“Woe to thee if I scratch my pen across your name.” I said, and the children quaked and trembled.
Except one. She was smaller than most, rat-faced and quick. Her hair hung in strings and her nose ran; sometimes green, sometimes red.
“Go home now to your loved ones and pray.” I said, and laughed to see them scurry out of the room.
But that one, the small sleek and dirty one, came to my desk and slapped her palm upon it. We narrowed our eyes at each other for a long moment and she would not drop her gaze. I took up my pen.
“Debit, Rachael.” I said slowly.
The air shimmered between us. White and blue spiralled from the nib of my pen. It was ready to record. I opened the ledger.
“Unless you wish to repent your insolence today.” I twirled the pen in her direction.
Not a flicker of regret. Her hand twitched once and then lay still.
“I haven’t got no loved ones and I don’t pray, miss. Write me up a debit.”
“This will be your third this week.”
“I know, miss.”
I examined the ledger. “I’ll have to record you as a bad debt. There hasn’t been a credit for you, not for weeks.”
She swallowed. Time passed. I had all the time in the world, but hers was running out. The trees shook themselves dry outside while we waited.
“Where do we go, when you dissolves us miss?” She rubbed distractedly at the crust around one eye. She was weary.
“You are given to the Gods, child. You know that.”
“Is it warm there, miss?”
“I should say so, yes.”
“Then I’ll be alright I reckon. There’s months left of winter. I don’t like the cold.”
In that moment I felt a confusion; an indecision that I had not experienced before. The Gods were hungry for her soul. I could sense that. But for the first time I was encountering a child who would gladly go to them. None of that piteous whining that grated on my nerves so, no terrified silences. This girl had steeled herself for her punishment; had in fact deliberately brought it about.
I sat back in surprise. I had been manipulated. Quickly I capped my pen and she cried out, frustrated.
“Go home to your loved ones and pray.” I sneered.
“I don’t love them and they don’t love me.” She spat on the ground, flashing fiery eyes towards me. “I’d rather be fed to the Gods than pray for their souls.”
“I know.” I smiled slowly. “You almost had your way. You know, I think I’ll give you a credit for your sly little ploy.”
She was crying softly as I ushered her out of the room, and it was a sweet, sweet sound to me.
~ Kay “Von Spacebee” Barrett 2015