught his attention and his eyes followed it down the current. How slowly it appeared to move! What a sluggish stream! He thought: "If I could free my hands, I might throw off the noose and spring into the stream. By diving I could evade the bullets and, swimming vigorously, reach the bank, take to the woods and get away home.” As these thoughts flashed into the slave's brain, his Mistress stepped aside.

As the slave fell straight downward through the bridge he lost consciousness and was as one already dead. From this state he was awakened -- ages later, it seemed to him -- by a frightful roaring in his ears, and all was cold and dark. The power of thought was restored; he knew that the rope had broken and he had fallen into the stream.  He was not conscious of an effort, but a sharp pain in his wrist apprised him that he was trying to free his hands. He gave the struggle his attention, and the cord fell away; his arms parted and floated upward, the hands dimly seen on each side in the growing light. He watched them with a new interest as first one and then the other pounced upon the noose at his neck. They tore it away and thrust it fiercely aside, the undulations resembling those of a water snake.

He came to the surface facing down the stream; in a moment the visible world seemed to wheel slowly round, himself the pivotal point, and he saw the bridge, the Mistresses upon the bridge, his executioners. They were in silhouette against the blue sky. They shouted and gesticulated, pointing at him. His Mistress had drawn her pistol, and the other Mistresses their rifles. Their movements were grotesque and horrible, their forms gigantic.

The slave dived -- dived as deeply as he could. The water roared in his ears like the voice of Niagara, yet he heard the dull thunder of the volley and, rising again toward the surface, met shining bits of metal, singularly flattened, oscillating slowly downward. Some of them touched him on the face and hands, then fell away, continuing their descent. One lodged between his collar and neck; it was uncomfortably warm and he snatched it out. As he rose to the surface, gasping for breath, he saw that he had been a long time under water; he was perceptibly farther downstream -- nearer to safety. The Mistresses had almost finished reloading and fired again. The slave saw all this over his shoulder; he was now swimming vigorously with the current. His brain was as energetic as his arms and legs; he thought with the rapidity of lightning:

In a few moments he found himself upon the gravel at the foot of the left bank of the stream -- the southern bank -- and behind a projecting point which concealed him from the Mistresses. The sudden arrest of his motion, the abrasion of one of his hands on the gravel, restored him, and he wept with delight. He dug his fingers into the sand, threw it over himself in handfuls and audibly blessed it. It looked like diamonds, rubies, emeralds; he could think of nothing beautiful which it did not resemble. A whiz and a rattle of grapeshot among the branches high above his head roused him from his dream. The baffled Mistresses had fired him a random farewell. He sprang to his feet, rushed up the sloping bank, and plunged into the forest.

All that day he travelled, laying his course by the rounding sun. The forest seemed interminable; nowhere did he discover a break in it, not even a woodman's road. Doubtless, despite his suffering, he had fallen asleep while walking, for now he sees another scene -- perhaps he has merely recovered from a delirium. He stands at the gate of his own home. All is as he left it, and all bright and beautiful in the morning sunshine. He must have travelled the entire night.

As he reaches the door, a blinding white light blazes all about him with a sound like the shock of a cannon -- then all is darkness and silence!

The slave is dead, his body, with a broken neck, swings gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek bridge.


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