Twine. Matted, beige twine. It was like a knot of something, and I’d thought it was twine, but maybe… maybe it was hair? Mara’s blonde hair, tangled and dirty?
I run out to the bonfire. It’s still burning strong, although the last doll we put on the fire was an hour ago. It smells sweet out there, as if something’s cooking, a fresh fruit pie. The offering. It’s not an edible-sweet smell, though–it’s too sweet, and too simultaneously musky. It makes me think of the poison we lay down for the rats during the harvest season.
I go as close as I dare to the flames. New threads of black smoke peel away from the dolls and go streaming off into the dusky sky. I can’t see the piece of hair-or-twine any more, but now I look closely, it looks as if the twine holding the dolls together is more like hair than twine, too. Our doll offering, our gift to the god…. I’ve never questioned it before, but now I wonder: Have we given the god one of us?
All at once I experience a surge of love for the god, so strong and so overwhelming that I can barely breathe. It pushes deep into my stomach and squeezes there.
“Ennaline? Are you okay?”
It’s Ro. I turn to look at him, and his brother. They’re both watching me with wide eyes.
“What are you doing, Ennaline?” Ray asks.
I don’t know.
I don’t remember what I came out here to do or see.
I remember only my love for the god, and the exquisite pain of my faith.
“I wanted to look at the fire,” I say.
“It feels unfinished, doesn’t it,” Ray says, shaking his head. “As if we haven’t done something right.”
“A prayer,” says Ro, and for once Ray agrees with him.
We hold hands and say the Second Prayer. The bonfire burns, and under the earth, I feel the beat of the heart of my god.