What Pegman Saw: Tribute

Dos Ojos Cenote © Jason Covert Google Maps

 

Shaman said it was the only way to drive them out.

Every child knows from mothers’ milk that Tribute is the only way to correct the course of man. That days spin out from a spiral, and when the course has wronged, Tribute is the only way to correct it.

Sixty children, Shaman asked. One for each finger and toe of every warrior lost to the sickness. Sixty children sacrificed to the cenotes.

Tribute brought rain to parched fields, tribute sent clouds of hoppers on to other crops far away.

But sixty children meant no family went without sacrifice.

Babajide thought of his son, nearly eleven. Of his two girls, now seven and four. How could he choose?

He wouldn’t, he decided. They would flee. Go as far as Chichen Itza if that’s what it took. Even if it meant the White Face peopled Zama like a swarm of hoppers.

150 words

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw. To read more stories inspired by the prompt or to submit your own, click here.

17 Comments

  1. Superb writing. You’ve crafted an excellent tragedy. Sophie’s Choice with a twist.

    1. Thanks J. Hardy, glad you liked it.

  2. There are passages in the Torah about not passing your children through the “fires of Moloch.” Apparently the Canaanites and other peoples of the Land would burn children to the fertility god. Since the Israelites always seemed vulnerable to being lured away from the Almighty into worship of the pagan gods of the Land, this prohibition was particularly strong (and please, if anyone is tempted to see my statement as anti-Semitic and feels compelled to issue anti-Jewish statements, keep in mind, I’m only citing Biblical content and commentary. Also, my wife and children are Jewish, so I take a dim view of anti-Jewish statements).

    1. I’m definitely opposed to sacrificing children.

      Thanks for reading, James!

  3. Gosh, Karen, I shuddered at Babajide’s dilemma. I’m glad he chose to flee. And what a lot of detail you included! Did you have it in mind that the disease afflicting the warriors was smallpox, brought by the White Face?
    Terrific story!

    1. Yes, I was thinking smallpox. Thanks for reading and glad you liked it!

  4. Traditions of sacrifice are common in many cultures, and though they might seem bizarre to us, I’m sure they seemed totally normal to people who are raised with those beliefs (the same way our crazy beliefs seem normal to us). That makes the choice that seems obvious to me — fleeing — much less obvious and more treacherous for your character. You’ve done a wonderful job painting this conflict in such a short story. Well done!

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Joy! Indeed, it must have seemed normal to them. Thanks for reading.

  5. This is wonderful. I was afraid one of the girls would be sacrificed. But you did a beautiful about-face in 150-words.

    1. I couldn’t let anyone get sacrificed! 😉 Thanks for reading, Lish.

  6. And, even in Chichen Itza, the cenotes exist… Terrifying story. Heard many cenote stories during my time in the Yucatan. Ohhh, the mems!

  7. […] as always to Karen and Josh for hosting this globe trotting […]

  8. Dear Karen,

    I thought of Sophie’s Choice, too. What a brutal culture. You’ve captured the emotion beautifully. But then, you never disappoint.

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

    1. You are very kind! I feel that way about your stories. Thank you for reading and commenting and being a part of Pegman.

  9. Love your story – it has a mythic quality alongside a poignantly personal immediacy. Beautifully crafted narrative.

    1. Thanks so much, thanks for reading!

  10. Harrowing and well-written.

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