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Warning: Graphic Content
The lamb’s blood was splattered against the wall. Its bleating shrieks of pain and surprise drowned out the crowd noise around them. The woman covered her ears to the animal’s pitiful cries. In a circle, the seven of them stood around the dying creature.
“Ladies first,” the black-haired man said, smiling at their guest. He held the lamb by the ears, pulling back its head to expose the cut throat.
She hesitated, then overcame her disgust and dove on the animal, drinking deeply of its warm blood, satiating her thirst. Only for a while. She could feel the lamb’s heartbeat fading as the blood pulsed out of its body. Not wanting to be an ungracious guest, she released her grip on the animal and stepped back.
“Thank you,” she said to the man who’d offered her a brief feast, blood dripping from the lower half of her face. He motioned to a nearby water pump.
The woman rinsed herself and gathered her belongings. She heard the men devouring the animal’s flesh now. She shuddered as their ravenous moans filled the air. It was better than the alternative, she thought.
“It will do,” said the man, seeming to read her thoughts. “It’s sustaining, but wholly unsatisfying. We’ve taken the vow, as have you.”
“Am I going in the right direction?” she asked. “How much longer do I have to go?”
“Another day’s journey, at least,” he said. “But you’re not going alone-”
“I need to keep going,” she interrupted. Thank you for your kindness.”
The group of men watched her as she headed back toward the road. The foul smell emanating from a nearby factory made her gag as she trudged on. She knew exactly where she needed to go and what she needed to do. Then she would live away from the others and wait for the time of the prophecy’s fulfillment.
She could feel the animal’s blood absorbing into what was left of her body. All too soon, she’d have to feed again. But she wouldn’t murder again. Had the animal’s blood atoned her sins? Of course not. But it felt like a cleansing anyway. Her body ached as she thought of her husband. What was left of her body could feel pain, too. She remembered it, all of it. But there were no tears.
Dry, thirsty, and determined, she pressed on. Compared to how long she’d have to wait for the redemption, the journey was relatively short. To no one in particular she said, “Forgive me.”
Several miles later, the woman smelled the fire and heard the familiar prayers. She was getting closer. Years later she’d remember what it cost her. Until then she had to keep moving through the smoke, through the smell of fear, and through the appeals to God.