Smoke, grey like a portent of rain, unfurled with anguine grace from the council chamber. The discourse concerning Chatan’s fate was being held there. From the crude cut window of his outlying shanty, Chatan watched, imagining the weathered faces of elders cast in red chiaroscuro from a central brassier as they spoke of foreboding prognostications. He could only wish the dialogue he suffered through was theirs, and not that of Namid. She slapped the end table repeatedly to draw his attention. “Why aren’t you writing this down?” “Forgive me.” He asked, smiling sheepishly as he focused again on his work. “Your husband’s decision preoccupies me.” “It shouldn’t.” she stated succinctly. “Your fate is known. They are only discussing whether your offering will set precedence or not.” Though incredulous, Chatan’s equanimity began to falter. “Your husband said as much to you?” he implored. And Namid smiled wide, like a dog, relishing her intimate secrets. It was an expression in contrast to her body, soft with the adipose motherhood and affluence bring. It made bile churn in Chatan’s stomach. “If Pannoowau, our lord and keeper, should desire it, we do as we can to fulfill it. You understand the value of your sacrifice, no?” Chatan smiled bitterly. “Of course, Namid. It’s an honor.” She laughed shrilling and clapped her hands. “It is! It is!” Namid agreed. “To think our village was chosen, able to adulate Pannoowau with human oblation. It’s almost worthy of myth isn’t? Though, honestly, you better resemble a sappling’s imitation of man than a man himself. I wonder why Pannoowau didn’t choose someone with more charm. One of my daughter’s would have made an excellent offering, don’t you agree?” she carried on garrulously. Though he knew his place, no better than chattel or produce, Chatan was still wounded by how easily the village had forfeited his life. Such heartless disregard, he could hardly stomach it. Though Chatan never had much of a life, had cursed his own existence time and time again, but never had he wanted what was to come. It was both the dream of change and nightmare of the unknown. It was terrifying. As he and Namid continued their session, recording the history of Chief Mingan’s family, Chatan tried in vain to focus on his task. But fear only grew while sitting in wait. Past noon, a runner arrived. The smoke from the council chamber had turned white, signally the council’s agreement, and news was brought to both Chatan and Namid. Just as she had said, Chatan was to be offer to Pannoowau. The ceremony was set for dusk. He was only given hours to prepare, not even a full day to make peace with his family. And so, in one final note, written in the pages of another man’s history, Chatan made what he thought could be his last words. Should this village become an abattoir, then with cold indifference I will take seat at the butcher’s table. There is no sympathy for heifers, for they’ve no sympathy for the damned. * * * Under a painted sky of orange and magenta, the village gathered at the mountain’s base. Scree and pockets of course flora crunched underfoot. The low whine of primitive string instruments swelled in the air, and drums beat to the cadence of death’s wings. The people chanted. Wanton dancing and dervish spinning of women carved paths in the loose rocks. And in the controlled chaos of celebration was the forlorn song of a single flute, droning softly beneath the revelry. Standing head and shoulders above the villagers, flanked by warriors, was Chatan. He was clad in wraps of muslin, his only protection from the sun’s ire. It felt like he was enveloped in a death shroud, awaiting burial. He didn’t even have possessions to carry. He, and he alone, would follow Pannoowau into the mountains. And as they waited, anxious in expectation, Chatan could only think that if gods truly existed, then by cosmic design, he would one day repay the people the treatment he had received.