Written by Fahmy Hady
“I couldn’t get him back this time. His name was among those from the Straw.”
“You need to let go; this anger is not good for you.”
“My son is what’s good for me. I will get him back even if they take me in his stead.”
Helpless determination rests in his voice.
“You think I do not weep for my child. I have grieved, but his sacrifice is not in vain. It is the Straw and we must respect it. It is fair and keeps us alive. If they did not purge a number of children every year, this Earth would be over-run. The Straw is the only thing standing between us and disaster. You know this as well as I do.”
“THE STRAW! THE STRAW! THE STRAW!”
He paces around the room as a madman.
“You know how important and sacred the Straw is. The Straw is the merciful choice, that they pick children who do not yet have much of a life. It would be selfish of us to wish our children weep us, instead of us weeping them.”
He stops his pace as his wife thinks she’s getting through to him.
She continues, “you should be grateful the Straw isn’t biased. It is random and fair. It keeps the population in check. You were right there with me when disaster struck and when the world gave in to depredation. We are lucky to have been chosen to survive. And the Straw is the best thing that happened since then. Our son honours us; he honours humanity.”
“If the rest of the world wants to live in this depraved reality, to burn their children as logs in a bonfire, let them! But it stops on my doorstep, and my son will not be fuel to their sick flames!!”
Rough hollers echo through the house.
The grieving mother grabs her purse, pulling out a small, golden emblem, with the word “Humanity” engraved. She hands it to her enraged husband.
“You have to let go. Our son was embraced by divinity, and now soars the High Heavens. It came this morning. The messenger said we were to present this anywhere, at any time, and any lawful request would be obliged.”
A single tear trickles down the father’s cheek.
The door knocks. A tall, slender fellow who – if anything – looks soulless, but-normal.
“I am here to offer my condolences and tell you that the entire neighborhood is proud to be commemorating your son’s sacrifice today.”
“Thank you… and our thanks to everyone’s efforts,” the mother responds.
“It is no more than our duty. Your son honors us all. Forgive me, but I couldn’t help overhearing some hollers and yelling. Is everything alright?” the neighbor asks.
“My husband is just having a hard time coping with what happened today,” she squints at her husband with blame; he was humiliating them.
“If I may, I know this must not be easy for you. The Straw is always hard on people, but I personally saw you, sir, calm the family across the street when the Straw chose both their daughters. Plus, it’s not like he was your only son. You have more children, and they need you to look out for them.”
The man gives him a rueful grin.
The father stays quiet for such a long time, the man turns to the mother: “the neighborhood will be waiting for you tonight at the Honoring.”
He turns and is almost out the door when the father speaks.
“You’re right. I have more children and they do need me to look out for them,” he whispers.
He scurries out of view inside the house, as the neighbor stands at the door confused. He stares at the mother, who also shares his confusion. Before the man can mouth more words, the father charges towards him with a kitchen knife, rooting itself deep into his heart.
“Oh my God!! What have you done!?” she screams frantically.
“I have more children…” he calmly mutters.
He then rushes through the front door, and into the world.