Day of Sacrifice
By S.W. Benefiel
Published by S. W. Benefiel
Copyright © 2010 S. W. Benefiel
All rights reserved.
Flora opened her eyes just in time to see the wide, pink, unlined palm of her Guardian Angel swinging toward her face. Not again. Rolling onto her back, she felt the force of the near smack as it blew her bangs back off of her forehead. Her Guardian may be quick, but Flora’s instincts were pretty flawless, even when she was hung over. From her position on the plush carpet of the hotel suite floor, she grinned up at Maggie, a sinister giggle escaping from the corner of her mouth.
“I quit,” Maggie yelled, the power of her voice making the crystal chandelier quiver. “You’re the most insufferable Sacrifice I’ve ever been assigned to. You were responsible for your mother’s death, do you want to destroy the rest of your family with your immature antics?”
“That’s a low blow and you know it. Fauna and I can’t help it that our being born caused our mom to go off the deep end and kill herself.” Gods her head hurt. “And my ‘antics’ aren’t always immature.” Like nine times outta ten, sure, but...
“I don’t want to hear your excuses.” The Guardian spat, cursing Flora, a tiny globule of foam landing near her left ear.
“C’mon, Mags, don’t get your wings in a bunch. I’m almost twenty-one. I’ve got to live life to its fullest while I can. I’ll be dead in three days.” Flora sat up, hoping Maggie was done trying to inspire respectability in her through violence.
Her head was pounding and her mouth tasted and felt like a badger died in it. She struggled to remember the exact details of last night’s party. The suite was trashed. Two marble tables were upended, Champagne bottles strewn across every surface that had remained upright, and the hot tub overflowed with magenta soap bubbles. The sight of the bubbles kicked a flash of memory loose in her head. She slowly looked down at her body. Yeah, not so much wearing any clothes. Uh-oh.
She met Maggie’s furious gaze. “Okay, I can see how this looks,” Flora said, attempting to sound reasonable. Guardians loved reason. “But, I’m still a virgin.” She took a brief physical inventory. Yup, still feeling virginal.
Maggie threw a cushy light-blue hotel robe at her charge. “Don’t waste your words on me Flora, you’ve disobeyed and embarrassed me one too many times. I put in for a transfer after your last debauched incident and it came through this morning.” She flexed her majestic iridescent white wings once, rising a foot off of the floor. “May the Gods have mercy on my replacement Guardian, the next three days until your Day of Sacrifice will be the longest of their eternal life.”
She shot Flora one last disgusted glare and disappeared.
Julian held out the black ceremonial robe embroidered with sacred images in gold and silver thread. After a moment, he dropped it over Aiden’s shoulders when his charge didn’t put forth the effort to slip his arms into the sleeves. They were standing in Aiden’s bedroom before a full-length mirror, his parents waiting downstairs to accompany them to his Day of Sacrifice. Aiden was Julian’s seventh charge. It never got easier. They’d all made it to their twenty-first birthdays and to their Day of Sacrifice ceremonies under his guidance. He’d helped prepare them all for slaughter, delivered the same speech to seven terrified young men.
“Hold your head up high. Your sacrifice to the Gods on this day will allow your family to thrive. They will gain the favor of the Gods. You have lived a good life and I have been proud to be your Guardian.”
Aiden swiped the back of his hand across his eyes, causing the robe to slide from one shoulder. Julian quickly pushed it back up.
“Thank you for protecting me,” Aiden said, trying to choke back the next round of tears. “You’ve been a wonderful Guardian and a good friend.” He stared at his reflection in the mirror and put the ceremonial robe on, tying the front closed over his naked body. He squared his shoulders. “I’m ready.”