Willing. Short Story.

Happy Easter!

Hope everyone had a good weekend. I watched a few movies with a friend and had an Easter family dinner. Very glamorous all together.

On with the show!

_____________________________________________________________

The priest walked along the line of people, his white robes almost blinding in the morning sunlight. As he passed each one he nodded or shook his head. Each time he walked to the end of the line, he turned and walked back along it. Slowly the line of people thinned as those who were dismissed left, until there were only ten left of the hundreds that had begun. He moved to stand before them,
“Are you all here of your own free will? Happy and pleased to do what must be done?”
Some nodded their heads, others answered with a loud and assured “Yes.”
“Good.”

He looked at them all, one by one, looking over their bodies his eyes following every curve and bump. Finally, he would meet their eyes and stare at them, without blinking for a few minutes. When he had done this for each of them, he started to point at people. “you, you and you, leave. You, go.”

There were three left now, all standing, shivering slightly as they were cast in shadows. Two men and a woman, all naked and looking directly ahead. The priest nodded to himself, then dismissed the woman.
“Now. Which one of you shall it be?” He approached them both, then chose one. He ran his hands along the mans shoulders, then down his stomach and legs. The movements were cold and detached, clinical as he studied the mans body. When he had finished he turned to the other man and did the same. He stood once more, then shook his head slightly.
“It will be a close one.”
The men glanced at each other.

“It’s been years since something like this has happened.”
The priest turned from the men and went to a small alcove, there he removed a wooden box. He opened it carefully, revealing a silk lined interior. Resting on the silk was a single needle. Small and sharp. He delicately plucked the needle from the box and placed the box back into the alcove. He returned to the two men, “Hold out your hands.” Both raised their hands without hesitation or fear.
“Good. Good.”

He took the needle and with a gentle, steady pressure, it cut into the first mans finger. The man didn’t react. When the priest removed the needle blood started to well at the wound.
He turned to the other man, “Now you.” He repeated the piercing, then he studied the tip of the needle. Finally, he muttered some words, then placed the needle onto the first mans palm. He counted to ten, then did the same with the other man. The second mans hand began to droop slightly when the priest reached four, by the time the priest counted to seven, his hand was almost at his side, it looked as though he was struggling to lift a great weight. Beads of sweat were forming on his brow. As the priest reached nine he grabbed the needle before it slid from the mans hand. He nodded once, “you’re dismissed.” The man, almost panting, turned and left, his head down.

“So that just leaves you.”

The priest circled around the man, eyeing him carefully. “Yes. I can see it now. You’re perfect. We’ll need to get you cleaned up though, this way please.”

The priest turned and started walking, not looking back to see if the man was following.

They entered a large, brightly lit room, in the centre there was a large pool with several other, smaller, pools dotted around it. “The attendant will tell you what to do” The priest left the room.

The man looked around the empty room, unsure of what to do now. A moment passed and a young man entered wearing similar robes to the priest. These robes were a dull grey rather than the blinding white of a full priest.
“Ah. Sorry. I thought it would take a little longer. I’m Adam, you?”
“Um Simon.”
“Ok Simon, to start off, you should have a swim in the main pool, you can swim, right?”
Simon nodded, “Ok, perfect, great! So you swim around for a bit, then I’ll call you when it’s time to move on to the next thing ok?”
Simon nodded then moved towards the water. He got into the main pool, surprised to find that the water was pleasantly warm. He did a few lengths of the pool to warm himself up, then he started doing laps.

“Times up! We’re moving to the next one.”

Simon pulled himself from the pool and followed Adam to one of the smaller pools, its surface was gently steaming. “Right. In you go. Just sit and relax in the water for a moment.”

Simon lowered himself, hissing slightly at the heat of the water.
He eased into it as he adjusted and closed his eyes, allowing himself to relax.
After a moment, Adam handed him a cloth.
“Next step, give yourself a bit of a scrub.”

Simon took the cloth and started to run it over his body, tendrils of black goo began to swirl into the water, Simon let out a cry and jumped up, Adam put a hand on his shoulder, “relax, it’s ok. You’re just getting cleansed.”

“What is that stuff?”
“Sin. Evil. All that. People accumulate more than they realise and while confession removes the worst of it, some gunk gets left behind.” Adam studied the water for a second, “You’re not actually that bad. You must have led a pretty good life.”
“I always try to follow the teachings.”

Simon started to clean himself, this time doing it slower, making sure to get everywhere.
“Now, onto the next one.”
The next pool was slightly cooler than the last and again he was given a fresh wash cloth. The ritual repeated itself twice more before he was brought to the last pool. This one had cold water. The other pools ranged in colour from black to a faint grey. Simon got into the water and looked around for the cloth, “Not this time, just dunk your head under there and you’re done.” Simon took a breath and submerged himself, then he stood, shivering, and Adam helped him out of the pool. He was handed a rough towel and he begun to dry himself.

He was lead to another room, this one was slightly darker and lit with candles, a heady smoke hung in the air in thick clouds. Simon started to feel light headed almost immediately. “Just lie down there.” Adam pointed to a slab of raised rock. Simon lay on it, thankful to be off his feet. His eyes felt heavy, sleepy. “Just relax.”
Adam started to anoint Simon with various fragrant oils. Simon drifted in and out of consciousness until Adam helped him sit up and, still feeing light headed, Simon stood and was lead out of the room to another. Here he was draped in a loose red robe, the final preparation. Despite the smoke and oils, Simon felt a faint thrill of trepidation race around his stomach. Was he really ready for this? Really worthy? He let out a slow breath. If he wasn’t, he wouldn’t have been chosen for it.

He squinted as the light of the setting sun hit his eyes. Below he could hear the dull murmur of the crowd. A head of him stood the priest from earlier, in his shining white robes. Beside the priest was a raised bed. As he approached the edge of the stand, the crowd let out a cheer, the sound crashed over him, almost causing him to stumble backwards. He gazed out at them, amazed to see it from here, all those people. He had been in the crowds before, and he knew that there were many people attending, but he never actually realised the sheer number of them before. The priest held out a hand and Simon took it, the priest led him over to the bed and Simon carefully got himself comfortable. As he settled the crowds noise died and a steady drum beat started. It began as a whisper, gentle and caressing, the chants were low and inaudible. The sound of the drums grew louder and frantic as the chanting of the crowd swelled, other instruments joined in creating loud crashes, soaring notes, all creating beautiful music. The priest stood over Simon, knife at the ready, Simon could feel it building, the crescendo would be reached soon. He smiled and closed his eyes, waiting for the moment of truth, the moment of purity.

Simon didn’t feel the first cut, nor the second. The sound swelled, getting louder, then, the knife plunged down, deep into his heart. Cutting through bone and muscle with ease. His cry of pain joined the crowds roars. The light hit his eyes once more and the crowd started to scream in a frenzy. As his blood flowed down through the channels, pink tinged water sprayed over the crowd, deepening to a dark red as it flew through the sky, burning bright with light from the sun. It covered the crowds as they continued their chant, reaching the crescendo as the hot, sticky blood rained down on them all. The sun finally set and the moment passed, the sounds died down as the blood began to turn to water. The crowd panted and heaved, trying to reclaim some of their breath.

The priest stood, knife raised high over his head, he let out one cry, “He has been appeased!”
And the crowd roared in approval.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 24 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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