A Tale of Terror by MsFicwriter
In the dim light of my bedroom, cast by a single candlestick that made shadows dance on the ceiling, I sought her smiling face. It anchored my life, and my world.
"May I ask you three questions before I go to sleep?"
"Of course." Rustle went her long nightdress; whoosh went the wind outside. There would be a storm tonight, and I didn't even need the omens of our priests to tell me! The Masked Ones would be meditating, ensuring our safety and peace.
Folding my hands on top of my white blanket, I took a deep breath and prepared to take a risk. Normally, I would ask Mother questions like, "Where does the rain come from?" and "How old will you be when I grow up?" Tonight, however, I had more serious matters on my mind. Who cared about rain and age when the three biggest questions in my five-year-old heart had not yet been answered? I almost whispered when I spoke to Mother:
"Who is our god? For some reason, you won't tell me about him. Please do!"
Mother closed her eyes and opened them again slowly. She seemed to be making some sort of decision, but what kind? Her voice was soft and low:
"Our god is the most powerful one in the world. We call him the Faceless, because he lacks a visage. You know what our priests have told you: Though he has no eyes, the Faceless sees. Though he has no ears, the Faceless hears. Though he has no lips, the Faceless speaks. We are all blessed because we live in his holy city, cleft into a mountainside upon the rim of his Maw."
"What's a maw?" I slapped my hands over mine. "Oh, no! That one didn't count!"
Mother chuckled softly. "I'll allow you one free question for tonight, since you're showing such an interest in sacred things. A maw is a mouth, a very large one, and the Maw of the Faceless is the vast crater in the middle of the place we call home. On the night of every full moon, the Masked Ones all gather together and pray. The Maw opens, and the Faceless speaks."
"What does he say?" I paused. "That's my second question."
"Only our priests know that, because they're the ones who can hear him. You may think you only hear the wind on the night of the full moon, but after the Masked Ones have finished praying, they focus their minds and listen. The words of the Faceless echo from his Maw. When dawn comes, our priests tell us what he said. They've never been wrong, and they never can be."
Mother smiled, with candlelight reflected in her eyes. "Is that your third question, daughter mine? We both know you have too many!" We giggled, because this was true. I had a thousand more questions I wanted to ask:
Why aren't we allowed to go into the temple of our god until we're seven? Why don't we get to be chosen to be Masked until we're sixteen? I'm smart! I know I could learn everything they had to teach me before then. Also, why do the Masked Ones wear masks? I asked none of these questions, however. Why not? had stuck in my mind and my mouth for some reason, like a piece of food that had lodged itself between my teeth. I said, "Yes, that's it."
"Our priests can never be wrong, because the Faceless is never wrong."
Really? "I believe that, about our god, but we people make mistakes..."
Mother stood up, smoothing the part of the blanket which had been underneath her and tucking me into bed. "That's all for tonight. If you get scared during the storm, come see me. Yes?" Happily and thankfully, I nodded. "Your father would have been so proud of you, had he heard you tonight! You're a special child, a miracle, and I don't want you to forget it." She drew a warm hand across my cool forehead. "Good night, darling." Blowing out the candle, she turned to leave, and I realized I had one more question:
What happened to Father? You said he died, but how? Was he sick?
Agh! Those were three annoying and unanswered queries, and I pinched myself. I must try not to vex Mother, because her eyes--
Her eyes were so sad, and I didn't know why. What was the reason for that? The wind continued howling, and I heard the roar of thunder in the distance. Despite what Mother had promised me I could do, I pulled the white blanket up over my head and pretended I was dead. That way the storm couldn't hurt me, and neither could the mysteries buzzing in my mind like baby wasps...