1590 c/o Shiona Tregaskis

Blood Filled My Mouth When I Spoke

i) Agnes Sampson was the first one in, tufty scalp bleeding, already in the image of herself reoccurring. A white dress with a red cross painted on. I followed her. At one time, I thought I would have followed her anywhere, but this was itself a dead end. She sat down, told me they'd shaved everything, they'd shaved her cunt, everything. I could believe that. I peeled an orange. I gave the orange to Agnes. She broke it, sweeping zest where her long hair was now gone. I kept the peel, it sweated my palm as if the pith were flesh.

ii) Gelie Duncan arrived, took the last empty seat and spilled someone's tea. Then we all had to introduce ourselves, even though we knew each other, and say why we were there. My tongue was shredded dry by the witches' bridle so I couldn't speak but they said it was the rules everyone had to participate so I did. They asked Gelie if she'd kissed the Devil's arse cheeks, if she'd kissed them in the pulpit. She said she had not.

iii) Later that day, Gelie wore thumbscrews and changed her mind about the Devil.

iv) It is natural how we lie. As I listened I wished I could take myself from then, be absent from now, be missing from then. What if I raised myself a ghost in some former world past the smudged curve of memory. What would it be to return to possibility, if such a thing existed. To track the rib and tip of time and come back intact. It is essential how we lie.

v) Blood filled my mouth when I spoke. There was so much blood in my mouth. I could only hear the questions from a distance. It was King James, the actual King James, who was asking the questions. He asked what is the best type of cow and what is your favourite food for a picnic. He came closer and asked more questions, on wig-fitting, fakery, midwifery, beekeeping. Each question made every person in that room feel that life is always what it's like, never what it is.

vi) The king had great forensic skill.

vii) It was like the time this one card came unsigned on that birthday I was ill with the pox. I said to my husband, here, look at this one: the picture on the front reminds me of the sea, even though it's definitely very far from the sea. There was one blank card each year thereafter.

viii) While Gelie rearranged all her furniture when she heard we were accused, I let the safe edges of my home be still. I used to lie in the room made up for night with pictures on the walls that were set so I could see them clearly from the bed. These pictures illustrated everything I knew about love and solitude.

ix) Eventually Anges told the court the king's private wedding vows. She whispered them, verbatim.

x) Which is how the whole thing really took off. They garrotted bald Agnes, and burned her to ashes. Then there was a huge storm, suddener than ever, that lifted off roofs, closed off streets, drowned all the crops. A sinkhole took Gelie's house into the earth. That is the constancy of water. Once in the water you are alone. After the storm, awnings dripped.