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Sin and Doubt

Guest Sin

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Chapter One: The Lamb






“Earth is dead!â€


He wore a splendid colorful robe, and a headdress made of feathers and skins. Like the others, he painted his hands and face with pasty bone-white chalk, which caught the dancing firelight and held an orange tinge. When he spoke, he spread his arms wide, arched backwards, and screamed his words to the broiling heavens. If his conversation with the shushivarna was an argument, he was certainly winning.


His name was Aardas Vyskenie, but here people called him Father. Vyskenie was in fact a eunuch, but nevertheless these were his children. As he boomed his proclamations to the clouds, his followers young and old moved about the ceremony. Some danced, some shuffled, some were too feeble and rested near the flames. They did not speak, except to chant in alien languages and echo their Father’s words. Now, as he screamed the words again, they joined him.


“Earth is dead!†The crowd fell quiet, but for a great, low drum that thumped softly against the thundering storm. “The blue planet bleeds. Her plants wither and her creatures die. Her heathen people scorn us!†Lightning cracked. “We have come to the end of our journey, and that end is -- DEATH!†As he bellowed, the thunder echoed off distant hills, and rolling fields, rocks, caverns, men and women, trees. Standing behind him, Sin felt the rumble in her gut.


“For that is what we are, children. Travelers on a journey -- on stars and on time and on life’s mighty river, in the shadows and in the light. Travelers on a dead world, never to leave again.†Here Vyskenie paused, in somber silence. The flames continued to dance to the gentle beat of the great drum. “And yet,†he said at last, “where there is death, there is also life.â€


“There is life!†the crowd murmered.


“There is life!†he screamed again, thrusting a hand towards Sin. It was so sudden that she flinched -- but like all her brothers and sisters, she was not to move yet. The four children formed a line. They knew their part, and what they were to do, but it wasn’t time yet, and so everyone stood still, but for a little fidgeting here and there. “We who have walked among the stars see only death, plague, and rot. But there is LIFE!†He was exultant now, shaking with the vivid excitement of that word ‘LIFE!’ The gathered tribe shouted with him now, cheering and clapping one another on the back, smiling through the pain Sin could still see in their eyes.


“These, our children; these, our brothers and sisters; these, our PEOPLE, born on Earth. These four carry Irzu’s light to a dark and evil world. These four are isshou -- they are US!†Vyskenie beat his chest. “For some this world is the end, but for these, this is home. This is the beginning. And where we die, these four will carry our torch -- they will live, and make life; they will be the echo of our triumphant dying shout! Earth is dead -- and EARTH IS ALIVE!â€


They were roaring now, in an ancestral tongue that Sin still didn't fully understand. It came from their homeworld, but it was seldom spoken on hers. She couldn’t tell what they were all saying, or even if they were all saying the same thing or not; but what mattered, she knew, was that they were saying it to her. Someday, Father said, they would be speaking through her. For now, they had as well speak to the rain. It fell gently now, and built on the horizon to sheets of gray noise. There wasn’t much time. Father beckoned, and Sin joined the other children at his side.


“Dead, and alive,†Vyskenie chanted. “For there can be no darkness without light -- no land without the sea -- no bird without a shadow. We would give these children a planet new with life!†The tribe echoed their agreement. “And so, we must give them death.†The words brought a clap of thunder, and silence. Each among them looked at another; Sin bit her lip.


“I will give them death,†said a voice from the fire. Her name was Lyanne, and she was one of the tribe’s grand mothers, an ancient crone, but warm. Sin knew her only a little, but remembered that she was nice. Two young men gathered Lyanne to her feet, and helped her towards their Father. “I am old,†she said, “and my eyes have seen much and more of Earth.†She spat the planet’s name, but did so with a certain reverence that betrayed more than just bitterness -- respect. “I will give the children death. Who better?â€


“You are wise,†Vyskenie said softly to her. “I will not refuse your gift, grand mother, but know, I do not impose this upon you.â€


“I know.†Lyanne drew a curved knife from her belt, and held it up for all to see. She offered it to Vyskenie, and he kissed it before pressing it into Sin’s hand.


Sin trembled. Father told her it was okay to hesitate, just this once; he told her that she was supposed to remember this moment forever, and take her time. Still, she felt as though everybody was waiting for her, and that made her want to hurry. Lyanne’s eyes seemed so bright, even set as they were among gray wrinkles. She could barely feel the weight of the blade. “Come now, Child,†Lyanne said. “You can cry for me later if you like, but not now.â€


“I wasn't crying,†Sin blurted. That made the old woman smile, and Father put a warm hand on her shoulder. What came next was lightning and thunder, and a trilling holler from the gathered tribe. There was fire, and rain, and darkness, and light. There was a great noise, and then there was silence; everything moved, and then, everything was still.


Father bent down and kissed her on the forehead. “Well done, my daughter,†he whispered, hugging her tight enough that she could feel it. “Remember this moment.â€


He let her go, and Sin gave him Lyanne’s knife. Someone came up from the fire, and carried her away to the tent. There she found a bowl of water, where she washed Lyanne’s blood from her hands and face.

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