The Sack Race.
I don't believe in virgin sacrifice. It encourages promiscuity at an early age. Take my tribe, for example: as soon as any young woman became ripe, she would hop into the nearest bachelor's bed. I know it sounds rash, but it was the only way to avoid being chosen as that year's designated Virgin.
The last gal left standing found herself the focal point of our most time-honored ceremony. She was supposed to take a giant step for mankind into the crater of the local volcano. My tribe believed her virginity would appease Bucka Pow, the cranky god who was in residence there. Her sacrifice would ensure our tribe's safety for the next year from that particular element. I'm not exactly a religious person, so for me, our tradition held very little appeal. Let me assure you, there were plenty of young women racing to the bedroom in agreement.
Believe it or not, the males of our tribe did not discourage the practice of sacrifice. As a matter of fact, they became quite conceited and began to discriminate against the less attractive females. Looks, apparently, were unimportant to Bucka Pow, as long as the gal was pure, to put it delicately. The consequences being, our tribe grew to be quite a handsome group of people, even if we were a bit easy.
On occasion, some of the women of our tribe would question the necessity of the tradition. What would happen if the yearly Virgin was not sacrificed? The male Elders of the village were quick to squelch this line of questioning. If the custom was not strictly adhered to, they predicted a hell on earth that was never meant to be experienced by man. They never did give us a whole lot of details about the hell, but we were led to believe that it would be pretty unpleasant.
On the last day of my first blood, I headed over to the blacksmith's hut, undressed, and climbed into his bed. I'd had him ear-marked for quite some time prior to then. He did a lot to encourage my crush by not wearing a shirt while working. All sweaty and covered in grime, his chest was quite impressive to behold. Besides, I had heard from some of the non-Virgins about town that he was a good man for the job.
Dirk's bungalow was as sparsely decorated as any other young bachelor's hut. Besides the king-sized bed with a slendros skin tossed across it, he didn't have much in terms of furniture. There was quite a selection of fermented tatha berry juice, incense and a few stringed instruments, but as far as curtains, rugs, or any type of ornamental decorations, his bungalow was barren.
Upon returning home from his day's labor, Dirk did not seem overly surprised to discover me snuggled between his pillows. Nor did he seem displeased. I assume his original plan that evening was to eat dinner and relax after a hard day of forging metal. Shockingly, he seemed just as amiable to find a naked nymph beneath his covers and in need of a favor.
“Hi”, I squeaked, for lack of a better introduction. Even though our tribe ran late getting the show on the road, I was still barely twenty.
“Hi, there,” he grinned. “How are you?”
“Can't complain. Say, haven't I seen you around my shop lately?” Dirk asked casually.
“Yes,” I blushed, “I had some wrist cuffs made a couple of months ago.”
“I remember, but I've seen you since then,” he persisted.
More blood rushed to my face. “That's true. Metal work fascinates me.” A blatant lie, but what was I supposed to say? True, I enjoy ogling your chest?
“Really? Maybe I could show you around the shop sometime?”
“Dirk, I'm sure you're aware of our tribe's policy on Virgin sacrifice.” He nodded, so I continued. “Well, I'm one of this year's candidates. I know it's a big honor to be chosen and all, but I'm not really that devout a believer. So, I was kind of hoping you could help me out.”
“Sure, no problem. I'd be happy to help you out.” Dirk smiled broadly. “Do you mind if I eat first? Or were you in a hurry?”
“Well...” There were still one or two other things on my list to do that day.
“No big deal. I can eat afterwards. Is it okay if I shower first?”
“Please, go right ahead. As a matter of fact, I'd prefer it.”
Once Dirk had bathed, we fell immediately to our task. When all was done and little said, I felt reasonably safe from having to throw myself into the fiery pit. Dirk was not only known for his lovemaking prowess, but also for being the town gossip. One of the benefits of making him your first lover was you knew it would not be kept hush-hush.
There was still a bit of daylight, so I left Dirk to prepare his meal. I had some hunting and collecting to attend to before dusk. You can imagine my surprise, when later that night, Dirk dropped by my hut. He was worried that our lovemaking didn't take and that I might still be classified as a Virgin. I remember thinking how considerate it was for him to go out of his way to ensure my safety. So, it was back to the mat for the both of us. Better safe than sorry.
By the next morning, after there was no doubt that I was a one hundred percent non-Virgin, I was beginning to get the hang of things. Apparently sex wasn't something only necessary to save your hide from bubbling lava. It could also be done for sport. In fact, I was beginning to find it quite pleasurable. Dirk and I agreed it was something we should try again, and frequently. But I insisted he make our practices well known to the tribe. As far as I was aware, he hadn't mentioned anything to anyone. I was still on the list of potential candidates for sacrifice. He generously agreed to spread the word.
Things went quite well for a few blissful weeks. I was one of the best nut and berry collectors in the whole tribe and I was growing very enthusiastic about my new hobby with Dirk. We met every day at least once, usually more. He could be quite romantic. He even fashioned me a metal breastplate. They were all the rage at the time. But, if you're considering investing in a bronze brassiere, I advise against it. In moderate climates, they are fine, but in cases of slightly more intense heat or cold, they are extremely uncomfortable.
My good times came to an abrupt halt when I discovered that my cousin Dizeray, my only living relative, was still on the offering list for sacrifice. While I had been distracted making sure every vestige of my virginity was snuffed, Dizeray’s first blood had come and gone. She was still a Virgin, and dragging her feet about remedying the problem.
Now, my cousin was not the most stunning creature on the planet, but she wasn't unattractive. Besides, she had large breasts, a trait frequently mistaken for beauty. I naturally assumed she had taken care of business. It was only by chance that I happened to be strolling past the council hut and decided to glance at the list of remaining candidates. Diz’s name was second from the top. After making this alarming discovery, I hustled over to my cousin’s bungalow so we could have a quiet chat.
“By the skull of Crom, Dizeray, have you lost your mind?” I screeched. Diz stared at me in stupefied silence. “There's only two other girls on the list. If you don't step lively, you'll be chosen as the sacrifice, and won't that be a fine mess?” Diz remained mute. “What in Zoric's hells have you been doing with your time? Don't tell me you just plain forgot!”
Diz started to tremble, and tears filled her eyes. By the gods, she had forgotten. Apparently, there were more important things on Diz's mind than avoiding taking the plunge to a molten death.
“I'm sorry,” she began to whimper.
“Oh, come on now, don't cry. It's not that bad. Look, there are still two other girls on the list and you're much cuter than either one of them. All you've got to do is ditch your virginity first and everything will be fine. That shouldn't be too difficult.” I pulled out a cloth to blot her tears. “Now stop crying. Your eyes will puff up and you'll look less attractive.”
“I don't know what to do,” Diz wailed. A new supply of tears began to gush down her cheeks.
“Listen, honey, it's not that big a deal. The woodcutter hasn't had his yearly Virgin yet. All you’ve got to do is go over to his hut, take off your clothes, and get in his bed. He'll show you how to do the rest. You'll be fine.” I tried to give her what I hoped was a reassuring pat. “Just make sure he tells the village Elders when you're finished.”
“The woodcutter?” Diz looked terrified by the thought.
“Yes, the woodcutter. Now go straight over there and don't allow yourself to be distracted. You get naked and get in that bed before someone else gets there first.” I pushed her firmly in the direction of his hut. She went, but sullenly. My gods, you'd have thought she preferred the volcano.
I should have gone with her. I have only myself to blame for what happened. By the time Diz dragged her feet to the woodcutter's place, there was already a naked nymph in his bed. Instead of doing the logical thing and snagging the next available bachelor, Diz went home depressed and fell asleep. Bright and early the next morning, the Elders announced that Dizeray was that year's designated Virgin.
She took it very well for a young woman facing a scalding death. If it had been me, there would have been a lot more screaming, begging, and attempts to flee. Diz simply headed over to the oil hut for some anointing. I, as Diz’s closest living relative, was supposed to escort her on her sacrifice. If only I hadn't been so preoccupied with Dirk, it all would never have happened.
I wasn’t about to stand idly by while my only living relative succumbed to some stupid tribal peer pressure. I had to do something. To avoid suspicion, I grabbed my basket and pretended I was going in search of tatha berries. Instead, I crept behind the anointing hut. Diz had a couple of old women in the hut helping her prepare for the ceremony. As soon as they left and I knew Diz was alone, I hauled myself through the back window.
“Jezebelle, what are you doing here?” Dizeray acted very surprised.
“Diz, just keep quiet and take off your clothes.” I was in no mood for her naivete. Instead of doing what I told her, Diz stood there looking at me. “Hurry up! We don’t have much time,” I barked in a low voice as I shrugged off my own clothing.
“Huh, why?” Diz slowly began to follow my example, unwinding herself from numerous colorful veils.
“Diz, don’t be an idiot. You didn’t think I was just going to stand by and let you go through with this stupidity, did you? Now listen closely because we don’t have a lot of time. I want you to put on my clothes and wrap this scarf around your head.” I thrust a muse scarf at her. “When you climb out the window you’ll find my berry basket. It’s got some food and supplies in it. Pick it up and head towards the berry patch. You’re supposed to be me, so act casual. Just pretend you are wandering out to collect tatha berries. Once you’re out of sight, run for it. Head down to that cave we went to for a picnic last summer. I’ll stall for time as long as I can. Now, it’s going to probably take a couple of days before I can come for you. The Elders are not going to take this calmly, so be patient and lay low. I’ll meet you as soon as I can.”
“What are you talking about?” Diz stopped removing her clothes.
“Escape, Diz, escape. Obviously.” She could be so thick. “I’ll put on your clothes and veils. I’m going to try and fake them out for as long as possible, but you’ve got to hurry.”
“I can’t run away, Jez. I’m going to do the ceremony.”
“You’re going to...what?” I was stunned.
“I’m going to be the sacrifice.”
“Diz, you know what the word sacrifice means, don’t you? It means they’re going to kill you.”
“I know. I’m still going to do it.” By her expression, I could tell she was sincere. Diz re-adjusted her veils.
“But why? You can run. I’ll help you. We could go to the other side of the volcano.”
“You mean go to The-Land-From-Which-No-One-Ever-Returns-Especially-the-Women?”
“Yes, Diz. The Elders would probably never find us. It's unlikely anyone would even try to search for us there. I don't understand why you…”
“I’m doing it because it’s the right thing to do. I was chosen for the sacrifice. The tribe is counting on me.”
“Diz, it’s a stupid tradition. Killing yourself only makes you as idiotic as the rest of them.” I could hear the anointing women clucking outside the door. “Go!” I grabbed Diz’s arm and shoved her towards the window.
“I can’t.” She held up her hands in a gesture of helplessness.
The old battle-axes were about to enter the room, so I did a dive-roll out the window. If Diz didn’t want to run, she didn’t want to run. Not everyone has my acute instincts for survival.
The anointing women did swathe Diz in some mighty fine regalia. She was dripping in gold and gemstones. Numerous rings and bracelets weighed down both her arms. A giant pertona-blood ruby studded her navel. The women had braided Diz’s honey-blonde hair into an intricate pattern, and a giant tear-shaped pearl with a rosy nacre dangled on her forehead. Diz had never looked better, and I could tell more than one or two of the bachelors were regretting her virginity.
My job was to escort the sacrifice up the volcano and make sure she toddled in. After confirming that she had successfully completed her duty, I was to carry the sacrificial gold and finery back down the hill for the next year's ceremony. The Elders weren’t foolish enough to allow her to swan dive while still wearing it.
Normally, the Virgin's mother or an older sister would accompany the gal on her great honor. Unfortunately, a large portion of our tribe had been lost in a typhoon a couple of years earlier. All of Diz's and my relatives had been killed. So, the privilege was bestowed on me.
“Bucka Pow, Bucka Pow, Bucka Pow Kow. Bucka Pow, Bucka Pow, Bucka Pow Kow. Bucka Pow, Bucka Pow, Bucka Pow Kow,” the Elders chanted as a small fanfare led Diz and me out of town.
“I'll be waiting for you,” Segner the Watcher smugly called to me as we exited the village. “No foolish Virgin tricks, and remember to bring back the jewels.” Segner would sit at the base of the volcano until my return.
“Don't worry, as soon as she tumbles in, I'll be straight back down with the jewelry,” I assured him.
“See that you do, or I will sound the alarm, and we Elders will come hunting for you.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” I had always disliked Elder Segner. He wielded his little bit of power like it was a weighty club.
It was a hot day to be climbing up the side of a volcano. One third of the way up, we passed a large sign carved in stone which read, 'Stop! You are about to cross into The-Land-From-Which-No-One-Ever-Returns-Especially-the-Women'.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” I panted behind Diz as we plodded along. I really wished I had not decided to wear my breastplate.
“What am I supposed to do, Jez? Not jump?” She sounded a bit peevish.
“Well, you could have had sex with someone and then we wouldn't be in this predicament,” I grumbled.
“What? I couldn't hear you.” Diz paused to look back at me.
“I said, we don't really know that the volcano will erupt if you don't throw yourself in. We could always run away.”
Diz was genuinely shocked. “I couldn't do that, Jez. What about the tribe?”
“What about them?”
“What if they all suffered because I was not devout enough to kill myself?”
“What do you care? I'm the only family you've got left. It'd be their own fault anyway. I don't see why we don't just relocate the village, instead of messing with this damned volcano every year.”
Diz's face became pinched as we continued hoofing up the mountain.
“Diz,” I probed, “there isn't someone from the tribe that you fancy, is there? Is that why you're going through with this thing?” Her face revealed that my suspicions were true. “Diz, I am going to strangle you! Why the heck didn't you just sleep with him instead of doing things the hard way?”
“Because you already had!” Her eyes flooded with tears.
Great Ragnarok! She had wanted Dirk and I hadn't realized it. Their names did go well together, Dirk and Dizeray. Still, she could have said something. How was I to know? “I'm sorry, honey. You should have spoken up. I would have gone with the shepherd.”
She giggled through her tears. “I was too embarrassed.”
By the gods, we were a society based on fast women and lazy men! But, Dizeray was too embarrassed to play rock, papyrus, sword to see who got to bunk with Dirk.
“I still think you shouldn't sacrifice yourself. With all that gold you're wearing we could easily finance an escape. We have a good head start. We’re almost half way over the volcano. Once we enter The-Land-From-Which-No-One-Ever-Returns-Especially-the-Women, it's unlikely the Elders would ever be able to catch us.”
“No, Jez, it wouldn't be honorable, and that's all I have to say about it.”
We finished the rest of the climb in silence. Diz could be very single-minded, and I knew it was useless to argue with her. If only she had opened her damned yip about Dirk. I wasn't looking forward to being the only surviving member of my family. There would be incredible pressure to procreate.
The wind picked up as we approached the lip of the volcano. Loose soil whipped our faces. “I guess this is it,” Diz gulped. We both stared for the first time into the mouth of the crater.
Funny, I had always pictured intense heat and spurting lava. Instead, we gazed upon a dry, dusty cavern sparsely littered with petrified rocks. There was a small dark hole at the bottom of the crater, but even that was not very menacing. I don’t know why I was surprised. The volcano hadn't so much as puffed a bit of smoke in my lifetime.
It was at that point that I began to suspect the male Elders of falsely perpetuating the need for Virgin sacrifice.
“Do you think I’m supposed to jump in that little hole?” Diz pointed toward the tiny opening.
“I guess,” I shrugged. “There doesn’t seem to be any other practical way of killing yourself.”
We both sighed. Bucka Pow was a sincere disappointment.
“Good-bye, cousin.” I gave her a big hug. “I love you. I'm going to miss you.”
Diz peered forlornly at the small cavern beneath us. “Maybe this wasn't such a good idea.”Confessions of a Virgin Sacrifice is available on all ereaders for 99 cents. Go here for the Kindle link.