Upon awakening, Larry Sowder knew that his perplexing sleep ‘mania’ had returned. “Who in the Lorde’s name is the wayward soldier which I dream of every night?” He knew not of the gray and blue armies fighting each other, nor was he familiar with their specific civil conflict. Regardless, they spoke the King’s English and fought within the colonies. It was as if he was witnessing a distant future! A future as troubled as it currently was for his own time. He feared that it was a dark omen or spiritual metaphor for the evil that was brewing in Salem.
Goody King had warned him of an enchanted menace in the village but he dismissed it as idle gossip. Now he regretted not taking the old fool’s words seriously. As more wyches were uncovered, they took their vengeance on Lorde fearin’ folk. Already, twenty one had confessed and been hanged for their heresy. There didn’t seem to be an end to the Wychfinder General’s zealous crusade against conjurers of evil. One didn’t dare look directly at him, for fear he would think they were giving him the ‘evil eye’. Soon, they would be next to swing from the gallows.
It was common knowledge that Satan worked his evil through dreams and arcane visions. Larry knew that the reoccurring dream about the gray army spy had to mean something. He just couldn’t understand how it could be proof of retribution from angry wyches. The truth was, one could never tell what evil plots the Devil’s servants had on their minds. He was petrified with worry over what the persistent omen meant; and what the future had in store for him. In his highly agitated state, he made the mistake of telling his Minister about his suspicions that Sunday at the church service.
Reverend Proctor exclaimed; “Larry my son, can’t ye see? Just as Satan pretended to be full of righteousness; he was cast out of Heaven and has been fleeing the Lorde’s justice ever since. The wyches want you to feel sympathy for their fugitive master. They have disguised his true identity in your bewitched dreams. Drastic measures must be taken to root out this evil spell placed on you! I will do all in my power to spare your soul from eternal damnation.”
Larry was terrified and exhausted. The good reverend’s fiery rhetoric and symbolic analogy made sense. Maybe he really had been bewitched by one of the damned souls. He was willing to try anything to rid himself of their consuming curse. His eternal salvation depended on cleansing himself of any evil that had been cast upon him. Then the stern church leader detailed what the ‘drastic measures’ were.
“Tonight you must be locked in irons and kept awake. This is to prevent you from serving the unwholesome, evil purposes of the Devil and his minions. If you fall asleep, I will rouse you with the sting of a whip. In this necessary manner, the wyching hour will pass onto daylight where their powers are the weakest. Then their curse will no longer haunt your dreams. After the spell has been vanquished, it will be safe again for you to sleep as a pious man.”
Upon hearing the methods to ‘free him’ from his nocturnal bewitchment, Larry tried unsuccessfully to back away from the plan.
“You must not resist, Brother Sowder. They have you in their diabolic power! They fear I will free you from their powerful clutches. The church must do everything necessary or you are bound for Hell! If I can not keep you awake tonight then I will burn out those demons with a red hot branding iron! Guards! Seize him!”
Not surprisingly, Larry slept very little. Just as he was slipping into unconsciousness, he was snapped back by Father Proctor’s red hot iron. Before the night was through, he had welts on his arms, chest and legs. When he did doze off momentarily, it was immediately back to the other ‘reality’ of Marvin Thornton. The transfer between identities was nearly complete when Larry was jolted back to consciousness by the overzealous Reverend. Finally dawn’s early light became visible over the horizon. Larry Sowder could finally sleep in peace.