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Jamie Thomas, 09 Jul '12

My blood was on fire with anticipation as I took my seat on the floor with the other initiatives. I was a mess of worry and raw excitement at the prospects awaiting me. One thought was prominent in my mind. I would finally fit in.

The initiatives didn’t chat. We all feigned a numb and content atmosphere, masking our fears and apprehensions. We had all worked hard to have the privilege of sitting before The Members who observed us today, and none of us wanted to blow the chance at freedom. I had spotted one of The Members, a young man of about my age, 17 or 18, who had a stern look on his face as he scanned over the initiatives who sat below him on the carpet. He was garbed in the classic crimson jacket and black trousers that all of the members wore. It made the black jumpsuits they had forced us to wear look pathetic. The look of resentment on his face was unmistakeable. I shivered, hoping it went unnoticed. It was too late for second thoughts.

There was a sudden wave of agitation and pure adrenaline that washed through the crowd on the floor. I twisted my head around quickly and laid my eyes on the magnificence of Jonah.

“Members, start handing out the cards,” he muttered under his breath, and the Members immediately started moving amongst us, dropping small folded pieces of paper in our laps.
Jonah addressed us this time. “Do not open your card yet.”

There was a suspended moment of silence, and I was scared. So, so scared. But it was far too late for second thoughts now. I reminded myself that I would finally get a chance to fit in. Seeing Jonah up this close and in person was a devastating experience. He was unassuming, yet somehow influential and powerful in the way he spoke. His ability to lead the group was undeniable, and the phrase “golden tongue” was obvious from just hearing him mutter. He wore the same red jacket that the Members wore, but it was unbuttoned and showed a white vest underneath. The vest could have been covered in smudges of mud, but it was hard to see in the dim light of The Home. When the last card dropped, Jonah spoke again.

“Initiatives, welcome to The Home, the meagre base of the Cult of Belonging.” He took a deliberate pause. “You have all fought hard to be here, both online, and by sending messages to the public through tagging. We applaud you for getting this far.”

As if on cue, The Members began clapping enthusiastically. They were much more excitable now that Jonah was here.

“As you can see, there are 11 of you sat before us. However, we only admit 10 every month. I see the look of bewilderment on your faces, but don’t worry. Only one of you will not be entering tonight. In order to worm out the unequal amongst you, we must leave it down to Mother Fate, the patron of our Cult. Each of you hold a card in your hands, and each card has a symbol on it. Open your cards now.”

My heart was racing and my hands were shaking. I struggled to open my card and when I did my heart jumped up into my throat. I felt sick. I looked up and saw the look on the face of the resentful Member I had notice before. He could see the symbol on my card, and he was silently laughing. I looked back down to confirm, just as the lights came on, illuminating everything for everyone to see. On my card was the unmistakable symbol of a Skull. There were sighs all around me as Initiatives opened their cards and found harmless symbols. I looked up at Jonah and saw that he had removed his jacket. It wasn’t mud on his vest, but blood. It was on his hands too. I felt sick. He flexed his arms, and I saw he held a knife in his hand.

“You all know your symbols. Each one is important. We have the flower symbol.” A girl to my right raised her arm proudly, her card in her hand. “A symbol to show we will continue to grow and prosper. We have the snake, a symbol of our versatility and the necessity of some evils. We have the lion, a symbol of our ferocity when cornered. We have the sun, a symbol of how we will continue to burn brightly forever. And then we have the symbol of the skull.”
All eyes fell on me. A cold chill enveloped me and I began to cry. I was pathetic. A boy who sat in front of me turned around and guffawed.

“The skull is one of our most important symbols. It represents that death is always present, especially in our cult, and we must embrace it.”

There was a silence that lasted too long. I began to fear that if I didn’t get up soon, I would be dragged to the chopping block by the Members. Jonah’s knife glinted in the harsh lighting. I was going to die.

“This brings me on to the last symbol I will mention. The lamb. A sign of innocent sacrifice.”
My head shot up, startled. The boy in front of me, the one who had guffawed had a look of fright on his face. I couldn’t calculate what was happening, and before I knew it The Members were carrying him up to stand before Jonah. His card fell to the floor. On it was the symbol of the lamb. The members had become more agitated now; they were all buzzing with the thrill of the first kill of the night. The 17 or 18 year old Member was rubbing his hands together and licking his lips, as if he was either about to eat or fornicate. The Initiatives were all frozen in fear, but there was an unmistakable feeling of relief that had passed through us.

“Initiatives, tonight you become Members. Witness the sacrifice that initiates you. Welcome, welcome one and all!”

Jonah’s voice had climbed, and with the last shouted word he sunk his knife into the doomed sacrifice’s neck. He drew the blade out, blood flicking across him and the other Members. He stabbed again, and again, and again. The floor was soon slick with blood. I gagged and retched, and I wasn’t alone. As the body of the sacrifice crumpled to the floor, the room had descended into madness. Members were leaping about like lunatics, covered in blood and glee, and the Initiatives were all retching and crying and wallowing in their own mess on the floor.

Suddenly, Jonah spoke, calming the room.

“You’ll get used to it.”

He quickly left, and Members picked us up and herded us in the direction of another door. I heard one of them mention something about new clothes, and a harsh welcoming statement.

As I was pushed through the doorway, I looked back at the crumpled body of the sacrifice. The feeling of relief was now greater than remorse, and I was happy that I wasn’t crumpled on the floor in a pool of blood. Perhaps I had deserved this more. Perhaps I deserved the chance to fit in.

Comments · 9

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  • Jamie Thomas said...

    I don't know where this idea came from, and I didn't expect it to take the twists and turns it did, but I'm fairly happy with it. Don't be afraid to tell me what you think guys! Thanks.

    • Posted 6 years ago
  • Anthony Blackshaw said...

    Welcome to Burrst @Jamie Thomas - great debut.

    It's always your decision if you want to mark a burst as adult (16+). Having read your burst personally I don't feel it needs to be marked as adult since it doesn't contain any strong language or graphic deceptions of violence or sex. I know people are sometimes a little cautious especially with their first burst so I thought I'd let you know my opinion. This is a great burst and less people will see it if it's marked as adult, but it is your decision I'm not trying to persuade you one way or the other. The point of the adult rating is to make sure you feel comfortable with the audience you're posting your work to.

    • Posted 6 years ago
  • Jamie Thomas said...

    Thanks @Anthony Blackshaw, that is very helpful. You are right, I was just cautious at first but now I've happily unmarked it as adult. Thanks very much! This is a great website by the way, I'm so grateful :D

    • Posted 6 years ago
  • Ash Shields said...

    I really like this, good work. Kept me interested all the way through, and I'd attribute that to a blend of a great concept and a good writing style. Look forward to reading more!

    • Posted 6 years ago
  • Jamie Thomas said...

    @Ash Shields Thanks very much! It was refreshing to just write and see where the story took me, and I liked how it turned out. Thank you.

    • Posted 6 years ago
  • Ross Tarran said...

    Welcome to Burrst, new member @Jamie Thomas! ;)

    • Posted 6 years ago
  • Jessica Cambrook said...

    Wow! Interesting idea, having a cult based on technology - really goes against stereotypes. Maybe Facebook isn't as great as we think!
    Really well thought out and the tension was great, I thought the main character was definitely a goner but I breathed a sigh of relief when he was saved by the lamb. Made me question whether that was cruel.
    The Hunger Games sprang to mind while I was reading this, because of the fast pace, tension and brutality. Really great twist ending, I hope you write more :D

    • Posted 6 years ago
  • Jessica Cambrook said...

    Just an update, I didn't realise this was by you! Just read your other story, they were so different I didn't even click on. Obviously you're a versatile writer :D

    • Posted 6 years ago
  • Jamie Thomas said...

    Thank you @Jessica Cambrook, much appreciated. The idea sort of made itself up and I just went along with it to be honest, but I love writing things like this anyway (slightly disturbed). And yeah, the hunger games did inspire this quite a bit, I'm glad you noticed the connection :)

    • Posted 6 years ago