The Rite

11 March 2019 | Your Stories

Having reached my elder years, I will now tell you a story of my youth. And, you will not believe my story. No. Not at first. If it hadn’t happened to me, I would not believe it myself.

When I was a young boy, I learned of a rite that had been practiced by the males in my family for generations. I do not know how far into history it goes. My father told me that it was our way of marking a boy becoming a man. Of course, as I said, I was young and I did not understand.

On the day before it was to be my turn, my father told me that my brother and cousin would be attending. They were older and had already gone through it. I asked them to tell me what was going to happen so that I could prepare myself. But, they wouldn’t tell me anything. No one ever talked about what really happened during the rite, anyway. It was a family secret.

As I said, no one told me what to expect. But, a couple of years before that, I overheard two of my older cousins talking about it. I didn’t hear very much because I only caught part of their conversation. But, I did manage to hear that it including the killing of an animal. I was so horror-struck that I let out a yelp. Of course, they heard me and scolded me for spying. I wondered if they didn’t know I was there all along and had made the story up just to scare me. I couldn’t imagine what kind of people would kill an animal for something like that anyway.

The night before the rite was torture. I didn’t get a wink of sleep the whole night. I just laid there in bed wondering what was going to happen the next day and what it would be like. I wondered if my cousins had been telling the truth about what was going to happen. Tears welled up in my eyes at the thought of it. I also kept trying to think of excuses to get out of it. I thought about telling my father that I was sick. But, that wouldn’t help. It would only delay it for a couple of days at best. I wondered if he would really make me do it if I told him I thought it was wrong. Would he think that I was weak? What would my brother and cousin think of me? Would they still accept me as part of the family?

The day started early. My father woke us up two hours before sunrise. I was already awake. I was in bed pretending to be asleep. He told me it was time to get up and get ready to go. I sat up. Only now that I was being torn from my bed, did I feel like I could sleep if I could just lay back down. A thousand excuses and plans to escape crossed my mind as I got dressed. None of them seemed likely to work, though.

When I emerged from my room, I saw that my brother and cousin were already up and were sitting with my father in the den. I expected to see the same look of dread on their faces that I had on my own. But, if anything, they seemed excited. I thought that, maybe, the rite wasn’t as bad as I thought. They had both lived through it, after all. And, they seemed like the same people they had always been. My spirits lifted a little.

My father gave each of us boxes of equipment to carry and we stepped through the door. As we walked into the woods, I kept thinking of what might be in the box I was carrying. Just inside of it was the answer to all of my questions. If I could have just seen what was in there, I would have known whether or not all of my worryings was in vain.

Our path through the woods led us by the side of a creek. I wondered if the creek had anything to do with the rite. Would killing the animal include drowning it? Maybe there was no animal at all. Maybe that was just a cruel lie my cousins cooked up to torture me.

My answer was near. The path ended in a clearing along the bank of the creek. When we got there, my father, cousin, and brother set down their boxes. I followed their example and put mine down next to theirs. I stood there looking down at the boxes for a few seconds. Then, I backed away, never taking my eyes off of them. I kept watching them as if I had expected a snake to jump out.

As the time drew nearer, the agony got worse. The knots in my stomach were so tight that it was starting to hurt. I felt like I was going to vomit. My palms were sweating profusely and I was starting to have trouble controlling my breathing. I was so thankful that it was still dark. I know that the agony was easily distinguishable on my face. And, I didn’t want them to see how much I was struggling. I wondered if it was this difficult for my brother when his day came.

I wanted my father to hurry up and open the boxes so I could see what was in them. I wanted to know and for all of the dread to be over. But, my feelings reversed themselves when he knelt down to open the first one. I wanted just one more moment to prepare. I almost asked him to wait. But, in a short couple of seconds, all of the boxes were opened. Up until a few seconds before that, I had tried to talk myself into believing that all of that worry had been for nothing. I told myself that the trip was just going to be a fun outing and I would laugh at myself when it was over. But, the boxes had been opened. I saw what was in them. And, I knew that I was right to worry. My cousins hadn’t lied to me. How I wished they had been.

My spirit sank so deeply that I almost fell to my knees. I knew it was really going to happen and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I felt two warm, salty tears run down my cheeks. I wiped them away before anyone saw. At least, I thought I did. I didn’t know how I was going to get the strength to go through with it. The only way I had made it as far as I did was by telling myself that it wasn’t really going to happen. My cousins were lying. All of the fear and dread had just been brought on by figments of my imagination. But, I knew that none of that was true. It wasn’t just my imagination! I saw what was in those boxes!

My father picked up a sharp instrument from one of the boxes. Then, he stood up. He didn’t say anything. He just looked at me. My heart pounded and I wanted to cry again. Nothing made him angrier than to see me cry. I knew what he would say if I did. He would tell me to stop crying or he would give me something to cry about. And, I knew he would do it too. A lot of the whippings I had gotten from him were for crying. So, I knew to never do that in front of him. With that, I held back my tears and tried to look like I didn’t care about what was going to happen.

I was paying so much attention to my father and the boxes that I lost track of my brother and cousin. My brother spoke from behind me as my cousin stood at his side. He had the poor creature in his clutches.

It was all happening too fast. I thought I was going to have more time to prepare. My father placed the sharp instrument in my hand and my brother placed the poor creature before me. It was such a strange feeling. Nobody told me what I had to do. It was if I knew, instinctively, what had to be done. I lifted my hand. But, it was shaking so much that I almost dropped the instrument. I lowered it again to fix my grip. My father saw the pleading look on my face. I didn’t want to have to go through it. I had hoped that he would return a look of understanding. But, all I could see in his eyes were welling anger. I closed my eyes and lifted my hand again.

When I opened my eyes, I found myself looking into the eyes of the poor creature. I felt like I could see his fear. Did he know that this was the last day of his life? Was he anticipating the horrific pain that he was about to experience? What kind of justice does this world deal out? What did this poor creature do to deserve this? And, how could it be that my own father would force me to do this? For my entire life, he had been my moral compass. He had been my teacher of right and wrong. And, he was the one to force me to do this?

Slowly, I moved the sharp instrument to the poor creature’s throat. I hoped that if I moved slowly enough that they would have time to stop me and tell me that this was all a joke. They would tell me that they just wanted to see if I would go through with it. But, surely they didn’t expect me to really kill this poor creature. As slow as I was, no one tried to stop me. I was holding the instrument at the base of his throat. The creature felt the sharp metal on his skin and swallowed. My heart sank with compassion for him. I wanted so much to show him mercy. I paused again.

My father started to lose his patience with me. I could see that he was really getting angry. I pressed in on the metal and a drop of blood ran down it. Pushing in was so much more difficult than I thought it would be. Not only did I have to press through the creature’s flesh. But, I also had to push through my own will and convictions.

I knew they could see the agony and strain in my face. I saw anger in my father’s face. My cousin’s face showed something that looked more like contempt. I knew that he thought less of me that day than he did the day before. My brother’s face was clear. There was so much disappointment.

My father lost all patience and cursed at me. In a knee-jerk reaction, I jabbed the instrument in! In one fluid motion, the instrument penetrated the creature’s throat and dislocated its jaw. Its eyes closed tight. I tried to imagine how much pain I had just inflicted on that poor soul that had never harmed me. But, I knew that what it was going through was beyond what I could fathom.

Before my father could say anything else, my brother stepped in to help. Unmoved by the creature’s suffering, he lifted the poor animal into the air by the metal I had jabbed into its throat and lowered him into the water.

My father, brother, and cousin each performed the strange ritual that they had just tasked me with. I looked at them in bewilderment, amazed that these that I loved so much could be capable of inflicting so much pain and agony with no remorse whatsoever.

For the rest of the day, I listened to their idle talk about the fish stories they planned to tell when we got back. From time to time, one of them would reel in his line, check his bait and cast it out again. Occasionally, one would reel in his line to find a dead minnow. Then, he would reenact the horrible ritual. I tried not to look.

Submitted by Mike Brascome to Weird Darkness and My Haunted Life Too Note: This is a story he published on Amazon Direct Publishing under the pseudonym Nicodemus Whitman.

© 2024, G. Michael Vasey & My Haunted Life (Unless indicated otherwise by author’s own copyright above). All rights reserved.

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