Prompt: Every month, a child sacrifice is offered up to a monster outside of town. However, in actuality, the child is one whose parents are more than happy to get rid of him, and the monster acts as the head of a boarding school for these abused children.
“Is everything prepared?” Victoria asked Mary, who straightened from flattening the freshly cleaned sheets across the bed. Her hair of tendrils gleamed under the recessed candlelight, and her pale flesh dimly glowed.
“Everything is prepared, Mrs. Mort,” Mary said, looking up into the vats of nothingness of Victoria’s innumerable eyes.
“What about food? Water? Is the restroom cleaned?” Victoria asked, and walked past Mary, wrapped one of her vines splaying out from her tattered, black gown around the curtain’s hem and pulled. The was no need for them to look into the Abyss.
“The kitchen has been notified of our new arrival, as they always are every month. Water has been taken from the spring. The restroom is clean, too.” Mary said, nodding with each sentence, as though she were going down a list, checking each item off.
“Good, good.” The headmistress sighed. “I know I’m being demanding, but these poor children… They’ve been mistreated so much already…”
Mary neared her, and padded her broad shoulder. “It’ll be well enough, soon, Mrs. Mort. Soon the child will be here, with the others… Soon the bell will—”
In the distance, beyond the spiraling valleys and swirling Abyss, the bell atop the old church tower at the edge of the town rung. She had been summoned.
“Come on, then!” Her mother shouted, standing over her nude daughter as she scrubbed the grime from her cheeks in the backyard. “Hurry! We mustn’t be late for the offering!”
Tabitha took the iron wool to her face, then her shallow chest, then to her stomach and nether regions. The mud she stood in oozed in-between her toes. The cold night breeze wafted in-between her legs. The steel cut and scratched her coarse skin, made places bleed that she didn’t want to think about. Tears fell and her thin body shivered.
She heard her father step into the doorway, blocking out the glow of the hearth falling into the yard. His shadow blanketed her. For a moment she wondered if this is how it felt to have a father who held her. “Is she done? Is she ready?”
Her mother shouted back, “No, not yet!” Her mother’s hand smacked the back of her head, and she nearly tumbled forward, but she caught herself, continuing to scrub the dirt that wasn’t there. “She’s dragging her damn feet!”
She heard the muck suck at he father’s boots as he strode over to her. He snatched the hand gripping the bloody, steel wool and whipped his daughter around to face him. His brown, narrow eyes were hard, and his upper lip sneered as though he were looking at a beast. He inspected her hastily, and said, “She looks clean enough. Put the gown on her and let’s go. The bell—”
In the distance, beyond the small, shanty cabins and brimming pub, the bell atop the old church tower at the edge of the town rung. She had been summoned.
Victoria moved from the room, Mary drifting at her heels. Victoria sucked in air through the gaping maws hidden under her cloak, feeding the innards that would push her insides out. Her eyes widened, glowing deep emerald and amethyst. Her cloak became darker, thicker, intertwining with her body as though it was now apart of her in as much as her teeming appendages have always been.
The smell of spoiled milk filled the dark corridor, issuing from the rapidly opening and closing parts of her body. She was glad the doors to the children’s rooms were closed. She didn’t want to them to smell her, didn’t want them to wake yet. More changes were made with snapping bones and popping vertebrates. By the time the headmistress stood before the double-door entryway of her boarding school, she had to hunch to not hit her head on the ceiling.
She couldn’t turn to Mary but whispered, “I will return, soon, with another. Wake the children soon, and ensure they know and are prepared, as well as the cooks.” She rattled, sighing. “Abyss only knows how long this one has gone without food.”
“I will, Mrs. Mort.” Mary said, standing near the lever that opened the entryway.
“Thank you, Mary. Now, open it.”
Mary pulled the lever and the entryway swung open, revealing a dense violet fog. Hidden beyond, they knew, was the Abyss and the forest.
The church bell rung once more, radiating through the air.
Victoria crouched and lurched out the door, becoming lost in the fog. Mary sealed the door and waited.
Tabitha’s mother gripped her bony wrist tightly as she dragged her through the mud. Her heels dug deep, but her small strength could budge her mother back to home. The windows of each house they passed were open, dimly lit, with townsfolk in bed clothes leaning out, looking with wide eyes, staring, grinning. The pub’s door was open and dozens of men were standing within and out, carrying pints of ale and jeering. Some made kissing noises, others howled, as they passed. Tabitha screamed, pleading for any one of them to help, but none moved, nor budged.
“Quit you’re screaming or you’ll arrive at the woods hobbled,” her mother said, wrenching her forward. She slipped and fell face first into the wet dirt.
“Damnit,” her father spat, and snatched her other arm and pulled her up. The mud mingled with her tears and streaked her gown. Without meaning to, she had urinated.
Her mother looked at her, then to her father. “You believe it matters she’s soiled?”
He shook his head. “She will be given to an abomination. I don’t believe it cares.”
Her mother nodded and faced ahead, and Tabitha was dragged once more.
Tabitha looked from the homes to the nearing the evergreen forest bordering the town. A purple fog billowed out, seeping through the boles.
The church bell rung once more, radiating through the air.
Victoria dwelled at the edge of the forest, peering in-between trees and branches. Her presence filled the fog, forcing more of it onto the town. She heard laughter and screaming, howling and shouting. Striding down the muddy road that ran through the pitiful town was a man and a woman. Both were dragging a small girl. Her dirtied face was tear and mud streaked, and her gown was stained brown and yellow.
It took nearly all the power of the Abyss for Victoria to not explode from the forest and cast the town into the swirling nothingness. But she couldn’t, she knew. The pact was made eons ago. Her and their ancestors. They bring a child every thirty moons; they continue to fester for another thirty moons.
The family— no, they’re no family— the two people and the child reached the border of the town. The old church to the east loomed over them. It rung and when it quieted, the man shouted, “We’ve come with the offering, Mort, Mistress of the Violet Mist!” The man violently pulled the child in front of himself and pushed her forward. She nearly fell. “Now take her and leave us be once more, like our ancestors before us!”
Tabitha stumbled towards the towering forest, the purple fog drifting across the dirt. She wrapped her arms around her racking chest and sobbed. She didn’t want to go. She didn’t want to be eaten by the demon. She wanted to stay with her father and mother, wanted to return home and sit before the warm hearth. She stopped and turned to her parents. Their brows were furrowed, their lips tight. Her father’s hands were in fists, and her mother’s clenched the front of her gown. She snarled, “Leave us.”
Tabitha turned away, continued onward, until she stood at the edge of the woods. Gooseflesh stood over all her body. The fog felt warm on her legs and feet. It smelled like lilacs. She looked into the purple tinged darkness and, despite the terror swelling inside her, closed her eyes.
Victoria felt the child’s feet reach the fog, could smell the urine and sweat. If Victoria had a heart, it surely would’ve broken. But soon, she knew, it would be better. The child would have a warm place to live, with other children and food and other things.
She smiled without a mouth, and the fog strengthened, blanketing the child, blocking sight from the townsfolk. Quickly her appendages weaved across the grass, snaking around the boles, and wrapped around the child. Tiny prongs pierced her coarse skin and soon she was asleep. Victoria lifted her, gently, and pulled her into the forest. A cavernous opening formed in her body and an organ swelled. Like the hundreds before her, she placed the child into her and the hole sealed, ensuring safety when returning to her home.
Victoria groaned. The earth, the old church, and the homes beyond shook.
The pact had been held.
She swiftly left the town and the terrible folk who dwelled there, back through the forest and across the Abyss.
Read my previous prompt, “Seeds of Life.”
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