Sharnee Rawson, Grade 10, Grafton High School
Excellence Award in the 'Read Write Repeat 2015' competition
It is yet a minute until my time of birth and already they prepare the Sacrifice. A tribute to my near sixteen years and my contemporaneous ascension as Skarmonph.
“I cant believe it,” my mother is saying to my left, voice thick and choked with unshed tears, “my little girl is all grown up.” She squeezes my shoulder, more for her own comfort then mine, but all the same I am quick to shrug away her hand. I cannot afford to appear weak, not in the eyes of my future confrère and most certainly not before the council. Within me, more then most, they will search for faults, flaws and inadequacy. An opportunity to thrust me from their ranks and rob me of my forthcoming role as protector of our people. A girl in a job made for men.
To my right, my brother I think, tightens the red silk sash across my eyes and straightens my ceremonial pafta with a deft flick of his wrist. Though my mother had adjusted the crimson garment weeks earlier it still feels a little too large, the fabric weighted. “A metaphor for age,” my brother would likely say with all the wisdom he could muster. But there is no time for sagacity, and as the drums begin their chorus my brother has time for only a brief “good luck,” before he steps away.
Around me, hundreds of distinct noises call their stories; a drunken howl, a smashed bottle, the feral scream of flame. But tonight I labour to hear only one. From before me, some several paces from where I stand, there is a thump and a muffled cry as the nights Sacrifice is forced to kneel, hands bound to the rod behind him. I strain my ears, listening to the sound of his fevered breathing. He is scared of me, I think with barely subdued delight, me who will end his life. I recognize immediately that it is an oddly savage thought, but before my mentality can be examined the blindfold is ripped from my eyes and the light and sights engulf me.
The Sacrifice is centerpiece to a feral storm, a second hell lit by the orange-red glow of flame and our own shameless uninhibition. Hieronymus Bosch I think wonderingly, but the gathered crowd is more satanic than any painting. One man, bare-chested and unsteady, tips a bottle against his lips and I watch as liquor dribbles down his chin. They are unruly and restless, dark goblins who turn their gazes now to me expectantly.
Do it, I think ferociously, this one last obstacle.
It is difficult however, for in the near-dark the Sacrifice looks near human. He stares, pupils dilated with terror, ribs coloured with orange dust. Almost a man. A resemblance flawed only by the creatures wings; golden monstrosities bolted tight to the soil.
No second thoughts I think, and feel within me some small savage thing as it screams wakeness. In this moment, this minute, it is time.