He stroked the blade against his palm and watched the slow blood well. His finger dipped the dark red bead, carried a drop to her lifeless head and signed. The sacred, the sacrament, the sacrifice held up in fear and loss.

    He was spent, exhausted, but there was more that needed to be done. He wound her legs and torso in pale yellow sheets. She was still warm, rosy flushed, her arms supple as he draped them around his shoulders to help him left her weight. Her face came to his and he kissed the poor lips, tasted blood mingling with the salt of his tears. He laid her as gently as he could in the grave.

    "Marnie," he whispered, his voice thick with sorrow. "I'm sorry. I know you would want to save Lily. I'm sorry."

    She lay there silent on the blades of cut grass, softness gathered, green and new and fresh in the light of the bare bulb that swung above. He couldn't reach her, could only turn the crumpled black earth with the shovel that now felt leaden in his hands, watching the soil as it dropped in damp clumps scattering, until he could no longer see her face; until she was gone and he could breathe in deep choking breaths, shuddering.

    "I chose," he said. turning to face the carving in the wall. The cement was distorted around it,  risen around the trace of a scorching hand. The carving he'd found, hot and sweating, clouds of dust knocked up by the mallet as he loosened the bricks. Found the sign that had burned him, branded him; but it was quiet now. No dragging power caught him and held him, no echo wound a storm in his mind. He made himself believe that it was done, over with. It was the voice of torment that existed here. The voice that had taken him; told him its will, that he must choose. Told him to sacrifice one to save the other.

    It had used him like a puppet. It had shown him...things. Things he'd forgotten, or wanted to forget so badly his mind had brought down walls of its own to protect him.

    "Am I to blame? Is this my fault?" he asked. "Could I have fought harder? Oh god, help me!"

    Upstairs he gathered Lily in his arms, breathless with grief as she sighed and nestled against him, caught in infant dreams. He turned his head away in case a tear should wake her and felt her small hand curl around the pocket flap on his jacket, holding tight.

    He carried her out to the car. He took nothing. Left everything. Everything was tainted. Everything except for Lily.

    "Shhh sweetie," he whispered as he strapped her into the car-seat. She was threatening to wake, whining. He stroked her hair and her eyes closed again, her head resting against the padded side of the seat.

    As he hit the highway the sky was getting lighter, streaked with gray like ink wrung from a cloth.

    "Let it over," he said. "Please god let it be done."


The End

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