(From the Writer’s Digest creative writing prompt “Night at the Museum”)
I watch from the shadows as each light in the museum shuts off, every one in sequence until the only lights are from the glowing EXIT signs. They had unloaded the truck yesterday, brought out the special display that was only for this weekend, opening tomorrow. That is why I am here. I have to see it when there is no one around, and before anyone else.
I can hear the guards in their office, their mindless chatting about their wives and petty issues at home. I have heard such things many times over the years. The specifics change, but it is all the same. I push them from my mind and move silently to the featured exhibit, where I once again lay my eyes on what is rightfully mine: the athame my mother gave me when I entered the Sisterhood.
The blade glints as I circle it, and the crystal in the handle begins to glow. I smile and reach out to it. The crystal shines brighter as I trace the pentacle on the hilt. “Hello, precious,” I murmur, and finally close my fingers around the handle.
Once I lift the dagger from its velvet-lined display the alarm bells sound, the motion sensor lights flick on. It is only a minute before one of the security guards comes running, and I see the disbelief in his eyes as he skids to a stop. I can imagine how I must look to him: a young woman in medieval dress…transparent and holding a knife.
He pales until his skin is the same shade as the pristine white tile floors. “That’s…..that’s not possible!”
I smirk at his words, spinning the blade in my hand. “I assure you it is, although no one shall believe you. Do you know what this is?”
He swallows nervously, and I can feel the waves of fear rolling off him and feeding my strength. “A….” He licks his lips and tries again to speak. “A knife.”
I shake my head. “So much more than that,” I say. I open my hand to release it, but rather than falling to the floor it floats over my palm. “It is an athame. A ceremonial dagger. Many witches have them.” I can see his eyes bulge, and with an abrupt sweep of my arm I knock him from his feet. “Stay where you are,” I warn, as he immediately moves to get up. “And turn off that dreadful noise.”
The pathetic guard reaches for his radio mic. “Hey….hey George, shut off the alarm.” The bells quiet, then George’s voice crackles across the speaker.
“E-ry-ing o–, Henry? What’s g-ng on?”
I lace my fingers together and try not to laugh as Henry’s radio starts dropping the transmissions and refuses to cue. That was just one of many tricks I learned over the centuries and it was always useful. I can taste his panic now, steadily increasing. “Let me tell you a story, Henry.” I gesture to the exhibit surrounding us: a history of witch trials, from Europe to Salem. “I was murdered in 1553, by the very people I called my neighbors and friends. All because of their fear.” My gaze returns to my athame, hovering, spinning slowly, point down. “There was a ‘trial’ to judge me, after I gave herbs to the Governor’s daughter who was deathly ill. She recovered and they decided I was evil and needed to be put to death. ‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.'”
My eyes turn on him, this weak and spineless man, and my anger builds. The lights in the room flicker as I stalk toward him. “My friends,” I spit the word out, “condemned me, and burned me at the stake.” I crouch beside Henry, nearly touching….that is if I was able and not just a spirit. “Men such as you, who were selected to be fair and stand for justice, tied me to that stake. You built piles of sticks below my feet.”
He scrambles back. “Not me! It wasn’t me!”
“You set me on fire!” My voice echoes down the hallways, and I hear George come running. He draws his revolver upon seeing me, fires until the hammer falls on a spent cartridge. The bullets pass through me without pain or resistance; mine is a joyless laugh, full of hate and anger that have been ruminating in my soul for over three hundred fifty years. “You cannot hurt me any longer!” My dagger shoots through the air at my command. A simple point of my finger and George falls to the floor, clutching the blade buried to the hilt in his stomach. Henry screams, clumsily tries to get up and run away, but he cannot escape me. He falls forward, dead before he hits the ground.
The gem shines as I pull the athame from his back, wipe the blood on his shirt before I reverently place it back on its pedestal. I look back over the bodies. I had my revenge this day, and in three days the exhibit moves on to the next museum, and I with it. They will pay for their ignorance and fear. I retreat from the room, that thought firmly in my thoughts.
They shall all pay.