Rite of Passage

by

The adolescent lay on his back, doing his best to remain still and calm.

At a call from the shaman, the room went silent and everyone gathered around the youth. They knelt and crouched and stood around him, craning for a good view. The shaman held a small metal file in one hand and a thumb-sized rock in the other. He raised the objects high above his head and turned in a full circle, then crouched beside the subject of his ritual.

He rested the stone on the youth’s chest and began to file it. The work caused the rock to dig into the boy’s white skin, and he winced, but he did not move. The shaman worked steadily for some time, scraping away. Flecks of stone littered the youth’s torso, dotting his neck. Finally the shaman stood holding up the large fang he had carved, like that of a wolf. He turned in a full circle and then looked down at the boy from his feet.

“Have you eaten of fish and crushed their bones that you might strengthen your bite?” he asked, in the tongue of their people.

The boy nodded.

“Have you sucked the marrow of your prey that you might take their strength and harden your teeth?”

The boy nodded.

The shaman turned to the crowded circle. He looked at each member in turn, and each nodded. He straddled the boy’s chest and took the file to his lower canines. Already some what sharp, these two teeth were quickly filed to a point.

The shaman moved above the youth’s head and filed at his upper canines. Without the weight of the shaman on his chest, it was harder for the boy to stay still, but he did his best, and managed to keep still enough that the shaman took no notice and remained undistracted.

When the upper canines were fully filed the shaman moved on to the final test. As he drew the file across the boy’s incisor, the youth’s chest began to heave irregularly. He took in wheezing gasps of breath, held them for a few moments, and then exhaled. His fingers dug at the hard floor, bloodying his fingertips, but he did not cry out. The scraping sound of the file on his lateral incisor filled the room. This tooth completed, the shaman paused before moving on to the other side of the boy’s mouth. He repeated his actions on the incisor next to the boy’s other canine, and still the boy did not cry out. When, finally, the scraping was done and the youth’s throat raw from particles of enamel, the shaman stood.

The young man’s father stepped from the crowd and took his left hand, and his mother took his right. Together they lifted him to his feet. They acknowledged him in turn, mother, then father, by clasping the back of his neck and touching foreheads, and, for the first time, the man raised his hand during this greeting and clasped their necks as an equal.

P.S. For a little context, see Genesis. Also, here are all the vamp stories.

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