I don't know if you'll like this at all, but I wanted to share it with you.
Thank you for reading.
The forest clearing is so pretty, so idealistic and tranquil.
Firm, broad tree trunks in the distance extend toward the sky, escaping their gnarled roots below.
Dirt lies firmly packed beneath my feet.
A playful breeze stirs my clothes, my hair, and my breath.
If I were to still my breathing and listen, I would hear the leaves gently jostle above and beyond my head.
It's calm; I only wish I felt the same way inside.
"You can't be serious."
"I am. We are."
I manage a hollow laugh. "Heh, that's hilarious. Mom, Dad, this is great. No, really, you guys got me this time. Ha."
It's not funny – but I laugh anyway.
And it doesn't take me long to understand:
I'm the only one who's laughing here.
My parents say nothing to soothe me.
The faces of the assembly are all straight.
It's terrifying, when before, it was just eerie and creepy – like it's supposed to be.
I'm not supposed to feel threatened.
Nobody ever said my elders would be so sinister, to demand something like this from me.
I knew it would be hard.
I've always known.
Now that it's my night, now that it's my turn, I should feel prepared.
Yet I don't.
This is not how I imagined it would be.
"I told you, child. It's no joke. This is it. This is what you must do to be accepted."
The clearing goes quiet and I realise my throat hurts.
My heart's beating hard and fast, as if wanting to rip itself free and make an escape into the treetops.
But I know I need to be strong.
Squaring my shoulders, I try to shake these feelings off. "Pfft! Yeah, right. So you totally brought me out here because you want me to beat this random kid."
I manage to roll my eyes. "Sure. Where's the tribal music? Should I dance around him a bit first?"
This must be part of their game.
Sure, they're just screwing with my head.
They gotta be.
"No, that won't be necessary. Are you ready to begin?"
I don't pretend to find this funny anymore. My jaw drops. "You… you actually want me to-"
"Yes. Are you ready to proceed?"
"It would be a pity for you to quit. I thought you were made of harder stuff, child."
"You're batshit. I thought this would be a test of my fortitude or whatever!"
"It is. The fortitude of your stomach, of your faith and of your loyalty. Your willingness to perform vile acts in our name. Your brutality. So…"
I stutter as the weapon is shoved into my arms; a simple plank of wood with a roughly formed handle and long nails hammered through the head at odd places, making the makeshift club look vicious.
"Now get on with it." The mistress smiles, peering at me from beneath her hood; her sagging wrinkles are deceptively kind whilst her foggy eyes are only bloodthirsty.
I turn to my audience, disbelieving, and they merely wait patiently, encircling me and the mistress and the sacrifice.
Finally I stare at the club in my hands, imbued with nails.
Is that rust, or bloodstains?
"It won't take long. If you unleash all your power. Only hold back if you wish to be cruel, child."
My eyes widen.
Oh god oh god oh god.
She means it.
She wants me…
Oh god oh god no.
"Well? The sacrifice is waiting."
A sniffle draws my eyes reluctantly back to the boy kneeling in the dirt.
He's barely eight years old, by the look of it.
They were careful when they kidnapped him – or perhaps he was a donation.
His body is almost untouched, though there's a cut running along his shoulder, dribbling blood down his shallow chest.
His cheeks are tearstained, neck uncomfortably craned backward; they didn't even bother to cover his eyes to what I am expected to do, and his frightened stare bores into the essence of me, questioning who I really am.
I worked hard for this night.
But this thing I cannot do.
"What the fuck! He's just a kid!"
"Fine, then gimme a goat or a sheep or-"
"We require the blood of a virgin child. This boy was given to us by the diviner. He has been chosen."
"But… this is insane! I can't!"
"Sure you can, child. You have the power. Just harness it."
"This is the Initiation. Do it or go home."
"All right." I drop the club at her feet. "I will, then."
I'm about to turn and walk out, a path already open to me as cloaked figures disperse, when the mistress' warning stops me dead in my tracks:
"But you will lose any chance you ever had of being like us."
I think about all the years of my life dedicated to becoming enlightened.
"You will be deemed impure and unworthy, and it is the greatest shame."
I think of my parents, standing somewhere among the audience, wanting to interfere but sworn not to.
"We shall be forced to remove you from the flock."
I think of being hunted down like some animal.
I swallow. "I die if I don't kill the kid."
I despairingly shoot a glare up at the evening sky, though the beauty of it softens my face.
Such pretty colours.
"Come, child. Don't be foolish. Embrace your destiny."
I turn back, walking slowly to retrieve my club of the mossy earth.
"Good, child. That is the first step."
I gaze into the terrified boy's eyes as I rise to my full height.
The ropes are tight; I can tell by the red-raw marks beneath, the painful indentations in his arms and legs.
I take a deep breath.
He kneels before me, sobbing through the bundle in his mouth, begging me to not drive the plank into his face where the mark of the sacrifice has been traced in paint.
I smile down at the boy. "Your death means something, you know, kid?"
He shakes his head fiercely, unable to wriggle away though I can tell he desperately wants to, pressing himself back against the pole in the ground acting as his anchor.
I raise my weapon. "Are you watching, Mom and Dad? I'm about to make you proud of me."
At least, I will try.
It's just like baseball.