The entire town had gathered for the spectacle. No one spoke a word. He could only hear their breath; when they remembered to breathe at all.
His sight was non-existent. The black hood restricted everything to be seen.
A silver slinky had been straightened and now bound his wrists together.
The grooves of cobblestone rippled under the soles of his boots.
It was the longest walk he had ever taken. It was the longest walk anyone would have ever taken.
Flames danced in trash cans; he could feel them through his clothes.
The crowd began to chant. A countdown.
“Ten! Nine! Eight…”
He’d wished it were a week later; then the countdown would mean something else.
“Seven! Six! Five…”
He began to slow his pace. Finally coming to a stop.
A bellowing drum sounded simultaneously with the tolling bell of the clock in the square.
His wrists tightened against the stretched-out slinky. Instinct told him to run; but he wouldn’t.
A new drum joined in with each chime. The bellowing soon began to drown out the chiming.
Twelve drummers drumming.
The crowd drew in a collective breath.
He was pushed from the cobblestone, falling through the cold midnight air.
The first point of metal pierced his back. Then four more.
A current from the magical star poisoned his veins. He went into convulsions.
The star passed through his body.
He was the new star on the big tree.
The town would gather again next year.
The twelve drummers would drum again next year.
Another sacrifice would be made next year.