The hardest part for the village executioner wasn’t taking children into the forest to sacrifice. No, it was rather therapeutic really. They all knew him afterall—trusted him. It was something else that occupied the mind of the killer as he navigated his way through the brush, the small child in tow. Poor girl. Her parents considered it a privilege to have Baba the Seer select their child this year. Because of them, the entire village would enjoy another bountiful crop season. It was a thing of pride—she would bring honour to the family name.
The walk was quite long, and dusk came upon them suddenly, as did the gnarled, ancient god-tree in all its grandeur. Oddly-shaped talismans, and charms of bird beaks and feathers festooned its branches. Severed skeletons were strewn about its base, all of unsettlingly juvenile size. They had reached their destination.
Out of the bushes came a tall, bespectacled figure. “What took you so long?”
“Doesn’t matter. This is Chika, six years old.”
“But you said the next one would be younger! I could only procure those of a two-year old” he said, handing over a sack.
“Doesn’t matter,” the killer said again. “No one is brave enough to come near the shrine, let alone examine the bones.” He added the contents of the bag to the growing collection around the tree’s base. The tall man crossed himself and held the crucifix on his neck.
“Any changes? Same schedule?” He was anxious to be gone from the accursed place.
“No changes. Same schedule.” A hesitant pause. “Do you think the couple will take her? They’re expecting a toddler.”
The tall man shrugged. “She’s a darling thing, I’m sure they’ll have her. Worst case, the orphanage will. They always try to—”
“Alright. We’re done here. See you next year.”
As he handed the little girl over, he recalled the events surrounding that first sacrificial outing. He’d done terrible things with his life, but the remainder of it he would spend in atonement.
This was the hardest part. Letting go of tiny, trusting hands, the look of sheer terror in their eyes as he gave them over to a stranger for a second chance at life.
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