crowd mob ink sketchDespite the cold, hundreds had gathered at the town square. Each person wielded a weapon: Shovels, thick wooden sticks, pipes, even bricks.

“You’re just a child,” said the man, “step aside!”

Ben wasn’t intimidated despite being a foot shorter than most of the crowd.

“That may be so, but she is my prisoner,” Ben said calmly.

“She ought to die for her crimes!” yelled a voice from far back.

The crowd agreed. Ben glanced over his shoulder at the accused. The woman stood on her knees; her short cropped hair was as silky as her blouse. Most of her soldiers had cried and pleaded for their lives, but she did neither. With her back straight and chin high, she held herself above them even in defeat. Her pompousness annoyed him, but it also strangely enticed him. Ben walked over to the two soldiers guarding her.

“What say you?” he said to Alex.

Alex gripped her rifle tightly and without glancing at the woman she said, “Shoot her in the head.”

Ben knew she’d say that, so he looked to Bear, who was kicking some pebbles with his boots. His round body seemed softer and chunkier.

“She should have one of those, what do you call them,” he scratched his head, “a trial.”

“Death is her trial!” said a voice from the mob.

“Are you guilty of the crimes they accuse you of?” Ben looked at the woman.

The woman stared up at him. He could barely believe that a woman with such soft almond eyes could do such horrible things to children.

“I did as commanded, as you were commanded to murder my soldiers.”

Ben didn’t know what to say, if only his age matched his old worn face he might have said something smarter than, “We didn’t murder your soldiers.”

He could smell her perfume and see the bit of cleavage which peaked from her blouse. A youthful excitement warmed his body. He distracted himself by gazing at the mountain range which engulfed the small town. So much had confused him. He had executed dozens of soldiers, which was just as gruesome, but what the townspeople wanted seemed beyond horrible. A noise caught his attention. Whispers trickled from the wheat fields. Ben knew who was hiding; he had been one of them.

“Thirteen and fourteen, that’s how old my boys were when she,” said a woman, but she couldn’t continue, the details of their murder were too much for her.

“I’ll shoot her,” he said pulling his gun from its holster and pressing it against the woman’s temple.

“No!” said dozens of voices.

“She deserves pain,” said one.

“She took our children!” said another.

A breeze swept past. People buttoned their jackets while others crossed their arms. Ben took a moment to think. Something more was at stake, but what? A fog lingered where the answer should be. He plucked a cigarette from Alex’s breast pocket and lit it. She gave him the stare that said there is no time for this. He sighed and turned towards the townspeople, “Okay, do as you wish.” Ben nodded to Bear and Alex. The three of them walked down the stone path leading out of the town square.

A rush of steps moved across the cobblestone. Boots kicked at her back, her face slapped against the ground. They tore at her blouse, ripping every piece of clothing leaving her breasts exposed to the bitter cold. Pipes and bricks shattered her knee sockets. There was cursing, spitting, and screaming. Chunks of skin and hair were ripped from her scalp. A man swung his club to her head. Blood trickled from her forehead into her mouth. They beat her face into a paste of flesh and shattered bone.

Ben glanced at the wheat field where the town’s children hid behind the tall blades of wheat. Their curious faces watched as their parent’s bludgeoned the woman to death. He could see their blank, cold faces soaking in every drop of blood, and it suddenly occurred to him what was at stake.

This story was a response to the Daily Prompt: Bludgeon