|Stephen Vincent Benét|
By the Waters of Babylon is a short story by Stephen Vincent Benet. You can read it online here or here. It begins,You can have it read to you:
The north and the west and the south are good hunting ground, but it is forbidden to go east. It is forbidden to go to any of the Dead Places except to search for metal and then he who touches the metal must be a priest or the son of a priest. Afterwards, both the man and the metal must be purified. These are the rules and the laws; they are well made. It is forbidden to cross the great river and look upon the place that was the Place of the Gods —this is most strictly forbidden. We do not even say its name though we know its name. It is there that spirits live, and demons —it is there that there are the ashes of the Great Burning. These things are forbidden—they have been forbidden since the beginning of time.
My father is a priest; I am the son of a priest. I have been in the Dead Places near us, with my father —at first, I was afraid. When my father went into the house to search for the metal, I stood by the door and my heart felt small and weak. It was a dead man's house, a spirit house. It did not have the smell of man, though there were old bones in a corner. But it is not fitting that a priest's son should show fear. I looked at the bones in the shadow and kept my voice still.
Then my father came out with the metal—a good, strong piece. He looked at me with both eyes but I had not run away. He gave me the metal to hold—I took it and did not die. So he knew that I was truly his son and would be a priest in my time. That was when I was very young—nevertheless, my brothers would not have done it, though they are good hunters. After that, they gave me the good piece of meat and the warm corner by the fire. My father watched over me —he was glad that I should be a priest. But when I boasted or wept without a reason, he punished me more strictly than my brothers. That was right.