Ritual

Avatar Author: Jim Stitzel I dabble a little in a lot of things -- writing, webcomics, gaming, photography, web design, music, and more. I'm a full-time code-wrangler and a part-time farmer with 40 acres, a lot of animals, and far, far too much to do. Read Bio

His hood is pulled up, casting his face in shadow. The bus rolls to a stop in front of him, and he steps on board. He ignores the driver’s terse greeting. It’s not like he means it. Years of driving kids to school has turned this ritual into little more than a Pavlovian call-and-response.

He walks toward the back of the bus, looking for an open seat. One of the upperclassmen makes room for him.

As he takes his seat, the upperclassman peers under his hood. “You’re looking healthier. Eating better?” he asks.

He shrugs. It’s not like it matters. He always looks gaunt.

The upperclassman notices what he’s holding. “They’ll never let you take that into the school.”

“I know,” he replies. “It doesn’t matter.” The upperclassman nods like this makes sense.

At school, he steps up to the metal detector. One of the guards approaches. “Sorry, Famine. I can’t let you take the sickle in. You can get it back at the end of the day.”

Famine nods. This, too, is ritual. School policy. It’s not like he really needs it.

View this story's details

Prequels

Oh no! This story doesn't have a prequel. Want to fill in the blanks and write one?

Sequels

Oh no! This story doesn't have a sequel. Want to fill in the blanks and write one?

Comments (13 so far!)

Average Reader Rating

  1. Avatar The Third Robot

    Grammatically and what-not it’s ideal, however there is something about the story that leaves me unsatisfied. Perhaps it’s just the premise or maybe I just didn’t get it. I don’t think that “Famine” was the best choice either.

    Unfortunately I can’t exactly place my finger on it, sorry about that.

  2. Avatar Jim Stitzel

    I’m not sweatin’ it. I can’t make everyone happy with my writing all the time. Besides, when the muse sings, you just gotta answer — and this was the tune she sang to me this morning. I guess this vignette is something of an exploration for me into something a bit new and different. I appreciate you reading and leaving feedback!

  3. Avatar Jim Stitzel

    Well, lack of emotion is Famine’s mood in this piece, but the fact that it strikes readers as flat and boring, too, probably isn’t a good sign. :)

  4. Ahfl_icon THX 0477

    Bizarre but kind of cool. Nicely told in a dead pan sort of delivery that fits your morose, resigned character. One slip into past tense in the first paragraph but otherwise strong use of the present tense.

  5. Avatar Jim Stitzel

    Are you referring to the phrase “has turned?” If so, then that’s a legitimate use of past tense due to the ‘has’ helping verb, which keeps it in the second person perspective.

  6. Avatar RoseTone ~LoA~

    Wow – this is eerily… empty in some way – containing and conveying a deadly, pessimistic sort of complacency.

    The phrase repetition of “It’s not like he means it”, “It’s not like it matters”, “It doesn’t matter”, and “It’s not like he really needs it” feels somewhat redundant but also helps to convey the Bohemian Rhapsody feel that “nothing really matters” to Famine. I can’t think of how you could get the same feel across in other phrases.

    This is very unlike anything I’ve read on here to date – a totally different type of story.

  7. Avatar Jim Stitzel

    Empty was the feeling I was going for. I wanted to convey this sense that Famine, who brings emptiness to people’s bellies, experiences a personal famine in his life every day.

  8. Avatar ElshaHawk (LoA)

    i used to know guys with this exact demeanor..

  9. Avatar Wednesday [PJ] ((LoA))

    Well I don’t know about everyone else, but I love it. It’s Death! Death in a high school. At first I thought it was some emo-chav hybrid.

  10. Avatar HSAR

    I got the impression this was the Horseman Famine, of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

    A great read.

  11. Avatar Jim Stitzel

    Yup, it’s the Horseman. You can read Famine’s age whatever makes the most sense to you.

  12. Avatar Yunalasca

    Nice story,with a good arc and twist at the end.
    I enjoy the way the story flows. It feels almost visual in the way this movement is implied.

  13. Avatar Jim Stitzel

    Thanks, Yuna! This one started out with a clear visual in my head of a teenage Horseman of the Apocalypse carrying a sickle to school. The rest was just details to be filled in. Glad to know my original visual carried through to the words. :)

This story's tags are