Saturday 18 June 2022

'Condemned Souls' by Vanessa Couchman

I hear their screams.

I drag my feet, knowing that I will soon be crying out with the same primitive terror.

The alleyway that seemed dark and forbidding, with its stink of urine and high walls pressing in, is now a refuge.

“Come on,” they say, tugging my arms. “You must do it.”

I try to pull away, dig my feet into the cobblestones, but they drag me with them.

The screams rise in pitch. The smell of hot oil makes me gag. Beneath the hubbub, a whisper rises and falls, like the tide slipping up a beach and sucking out again. I sense a press of people. My heart bumps hard against my chest.

We turn the corner, and the light hits me. An orange glare reflects off a face and flickers up the damp stone walls.

A crowd circles the square, their faces distorted by the flare of the bonfire. In the centre stands the instrument of torture. The condemned souls wheel round and round, the motion ripping ragged cries from their throats. A few more minutes and it will be my turn.

Why did we have to come? I’ve always hated the St. Giles funfair.

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