Kass stomped off to the next room, her face stormy with anger. Her mother called after her, “It doesn’t matter how you feel. Your name was drawn for the giving box. You must give an item dear to you.”
“It’s not fair,” she muttered to the doll. “I was drawn last year. I…just want my cat back.”
The doll’s face was still. It seemed the giving box demanded much from their family. Her mother’s name was drawn three years before. Her wedding rings were dropped into the box in sacrifice for the village. She spent the holidays staring off in silence. It had been all she had left from her marriage since her husband was killed.
Last year, Kass was faced with the question. What is most precious to you? She finally settled upon her cat Beans. When she climbed the long stairway under the watchful gaze of her fellow villagers, she almost dropped the cat as it wriggled to escape. When she finally reached the top, the lid proved cumbersome. She held onto the cat between her legs while she forced the lid off. At five years old, she would have liked a grown up to go with her. However, that was against the rules. Tears streaming down her cheeks, she lifted the cat into the box. The lid closed down, and she just collapsed next to the box and cried. Nobody moved. She had to finish her journey of sacrifice on her own.
The year had been hard and they had to turn to the giving box often for sufficiency. When Kass was drawn once more, the murmur among the villagers was that as a child, she had not chosen her most precious item. Perhaps the mother had not, either. The lottery seemed to focus in on this family. Perhaps that was why the weather turned dry. Perhaps that was why the winter stormed in early.
Kass curled up around her pillow. Her gut hurt with despair. She didn’t have much. Her doll was just a plaything. She could drop it into the box but she could easily replace it. A shiver of cold went up her spine and she pulled her father’s shirt more tightly around her. She had worn it every day since his passing. It kept her warm like a hug in his absence. She had cried into the fur of her cat. However, this shirt had enveloped her and made her feel protected. This shirt…
She sniffed back her tears. Walking into the living room, she pulled her shirt off. Looking at her mother, she said once more, “It isn’t fair.”
“I know, my dear. Sometimes our tests force us to dig deep. I believe in you. You will make the right choice.” Her daughter sniffed and nodded. “And, I don’t believe what the villagers say. I know how precious Beans was to you. I know you sacrificed.”
“I hope they don’t draw me next year.”
“As do I…as do I.”
The ceremony was at sunset. They walked slowly up the hill together as the villagers gathered behind her. Stopping at the foot of the stairs, Kass turned to her mother. With a hug, she whispered, “I know what I have to do. Trust me.”
Her mother began to cry brokenly at the foot of the stairs as her daughter climbed the stairs. As she reached the top, she placed the shirt gingerly on the ground. Lifting the lid, she turned toward the crowd. “I want this to stop!” With those words, she climbed inside, pulling the lid over her. The crowd gasped. No one had ever sacrificed themselves before. As the lid snapped shut, a light glowed around the chest and it lifted into the air. Cracking open, the child is seen surrounded by a brilliant aurora. “No more.” She turned as if she was walking off and then they saw a hand clasp hers.
Her mother smiled through her tears. “Take care of her.”