Gateways: “The Offering” by Rob McLemore read by Jasmin Tomlins, Molly Southgate and Rob Southgate



TRANSCRIPT: Rob McLemore has been writing in some form or another since college.  While his work is predominantly comedic, he always enjoys getting a chance to delve into the realm of sci-fi and fantasy.  He’s currently a member of Locked Into Vacancy Entertainment and his work can be frequently heard in their monthly shows. This is “The Offering”

The snow-filled clearing was lit by moonlight.  All around, a dense forest shrouded the entire area, save for that single spot.  A small creature paced along the perimeter, mumbling to itself. Periodically, it would stare up at the moon and utter a curse.  The creature was small and exceptionally thin. From a distance, one might mistake it for a malnourished child. Yet up close, its less human qualities became apparent.  It had large dark eyes with pallid skin clinging to its bony frame. Its mouth was full of tiny, pointed teeth, and its nose was turned up just enough to become unnerving.  Despite the cold, it remained barefoot, wearing only shreds of clothing. A mass of dark, unkempt hair could be seen protruding from beneath its hat. Slung over its shoulder was a small sack.  After pacing for several more minutes, the creature collapsed on the ground and let out a growl of frustration. As if in response, a snap echoed from the forest. The creature immediately grew silent.  It held the sack tightly against its chest, scanning with its dark eyes for any sign of movement. After a moment, similar figure emerged from the trees. The creature breathed a momentary sigh of relief before immediately lashing out at the newcomer.

“Where have you been?! I’ve been waiting here for hours!  The solstice is nearly upon us!”

“I’m sorry.  I had to collect my final tokens.”

“You didn’t have them?!  An entire year to search for your tokens, and you only just now claimed all of them?!”

“I have them now.  That’s all that matters.”

The second creature held out a bag of its own.  The first quickly snatched it up and peered at the objects inside.

“Let us hope so.  If our offering comes too late, know that the grave consequences of our failure will be on your head”

“Then perhaps you should stop wasting time berating me and prepare the ritual.”

The first creature let out a scoff then tossed the bag back before setting to work.  The pair began arranging branches on the ground in circles. With each one, they etched a series of intricate runes into the wood with their sharp nails.  Once completed, they placed an item from their sack in the center then moved on to the next. For a period of time, they worked without saying a word. However, the silence could not last.

“Ok, I have to know.  How did it take you so long to get your tokens?”

“I wanted to make sure they would be acceptable.”

The first creature narrowed its eyes at its companion.

“Which ones were they?”

“Why does that matter?”

“Which ones?”

“…love and time.”

“Ha!  I knew it!  Why is it you have such trouble collecting those two?”

“I hate the idea of taking them, that’s all.  Don’t you ever feel cruel for robbing the humans of such items?”

“No, and neither should you.  We’re doing them a great service, even if they don’t know it.  If a few humans get sad in the process, it’s a small price to pay.  Look at me. I had to collect the token for joy, and I’m not a mess.

The creature reached into its sack and produced a weathered soccer ball.

“See this ball?  It was the only one of its kind in an entire village.  Every day, the children would kick it all over for hours.  The amount of joy they poured into a thing such as this is astounding.  So, I took it. I take no pleasure in causing them sadness, but it will make a perfect offering and that’s all that matters.”

The two shared a long, tense look then resumed their preparations.  The clearing was silent except for the sound of scratching as they carved.  Finally, awkwardness grew too uncomfortable, and the first creature relented again.

“What were they?  The tokens that took you so long to retrieve.  What were they? If we were to fail, I’d hate not knowing the reason why.”

The second creature’s expression softened.  It reached into its bag and placed a large stack of bound papers into a circle.

“This book.  The human who wrote it spent years of its life toiling on it.  Each night, it would sit in front of a typewriter and add more to it.  Some nights it would only write for a short time. Others, it would fall asleep in its chair after working for hours.  It devoted so much of its time to these pages.”

“That is a fine choice.  I can feel its energy from here.  But why did you wait so long to take it?  It would have been an ideal offering for some time.”

“I wanted to let the human finish it.  It felt wrong to take it before then.”

The first creature put down its branches and let out a howling laugh that echoed throughout the silent forest.

“An ending?  You would endanger this entire ceremony so that the human could write an ending?  Unbelievable! And what of the other one, the token of love? What arbitrary deadline did you concoct for that one?”

The creature pulled a photo from its sack.  It had once been black and white, but over time, it had grown brown and faded.  In it, a young, newly married couple could just barely be made out. They stood beneath a simple wooden arch.  The bride wore a wreath on her head, but an otherwise unremarkable dress, and all that could be seen of the groom was that he was in a presumably darkly colored suit.  The creature laid the photo down gently in the last of its circles.

“There was no deadline.  I simply didn’t want to take it.  The humans who held this picture were quite old, as far as humans go.  It sat in their room and every single day, they would both admire it. Every morning and every night, sometimes alone, sometimes together, but no matter what, they would always gaze at this photo.  I had known it was an ideal token from the moment I saw it, but I simply couldn’t bring myself to rob them of it. I reasoned that I would give them one more day, over and over again. Until tonight.  So that is why I kept you waiting. Are you satisfied?”

The first creature said nothing.  It lay the last of its items, a wilted flower, in a circle, then went over to its companion.

“Your empathy for the humans is truly remarkable.  Confusing, but powerful all the same. Just remember, that it is all for the greater good.  However, we must begin now.”

They clasped hands and began to chant.  The words were indecipherable, more like sounds of the Earth itself than anything that had ever been spoken.  Wind whipped up around them, causing the snow to flurry about the clearing. With each verse, a circle would fill with light as the runes surrounding it pulsed with an eerie glow.  As the final offering became illuminated, a great energy shot forth, sending out a blinding light. The wind stopped. The creatures stared in silence as a long tear appeared before them.  It widened and a great figure emerged from within. The being was massive, clutching an equally impressive sack of its own. It was clad in a crimson robe with a pair of antler-like horns on its head.  A great grey beard obscured most of its face, save for the sizable tusks that protruded out. Its pale, blue eyes pierced into the two creatures as its voice boomed throughout the forest.

“The solstice is upon us once more.  What offering do you present?”

The pair bowed, then presented their items to the great being. The first one displayed its findings.

“Oh mighty one, we present to you, the 12 offerings.  I have collected for you tokens of Joy, Loss, Innocence, Fear, Hope, and Regret.”

The second then displayed its own items.

“I present to you tokens of Pain, Truth, Hate, Sadness, Time…and Love.  We hope that you will accept our offering.”

The figured surveyed the items on display.  It stretched out is giant hands and held them above the offerings.  The light in each circle faded as the great being drained the collected energy from each.  It let out a powerful sigh of contentment as it finished. Its eyes now glowed with fresh power, rejuvenated by the ritual.  A deep laugh echoed from the enormous being.

“Your offering is accepted.  This world and all who reside within it have secured my protection for another year.”

The creatures nearly collapsed in relief, having hardly moved a muscle since the being first emerged.  Yet, before they could fully revel in their success, it spoke again.

“However, I will offer a word of warning.  Do not keep me waiting again. If the offerings are not presented promptly, my generosity to this world cannot be guaranteed.  Take this warning to heart, elves. There will not be a second.”

The pair bowed.  With that, the great being placed the items into its sack and let out a monstrous bellow.  From the sky, an enormous horse-like beast emerged to heed its master’s call. It landed before him, bending down on its six legs.  Holding its bag, the red clad being mounted its steed and took off for the sky. As it sailed off into the night, it let forth another booming laugh that echoed for miles.

“Ho ho ho!”

END

Jasmin Tomlins has been making noises with her mouth for 33 years, most recently as a determined vintner on the streets of the Bristol Renaissance Faire and here at Gateways. She is grateful for the opportunity to give voice to these stories, and to receive the meaning that stories give voices.

Molly Southgate is 12 years old. According to her IMDB page, she has performed in 5 films, 1 industrial documentary, 9 Chicago plays, 4 Chicago stage readings, an Iron & Wine music video, multiple commercials, and she has hosted or guested on over 500 podcast episodes. Molly is also a food blogger on Instagram and has Somehow found the time to act in Super Richard World III right here at Otherworld Theatre.

Rob Southgate is a professional actor in commercials and films, a professional podcaster, and a professional public speaker. He is currently preparing the debut of his first book and busily booking a national tour of the SMG Podcast Marathon. Rob loves sharing ideas with others and creating opportunities for his creative associates. Along with his wife, Martha, Rob started Southgate Media Group as a creative outlet and a way to incorporate all of their interests and their past experiences. SMG is home to over 100 podcasts, blogs, and video channels. If you think Rob has a lot going on, ask him about his amazing daughter, Molly.


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