Carmina - The Seven “I don’t want to,” the boy stamped his foot in a childish gesture the Elders wished he would abandon. Of the Seven, he was the most difficult. “It doesn’t matter what you want. This isn’t about you.” The Elder persisted is the calm, emotionless voice that always brought out the worst in the child. The Elder took the boy by the elbow and led him from the chapel. “When will it be about me? It’s never about me.” The Elder stopped, sighed, and turned to the boy. “That isn’t your destiny. You were born for something greater, for the community, for all of us. The sacrifices you make will save us all.” “F**** you all!” The boy stomped off down the dirt road. The Elder smiled and followed. The forest closed in around them before they got far. The boy had never been in the forest, none of the children had, or anywhere else outside their cloisters. The boy shrank back from the oppressive trees that hung low over the path. “There’s no time to waste with needless fear. The path is clear, and there’s no going back.” The Elder man took the boy by the shoulders and pushed him along the path. Angry, the boy wheeled about. “Don’t touch me! If you want me to do this, you won’t touch me! You hear!” “Oh yes. I am not so old as to have lost my hearing yet. But, we really must hurry. The moon rises in the sky. You’re the last of the Seven and midnight is nearly upon us.” The Elder tapped the boy on the backside with the tip of his oaken staff. The boy had always hated the feel of that staff. “Come on.” Fuming, the boy followed. The path widened and lanterns were hung from the trees illuminating small shrines on either side of the road. Some shrines contained dolls made of cloth or clay or sticks. Some had painted stones. Some had odd items: a mirror, a razor, candy. Each little shrine had exactly seven items. Ahead, the boy could see the path open wider into a clearing. There was a bonfire in the center. Around the outside of the clearing, stood the robed figures of adults, children, and the old. Ringing the fire were the rest of the Seven with their Elders. As the boy grew closer, he could see them clearly. He became afraid, then angry. He saw Vera first. Confident,beautiful Vera was looking into a silver hand mirror, only her beauty was gone. Her golden hair had been cut off at the scalp leaving bald bloody patches. But it was the ruin of her face that affected the boy. It had been slashed in several places, the nose barely hanging on. She sobbed into the mirror, the tears mixing with the rivulets of blood that ran down her face. Behind her, her Elder held her head, forcing her to look into the mirror. Next to Vera was Emily. Emily who had always loved Vera, had followed her around like a puppy, had worshiped her almost, sat in the dirt clutching a bloody straight razor and sobbing. Her Elder didn’t have to hold her head. She was looking at what she had to Vera all on her own Gilbert, the fat boy who was always eating knelt amongst the remnants of a great feast and vomited into a caldron. His Elder waited until a wave of nausea passed, the forced another slice of pie into his mouth. Spoiled Garret (Gilbert's twin) was watching as all his possessions, his collection of marbles, books, clothing, everything he had collected over the thirteen years was thrown into the fire. His hands were tied behind his back. Steven was the only one moving. He was a quiet boy who was content with his books. He never exercised with the rest of the group, never woke before noon. He was running around the bonfire, his Elder at his heels with a bullwhip. Steven was sweating and on the verge of collapse, but the Elder persisted in the chase. He couldn’t see Lilith for the group of young who surrounded her, but he could hear well enough and blushed at the sounds. The crowd, the Elders all let the boy take the scene in. Then his Elder spoke. “It’s up to you to end the ritual, Walter.” “What the f**** are you doing to them?” The boy ran to the closest Seven, Vera, and tried to take the mirror from her hands. It was glued to her skin. His Elder clouted him on the back with the staff. “That isn’t how it ends.” The boy went to Emily and tried to remove the razor from her shaking hands. “It’s ok Em. It’s over.” Hysterical, Emily slashed at him with the razor. “That’s not how you can help them. That isn’t how you save anyone.” “What then?” He screamed. “You kept us locked up our whole lives telling us about some great destiny. You never told us anything! You just led me around and hit me with that damn stick!” “Do you want the stick?” The Elder asked calmly circling the boy, slapping at him the with butt end of the staff. “Do you want your destiny? Or do you want to kill us all?” The Elder hit the boy squarely across the back with the staff. The boy landed in the dirt in front of the fire. The Elder stood over him, eerily illuminated, the staff above his head ready to come down on the prone boy. It didn’t fall with as much force as the boy anticipated, and he caught the carved wolverine on the top of the staff. The Elder lost his grip. The boy swept the Elder’s feet knocking him hard to the dirt. The boy stood quickly and rained down blows upon the fallen Elder all the while screaming with ferocity the boy never knew he had. The staff was slick with blood when, exhausted, the boy dropped the staff and fell to his knees beside the Elder. “It is…finished.” The Elder spat blood as he spoke. ”You’ve saved us all…go back…and…train the next…seven.” “Come along Brother Walter,” a gentle voice spoke into his ear and strong hands lifted him to his feet. Walter turned to find one of the Elders at his side. The robed people of the village were filing out of the clearing in silence. The rest of the Seven were being tended to the Brothers and Sisters who had raised them for the last thirteen years. “You have fulfilled half your destiny. Now begins the other half.” His wrath spent, Walter allowed himself to be led back to the cloisters.