“The Orange-Tree Sacrifice” — Vylar Kaftan

Vylar Kaftan writes speculative fiction of all genres, including science fiction, fantasy, horror, and slipstream. Her work has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, GigaNotoSaurus, Realms of Fantasy, Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld, Cosmos, Escape Pod, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Sybil’s Garage, and in the World Fantasy Award-winning anthology Paper Cities. She lives with her husband Shannon in northern California. Learn more at vylarkaftan.net.

The practice of suspension is horrifying to some and beautiful to others. “Suspending” the human body by having hooks placed through the skin is unquestionably one of the more extreme forms of body modification in practice today. People do this for purposes of spirituality or art, and for private reasons all their own. 

For the Native American Mandan nation, at the core of the practice was personal sacrifice. The deliberate agony of suspension was just the beginning of what a young man was expected to offer up to the spirits of his tribe.

In both the modern and traditional contexts, the suspendee is never forced. The spirit must be willing.

In our next story, Kaftan brings us a short tale of suspension and sacrifice, as a young woman endures the unimaginable, making us ask ourselves: What would we be willing to endure if the stakes were high enough?