“Jack! Jack!” My sister screamed at me as she ran towards me. I sighed and turned around to face her, and our town. My trance broken, I heard the screams of humans as they worked to exhaustion on our fields, whipped by my parents and the rest of their friends. A black cloud of smoke and burnt flesh hung over the town. My sister was running over the barren rocks towards me, her dark hair streaming out behind her, contrasting with her pale skin. There was a mischievous glint in her red eyes. She tackled me to the ground and pinned me down. She was still stronger than me, but I was growing fast, and soon I would be able to beat her in a fight. I’d had 13 years of being beaten by her because she was 3 years older than me. I laughed. “All right, what do you want Lisa?” She grinned ruthlessly and hauled me onto my feet again. “You sure are queer, Jack, looking at the green land” She scowled and her voice turned into a hiss on the word green. It was almost forbidden to look on the green land, the place where humans were free. Only a full Ifacle could look on the green land. There was talk that we would go and attack the free humans and everyone was waiting for Scethrog to give the order. Lisa punched me, hard. I glared at her but she ignored it. “C’mon Jack, you know that was a light punishment.” I rubbed my shoulder. It would probably be quite badly bruised soon – all Ifacle children learnt how to hit people hard almost as soon as they could walk. But all the same, I knew that what she had said was true. I could be punished much worse for what I had done. As we walked back towards the town, we talked. Neither of us felt happy about our tradition but we couldn’t say that to the Ifacle chiefs. They would kill us. I got the feeling I was more against it than my sister but at least she was nice to me, even if it was only when we were alone. “Jack…” Lisa whispered, sadness in her voice, “I…I’ve been chosen to do the ceremony tonight…” I looked at her in horror. The ceremony was where children of the Ifacle and any human children or adults who showed potential or weren’t needed had to kill another human and then eat their flesh. It was at this ceremony where their teeth grew and they became Ifacle properly. It was not a choice of whether you did the ceremony; you got forced to do it. It was do or die. I swallowed. There was only a ceremony once a month and Lisa would be 17 next month. Ifacle have to change from the ages of 12 and 16. It was choice up to the last ceremony of your 16th year. Lisa was already counted as weird; she had refused when they got a choice at 14. Nobody else had. Worse, I would have to watch her do the ceremony. Then I would have to choose. Every month, we got a choice but it was generally close to our 14th birthday that we did the ceremony. Lisa couldn’t be doing the ceremony; I’d have noticed her drinking the Telichar, a pale moss-like weed that grows deep in caves, far away from the sun and is always drunk for a week before the ceremony as a special brew. Then I remembered that she would get up earlier than me and go out somewhere. I’d always assumed that she was just seeing her friends but she must have been drinking the dark weed all along. Why hadn’t she told me? To rid myself of fear, I stalked over to a young human man and ordered him about for a while. Lisa went off with her friends to oversee the slave pits.
A gong banged loudly. The fires spat sparks up high into the dark night air, the glow from the fires illuminating with a flickering orange light the clearing on the other side. It was surrounded by flame, with an entrance being kept clear on either side by a small group of human slaves. The gong sounded again and the ceremony began. The humans picked to be eaten, either as a punishment or because they were rebels or prisoners of war or even simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, were brought slowly into the clearing, chained together by their ankles and wrists, and sweating from both the heat of the fires and the cold of fear. They were unchained then their captors stepped back through the exit and it was promptly closed. The humans were stick thin from hunger but even so the chief sorcerer still held them. I could hear him vaguely behind me, sat on a high wood platform around the ring, chanting the hold spell that all us chief spawn learnt. My father, the chief of our sect, sat next to him, caught up in the blood lust. The first Ifacle child came into the ring of fire, erupting cheers all over. It was my pure blood half brother, Brian, ready to face one of the ten humans. He was grinning wildly, his pale skin a flickering orange and his eyes glinting with the bloodlust flowing through everyone. He had turned 12 last week and had asked to do the ceremony immediately. One of the humans started to move, and I recognised the young man I had bullied earlier, released by the sorcerer. He weakly charged at Brian, beginning the fight to the death. Brian reacted instinctively and threw the man onto the floor over his shoulder. Then he slowly reached down and cruelly twisted the man’s neck. He pulled out his knife and carved out the still beating heart of the dead man, popping it into his mouth. Feeling sick, I looked away as he dragged the dead body of the man to the corner and continued to skin and eat the man as the next killer came in. I kept my eyes closed but I couldn’t close my ears to the cheers of the crowd or the dying gurgles of the victims. Feeling my father’s eyes piercing into me, I looked up and watched grimly through half closed eyes. Finally, it was down to the last human, a small blonde woman with pure fear etched in her grey eyes. She was struggling to get out of the Sorcerer’s mental grasp. I realised with a shudder that the only person who had not come into the ring was Lisa. I opened my eyes wider so I could see, hoping she would run away at the last second, just as she appeared out of the shadows and stepped into the ring. I felt a surge of bloodlust as my sister calmly stepped forwards, past Brian who was almost finished eating all but the bones and guts, blood dripping down his chin. The sorcerer released his hold on the young woman who was to be the victim and she stepped forwards towards Lisa, shaking. Lisa’s eyes flashed a deeper red as she drew her knife from the sheath at her belt and swiftly threw it. It thudded into the woman’s heart and she fell forwards onto the floor, a small gasp coming from her. Lisa looked slightly shocked but wisely hid her expression quickly, and, shaking slightly, went forwards and cut out the woman’s heart. She paused and then tentatively slipped it into her mouth and continued to devour the woman, whose blonde hair was now stained with her lifeblood. The whole crowd roared approval but I just felt even sicker, with a lingering excitement of the bloodlust I had felt from Lisa. I forced myself to watch on as dark shadow figures of Salinerca as they came towering over the killers as they finished eating. The Salinerca shimmered and were absorbed into the waiting Ifacle as their eyes flashed blood red. Later, when Lisa had finished, she flashed me a glance of anticipation and fear. “Sorry Jack”, her eyes said. Then she stood up and, with a last glance at me, absorbed the Salinerca. I looked down at my hands as she smiled triumphantly and her eyes had already changed to pride at what she had just completed instead of remorse. All of the Ifacle today had now completed the ceremony. As one their eyes all flashed and they all howled in pain, falling to their knees. Their mouths were open and I could see their teeth growing and becoming pointed. The howl rose in intensity and pitch and all the spectators who had already completed it howled triumphantly. It stopped suddenly, leaving me chilled to the bone as never before. I sighed, feeling sorry for the dead humans and myself. I knew for sure this was wrong, but I couldn’t do anything about it. I got up and stumbled away from the blood, bones and my grinning sister to be sick in the cesspit.