The Ritual

“Please come with me,” she whispered softly.

And who could say no?

We drove in silence, her eyes straight ahead: focused, determined, anxious, but also frightened.

The forest was dark, the evening cold.

“Here,” she said.  We pulled over.  Stepped out.

“Wait here,” she said, and vanished into the trees.

I waited.

There were no stars.  If the moon shone, it did so darkly.  It was eerily silent.  Bitterly cold.

I waited.

Nothing.  More silence.

I waited.

But it was too dark.  Too cold.  Too long.

I stepped into the forest the way she had gone.

Nothing.

Darker.  Deeper.  Deeper darkness.  Deeper silence.

I continued blindly.

Until, carried on the wind, a soft song.  A humming, whispered, thrumming chant.

I aimed in that direction.

A dark prayer rose through the trees like smoke.  No language I had ever heard.

I drew closer.

A hint of light teased the corner of my eye.

I drew closer still.

A glow rose now with the prayer, the song, fire-like it flickered, but smaller, though also rising.

Then I saw her, and here was the moon, shining almost blue on her bare back, lotus legs, arms out like Guanyin.

Chanting.

I pictured candlelight dancing with shadows across her chest.  I watched.  And waited.

Her arms went down, raised up again, holding something now.  Glinting.  Sharp.  She raised it high.

Silence.

And then a scream (mine? hers? someone else’s?).

I tore through the forest, limbs and blackness ripping at my clothes and skin.

Had she seen me?  Observing her observe her mystery communion with…whatever?

I made it to the car.  Got in.

Time passed.

And then her door opened, a powerful waft of incense and pine, cool air and a salty, familiar tang.

I was scared to look at her directly, but thought I saw her lick something dark and red from the corner of her mouth.

And, despite myself, all I could think about was how my hands would feel against her still icy, just-dressed skin.

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37 thoughts on “The Ritual

  1. I really like your reference to Guan Yin (was that misspelled?). This piece is intriguing, chilling, and very disturbing, but all in a very good way. Way to go on this prompt. Once again, I’m stumped. Maybe Trifextra this weekend…

    • I misspelled it, not you. I’ve actually seen it both as two words (like you have it) and as one. I’ve also seen it with a “k.” Is one more accurate than another, or does it just depend on who you ask or how you use it?

      Very disturbing in a good way? I like your outlook.

      I know what you mean about stumped. I really have a hard time sometimes. I look forward to what you come up with next.

      • I was just referring to the first part — ‘Guan’. It can be both one word or two (in Chinese it is two words — although I know this is a figure in many countries and cultures — but translated into English into one word as it means one thing). Starting with a ‘G’ is standard pinyin most widely used (China), while starting with ‘K’ is probably from the Wade-Giles romanization system (Taiwan). That’s the short answer to the different spellings. 🙂

    • Not too creepy, I hope (though, you’re right, it was creepy).

      Thanks.

      Of course there would be more to the story. I’m not sure if it would be general audience material, though. Maybe a future Trifecta prompt will inspire a continuation.

  2. Ah, but we aren’t a general audience! I loved the double use of ‘observe’, since Guanyin means something about observer of compassion or something like that. (Full disclosure – I grabbed the name and googled it so I could get the pose)

  3. This was beautifully written. I really loved this line: “A dark prayer rose through the trees like smoke. No language I had ever heard.”

    My only observation (ha!) is that, for a stand-alone piece, I’d like it to be a little clearer why she had him go with her, and why she made him wait in the car. Just a word or two hinting at her reasoning would have been helpful. But all in all, very nicely done!

    • Thanks Christine!

      Observations always welcome. It seems that pesky word-count has caught me again. In the original, there was a more lengthy dialogue in the beginning. [SNIP] And other people have expressed a desire for more at the end. [SNIP] If I were to work on it more, or turn it into a bigger piece, I would definitely develop some explanation (her mixed feelings about the need to perform the ritual alone but fear of what that entailed and desire to not go alone. I think part of her wanted to be watched, but was scared to ask to directly. I also think part of her is evil and she wants to get “caught” so she can feel justified in retaliating. There are a lot of directions it could go).

      In my mind, there is no question that he would find out exactly what her skin felt like. But I do question whether he would live to tell the tale.

      • P.S.

        I really enjoyed your piece as well. It reminded me a little bit of The Hunger Games, but then, I just saw that movie, so those images are fresh on my mind. I loved how you described her making eye contact with the Bellman, and how he kind of let it slide. Very subtle but powerful. A full story in a short amount of space. Nice work!

      • Like Christine, I’d like to know those details you omitted.

        That said, I think your opening request captures a deep sense of urgency (so well that I went back to see if you used the word ‘urgent’). The closing remark forewarns of inevitability. And not having the details makes the whole tale captivating and memorable… it lingers, because I want to know more.

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