Gregory trudged up the mountain trail, feeling much older than his fifty-four winters. By contrast Marsha seemed to almost float up the hill, full of sixteen year old youth.
The difference between the two was more than physical, it was mental too. Marsha bounced up the slope chattering about how lucky she was to be chosen, constantly telling Gregory that she couldn’t wait to serve the Goddess. She was drawn up the hill by what she thought awaited her. Gregory’s footsteps were weighed down by knowledge of what would really happen to her.
The fact it was necessary, that the survival of the entire town rested on this sacrifice, didn’t make the burden any lighter. Serving the Goddess. A pretty lie to hide the harsh truth. The Goddess was a towering slab of muscle, claw, tooth and fire, and the only way Marsha would be serving the Goddess was as lunch.
Only a handful of people knew what the sacrifice truly meant. Most believed the lies, believed that once a month a chosen girl of sixteen would climb the mountain and ascend to serve the Goddess as a handmaiden. Gregory was one of the few who knew the truth. This was the thirty-seventh time he had led a young girl to her doom, and the thirty-seventh time he had wished he could take their place.
It couldn’t be. The Goddess was very particular. The sacrifice must be female, must be sixteen and must be pure of heart and body, something the myth of service encouraged many girls to remain.
Marsha grabbed his arm, pulling him along in her eagerness to reach the top. Gregory plastered a false smile on his face and allowed her to do so. The sooner they arrived, the sooner it would all be over.
* * *