Skulls, with scraps of long-rotted flesh unrecognizable in the mud, lined the paths to the village. The smoke was a thick black veil and hung like a permanent yet carefully regarded visitor and in it were dispersed sediments of powerful authority.

Bare feet made another insignificant layer of prints on the sandy road. Long humerus and femur bones made a poor frame for the doors of huts that huddled in handfuls of petrified clusters. Superstition was the foundation of every tattered residence.

The population was a problem. Keep that in mind.

Bad crops, sparse rains and vicious man-eater attacks left the villagers under the mercy of their sarpanchwho was the grand manifestation of corruption. His intentions danced behind curtains of superiority and his actions went unquestioned and worshiped. He helped the trade between his village and the others. He also fed his people premonitions.

Every 60 days, he held a flamboyantly arranged festival of sacrifice. The people would select one of their own and nourish the chosen one for a month. The same person would be lamb to the slaughter in this extravagant occasion. The healthier the sacrifice, the more pleased the Gods would be. Survival of the fittest would be quite a joke.

First they would do away with his legs by twisting the limbs out of their sockets while the victim’s screams of agony were believed to get the attention of the omnipresent entities. These would be used in fending off ‘evil’ from entering people’s homes. His head would be sliced cleanly with the apparent sacred knife, no smaller than a butcher’s chop, and it would be placed among the many other skulls that distinguished the footpath from the surroundings: the villagers believed this would scare any ‘evil’ from entering their vicinity. The blood would be poured on their harvest. The torso, along with the arms, would be tossed into the nearby stagnant lake, dark and brooding from the many hostages she held within her murky waters.

This tradition had gone on for decades in this belief-ridden society. The appearances they put up kept away migrants or pilgrims. Their ideas had led them to kill half their people and they were besotted with the notion that more offerings would mean a more prosperous year.

They failed. And they failed to notice. They failed to understand their folly. They would go on with their rituals.

Superstitions are dangerous thoughts.

The lifeless bodies lurked on the surface. Their hands stuck out of the water like discarded driftwood. They remained suspended.

Calling to their foolish people. Warning them of extinction.