S is for Sacrifice

Once there was a god who needed a sacrifice / and a father who had too many children

I’ve been working on some (maybe eventually 26?) vignettes that I think will turn into a storytelling-around-the-fire framed piece about creating, literally building, our own gods and a subsequent fallout. Here’s one I wrote last week.


B
Another!

A
I’m tired. I can’t… I don’t know if I can remember any more. 
Can you
Would you tell one, please?

A long pause as B considers this, considers what story to tell. They stare at their friend and worry for them. Then:

B
I have one. Sure.

A
Thank you.

B
Once there was a god who needed a sacrifice
and a father who had too many children

A
I don’t know this one

B
No one’s ever told it before
Can I go on?

A
Yes, sorry.

B
The father and his children lived on an island. The island had been abandoned to the ocean, was being pulled into the depths.
One day a god passed by and the father prayed:

“Please great god, mighty god, giver and taker of life, 
god who can stride on oceans,
god who can see through their depths,
god who can see through our depths”

And the god said:
“Get on with it, I’m in a hurry.”

So the father asked the god to save him and his children and their neighbors and friends and the plants and animals he loved and the sacred and beautiful spaces attached to his memory. The father begged the god to save the island.

But the god said:
“I have been saving my energy for a great battle. I have few worshippers these days and I need every bit of strength I can muster for the fight. If I save your island, I will lose my war.”

And the father asked:
“Would my worship be enough? Could you move the island with the strength of my prayers?”

But the god could see the father’s inner depths.

“You worship other gods. Your energy would not be enough for me to save one house. I need a soul with no previous attachment, one who can fully dedicate themself to me.”

A bush rustled and the god took a moment to notice the small child, the father’s smallest child, staring out, watching the exchange. The father looked too. And they all knew what must happen next.

“Give me your child as a sacrifice. Offer them up to me and I will make them my high priest. They will ride on my shoulder and the dedication will be enough energy to place your island in the sky and win my war.”

So what could the father do? He had many children, many friends, many memories. How could he keep one child and allow them all to die, how could he make that decision for his whole people?

So the father kissed the child’s forehead, and placed his necklace around their neck, before lifting them up into the god’s palm.
And the god saved the island.

A
What a sad story

B
Was it?

A
You were the child.

B
No.
I won’t let you turn me into a story.
You can’t have this one.
You better forget it.


Banner image description: flickers of fire rise over a dark sky, framed by the silhouettes of trees. Photo by Nathan Lindahl on Unsplash.


Britt A Willis writes this newsletter and is a playwright, game writer, and designer in Washington, DC. You can find out more about their work at brittawillis.com or follow them on Twitter @feelingfickle.