Once a year, for three nights, a chance is offered by the divine. The cave, a hole in the ground, slick with dog blood, must have milk, wool, a knife. A pledging woman steps inside. Stumbling on animal remains, she begs:
Outside, festivities continue, and other wives ask the same as her. She has been in their place year after year, running through Roma, whipped in the hope to conceive. It is not enough, shes listens, and it’s not her mother’s advice, not there.
A man stands in the shadow, wearing nothing but goat skin. His body is olive and bare, his legs covered in fur, his head covered by the ripped face of a dead goat.
Steam blows through his brown nostrils.
Unfastening the sleeves of her stola, the tunic falls to the ground. The horned one comes closer – she accepts, naked – let me bear a child. Only once a year, in the second month, a man awaits, and helps women like her.
She embraces his neck, thick hair scratching her cheek, and looks at his pupils, nothing but slits. Fingers try to rip the goat head away to see the priest underneath, but he’s not there -– that‘s his true head.
Feet turn into hooves, knees bent -– she’s terrified, but still she begs -– dog blood falls over her. The beast yelps.
Out of a sudden, he’s gone, but a voice echoes in the dark cave:
This time, you shall conceive.
[H. Pueyo is an Argentine-Brazilian writer and translator. Her work can be read in venues such as Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld and The Dark Magazine, among others.]