As people are led to the gallows in London, the narrator tells the reader, they have the right to face his sword. A wound from his sword will let all know whether the condemned is a saint or a sinner by whether it draws blood. The narrator prays they will decline the offer.
The story consists of the hangings of several people and the crowd’s reaction. Most of the condemned, as might be expected, decline to be stabbed. Perhaps they have enough on their minds. However, those exceptions prove to be heartbreaking.
According to her notes, author Kat Otis drew on the digitized records of London’s criminal courts from the Old Bailey Online project (oldbaileyonline.org), for her characters. Perhaps this is one reason this story is peopled with human and real actors, both those who are terrified and those who don’t seem all that bothered.
I like this sad little tale. It says a lot in a small space, though it’s not necessarily one to enjoy.
Author Kat Otis says she when she’s not writing, she’s a historian, mathematician, singer, and photographer. Her work has appeared in Kaleidotrope, Mysterion, Factor Four Magazine, and in the anthology Alternate Peace.
The story can be read here.
Title: “The Sword of Saints and Sinners”
Author: Kat Otis
First published: Daily Science Fiction, April 20, 2020