Father brought Alib to the Temple, where the boy sat cross-legged on the floor and watched a procession of sweet-faced young nuns making their obeisance to the Idol. As each passed she dropped something into a huge glass jar.
Alib felt the torment of the girls as they dropped their offerings into the shining vessel. Each gift made a high, sweet note as it passed the neck of the glass.
He touched Father’s sleeve.
“What do they offer?”
“Time, my son, each offers a moment of her life.”
“And why do they look so sad?”
“The pain of rending a moment from yourself.”
“May anyone make such an offering?”
“Then may I?”
“If you will. I cannot say no.”
Alib made his obeisance to his father and joined the line of worshippers.
He looked very small, but his back was straight, and his eyes were clear, and the priests let him pass. As he approached the bottle of time his lips could be seen to be moving as if in prayer.
Instead of dropping something into the bottle, Alib threw himself through the wide neck of the glass. For a nanosecond nothing happened, and then the vessel burst, filling The Temple with shards of glass and high keening music.
A voice from the very earth lamented. And then there was silence. Alib walked back to his father, with glass sparkling in his hair and the knowledge of a thousand lifetimes filling his eyes.