The Ceremony

By Andrew Looney

Half a dozen figures, wearing hoods and black robes, emerged from the woods. Entering the clearing, they passed through the circle of standing stones and approached the tilted rock slab. As the twilight waned, they each took up torches, which sent long shadows flickering against the trees. With the rising of the moon, the robes of one of their number were removed, revealed a beautiful woman with long blond hair, her arms and legs bound with chains. The others stretched her out upon the circular slab of stone, and then slowly moved around the circle, chanting quietly. The cold steel of a dagger glinted in the dim light. The woman's scream of pain echoed through the darkness.

* * * * *

"Hey! look at this!"

"What is it?" yelled John, dropping his backpack and running after his friend.

"I'm not sure," said Dale, standing at the edge of the ring of standing stones, "but it's a great place to eat lunch."

John came into the field. "Wow. It looks like the ruins of some ancient civilization. There are sites like this all over England, but I didn't know any existed around here."

"It's kind of like Stonehenge, only smaller."

"Exactly. I wonder... Why hasn't anyone discovered it before?"

Dale pulled some sandwiches out of his backpack. "We are a little off the beaten path, you know."

They sat on the tilted stone slab and ate. For a time, they were silent, each occupied with his own thoughts.

"Just think. Thousands of years ago, early man built this. How? This slab must weigh twenty tons. And why?"

"Well, most people think they were just for ceremonial purposes, but some believe that they were used for astronomical calculations. This may have been a giant calender."

Dale leaned back on the slab. "Maybe," he said, "but this stain looks like dried blood."

"What?" John leaned over and examined the stain. He took out his pocketknife, and scraped the stone. Brown flakes came loose.

"Strange... This IS dried blood. I wonder how it got here."

This story appears in My Secret World. Copyright © 1985 by Andrew Looney.

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