Excerpt: The Sacrifices We Make
say the gods require a blood sacrifice, a virgin here, a still beating heart
ripped fresh from the chest there. But not all gods are quite so selfish. The
gods I worship ask for no such sacrifices. They satisfy themselves with much
more modest gifts: eyes, fingers, lips, an occasional ear or tongue. They
prefer the very young, for the morsels are tenderest and tastiest. I give them
what I can.
The rest, they let me keep.
David Southeby, the holidays were the best
time of year, even though he hated the cold and snow and, especially, sleet.
Sleet was wet. It was sloppy. It tracked wetness and mud and seeped into his
shoes and froze his feet. Yes, he hated the cold with a passion.
had grandiose plans to move somewhere warmer and drier. Southern California,
perhaps. Or Texas. Not Florida, though. No, definitely not Florida. There were
way too many old people there, retirees. Too many old people and not enough
disdain for the cold, he liked the holidays. It wasn’t for any personal reason;
he had no family with whom he exchanged gifts. He found the practice both
amusing and infuriating. And he had no friends to convince him otherwise.
He was a
businessman, which is why the holidays so pleased him. It was his most
productive time of year. Halloween, in particular, but Christmas, too. And not
just the day, but the whole season leading up to it, beginning with the day
after Thanksgiving (he looked forward to the chaos of Black Friday crowds with
barely restrained excitement) and extending well into January with mall
returns. Only when school resumed after the break did his productivity drop
the rest of winter wasn’t so bad. At least there were business opportunities,
if one kept a keen eye out for them. Weekends. The hour or so after school.
It was just
so damn cold all the time.
year,” he promised himself. “San Diego, maybe.” They still had the holidays,
and it wasn’t cold. He wondered why he’d never given it much serious
was because this town had been so accommodating.
he could not understand—refused to understand—kids loved being outdoors in the
winter, in all that cold. They loved snow. They would spend hours upon hours
out playing in it, even beyond the point where their cheeks grew numb and their
fingertips ached and little snot icicles dangled from the tips of their pudgy
little frostbitten noses. And the sun would always set so abruptly—there one minute,
a pale colorless orb in the drab colorless sky, gone the next. And it was
usually long before dinnertime, before parents even returned home from their
jobs, so why waste those precious hours going home? It would grow dark, and yet
there was still playtime left to burn, just no daylight to burn it with.
anonymous snowsuits and the scarf-wrapped faces and the darkness made snatching
them that much easier, muffled their panicked cries.
careful not to leave tracks in the snow.
The abduction of a child reawakens a town to a recurring horror it wishes only to forget.