The Blood Debt

I returned to my family’s Connecticut estate after getting a Master’s degree, securing a position with SaudiAramco Oil, and marrying my young British secretary. Once the large celebration dinner was over, my father called me to his den. I figured he meant to pass down a family heirloom, a pen or cufflinks that built our empire.

Instead, he asked me in a somber voice if I’d ever wondered why our family is so financially and politically savvy. I hadn’t. He took me down to the wine cellar, towards the back where we keep the expensive wines and liquors. A smile crept onto my face; were we going to share shots of some Prohibition-era booze?

No. Through another door, down a narrow winding staircase that opened into a large musty cave. Throughout the walk, my father told me of the blood debt my great great grandfather had entered into. The life of one of his children in exchange for the assured success of the rest. When the deal was first proposed – by a seemingly ageless man who had saved him from a Native attack – my ancestor’s only child had been born sickly and would not see its third birthday. But there were two stipulations that went unspoken that day. First, the family blood debt was exactly that; it carried on to the last of our lineage. Second, if a child wasn’t chosen to assuage the debt, it would be paid in full.

We stopped walking at a ring of stones surrounding a large natural pool. In the depths were bones; those of my brother, my father’s sister, and – soon – the child that grew inside my wife.

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