"Come along, boy," his father called, holding up the rectangular chip that was shiny black as obsidian and had a bone-white number--37--stamped on one side. There were tears of grief and remorse in his father's voice, and in his eyes as well.
The other farmers and their sons, all thin near to emaciation from hunger, came forward and greeted Roger for what everyone knew to be the last time.
Then they escorted him in silence out to the edge of the field where a low cross had been erected. He turned around, backed up, held out his arms while some of the others stepped forward to secure his wrists to the cross-beam.
They had held the drawing the night before, and he picked the chip with the number 37 and became the sacrificial one. This was the third year in a row that the rains had failed to appear, and everyone in the valley was starving. Their store of food was all but gone; all the silos were now but empty dust catchers.
So someone had to be chosen, and Roger was that one. This had been their way for more than two centuries. Strange, unknown, horrible god-creatures dwelled in the heavens, and sometimes had to be appeased with a human blood sacrifice before they allowed the rains to come.
His friends and neighbors mumbled their farewells; his father hugged Roger close for a long while, then he too went away.
All day long Roger stood waiting in the scorching heat, with the harsh sun baking him relentlessly from a cloudless sky. He felt his body turn sticky with perspiration, and knew the scent of this would surely bring the things up there to him. At first he had been afraid, which was all too natural; but as the day wore on, his torment drove away the fear, and he found himself praying that they would hurry and come and put him out of his misery.
Then, as twilight began to darken the barren fields, Roger heard the sound of distant thunder. Black clouds rolled in, hastening the darkness. And, looking up toward the western sky, he was certain he could see the awful shapes forming in the roiling clouds.
Soon, he knew, the dark gods of the air would settle upon and devour him. Then the rains would begin, and soon the fields would flourish, and his people would no longer be hungry.