|Image CC-BY-NC-SA by Samuel Maycock|
by Peter Morrison
They came for So To Ain in the night and her parents looked on while she kicked and screamed. She reached out for them, desperately, wishing one of them would take her hand, would make this all stop. But they stood with the chieftain and the shaman and looked on like it was their duty – which it was, to preserve the village from the horrors of the wild.
So To Ain struggled the whole way, but to no avail, the faces she saw glancing from darkened huts, reflecting moonlight, looked satisfied, looked relieved. As they dragged her towards the fence around the village her fate became clear – they were taking her to the wilderness gate. Behind this gate lay monsters, beasts and horrors that the children of this tropical island were raised with. Be a good girl or they’ll get you, go to sleep or they’ll come for you.
There a party of warriors stood, and she saw in them nervousness – the most fearsome men on the island, armed with torches and spears, and they looked afraid. She stopped screaming, stopped struggling, her guts churning, her knees weakening; she thought she would black out.
So, this is where the other girls had gone, over the years?
The shaman steps forward from the group that follows those that restrain her, he takes a drag from his bottle of potion, spits it into the air above the warriors. Showering them with a haze of fluid, of herbs, of magical blessings – preparing them with the protection required to travel out into the night, to carry her to the sacrificial post.
This done, they opened the mighty gates, tall trees felled and roped together by many men, a formidable gateway into the wilderness. The party sets into the night, torches flickering, spears ready, with So To Ain in the middle, helpless to resist as they follow the established path in the dark. They walked for a time, but not a time that was long enough for So To Ain would rather have walked all night than reach their destination.
Their destination was a clearing on the edge of the valley, where a post had been driven into the ground. So To Ain shuddered to see a hand still tied to the post, though no other remains were in evidence.
One of the warriors untied the hand and cast it aside, before those that held her tight dragged her towards the post. She put up a renewed struggle, trying to dig her bare feet into the ground, trying to find a root to cling to with her toes if nothing else.
Though, as the first hints of summer light crept into the sky she found herself bound at last, her hands burning against the ropes where she struggled. The warriors stood for a moment in an unconscious circle, unsure as they looked around as though waiting for a signal.
The group’s leader looked at her and then at his men, before grunting instructions to them. They all looked at her, quickly, furtively, as they filed by her, clutching their spears as they made their way back to the village at a run.