In strange and ugly parts of my mind, not even dark corners but pieces which are, boldly, without excuse, lethal—cracked floorboards ready to crunch and send you tumbling into unlit and inescapable basements; piles of shattered glass swept into a vague pile and simply left there; places frequented by the hungry things that come out when the Sun goes down to see what they can fit in their poisoned jaws—I don’t want forgiveness.
I fantasize what a real Witch-Hunter, one as wise as we were supposed to be, as brave as the stories tell, a warrior both deeply human and deeply beyond the constraints of the flawed human body and mind…I fantasize what she would have done.
She would have seen sooner that she worshipped false Gods; she would have recognized her instruments of Justice as being, instead, primarily tools of undeserved murder. She would have seen through everything on her own.
She would never have needed to be called a Witch before realizing how broken our profession, our self-deception, our long con, really is.
She would have known. She would have understood. She would have seen. She would have repented of her own volition, and not because, one day, the mob turned on her, and she realized, at that moment, that neither she, nor the Mob, had any claim to Righteousness.
She would have done different. She would have done better. She would have done Right.
And she would have done it soon.
She would have done it before mobs swept back and forth over the land.
She would have done it before the Witch-hunter’s rough methods, held in check by some semblance of logic and reason, were utterly destroyed by the belief that swept every head: “Witches can be anywhere, and they would do anything, and we can and must live in fear and anger, so that we can destroy them wherever, whenever we catch even a hint of something that might be a Witch”.
Someone better would have known that.
Someone better would have done that.
But I? I was proud. I was sure I was doing right. I woke up every morning prepared to make the World a better place. I didn’t listen to critics, or to friends. I knew I ws Right, and if we were Wrong, we’d work it out, we’d talk it through.
I was a battering ram, knocking down the gates of logic and reason, so that those who came after me—a purer breed, perhaps—would never know what those things were like. They would regard every edifice of knowledge as a prison, and every discussion as treachery.
They will burn the World.
And I helped.
Gods forgive me, I helped.
Even if witches were real, they could never curse me as I curse myself.
And even if the ghosts of every single on I destroyed could haunt me, nothing haunts me so much as the blank fury in the eyes of those I once called my friends.
A Witch-Hunter dies as easily as any other human; oh, perhaps we can fight a little more and a little harder, but we are very mortal.
It’s not just me against a mob; it’s me against a mob of my own making.
When I said “Gods forgive me,” I didn’t mean it. I don’t deserve forgiveness; I will never forgive myself.
I probably can’t stop what I helped stop. But maybe I can slow it down. And hopefully, though I’ll go down fighting, I’ll die to it.
That much Justice, I can yet enact.
The preceding essay was brought to you by Dark Lords For Azathoth, and may not necessarily reflect the views of the being who wrote, edited, posted, and marketed this document.
My name is Jeff Mach (“Dark Lord” is optional) and I build communities and create things. Every year, I put on Evil Expo, the Greatest Place in the World to be a Villain. I also write a lot of fantasy and science fiction. You can get most of my books right here. Go ahead, order “I HATE Your Prophecy“ It may make you into a bad person, but I can live with that.