She tried to stand straight and still, but her knees were knocking so hard she thought the whole crowd would be able to hear them banging together as loud as church bell chimes. Her hands were clammy, but she didn’t move to wipe them on her skirts. The soft, slippery material wouldn’t do much to dry them, anyway.
She fixed her eyes on a point in the distance, high up so she would keep her head up.
The noise was appalling; the shouting, the screaming, the yelling. She remembered a lullaby her mother used to sing when she had been a little child, and she tried to fill her ears with it instead.
The noise carried on, unabated, and now she heard a voice telling her to step forward.
A smell hit the back of her throat as she did so. Raw, rotten, and metallic. The smell of blood. It was everywhere, surrounding her like a cloud. Drawing her in. Enveloping her.
Her foot slipped slightly; the floor was wet. She didn’t look down to see why. She didn’t need to. She knew that he had gone before her. She knew that she was standing in his blood.
The executioner stepped forward, the sun glinting off the point of his axe. He had, at least, cleaned it before she stepped forward. A cloth was placed over her eyes and she knelt, reaching out blindly to find the block upon which she was to place her head.
“I am ready,” she whispered. “Do it quickly.”
© Kari Fay