The Sacrifice – Short Story

We have reached the mountains and let the servants go and do as they please, while my son and I will go in the other direction, searching for our specific destination. We reach it in time; a lonely hillside with a single rock pointing upwards is to represent the altar. A slight scent from the moistened grass is pervading the air. It is roughly an hour from dusk, and we are to commence the ritual as soon as possible after nightfall. I send my son forth to search for some dry wood. He is only a child, but very bright for his age, for which I am very proud, and he is rather strong, so I am sure he will be able to handle it. While he is gone, I pray and prepare the ritual as well as my old back allows me to do. Perhaps it would have been wiser to take one of the servants with us. But the instructions are clear enough: I am to go to the mountain with my son, and there perform the service to the best of my ability. I sigh and consent. After all, it is His will. I spread herbs around the altar, look to the sky and search for a sign from the Lord, but there is no reaction. Merely the sound of the blackbirds, singing in joy despite the impending sacrifice, is breaking the silence of the hilltop.

Just before dusk, my son returns, and he has brought with him as much material as he is able to carry. ‘Will that do, father?’, he asks of me. ‘You did well’, I reply, and together we spread the wood over and around the rock until it looks like a pyre. Soon my son grows weary. His short stature does not allow him to do great amounts of manual labour at a time. ‘Where is the ram that we are to sacrifice?’, he asks in his innocence, probably fearing that it would be up to him to go and find one. ‘God will send us one in time’, I reply and continue to pile the wood. At last, the sun sets and it grows increasingly darker. At last, it is time to commence the sacrifice. ‘Shouldn’t he have sent it by now?’, my son asks once again, and glances around, but other than several birds and small rabbits roaming the mountaintop, nothing can be found. ‘I’m sorry, son’, I say and hit him over the head with my staff. As he lies there, groaning, I cannot help but think what a nasty request from the Lord this sacrifice represents. But who am I to judge Him, who has created everything on heaven and earth? There surely must be a higher motive, which I am merely incapable of grasping. I turn my son on his stomach and start to bind his arms and legs. Before I am finished, however, he wakes up, with blood running from his head. It is obvious I am not as strong as I once was; I wish he hadn’t woken up. He starts squirming. ‘Hush!’, I tell him, ‘it is His will.’ But he does not stop the screeching. He starts to struggle. I find it exceedingly exhausting holding on to him. I grip his hair; I push his head and with a loud thud it hits the dirt on the ground. At the same time, I tie his legs together. It seems to me that the Lord would not approve of the constant squirming, so I stuff a small stick into the boy’s mouth and tie it up. At last, he is somewhat silent, other than a faint, silent groaning. The blood from his wound starts to thicken, and the stench from it burns into my nostrils. The child starts crying. Tears drip from his brown eyes, while he looks at me with wide, terrified eyes. I pick him up and place him on the altar. ‘Stop crying’, I bid him, ‘you’ll moisten the wood and it won’t burn as well. Besides, I’m sure the Lord, our God, does not approve of your noise. Are you not glad you’ll soon be in heaven with the Creator?’ But my beseeching is to no avail. The boy continues to cry and to struggle against all odds. At one point he even nearly manages to get loose from his bonds. I strike him as firmly as possible in his stomach to make him hold still, and I reinforce the ropes. Finally, he is completely silent, and not moving anymore. It is, at long last, time to proceed with the offering.

I take my hand and stroke my son’s blonde locks. He has closed his eyes. ‘It will be alright’, I whisper quietly in his ear, ‘there is nothing I can do about it. He has requested it. We will meet again in the next life.’ With those words being spoken, I grasp the knife and moisten it slightly. I do not want the boy to suffer more than he has to. Just one cut, and then the deed would be done. Again, I grip the boy’s hair and pull it back, exposing his throat. I rest the knife on his soft skin. I am just about to slit his throat, when…

The following morning, we pick up the servants where we had left them, and proceed to return home. Praised be the Lord for His glory and mercy! But my son is very silent, for some inconceivable reason, as we tread the long paths through the mountain, reach the plains, and finally arrive at the village. I cannot imagine what possibly could be the matter with the child. After all, has anyone done him any real harm? He is alive, is he not? Can he not see the great justice of the Lord? Perhaps he is just trapped in deep thought, contemplating His greatness. If not, he might need some more beating. But never mind that for now; we have finally reached our hut, and my son must – and will – overcome his sudden fit of silence.