“I’ve got to do this. For my family. They’re depending on this,” I said brushing my hand through my hair. “I can’t run away from this. Without this money,” I can’t even finish the sentence.

I sit in a dark room, alone. I hear a loud noise and the lights come on. A nicely dressed man comes into the room with me. “I wanted to come in here and thank you personally for what you are about to do this evening. I know it can be a tough decision, expectually at your age. I hope you know how important your sacrifice is, to bring new life in this world is extraordinary. ” I sit there, I don’t even know what to say. “You will be paid in full at the end of the event. It will be sent to the hospital in perfect condition.” 

“My family, can I see my family?” I ask. 

“Why of course they are in the hallway. You should probably make it quick we will be starting soon.” I walk into the hallway and see my wife. I stare at her for what feels like eternity. Her tired face won’t look back at me. “Daddy!” I hear as I’m almost knocked over. It’s my youngest daughter, I hug her tightly. “It’s all going to be ok,” I whisper. I let go and walk to a door. “Wait!” I hear my wife’s voice. “You don’t have to do this. What is a life without their father?” I pause and turn to look at her. “There are plenty of elders to make this sacrifice. It doesn’t have to be you.” 

“I love you, my wife,” I say as I turn and open the door.

A large man escorts me down a long corridor. We passed several people. Most of them elderly, some sick. The closer we get the end, to the door, to my door. The dread I feel makes my body heavy and ache. I think about backing out, about what my wife said. Then I can see her face. Her sunken eyes and frail body. I have to do this, for her. 

We stop and the man opens the door. He nods for me to go in. It’s dark and the room smells of odd incense. The room becomes brighter with a few candles. I see several people in black cloaks and masks. One of them leads me to a table and gestures me to sit. I jump when the door slams behind me and I walk slowly. This is it, no turning back now. I shed a single tear and I lay on the table. People from every direction grab straps and make it where I can’t move. I close my eyes. I can’t fight but I’m scared. My heart is beating out of my cheats and my lungs feel as though they might break my ribs. Lord please forgive us! 

I open my eyes when I hear a man start to talk. The room has more candles now and I can tell it’s the same man as before. He begins to speak, “Here lyes a man. A young man in an old man’s game. He is here because he understands that life is full of sacrifices. That when something dies, something even more beautiful comes into this world. For him it’s the surgery that will save his eldest daughter’s life. For us it is the new birth in our family. For me it’s my grandchildren.” He pauses. “We have been doing the sacred ritual for centuries. Asking the heavens for an exchange of souls. Get this man’s soul in return for a new soul.”

I hear the creaking wheels of another table. It is set next to mine. I can barely turn my head to see. I can tell that it is a pregnant woman. Her table is not like mine, no straps and is padded. I can feel the heat of tears on my face. I see her face again. I can see the face of the doctors when they told us she needed a new liver. The look of her tired mother, my wife. Why did it end this way?

“Put her in the stirrups. We will begin.” I here a voice say. They start to chant some language I don’t know. They stop then they hear the water break. The fluid crashing to the floor. I feel something cut my chest. I try to look. It’s a blade, and it seems to be deep. I start to feel light headed as the warm blood runs out of the wound. “Dilated three centimeters.” The voice next to me says. The blade is shoved deeper. I feel it hit my rib cage. It sliced through my flesh and I start to become numb. “Dilated seven centimeters.” My eyes can’t focus and the room seems to be spinning. Though I can’t feel the pain, I feel cold. So cold. “Dilated ten centimeters.” I blink in and out of conciseness. I think they are chanting again. What are they saying? I know this word but I can’t think straight! Push, I think they are saying push. 

I see a bright light. I’m in a hospital. I look over to see my wife. She’s in labor. I know this day, this is the day my first daughter was born. I start yelling but I don’t think she can hear me. I start screaming. Push! 

My eyes open. I’m back. Back on the table. My body is shredded and I am hurting. I can see the baby. It’s not crying. “Why isn’t it crying?” I shout. 

“Because you’re not dead yet,” a man says. Then I see darkness.