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The sun sends it’s light across the land, as the morning arrived. Vita awoke, looking out the window, to the dark purple sky. Today was the day. It was time for him to start contributing to the feast. His skin has grown just ripe enough to give.
He rose to his feet and started his daily routine. His father was already out gathering berries and his mother took to the boat, to collect more water. Vita started down the trail, in the tall grass, to the ocean.
“Today is really the day. I’m finally going to do it. It took so many years and now I’m sure I’m ready, there’s no way I can back out of it anyways,” Vita said to himself, as he strolled down the grassy ground, the large trees surrounding him.
The clearing opened up, revealing the deep red liquid, that filled his land. He kneeled down and started to fill his pail, with the vibrant water, they called red sea. It was not drinkable. The many people who dared drink it, died in a matter of three days. Their lungs would start to get tighter and tighter, until they died of suffocation. Not even the best doctors could help.
The fluid creeped, slowly, into the pail until it was filled to the rim. Vita stood straight and trudged his way back to the hut. His father was back home, putting the berries into their storage. Vita nodded at him and placed the pail of red sea next to the table.
“New day, son,” Father said, sitting at the table, and starting to sharpen a blade made from wood.
“New day, father,” Vita muttered, sitting across from his father.
“Have you taken any damage this morning?” Father inquired, like he did every morning and every night.
Vita shook his head. “Not in any new day, Father.”
Father nodded and studied Vita with a careful eye. “Are you ready for the feast?”
Vita simply nodded.
“You are now 13 years. The age of ripeness. It will hurt a lot at first, young one, but as the years go by, it will get easier. Have you listened?”
Vita nodded again. “Yes Father, I am ready.”
Father nodded once again and continued his work on the blade. Vita’s eyes went across the small weapon, knowing that was for him. Father had his own that was sharpened before this new day.
Vita stood and studied the placement of the glimmering sun, looking back at Father. “It’s mid new day, is Mother going to make it in time for the feast?”
Father’s eyes stayed focused on the blade, as he spoke. “She will. You know the consequences if a citizen doesn’t show up to the feast. The ones who don’t show up are foolish. Vita, if you know your mother, then you know that woman is not foolish.”
Vita bowed his head, with a soft smile. His mother was intelligent. She knew how things worked, better than anyone did. Last year was a disaster, four citizens suffered the consequences of not abiding by the rules of the annual feast. Mother was not like those fools.
The sun began to move more into late new day and Mother came home. She placed the block of ice into the freezer and the family started their way to town center.
Other families began doing the same. Vita couldn’t help but start studying the fleshless patches on the older citizen’s bodies.
Father had patches missing from his arms and legs, his dark brown skin, making the bone shine brightly from the fleshless area. His mother had the same thing and so did all of the older citizens. Vita was now going to be apart of that tradition.
They ended their way in town center and gathered around the human made, red pond. Everyone waited, some of them trembled and others were standing still, not showing fear. As the sun moved into midday, the ground rumbled, and the beast made its way to town center.
Vita scanned around at the citizens, seeing if everyone he knew was there. They all made it.
He looked back at the forest, that separated them and the beast. The trees began sway and bend, and the back of the beast came into view. The dull colored orange fur loomed over some of the trees. Sharp snaps happened, from the breaking of some trees, until an opening came and the beast stood in front of the townspeople.
It’s huge four eyes, scanning everyone. It’s tail, sharp as a blade, waving slowly behind the enormous giant. Vita gulped, looking at it. It struck fear through him and through the hearts of everyone else.
The eldest man of the town stepped up and turned to everyone. His arms were a sleeve of clean white bone, making his hand look like they were wearing an ivory colored glove of skin.
The man took his blade, held up his arm, and began cutting out a piece of his upper arm. He winced, but kept going, digging the sharp tip through the tough skin. The piece of skin released from it’s home, making the man groan. The man let out a breath and threw it towards the beast. The beast bent its large head down towards the fold of skin, and smelled it, it’s nostrils flaring. The beast looked back at the man and blinked once, signaling him. The man looked back at the citizens and bowed his head at them. This signaled everyone else to start.
Men, women, and teens took their blades and started to take patches of their skin out. Vita watched Mother, as she started to slice a piece out of her thigh. Blood seeped down her leg, pooling around her. Father started on himself, cutting another piece from his arm, revealing more of his bone. Vita imagined the look of Father, when he becomes an old man. He’s soon just going to be a walking skeleton, like most of the elders. The people who got done, threw their skin into a pile, in front of the beast. The many eyes of the beast watched, making sure everyone who was of age gave their peace offering. Human skin is the only thing he will accept.
Vita’s father kneeled next to him, taking Vita out of his trance. “Okay Vita, your turn. Lend me your arm.”
Vita obeyed, hesitating for a moment, not sure if he’s really ready for this. There’s no turning back, however, because he is now 13 and 13 is where you have to relinquish the peace offering or the beast will single you out. His four eyes see everyone and everything.
Father took Vita’s wrist and brought the blade to his skin, Vita tensed. The blade attempted to pierce his skin, but damage could not be made to his flesh. Father tried harder, but everything he could do, wasn’t making the skin anymore easier to cut.
Father’s breath got hard and his eyes met Vita’s. “You’re not ripe yet,” Father gruffed, looking very unhappy.
Fear struck through Vita. “What’d you mean, Father? I’m grown, I’m of age for ripeness. Why isn’t it working?”
Father simply stood up and turned back to look at the beast, like everyone else was doing. Vita grabbed his father’s blade in fright, and started to try and slice his skin. No matter how hard he tried, it wasn’t going to happen. His skin was not ripe yet. Being of age and not ripe was rare, but it did happen on a few occasions.
As the citizens got finished, the beast, scanned everyone and smelled the pile of fresh flesh. It paused for a moment, then raised his head and looked around.
It’s large legs took a step forward, causing the people to stumble backwards, from the ground shaking underneath them. It’s long claws dug into the mud, as it’s head knelt down. Vita started to take more steps back, but his father held his shoulder, forcing him to stay there.
Courage was a sign of a strong citizen, you were not to show fear during the time of your end. Vita knew this, knowing what the people would look at him as, if he ran away. Father’s hand on his shoulder was telling him what his thoughts were saying. As the beast got closer, Vita’s body shook more and more.
The head of the beast leveled with Vita, it’s mouth grimacing to reveal his thousands of razor sharp teeth. The citizens watched in fear and sadness, knowing what the outcome was next.
The beast let out a low growl, piercing the ears of the young boy. Vita let out a soft squeak of fear, as his father’s hand left his shoulder. Fear struck through his body as the idea of death flew through his brain. 13 was a very young age to die at here, but the rules are the rules for the annual feast.
Like a flash of lightning, the beast’s teeth sunk into Vita, breaking his back on impact. The citizens watched in fright, his mother’s eyes filling with tears at her lost child. His father standing still, watching with anger, his fists clenched by his sides.
The beast gathered Vita’s body into his mouth and the pile of flesh on the ground and ran back through the forest, disappearing until next year.
The people breathed a sigh of relief, knowing they were safe for another revolution, and started to do their daily thing again. Vita’s father took his and Vita’s pail of red sea and poured it into the small pond in front of them. The rest of the townspeople did the same thing.
They hope that one day, the man made pond, will turn into another ocean. Hoping that this will block off the beast from wreaking havoc on their village, and eating more of their people. However, the beast is always hungry.