On a soundless day, near the end of summer, the fog hung oppressively low near Shoal Creek; I had been passing alone on horseback through a tract of country and found myself, as the morning drew on, with the view of a single log cabin. At first glimpse of the cabin, a sense of curiosity spread through me. I gaped at the scene before me—before the cabin, and the vibrant flowers mixed with herbs and vegetables wrapping the structure like a protective shield, upon the enigmatic and dark windows, and upon a shadowy grove of trees—with an utter awe which I can compare to no secular sensation.
There was something remarkable about Elizabeth Montgomery. She was tall, elegant, and strikingly beautiful—her sapphire blue eyes exposed my heart’s desire. I acknowledged her benevolence, her warmth, her love, her peculiarity that captured my attention. Her heart pounded in my head, as I felt her pull me down into an unknown and unexplored territory—betrayal to my oath as a husband and preacher.
The room in which I found myself was trivial and unpretentious. Upon my entrance, Elizabeth Montgomery greeted me with a vivacious tenderness. I glanced at her and felt her sincere hospitality. We sat down; and for some moments, in which she remained silent, I gazed upon her with a feeling of awe. It was with difficulty that I could bring myself to admit she was the most beautiful woman I had ever encountered. Her face was remarkable. A porcelain complexion; eyes large, sapphire, and luminous beyond comparison; lips thin with a beautiful curve; a delicate nose; dark, ebony velvety hair accentuating her divine face. Yet, she displayed a spirit of abstraction in her demeanor.
“What are you?” I asked.
She seemed infatuated with an ancient and mystic spirit. The thought of being exposed to the bizarre startled me, but she was a marvelous creature. I ridiculed the idea of “love at first sight”; but I now advocate its existence. This unusual woman threw me into a perfect infection of excitement—a euphoria of obsession. I became consumed with passion.
Upon arriving home, I found it past five o’clock in the afternoon. My wife closed a book and leaned forward in the chair, placing herself in a position to greet me. It was then; I despised Elizabeth. She refused to escape my thoughts. She placed me in an earthly purgatory—a purgatory I needed to escape.
It must be understood that neither by phrase nor act had I given my wife or congregation reason to question my fidelity and faith. I continued, as was my method, to smile when I greeted my wife in the mornings, to shake hands with members from my church, and no one suspected my smile was the thought of visiting Elizabeth once again. Elizabeth was my weakness—in other concerns I was a man to be regarded and even feared. I prided myself on my piety. I was, however, becoming skillful at deceit, and desired to see her once again.
It was about dusk, during the harvest moon, that I encountered her again. She wore a form-fitting, dark blue dress. I was so pleased to see her. I said to her, “My dear Elizabeth, we are luckily met. How remarkably well you are looking today.”
She approached me with excessive tenderness, and she offered me warm and freshly made apple cider. I took a sip. I felt something slither across my boot. I looked down and a black snake tried coiling itself around my left ankle, looked up and hissed. I issued a sound I did not know I could make because I lacked other means to voice my horror and fear.
I stumbled to the door and raced to my horse.
During my sermon the following day, I found myself somewhat disturbed about the course I was chasing. I stood preaching about loving thy neighbor and forgiveness, and yet, the endless thoughts of Elizabeth Montgomery consumed me. I had endured as I best could.
It immeasurably alarmed me, for I considered the snake an omen. An omen of my transgressions. I visited Mr. Crawford, who possessed more degree of calmness than myself. When I fully expressed my concerns Elizabeth about practicing witchcraft, he paused for a moment, stepped to a bookcase, and brought forth the Bible. He opened the book, and began reading, “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” He here closed the book and leaned forward in his chair.
“I had my doubts,” I replied, “and I was naïve enough to believe she was a recluse, but she is engaging in witchcraft. Of that I am certain.”
“My friend,” Mr. Crawford said, “how are you so certain about her practicing witchcraft and how do you plan to address this problem?”
“She must hang according to the word of God,” I said.
“A hanging?” he asked, at length.
“A hanging,” I replied. “How long has she been casting spells and evil on our little community? To preserve our future, she must hang.”
Mr. Crawford remained silent for many minutes.
“I lack your desire for haste,” he said, at last.
“Come,” I said, with decision, “we will go to her cabin; the future of our community depends on our action.”
“True-true,” he replied “and, indeed, we must not tolerate witchcraft.”
At the most remote end of the Ozark Mountains, there appeared her cabin. Mr. Crawford leaned upon his saddle heavily. We continued our route in search of Elizabeth Montgomery. I had scarcely brushed my knuckles on her strong wooden door when she opened the door, standing erect and strong with her luminous sapphire eyes casting judgment on my damned soul. The black snake from my previous visit rested on her shoulders.
“Proceed,” she said.
“Elizabeth Montgomery, you are charged with engaging in the occult,” I said. “You are sentenced to death by hanging.” As I said these words, I grasped my coat’s hem.
She stepped forward and placed her arms in front of me. “Well, I suppose I must be apprehended and properly executed.”
There was a long and obstinate silence. I held tightly her hands and laid the noose around her beautiful, slender, and elegant neck. It was now midnight, and our task was ending as we prepared her for hanging on her oak tree.
A sequence of loud and shrill screams burst from her throat and thrust us violently back when we pulled the rope. For a moment, we hesitated and trembled. Removing my pistol, I began to pull the trigger when silence filled the chilled night air. Her lifeless body swaying with the wind.
“Elizabeth!” I said.
No answer. I called again—
No answer still. We thought it safe enough to bury her in a secret location. By the time the darkness of the night weakened into dawn, and dread raced down my spine. Mr. Crawford and I vowed silence. At first, I tried to shake off this nightmare from the soul. I felt a maddening desire to shriek aloud.
It is now more than six months since Elizabeth’s hanging. I paid her a visit. To my complete and utter shock, a gravestone. I dropped to my knees in shame.
A rough grasp seized my shoulder. I turned and locked eyes with Mr. Crawford.
“Why, Mr. Crawford, you must be a fool! You are not mad at me; I am your friend,” I said as he placed his pistol within inches of my chest and fired. The bullet plunged into my chest and as I tumbled to the ground. I gasped for breath.
During the action, my friend, Mr. Crawford, as if possessed, interjected, “Now, my dear friend—for your sins, you are to suffer the infliction of death.”
I had turned to the right as Elizabeth Montgomery came fully into view. Gradually, vision by vision, I could scarcely help imagine that she was an illusion. The black snake coiled around her arm.
She cackled before I faded into darkness.