Candles – By iceariina
The room was dark, except for the glow from a few sputtering candles. Several tall figures stood in a nearly perfect circle around a large, wooden table. Another figure stepped forth from the gloom into the faint glow, a very small child in her arms. She reverently set him down at the head of the table and stepped back, taking her place among the others.
The boy looked up at the faces of the people circling him, eyes flitting uncertainly from one face to another. They all stared at him, and then their voices rose in something that was not quite chant, but not quite song either. The sound frightened the boy, and his lower lip began to tremble.
Still singing, some of the figures swayed slightly, eyes fixed on the toddler. Tears welled in the boy’s eyes and he began to cry, softly at first, then harder and harder. The incantation-like song rose in pitch, and the boy sucked in a great breath, then let out a wail, his tiny hands balled up into fists. His body was rigid with terror. In the dim glow of candles, his face was red, his eyes squinched shut and streaming tears. His shrieks rose higher and more frantic, drowning out the song.
The singing done, one of the figures, a young woman, picked up the child and held him firmly against her breast as he continued to shriek and wail his fear. The room fell silent except for his cries, and the matriarch stepped forward. She drew forward a long, sharp knife. A couple figures leaned in eagerly, their eyes fixed now on her instead of on the small boy.
With a tight smile, the matriarch lifted the knife and cut deep into the delicious-looking birthday cake.