Mud and grass sticks to my naked body as they drag me across the field. My stomach and knees are bloody from the small rocks in the ground.
I try to hold my head high, to have at least a clean face when ‘it’ happens, but my body is too tired.
Between the tears I see the two priests that drag me by the arms, wearing robes of brown and green.
Once I was one of them.
That seems ages ago.
On my right are the ceremonial fields. Crowds of people are gathered around priests who make grand arm gestures. Beside every priest is a criminal on his knees. Awaiting punishment.
On my left are the trees.
I am horrified as I smell the stench of rotten flesh and see the rows of hanging bodies.
First I pass the oaks.
Strong, sturdy giants. From them hang those who murder. Suffocated, with necks broken. They are silent.
When they drag me further, screams penetrate the air.
Reserved for those who lack faith. They are hanging from special ropes, infused around their spines. Their death is slow and
Next are the elms.
There hang the thieves. The ropes are tied around their hand, till it grows white and dies. They are the lucky ones though. They survive.
I pass the maple trees, where men hang from their feet. Then cedars. Followed by chestnut, pine, ash.
I clench my fists and breath heavy as my trees appear.
The cherry trees.
They are different from the others. Their blossoms create a sea of pink as they dance in the wind. A beautiful sight. They are also the only trees without hanging bodies.
Though the ground is a dark red.
Finally the priests stop and throw me on my knees. I have dreaded this moment.
Before me stands my family.
My loving wife, who avoids my gaze. My three daughters, with tears in their eyes. My father, who looks ashamed. Among the crowd are also colleagues, neighbors, and faces I don’t recognize.
One of the priests raises his voice:
‘We are gathered here today to deliver punishment to this sinner. By laying with a woman other than his wife, he has shamed the gods. He has shamed his wife and family. He has shamed his faith.
All those who are wronged will deliver his punishment: the trees, who carry the voice of the gods, and his family.’
He throws a thin rope in front of my wife. She picks it up, hands shaking. In silence, my family and I walk to one of the cherry trees.
‘I’m sorry,’ I say.
‘You should be,’ my father answers.
He grabs the rope from my wife and puts the loop around my genitals.
He pulls it tight.
He then throws the other end over a branch. My family members catch the rope and form a line.
My wife stands in front.