Life in the village of North was quiet and peaceful, with only 4 scheduled murders a year and only one ritual a week. Besides the spirits in the forest behind the walls being too picky and greedy, nothing bad ever happened. Of course, when they did they demanded the sacrifice of the youngest child in the village, but that hardly ever happened.
It was too quiet and peaceful for Kaylinn, who had been the youngest until not too long ago. Two years ago Nicolas was born, and the constant fear of being sacrificed at the next quarter ritual had passed onto him. The only excitement she had known was gone, and now life was simply… well… quiet. Her chores – the whole point of her being here – had changed so dramatically she struggled to cope at first, but their village Elder and their High Priestess of the Spirits had both assured her that this was normal.
Her parents were farmers, but she wanted more. The night of her sixteenth birthday she went to their small church, and asked the High Priestess to take her in as her pupil. She was an adult now and could do anything she wanted, but the church did not take new disciples easily.
The High Priestess had looked her up and down, and had finally smiled.
“You’re Kaylinn, daughter of the Spirits, now. Be prepared to strike at a moment’s notice. Be prepared to kill for our lord and saviour, Ba’al. Be prepared to follow me into the woods for the next ritual, and we shall find you your first sacrifice.” The High Priestess had touched her shoulder gently as she had recited the words given to every new pupil. It was an old gesture, maybe as old as the woods themselves, and just as unforgiving. She belonged to the Spirits now, and to the High Priestess. In time, once the High Priestess had passed all her knowledge down to her, she would kill her new teacher. The old woman would become a sacrifice for the spirits – an honour which one day would befall her also.
Her parents were so proud when she had told them. The entire village would depend on her, in time, and they already treated her with the respect she deserved. Her life had finally been good.
Until now. Entering the woods had not been what she had expected. She had been separated from the High Priestess a few hours ago and had wandered aimlessly through the dark trees and clearings since then. They were high trees which stood closely together, making it impossible to see far ahead during the day. Now that the moon was shining brightly it was even harder. The moon and the powers ruling it were the natural enemy to the Spirits living here. Its light never reached the ground.
Careful not to stumble an injure herself Kaylinn felt her way through the trees. Dark things lived in here, but she was the pupil of the High Priestess – soon to be High Priestess herself! – and the Spirits would not touch her. They needed her as much as she needed them.
A scream escaped her lips as a rough hand as cold as ice and as hot as the inside of a volcano touched her shoulder. She turned around only to see herself in the presence of a Spirit.
Immediately she fell to the ground, reciting the prayers her mentor had taught her. Above her the Spirit smiled, pleased, and waited until Kaylinn had spoken all one hundred and ten lines.
“Rise.” Kaylinn did as she was told, ignoring the sharp pain in her knee from where she had fallen onto a sharp rock and a branch which was sticking out. The rock was dug into the ground now, forced there by her weight, and the branch had broken under her. As it should be.
She did not dare speak. When in the presence of a God… She did not need to wait long. The Spirit spoke, her voice smoke and impenetrable wall both at once. “Come, daughter. We have a new fate for you.”
The Spirit held out its claw-like hand, the leaves of their home rustling between her branch-grown fingertips. Her heart beating so hard Kaylinn hoped it might stop, she took the Spirits offer –
and felt the ecstasy and terror course though her immediately as the Spirit breathed new life into her. The world had gone dark. She opened her eyes inside her mind, keeping her old, physical eyes shut tight, and saw everything.
All of my 10-Minute stories are improvised, unplanned, and unedited apart from spelling and grammar mistakes. The idea is to kick-start the dreaded Monday with a short, creative exercise without thinking about it, and simply writing for the sake of writing.
For all other 10-Minute shorts, take a look here.