The Ceremony was set to start any moment. Matthew was nervous. His stomach was tied in knots and he paced around the small room. He never expected time to pass this quickly.
When he had first learned of this ceremony, that everyone in their family for generations had participated in, he dreaded this day. He tried to rebel, but every attempt failed. He even tried to run once, when he had turned thirteen, but it was for naught and he was quickly found and brought back into the fold.
On his thirteenth birthday he was told that training was to commence. He had books to read and scriptures to memorize. Every day after school he was to come straight home and sit in the basement cellar to study. Every weekend his father would test his knowledge to make sure he was ready for the day he turned fifteen. That was when he would have his very own ceremony that marked his adulthood in the eyes of the Vanderwoude family.
"It's time, Matthew" his father said. He hadn't even noticed that his father had entered the small waiting room. With a gulp he nodded and followed his father through the long and winding hallway.
"Remember son, we've all been through this and understand what you are feeling. But don't worry, this is for the betterment of the family."
He knew that. He learnt it through the book he had read and the scriptures he had been forced to memorize as well as their families history he already knew. Ever since the Vanderwoudes had begun performing this ceremony, after years of being poorer than dirt, their family had prospered. It seemed, at least to him, that luck was on their side. The right investments were chosen and their family advanced, slowly but surely, until they held a position of prominence.
They reached to large oak door and when his father reached out to pull it open Matthew called out, "Wait"
When his father turned to face him he shrugged and said, "Just give me a minute"
At his father’s nod, he turned and took a few steps back to take a couple deep breaths. He could feel his hands as they shook, he shoved them in his pockets to hide the evidence. He was not prepared but when he looked over his shoulder at his father, who stood at the door with a look of pride on his face, he knew what needed to happen. He was not about to let his father, or their family, down.
He nodded his head to indicate that he was ready and his father pulled open the heavy door.
They descended the stone staircase and when they reached the bottom he looked up and saw all his family members, from near and far, were gathered in the basement. They all stood in various positions around the edge of the ceremony room. His immediate family stood the closest to the stone slab that rested in the middle of the room. He smiled when he saw both his elder siblings had returned from college for his ceremony but was not surprised. His brother had also returned when his sister went through this three years prior.
He felt his father wrap his arm around his shoulder and propelled him forward.
"Come on, Son." his father whispered to him. He was glad to have his father's strong presence beside him. To be honest, he wasn't sure he would have been able to move his feet without it there.
As he approached the stone slab he saw the body that lay chained. He swallowed heavily and he could feel the tremors run through his body at an accelerated rate. This was it. He could not turn back now.
One the north side of the slab stood his family, his father had left his side to stand with them, and he stood alone on the south side. He looked down at the body and could see the shallow rise and fall of the man’s chest. The man’s eyes were closed which he was grateful for but it was clear that this was a living person despite the stillness.
He took a deep breathe that shuddered in his lungs and then looked up at his family, all of them beamed with pride.
"Family. The time has come once more to welcome another member into our embrace. Today, my son, Matthew Chester Vanderwoude the second will follow in the footsteps of our ancestors and secure success for our family for another generation" said his father. His booming voice echoed through the chamber.
Matthew reached up and took the stone blade that his father handed him and grasped it with a firm grip. He did not want to be known as the one who let it tumble to the ground.
" Eram Quod es, eris quod sum " his father began, " Mors Ultima linea rerum est. Ad Meliora Ad Infinitum"
Matthew swallowed and responded " Nam Familia"
He raised the blade above his head and looked down once more at the unconscious man in front of him. This was murder. There was no way to sugar coat it. He was about to commit murder. When he looked up and locked eyes with his father he couldn't look away. His father nodded his head to encourage him to act and with a deep breath, to steady himself, he plunged the blade down into the man’s chest and pierced his heart. He flinched at the pained gurgle the man let out as he died but he never once looked away from his father.
" Cursum Perificio" Matthew said, it was his final line and he was glad he did not have to speak again.
He didn't let go of the blade even as blood pooled out and coated his fist. He couldn't move. His father reached out and pulled his hand off and raised it in the air.
" Consummatum" His father yelled.
His family around him cheered. It was over.
Tears pooled in his eyes when he looked down at the corpse in front of him. It was over. He didn't know if what he did was the right thing but if two things were true it was that he made his father proud and he had secured his spot in the Vanderwoude family, and because of that there was a kernel of happiness that nestled in his chest and he could only hope that it grew enough to block out this heinous act that he had committed.