The red moon rises, arcs, comes to rest high against the midnight darkness. A pool of blood amidst a starry sky, it’s the Devil’s mark, they say. But the Devil doesn’t show His face, not this night, and none before. We’ve never seen the Devil here, only the monsters that seek appeasement on His behalf – the Beasts within the woods.
They howl to the red moon, growl and snarl – hidden – beyond the cover of half-dead trees that shake like bones in the Autumn breeze. Their shadows threaten their presence, teasing dangerously close to the edge of the decaying tree-line, where we gather in a circle, shaking with those trees as our own bones shiver within our skins. But we know what must be done, every blood-red moon, and so we stand ‘round the crackling fire as the eldest of our brood speaks.
Sacrifice, he says, bold and sure though his jowls quake fearfully with the rest of us, is the way of survival. One will sacrifice, so that all may survive. This is the way.
We repeat his words. This is the way. The way it’s always been.
The sky gets darker, the moon glows brighter, its light pulsing, like a beating heart. Rustling from the woods intensifies, and the Elder’s voice dims with each hungry shriek and gluttonous growl of the Beasts that wait beyond.
Who, he asks, will Sacrifice themselves tonight?
Silence meets his ears, and the ground is overcome with tremors. A babe cries in its mother’s arms, and the Beasts answer with a hiss.
Who, it’s asked again, will Sacrifice themselves tonight?
Leaves shuffle along the grass as a woman steps forward, tentative, before the man beside her tugs her back, his fingers white-knuckled about her arm. All eyes fall to the pair, and then cast down to the roundness of her stomach. No one speaks, watching. We all know a choice has to be made – if not willing, then the Beasts will choose, and when the Beasts take from the unwilling, they’re ravenous in their want.
From the tree-line, glowing eyes open and watch. Yellow-orange, milky grey. The air seems to chill with their presence. A twig snaps, the sound crackling through the woods. It’s the Elder who steps back next, though the reaction is futile.
A leathery tendril, covered in thorny spines and dripping muck springs forth from the woods. It takes the Elder in its grasp, twisting around his figure. We only watch as it winds and creeps about his form, as the tendril plunges inside him through his mouth, bulging out his throat. Blood wells like a fountain from the gaping hole, and the Elder is drug into the woods, his hands clawing the earth as his tears stream down his face.
All calms, and stills. Even the babe is silent. Above us, the blood-moon glows.