Chapter 18 – Burn the witch
A choking smoke was rapidly filling the small low-ceilinged room of the cottage, and I knew I should try and get out. I did not move. My courage failed me for without Edward, lying dead beside me, nothing mattered to me anymore.
Why? Why was he taken from me? I could not understand why we were not allowed to enjoy a happy life together. Sobs were raking my chest as I realized only one thing; Edward was dead.
They had shot him through the heart, and I was left alone to die a horrible death.
Lying on my stomach and unable to move, I felt the fabric of Edward’s wet coat under my cheek. At least I was grateful for that; I would die with my head close to Edward’s heart. I closed my eyes and tried to breathe. Smoke was choking me and causing me to cough, but the coughing brought me no solace. My eyes were stinging now and a sudden impulse to fight made me move my head higher on Edward’s chest. It only made me cough harder.
The heat from the flames was reaching a dangerous level now. The fire had set the thatched roof alight and pieces of it were falling down. I was now so terrified that I crept closer to Edward as if searching for protection. I screamed and sobbed and coughed, all in the same, sheer panic.
“Damn it, Jane! Will you give me some space here? It’s hard enough to breathe in this vile smoke without you burying me with your body, no matter how lovely a prospect that may be!”
Violent coughing accompanied this outburst of Edward’s, and I lifted my head. He was alive!
“Edward … how …?” A fit of coughing cut my words.
“Not now, Jane! Move over!”
He grunted and tried to sit up and only now I noticed that he too was bound hands and feet.
All I could see just then was the ugly red stain on his chest and the next second, I was retching uncontrollably. The contempt of my stomach forced its way up into my throat; the next moment, I was violently vomiting. Water, for I had not eaten since breakfast. I gasped for breath and vomited again. Panting and heaving, I lay with my face in the dust, sick and miserable.
“Sweetheart, Jane, darling, come on, we have go get out of here …”
I wanted to move, I wanted to follow Edward’s coaxing voice, but my strength failed me. There was no air left in the room, only smothering smoke.
My husband turned his back to me and shouted between coughs, “Give me your hands, darling! Alright, that’s it. Just cling to my hands, never let go.”
He grasped my bound hands with his and squeezed them tight. With a grunt of effort, he then shoved himself forward, first thrusting his legs in the direction of the door, then pulling his buttocks towards his feet, and dragging me along with him in the process. I was a dead weight but could do nothing about it. I was so ill and weak I barely managed to stay conscious, and the coughing was raking my body even more. The fact that he had to take my weight with him with every shove was considerably and quickly draining Edward’s strength. His laboured breathing became heavier by the minute.
“Jane … sweetheart … you have to help me, we are not going to make it.”
“I … I … cannot … breathe …”
“Yes, you can! Take shallow breaths, come on, you can do it!”
I did as he asked and it helped … a little.
“Come on, my brave witch, we have to get on our feet now. Hold on to my hands. Good girl! Now put your back firmly against mine, yes, that’s it! Pull your feet up and … now push upwards!”
I failed, my legs were numb and my lungs ached from the lack of oxygen.
“Jane, will you please stop being such a weakling and do as I tell you to! Damn it, woman, I don’t want to die just yet!”
Fury rose in my chest when he spoke like that to me, and well he knew it! The next time I succeeded and we were standing on our two, tightly bound legs.
But Fate had other things planned for us. With a rumbling sound like far away thunder, the roof slowly came crashing down on us and everything went black.