Hey there, lovelies! It’s good to see you again. I’m going to be posting a series of works from a Creative Writing class I took last semester. I think the course gave me the opportunity to really work my craft and stretch. At the end of each work I’ll talk a little bit about the inspiration, process, and subtle meanings in the work. I hope you enjoy this one!
The blood had not been scrubbed off of his bedroom floor. It trailed out of the small space and out the door of the Family home, only ceasing at the dark ash circle staining the dusty earth in the middle of the Community grounds. Joshua did not speak anymore. He would only trace the same word over and over, leaving the sightless mark on his arm, on his stomach, in the air.
He did leave. His black boots kicked fallen leaves into the air, letting them flutter back to the earth as he drew closer to his destination. He found himself in the familiar confines of the Elders’ confessional hall, the semicircle more ominous the longer Joshua’s eyes ran over it.
“My boy, shouldn’t you be with the Father? It is the day of the Solstice Celebration,” a voice asked behind him, making him jolt and contort in fear. Joshua let out a breath once he recognized Hanor’s voice, turning around to face him. Hanor’s face was twisted in contradiction as he walked towards him.
“He doesn’t need me.”
“It isn’t about need, my boy,” Hanor said with a sigh, “Your papa only has so many moons left until you must step into his place.”
“I’m not going to be the next Father,” Joshua said softly, relief flooding through him. He hadn’t realized until the phrase had left his mouth how much he meant it. No part of him wished to walk in his papa’s footsteps.
Hanor stared at him curiously. “Why of course you’ll be, Joshua. You’re the Father’s eldest, therefore it is your destiny to care for the Community, to lead the people in it to become—”
“—The most fit beings in the eyes of the Father, I know. But I can’t, Hanor. I can’t do this anymore. What kind of father kills his own children?” All the distress he’d set aside for years was suddenly catching up to him, trying to catch and destroy his breath.
“The ones who have died simply weren’t fit for The Father,” Hanor replied calmly, a sense of realization settling on him. “Joshua, what happened to Saphrine was simply the Father’s will. She was too weak to be wedded to you. Don’t worry, we can find another—”
“That not the point! That’s not the point! She didn’t have to die! We-we were supposed to die together, it wasn’t supposed to be like this.” Joshua began to sob and collapsed, limbs splaying like a rag doll on the ground.
“I…I knew, Joshua.” Joshua looked up at Hanor, but the Elder refused to look him in the eye.
“You have a destiny to fulfill, my boy! I couldn’t let her—let you—interfere with the Father’s plan for you.” Joshua glared at who he’d once considered a mentor. “You were showing such promise but she kept pulling you back. She was becoming a diversion in the Father’s plan—”
But Joshua was already running before he could hear the end of it, letting himself be swallowed by the forest that ran to the edge of the cliff. Nobody in the Community went there, no one except him. He let his run slow to a jog, until he found a comfortable resting ground, sitting on top of a rock so he could curl up and cry.
He had made sure to come back before the moon did.
“The Father won’t be pleased with your absence, Joshua” said his mother, walking with her two boys to the Heart Plot. The Heart Plot was most easily identified by the distinct shade of the ground from all the burnt ash that had settled there over time. A fire burned violently there now, warming the faces of the crowd. The three of them moved towards the Father, taking post behind where he stood on the platform by the fire, facing the Community.
“Welcome Brothers and Sisters to the Longest Night Celebration!” The Father bellowed, his face covered in red paint and his head adorned with a golden crown bearing an obnoxiously large, gold finch. A round of cheers and hollers answered him and he gave a satisfied grin. The low rumble of drums made Joshua’s ribcage shake as the crowd began to part and widen into a circle.
A group of young girls with matching braided pigtails rose and turned towards the Father. His left arm was raised and his hand was in the shape of a pistol. Joshua froze, his breath leaving him as the Father lowered a wiry thumb.
Their movements were vicious and mechanic as the first girl caught the bullet between her palms, rapidly passing it to her right. The others followed suit, passing it around their small circle with a rhythmic clap. Joshua’s eyes widened as they moved faster, the beat of the drum becoming the low thundering of rain.
The smallest one, a girl with pale skin and long black hair, dropped it. The drumming stopped and the crowd grew silent. She looked up at the Father, her dark eyes empty of emotion. Her black dress reminded Joshua of the angel paintings in his school books.
The father watched the girl, lifting a finger and giving a single wave for her to approach him. She walked over, her stance neither proud or doubtful with her shoulders even and hands at her sides.
“Sister Johanna, explain to me why our celebration has halted.”
“I dropped the bullet, Father,” she said evenly. The strength in her voice sent a chill down Joshua’s spine.
“And why was that, Sister?”
“I wasn’t fast enough.” The father took his crown off of his head and held it to his chest. His eyes shut to reveal another pair of eyes painted on each lid in black. He opened them again slowly before raising his crown and striking her in the face.
The crack of metal and bone made Joshua clutch his mother’s dress. The girl stood tall, her head contorted unnaturally to the side before straightening itself again. The father watched her coolly, placing the crown on top of his head again. Joshua could see a river of red begin to cascade from her hair, but she didn’t flinch.
“You are forgiven, Sister Johanna,” the Father declared, his voice strained. Sister Johanna nodded, giving him an exaggerated bow. The Father’s nostrils flared.
“Thank you, Father.” Joshua suppressed a smirk.
The Father made a quick motion and the drumming commenced, the girls continuing their dance. The closer Joshua watched, the more sure he became that there was a small smile on Sister Johanna’s face.
“Yehoshu’a, my son and heir, come forward.” Joshua’s breath left his body once again as he stepped forward into the circle of his future people. The group of dancers surrounded him before collapsing to the ground. His eyes landed on Johanna’s face once again, her body limp but her eyes piercing.
“ Yehoshu’a, my boy, within a year’s time you will be the leader of our people,” the Father boomed, stepping away from the platform and towards his son. Joshua tore his gaze away from Johanna to face his Father, his Papa, and his greatest curse. The Father took his head in both hands and gave his mess of dark hair a chaste kiss. He raised a fist in the air and was met with cheers.
“To the future of our people!”
“Here,” Mother said, a sly grin on her face as she handed him a small glass of red wine. “For the soon to be Father.” Joshua gave her a strained smile, tipping back the glass.
“It’s not a big deal.”
“Of course it is, my love. This is your last solstice as a child. The next one will be the exchanging ceremony, and you will take your papa’s place.” Joshua nodded, turning away from his mother as he watched a young Community couple sway to the beat of the drums. “You’ve done so well to prepare yourself. I’m proud of you, Yehoshu’a.”
Joshua nodded politely, taking his mother’s hand and putting it in his. He gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you, Mother. For everything. I mean it. I don’t think I would have survived this long otherwise.”
She laughed and pulled her hand away. “Go on and have fun, my love. It’s your last chance.” Joshua winced but got up anyhow, slowly making his way through the dancing crowd. A few giggling teenage girls tried to grab at him and give him a kiss, but he made it passed unscathed. He kept walking until the brilliant blaze of fire began to look more like a flicker.
Joshua lived in a land of duality. He was sitting quietly on the cliff rocks by the edge of the forest with only the smoke of the solstice fire in sight. In front of him was the sea—large and looming in its presence. The deep blue had always called to him, lapping up bits of sand as if it were trying to climb up and meet him in the forest. He swung his legs experimentally. His leather shoe flew off of him, floating in the air for a second before tumbling down into the sand.
This land was his. He could feel it as his outstretched arm shook in front of him, feeling the soft breeze the sea brought with each indignant push. He felt colder here, away from the fire, and his pale skin was beginning to tinge rose. He looked more and more like Johanna as he sat alone, the same emptied dark eyes staring his Father in the face.
Maybe if he was braver he’d confront the Father, even if it meant he would face the same fate as those before him. But as he watched the sea’s fury and anger and love he knew he had done the right thing.
Joshua stood up, letting his feet embrace the soft padding of the earth. He closed his eyes and let the cool, salty air fill his lungs and clean his soul with each breath. His body felt lighter and full of life and living and a liberty he never thought he would taste. He let his arms extend out, the breeze passing through his cold finger tips.
A large gust of wind pushed him gently from behind until he was flying—flying from oblivion, flying from his destiny and falling into goodness and truth.
This is another excerpt from Agneau (the first can be found here). Ideally, this is where I see Joshua’s story ending. I tried to format it so that the overall plot of the entire story is parallel to this short version of it. For the sake of the short story format A LOT of details about his life, the cult, his past, and such were left out. But one day they won’t be…