Ritual (Flash Fiction)

(struggled with this one for two days, not happy with it, but gotta move on)

Catherine walked down the candlelit hallway on wobbly legs. Her vision was a blur, blooming with the small flames fluttering around her. As the heroin flowed in her veins, each weak pulse from her heart pumping it along, pumping her along, a dull edge of reality began to slice through. Realization. Fear. They were terrible things that brought with them small doses of sobriety. A silk robe scarcely covered her and split down the middle to reveal her nakedness beneath. The silk licked at her skin and felt like dirty sex, bad love. The two men walking behind her in black robes of their own felt more like stalking wolves than escorts. They rounded a turn and entered a large room. I recognize this place, Catherine thought. Where is the piano?

A ring of silhouettes formed a perimeter around the room, and the two stalking escorts broke off to complete the circle. An altar surrounded by candles dominated the middle. The polished marble floor shone with the reflections of those small flames and looked like a sea of liquid-fire. At the head of the alter stood a man in robes of red silk. A white mask covered his face, and black openings hid his peering eyes in the dim light. I know you, Catherine thought. He waved a gloved hand at the altar. Catherine, her conscious blurring with drug and fear, understood her final purpose in this world. She let the thin robe fall from her body. As she climbed onto the stone altar, her voice croaked with weakling cries. No one spoke. No one intervened.

There’ll be no amazing grace tonight, she thought. Only the wretch.

With tears in her eyes, she laid herself down. The man in red caressed her face with a large ring made of silver. On the ring was a goat head with two large horns. He began his speech in Latin, and the crowd responded in kind.

It’s strange, she thought, her head swimming with fear and lingering euphoria. I’m too worthless for God to save, but worth enough to be offered as sacrifice. The speaker moved his hands, and Catherine splayed her arms in the shape of the cross. Her bottom lip quivered, and her chest shook with pitiful sobs. She wondered why she didn’t get up, didn’t run. She wondered why no one else bothered to ask why. But they all knew why. It’s only a matter of time anyway. I know my place in this game. Why continue on?

The man in red raised a long dagger into the air, and his voice grew louder. The candles in the room, lining the walls and surrounding the altar, flickered as though a large window were opened. The clean steel seemed to glow with the golden light from the fire. It came alive. A cold hand of fear clutched her heart like bone. Why create me if you don’t want me? Why see me sent off to the only one who would truly do me harm?

The blade came down in a thrust and buried itself in her chest. As the cold metal pierced her heart, she felt the worst pain of her life. It was the absolute destruction of faith and complete loss of hope.

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