February 23

Terminalia

 

From different directions, two people walk toward a post in the ground.

One is a young woman, her red hair mostly hidden beneath a drawn hood.  Layers of grime darken the fair skin on her uncovered arms.  She holds a bottle in one hand, and a tin can in the other.

The other person is a elderly man.  His farm clothes are oversized, indicating that he’s lost weight.  He walks slowly, with a slight limp, and he cradles a live chicken in the crook of one arm.

On February 23, ancient Romans celebrated Terminus.  They approached his demarcating statue, and honored him with gifts.

The young woman nods to the elder man.  She uncorks the bottle and pours red liquid over the post, letting it spill onto the dirt road.  She peels back the lid of canned food, and shakes wet kernels of corn over the post.

The man retrieves a penknife from the pocket of his loose overalls.  He dangles the chicken by its feet over the post, and quickly slits the animal’s throat.  He shakes the animal, letting its blood spray, waiting for it to cease struggling.  Then he drops the drained carcass to the ground.

Terminus is the god of boundaries — between one property and another, between land and sea, between day and night.  Between chaos and calm, wakefulness and sleep, life and death.

Between pre- and post-apocalypse.

Even the last survivors must pay tribute to boundaries.

Their ceremony completed, the man and woman nod to each other then walk away from the post in the ground, returning to the vast, empty properties they’ve claimed for themselves.