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ON THE COVER January, 2008

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Speaks The Nightbird
By  Robert McCammon

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(In this excerpt from Speaks The Nightbird, Matthew Corbett has his first encounter with the wily and sex-obsessed preacher Exodus Jerusalem, who has come to Fount Royal to make his own use of the witchcraft trial of Rachel Howarth. This scene takes place in the gaol—the “jail”—where Rachel is imprisoned and Matthew also is serving a three-day sentence for an altercation with a blacksmith.)

Matthew and Rachel had heard the commotion, Paine’s speech, and the voices of the men outside the door, so they knew what to expect. Exodus Jerusalem first paused before Matthew’s cage and peered through the bars. “Who art thee?”

“My clerk,” Woodward said, his voice all but vanished.

“He is present to keep watch?”

“I’m present,” Matthew said, “because I have been sentenced for three days due to an incident I regret.”

“What?” Jerusalem pursed his lips. “A magistrate’s clerk has become a criminal? This too must be the witch’s doing, to undermine the trial.” Before Matthew could reply, Jerusalem’s head swivelled toward the other cell and his gaze fell upon Rachel, who sat on her bench with her sackcloth cloak pulled around her but her face exposed.

There was a long silence.

“Ah, yes,” Jerusalem said at last, “I see a deep pool of sin in that one.” Rachel gave no reply, but she did return his stare.

“Look how she glowers,” Jerusalem said. “Like a hot flame, eager to burn mine heart to a cinder. Wouldst thou delight in flying me to Hell on the wings of a crow, woman? Or wouldst thou be content to drive nails through mine eyes and split mine tongue in two?” She didn’t answer, choosing to shift her gaze to the straw. “There! Dost thou see? The evil in her quakes before me, and she cannot bear to look longer upon mine face.”

“You’re half right,” Rachel said.

“A taunt, it seems! She’s a witty bitch.” Jerusalem walked past Matthew’s cell and stood next to the bars of the other cage. “What is thy name?”

“A witty bitch,” she answered. “You have already named me.”

“Her name is Rachel Howarth,” Bidwell said, standing behind the preacher.

“Needless to say, she is very uncooperative.”

“They always are.” Jerusalem curled his long, slender fingers around the bars. “As I say, I have had much experience with witches. I know the evil that hath eaten their hearts and blackened their souls. Oh yes, I know.” He nodded, his eyes fixed on Rachel. “This one hath committed two murders, is that correct?”

“Yes. She first murdered our Anglican reverend and then her own husband,” Bidwell answered.

“No, thou art wrong. This witch became the bride of Satan when she spilled the blood of a reverend. She hath also bewitched thy crops and the minds of thy citizens?”


“Conjecture,” Matthew had to say. “So far unproven.”

Jerusalem looked sharply at him. “What sayest thou?”

“The evidence is not yet complete,” Matthew said. “Therefore the charges against Madam Howarth are still unproven.”

“Madam Howarth, didst thou say?” Jerusalem gave a slight, chilly smile.

“Thou dost refer to the witch with respect? Gentlemen, I fear we are witnesses to the corruption of a young man’s soul. It is a witch’s evil desire to drag into Hell as many persons as demonically possible. In the Old World, entire towns were burned to the ground and their citizens hanged because they were corrupted by a single witch.”

“That may be so,” Matthew replied, “but this is the New World.”

“Old World or New, the eternal battle between God and Satan remaineth the same. There is no middle ground. Either thou art a Christian soldier on one side or a pawn of the Devil on the other. Where dost thou stand?”

It was a nice trap, Matthew realized. He also, for the first time, realized the convolutions of warped logic that had been brought to bear against Rachel. “If I say I stand on the side of truth,” he answered, “does that make me a soldier or a pawn?”

Read IN's exclusive interview with Robert McCammon about writing.
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IN This Issue
Gory Glory
Undertaker's Moon (Excerpt)
Romantic Intrigue
No Safe Place (Excerpt)
From The Docks To The Commons
The Care Vortex (excerpt)
Irish Mists And Histories
Shadows Will Fall (Excerpt)
A Mind On The Move
The Rush To Here (Excerpt)

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Bald Ego
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Writer’s Block
The path to inspiration starts
Upon the trails we’ve known;
Each writer’s block is not a rock,
But just a stepping stone.

Poetry Is Not
Penned to the page
Waiting for us to admire.
It is only a lonely thought
Caught by tears on fire.

Silent Echoes
A quiet rhyme upon a page
Is what a poet gives;
Some gentle words whispered in trust
To see if memory lives.

Bard From Deadlines
What makes a poem finally work
Is not the time it takes;
It’s how the poet used the muse
To prophet from mistakes.

Be Mused
The art and craft of poetry
Are not so far apart;
The craft comes from the cunning,
The rest comes from the heart.

Fine Vintage
Don’t plant your poem on the page
As though you’re hanging drapes;
It’s shape and flow should come and grow
Like wild summer grapes.

Getting It Write
Writers write what they know best,
Their passions, fears, and dreams;
Writers rarely write about
What other call their “themes.”

Double Vision
A writer’s life is paradox,
It’s more than what it seems;
We write of our reality,
The one inside our dreams.

The echo of a promise,
The thunder of a sigh,
The music of a memory,
A child asking why.

Letter Perfect
Twenty six symbols arranged on a page
Can send a soul to heaven or torment it with rage,
Can free a fragile world or hold it in its net--
The power and the magic of the mighty alphabet.

The Write of Passage
The jump from writing just for fun
To getting paid for it
Begins when you first realize
You know you’ll never quit.

It is not the magic of his wings
That sets us free from our bond.
It is the muse within ourselves
That lets our words lift us beyond.

Photo Poet
Consider your mind the darkroom,
Consider your life the lens,
Consider your eye the camera
On whose focus the poem depends.

Rising Moon
A poem is a rising moon
Shining on the sea,
An afterglow of all we know,
Of all we hope to be.

Star Light
Writing a poem,
Reaching a star,
In making good art
We find who we are.

Spider Web
A poem is a spider web
Spun with words of wonder,
Woven lace held in place
By whispers made of thunder.

The final draft upon the screen,
At last my poem’s through;
A verse of only four short lines--
I rewrote twenty-two!

Read All Of Charles Ghigna's Poetry at

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