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Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Ritual

THE RITUAL

They danced around her, chanting in some ancient foreign tongue. Or, maybe they weren’t even words. She couldn’t tell.

The light from the bon fire glinted off their semi-naked sweating bodies. Behind them the acrid smell of the blue and red flames crackled into the sky and disappearing into the blackness of the night.

Her chin drooped against her chest. She was tired, so very tired. She was thirsty, so terribly thirsty. They’d been at this for hours.

The ropes wrapped tightly around her wrists burned into her skin. Her arms were numb and her shoulders ached. She was naked from the waist up. No shirt, no bra. Both had been stripped from her before she’d been bound. Embarrassingly her nipples were puckered from the cool night air.

She’d thought the men’s intention was rape, until she’d been bound to a wooden cross. The hard path of the cross down her spine chafed, burrowing into her back, splinters pricking her skin.

Oh, God! she cried. What were they planning? Why had they chosen her?

Hot tears were streaming down her cheeks. Her nose was clogged, making her gasp for breath.

Their chanting elevated a higher octave, speeding up in its beat, in its intensity. The rapid pounding of their feet ramped up, creating hollow thuds against the desert foundation, as the beats and stomps echoed through her heart. Each heartbeat pulsated with the cadence of the dance.

“Shut up! Shut up!” she screamed at them.

They ignored her. Continued their performance without so much as glancing in her direction. Maybe they couldn’t hear over their chanting.

She retched. Immoveable as she was, it trickled down her chin and neck.

Her head lolled against the wooden frame. The song and dance was really getting on her nerves. If only she could cover her ears. If only she could close her eyes and blot out the reality too. There were too many ‘if onlys’. They served no purpose and she wouldn’t allow herself to contemplate them further.

Suddenly they stopped. The crickets silenced. All slithery things ceased to move. The rustle of wildlife stilled. The sudden dead quiet was suffocating to her ramping fear.

Each one turned toward her. Suddenly she was wishing they’d start dancing and singing again.

One man threw back his head—his ornamental headpiece quivering—and screamed into the thick, muggy night air, “Father! A sacrifice!”

“NO!” she screeched, the one word echoing back off rock and stone.

Panting and crying hysterically now, she pulled and yanked at her bonds, slicking wrists and rope with blood.

This isn’t happening. This isn’t happening. This can’t be happening. She chanted, muttering to herself. This is the United States. Things like this do not happen here. It is illegal here.

Happy thoughts…happy thoughts, she chimed, the voice in her head reaching a new level of hysterical.

The man with the headdress—he wasn’t a Native American, but blonde headed, muscled and very attractive—sliced his palm, allowing his red-black blood to pool in an ornate wooden bowl. When he was finished, he slowly twined cloth about his hand. He dipped the thumb of his other hand into the bowl and smeared an inverted cross on her forehead.

Now she was sobbing, gagging and begging them not to sacrifice her. She’d do anything—anything she told them—if they’d let her go. She promised not to tell anyone either. Her word had always been good.

They didn’t listen.

The ache in her shoulders was obliterated by the fear of death. The song and dance number was desirable to the death hum they were now making.

“Give us your strength, Father!” the blonde man intoned, meeting her gaze dead-on.

The blade he slid from his waist was jeweled, pretty to her untrained eyes. The glint of the blade was starkly red from the flames.

“Please…no…” she whimpered. “Please,” she tried again as he approached her.

She gasped when he carved an inverted cross over her heart.

“In honor of you, Father,” the man said and slowly sawed the blade, back and forth, inch by slow inch, into her skin for maximum torture, directly over the inverted cross.

She screamed. The sound of animals scuttling was distant to her ears, her heart pounding there all too noisy.

He pressed his palm to the hilt of the knife and shoved it forward, cracking a rib and sinking it deep into her heart.

She screamed again. Their humming escalated, becoming louder as the sound of her heartbeat receded.

“In honor of you, Father,” the man said again, his eyes sinister black, staring her straight in the eyes as he watched her die, a lusty gleam in his black eyes.

She whimpered as a skeletal image imprinted over the blonde man’s features. A demon clothed as a human.

Her heartbeat silenced. A final breath rattled from her lungs as a whoop echoed on the night breeze.

~~~~~~~~

© Gracen Miller ~ This story may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the author.