Prompt Day #216: Sacrifice a child…or a childhood.
Ok, not an easy one for me. I did not want to sacrifice a baby but I tried. I really did. I tried to come up with a plan where a baby would be sacrificed….but my subconscious got the better of me and steered me right off the road. Sorry. Best I could do with such an awful idea. (I guess I could have sacrificed a childhood but that one gave me no ideas at all.)
New Year’s Baby
The basket intended for the woman who delivered the first baby of the new year grew with each passing day. There would be enough food and supplies to last until the next harvest. She wouldn’t need to work at all. It was a blessing to be the mother of the First Child. A blessing.
Excitement grew in the village as the day of celebration drew near. For this year, unlike any other in memory, there were two women due to deliver. The midwife would have her hands full while the rest of the village placed bets and goods were exchanged. Each of the two mothers-to-be were acutely aware of their precarious situations, each kept eyes on the other for signs of labor.
On the day of the new year, both went into labor. Lying side by side in the birthing hut as the midwife watched over, they cried and sweated and ached together. The village elders waited outside with their ceremonial attire and accoutrements. The basket full of sundries sat next to the basket empty and wanting. The remaining villagers wandered around the hut nervous, praying to their gods for a good reaping.
The time came for both women to push. They cried, they refused to open their legs. The midwife sat back.
“Don’t push then,” She said “See how long that works for you. It is a blessing to birth the new year’s baby.”
“Please, please don’t take my baby.” The first woman cried
“Don’t take my baby either. I can’t do this for nothing.” The second one said
“No one is taking your baby. You are giving the child to the village. Your child will ensure a good harvest and successful year for the village, don’t you want that?” The old woman asked. She wiped the sweat off their brows one after another like a mother herself.
“Noooo!” The first one grunted.
“Pleaaaaaaaasseeee” The second one echoed.
The murmurs of the villagers grew loud and the midwife leaned out to shush them.
“Go away! All of you. You’re upsetting the mothers”
Their screams competed with each other until they drowned together in cries of agony. They pushed involuntarily; guttural moans of pain and loss as their own bodies turn against them to expel their precious cargo. The babies were born at the same time. The midwife cleaned each baby, one male, one female, and swaddled them tightly. Their mothers lay exhausted on the floor reaching out to claim what was rightfully theirs.
“Blessed be to the gods!” the midwife cried. “This year shall be more plentiful than any before. Behold the gods have asked for two sacrifices.” She threw open the doors of the hut with both babes in her arms. The crowd cheered, the empty mothers wailed, and the midwife and Elders began the annual trek to the Red Pit of the Gods.
The newly delivered mothers crawled after them, the cut umbilical cords still hanging from their wombs drug behind them on the ground. Blood dripped down their legs. They moved slow but deliberately and stopped to help the other if one fell or stopped to bleed.
The ground trembled in anticipation of it two course meal. The midwife stumbled, the Elders fell to their knees, and the mothers closed the space between them. As the three women neared the edge of the pit, the ground broke, sending a crevice between the old woman and the young ones. The babies cried, screamed mimicking the cries their mothers made only minutes earlier. The Elders arrived behind the midwife and began their ceremonial prayers. The Red Pit rose as if to accept the offering of the babes. It bubbled and boiled in its anticipation.
One mother stood, she held her own placenta above her head and threw it at the woman who helped bring her child into this world and now planned to send it back out. It hit her and she dropped the intended sacrifices. The mothers leaped across the divide and grabbed their babies just as the earth, angry at the ignorance of the village; at the idea that one life pays for others, blew up.
It swallowed the mothers and the babies, engulfed the Elders and their midwife. It ran red with ire, burning everything in its path. No one escaped. The village was sacrificed to the earth gods who had tired long ago of eating the babies—the spring of humanity’s seasons, while winter prevailed again and again. One day, this land would grow plentiful; nourished by the ash of those who gave their lives. One day the land would give to those who worked for their harvest.