Word Count 468
Moment of Truth
By Sharon Collins
Shadows darker than death lurk in the nightshade. Their hungry eyes float, fluorescing green in the waning firelight. My courage sputtering and flickering with the flames, like the moonlight is nearly gone. My Judgement has begun. The presence of a dozen clansmen waiting in the forest pines, does little to relieve my fear as the fangs are closer now than they. I will not die it, but I will suffer. Believed to be the Headsman’s child, neither my complete failure nor full Justice will be allowed. This privilege angers me. I would rather die than be his. Another bitter benefit of Mother’s deceit I am forced to bear, like the crumbling necklace of shattered shell. The yellowed shells have gotten sharper with age and cut into my neck with each trembling breath.
After Mother’s death ceremony, I tried to destroy the shameful thing. Intending to send it back into the sea, I climbed the very cliff Grandmother climbed that day she invented the New Way to harvest the juicy sweetness of the clams. Trickster-Gull must have needed a laugh that day because he did not warn me. With the wind in my eyes and the surf in my ears, I did not see or hear the approach of the Headsman’s First-Wife, who had come to harvest the clams herself. She, and only She, is allowed to use the New Way of Harvesting. Dropping her basketful she snatched the necklace from my hand just as I was about to fling it far into the waves. Slapping me over and over, she dragged me before the Elders…again.
‘Twice in the same Moon,’ I think and smile to myself as I draw close the dying glow of the embers. ‘Even the Headsman’s true son has never been sent to the Elders twice in the same Moon.’ I am a thorn in their side and I am glad of it. My first disobedience was creating that sewing tool. Of course, the Headsman’s Wife discovered my invention and complained. She demanded Judgement and hoped for Justice, as she had done to my Grandmother. I would have been sent to the cliff-edge, but Mother left us that very night, and I needed to sew her death tunic. Since I was already half done with the one I was making, the Elders bade me finish quickly, despite tradition. A daughter’s last duty, it took less than one sunrise and sunset to complete, even with the tears in my eyes. Mother wears it now on her journey, and I have not been allowed to use the sewing tool again. The Headman’s Wife has it.
Barely, I hear their soft footpads despite the pine-needled, forest floor. I can almost feel their hungry breath…rising to a crouch, I grip my spear as the light goes out.