A man is a god in ruins.

They watched her dance, a thin chain of silver around her stomach shining against the firelight. She was blonde, fourteen; her skin, they only knew to describe as the color of wet pencil shavings. Her name, as they had always known, was North. The Birthright Child. The Living Womb and Savior. North.

The drummers beat some ancient song that her naked hips knocked against. The drumheads, big and beige, drawn taut with thick lines of yarn, smelled of rotted beans and baby oil.

The old Brothers snapped their open hands, their wrists, wet and shiny with sweat through the air, the sound reverberating between the gnarled oaks, disappearing into the night. This beat the boys had heard for the last months of training, a pounding they were instructed to memorize and play themselves, preparation this moment. This all came very naturally to them, however; they had heard it for the first months of their lives.

“It’s mine, I know it,” Medote said. He had his hands beneath the folds of his navy robe and rubbed the little hairs that had begun growing on his chest. He leaned back against a large warped oak. His forehead was down. The dim light that had pushed its way to the boys, shadowed over his eyes. He stared, “I know it.”

Medote was a friend of Adams. He hoped that if it wasn’t him who won, it would at least be his best friend. They had taken classes together, played baseball and poker together during recessional periods.

Comoro looked up from his rock, a big and ugly kid, “Not if I can help it, fucker.” He spat, “I’m going to be the one.” Comoro had no friends in the brotherhood. He sat alone at lunch.

“It’ll come out looking red and warped,” Adams said. Medote laughed.

Comoro got up and poked him in the chest, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You’re ugly. That’s what it’s supposed to mean.”

Comoro backed off and grinned, his monstrous yellow teeth beaming, “Luckily for me, then, this has nothing to do with looks.”

“Get out of my face,” Adams said, “I’m trying to concentrate here.”

Comoro sat back down. The other ten boys beside him.

The girl’s body was the lightest thing Adams had ever seen. She looked like a branch moving in the wind, he thought, like the lost language of beauty. He became hard, much like he had learned he would. He began to pat the tips of his fingers with his thumbs to keep from the thoughts of touching his penis, the thoughts of ejaculation. There would be time for that.

The girl kept dancing and swaying, twirling around the fire, over to each of them. She touched Adams on the face, lightly on the chin. He looked away, into the yawning darkness of the woods. The wind blew in, cooling off the warm sweat from his skin.

The drums stopped, the girl had danced out of the light and was now facedown on a sundial outside the light of the fire. Her small legs were spread, her head up, her back arched and the curves of her ass creased a thin layer of fat on both legs. Adams knees felt weak and a pulse in him lit up warm and painful. It was the first time this happened without direct supervision and the boy felt restless.

Tourrace stood, opened a short scroll. He had not been Adams mentor for many years, but did, fortunately, remember his name. “Adams.” He looked up from the scroll to the young boy.

Adams removed himself from the tree, walked around the fire. Outside its light, leaves were piled wet and high, to his ankles. At the sundial, Adams opened his robe and inserted his penis into North. It was warm and wet and he barely fit. One thrust and he removed himself. It felt terrifying; he was nervous and didn’t want to risk anything yet. Adams was no hero.


John Bimore, the littlest guy in the order, got up, followed Adams’ path and did the same. North wailed a little this time; the boys were instructed to ignore these signs, that these wails were of the most sacred kind. Bimore looked at Adams and smiled as he walked back to a large rock nearest the fire.

Tourrace continued reading the names. “Comoro.” Then, “Dixon.” “Epps.” “Medote.” “Percy.”

Eventually, it was Adams turn again. Then the others. Adams, then the others. One insertion and then back to the rocks and trees. They kept going and going until finally, Comoro’s turn again. This time, though, he did not stop at one thrust. His robe swayed quickly, back and forth. It was a risk, to initiate this ritual so quickly. According to the text, the quickest round had only been Five; they were only at Four.

North wrapped the tops of her curled feet around his back. She moaned, sounded in pain. The young men watched, the mentors sounded the drums again.

Comoro drove forward again, then again. His body shook. According to the text, this was a sure sign. He then collapsed to the ground, happy. Adams could barely see it, but he could tell that North was bleeding. Down her legs, around her ankles, blood trickled, the stream veering down from her feet, into the atmosphere. The girl flipped over and her stomach began heaving up and down. Comoro had won, the seed was new and growing. Life had begun.

Tourrace walked over to Comoro and placed his old hands on the skinny, pimpled shoulders of the victor. “In ovo!”

Comoro stood, “I told you all!” He screamed, “I told you all!”

Dixon jumped up. He yelled, “Shit!,” and ran into the woods. Tourrace and the other mentors did not move. They only smiled. In the distance, they could hear Dixon begging for his life, crying. Then a deep, pounding voice. Then, no sound. A patrolman must’ve got him.

Tourrace removed a knife from the inside lapel of his purplish robe and stuck it near the middle of the fire. The massive blade for which Adams had seen in the halls of academia since the Pubescentry Training, began glowing red as Tourrace chanted. He then instructed the boys come forward in the order in which they had been called.

“That’s me.” Adams said. He walked to the rim of the fire and knelt at the foot of his old mentor. Heat licked against his robe. The drums hammered.

Before the glowing blade pierced his skull, Adams heard shrieks and gags from the sundial. He looked, in his final moment, to see the reason of his sacrifice, the Dead Day itself and the years of training: four newborns and another sliding out, the first of many Brothers.

And Comoro holding his penis and laughing. Laughing because he passed the test. Because he’d live forever.