Sweat drips down my back. The day is unusually warm for the autumn equinox.
“How much farther?” I say to my father.
There are eighty of us, male, hiking to the temple. I’m the youngest, privileged to be among the men of our tribe. Pride swells inside my chest.
Each year one male is chosen from those aged thirteen. Me. I’m the chosen one. Friends before me were chosen, are still on their Quest to seek the knowledge life. No one knows where they go, what they do.
Now I will find out for myself.
My father glances at me with worried eyes. Does he not think I can’t face the Quest?
We arrive at the temple, a table stained with blood before us. Is there to be a sacrifice today? Father stands beside the table and all fall silent. My pulse races.
“Gods of the harvest, we thank you for a plentiful season and ask for renewal of the soil during the dead months. Bring it to life again, provide for our people as you have always done.” He looks at me. “It is time, Raeliki.” Father motions to the platform.
My heart skips a beat but I do as he says, climb onto the table, lie down.
“Gods of the harvest, guide this young man as he begins his Quest to seek the knowledge of life. Aid him in his needs. Bring him back, within your will.”
He pulls a knife from his belt, his eyes no longer worried but filled with anguish.
“Father?” I say. My gaze darts to the crowd, my hands shake.
He raises the knife.
It all makes sense now, why I’ve never seen my friends return. My Quest for life will be on the other side.
“Father!” I gasp.
The knife comes down.
©Laura L. Zimmerman
Photo credit Unsplash by Frances Gunn