This story was written for a Write at the Merge prompt. The prompt was to use either the above picture and/or the following quote:
“It stands to reason that where there’s sacrifice, there’s someone collecting sacrificial offerings. Where there’s service, there’s someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice, speaks of slaves and masters. And intends to be the master.” —Ayn Rand
Kaylein stood before the elders, straight and tall. Her face looked confident, but she was terrified. She’d gotten the news last night after Asher brought her home. She touched her lips; they still tingled from his kisses.
She cleared her voice and asked, “Why was I called? It’s not my turn.”
“Malkyn broke her leg. You’re next,” said the chubby elder with a pockmarked face.
“But I’m only sixteen. You have to be seventeen.” Kaylein knew the rules. It was her life at stake.
“You are ready. Remember, this is what you’ve trained for – to save us. Your people depend on our care.” It was the elder with the long braided beard. He gave her a nasty look.
Kaylein bristled. How dare he speak to her like that? Her eyes glowed red, making the elder look away. Her point made, she said, “What if I refuse? I have that right.”
“You have that right, but this is your people’s promise.” Marjole was the elder who trained Kaylein. Her soft voice spoke to Kaylein’s honor.
Kaylein bowed and nodded her acceptance to the elders.
Now, huddled on a wooden bench, she was to dance for the creature. Her feet ached in the satin slippers disguising them. But she couldn’t rub them. Kaylein had no arms or hands. Her people were born with malformations. Some were severe. She was one of the lucky ones.
“I can’t do this. I’m not ready to die.” She pleaded with Marjol, who was allowed to mind-speak with Kaylein.
“If you don’t, they will die and your people with them.” Marjol’s voice was sad, but determined.
“I don’t care. This isn’t fair.” Angry tears spilled down Kaylein’s cheeks.
“Think of the children, then.” Marjol’s voice faded as heavy footsteps thudded outside.
The door flew open. The creature’s musky scent filled the room. Kaylein cringed seeing his sharp teeth, glistening with fresh blood.
His beady eyes reflected disgust; he believed she was weak and deformed. Sprawling on a cushion by the fire, he lifted a hairy finger and made a circle with his long dirty fingernail. Kaylein hesitated.
“Dance! I need sleep,” screamed the creature.
She studied him. That was when she saw it: A piece of bloodied pink cloth stuck in his filthy beard. It matched four-year-old Adrianna’s dress. He’d found the children. Hot rage filled Kaylein.
She began to dance. When his eyelids drifted down, she danced closer. When he began to snore, she started to spin. Her feet moved faster and faster until she was high in the air, hovering just above his sleeping head.
Her shoes burst, freeing her flexible feet and long toes. They wrapped themselves around the creature’s neck and squeezed. He fought, but Kaylein was too strong. She held on until she heard the crunch of his broken neck. The creature was dead.
Kaylein fell. As she lay dying, she heard the children laughing and Marjol whisper, “We honor your sacrifice.”
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This story was partly inspired by the following video of two amazing dancers.