Monday, September 6, 2021

Microstory 1706: Upon Altar

Arms and legs tied down, stretched across the altar, I don’t scream or cry. I get the feeling that these people consider the struggle to be part of the ritual, and I can’t give them the satisfaction. There are dozens of them, chanting and watching me. There is no escape, even if I were to have broken free of the two people who were leading me down the stone path in the first place. I don’t know where I am, so where could I even go? No, this is where I die, and if I can’t go out on my own terms, I at least can’t give my killers the satisfaction of knowing they were responsible for my last words. The last time I spoke was to my daughter as I headed into the fields for the day. They were loving and kind, and that is what the universe will remember of me; not this. The guy who seems to be in charge of the cult, or maybe just in charge of the ceremony, approaches from the steps on the other side. He’s holding a goblet with both hands, a knife placed precariously over the lips, threatening to slip off to the ground. No one would get hurt from this, but it would probably be pretty embarrassing for him. Hoping to make this happen, I jerk what little of my body I’m still able to move towards him, and sort of chirp. He’s startled, and almost loses the knife, but he manages to grab it in time. I return to my stoic nature, unfazed and quiet. The leader clears his throat, and recovers. He speaks in tongues, or perhaps just a language I don’t so much as recognize. He’s praying to his god, or the demonhorn, or some nonsense like that. I just lie there and reflect on my life until he seems ready to finalize the sacrifices. His minions lift up my torso and place the goblet under my back. Okay, I thought it was uncomfortable before, but this is insane. He’s obviously planning to stab me, and let the blood fill the goblet, but he doesn’t get a chance. An arrow suddenly pierces his neck, and he falls over.

I wiggle until the goblet tips over, but I can’t get it out from under my back. Still, it’s enough for me to face the action. Everyone in the death cult is fighting one solitary warrior. They manage to get in a few good hits, but he’s powerful and relentless. I get the sense that he’s not here to save me, but that he has some kind of personal vendetta against these people, and I just happen to be in the right place at the right time. They probably sacrificed his spouse or child exactly one year ago, just like this, and he’s finally getting his revenge. He’s nearly gotten it. Only he is left standing, but then the leader gets back up. He breaks the arrow apart, and then stabs it right into the lone warrior’s eye, twisting it with a fiery anger. Just for good measure, he pulls the arrowhead out—a little bit of the eye comes with it—and stabs it in the other. The lone warrior falls down, and begins to die. The leader takes a moment to catch his breath before returning to me. Even without his followers, the ritual must continue. He retrieves the goblet from under me, and restarts the chanting; or as much as he can without a voice. He’s more just moving his lips around, and wheezing. Blood from his own neck wound leaks out, and drips into the cup. Able to stand the blood loss no longer, he falls on top of his enemy, leaving the goblet at my side. Blood red smoke begins to rise from it, and swirls around above me. The particles coalesce into a form, and then a figure, and then a man. He’s straddling me and grimacing. He looks over at the carnage, pleased to see so much pain and death. He looks back at me. “You have freed me from the void. I am forever in your debt. What would you have me do for you first, master?”

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