Dan Quinn’s jubilance convinced the Falcons that none of them would be sacrificed this week. Despite the dark whispers about the statue, and the way its eyes gleamed like black rubies at dusk, it seemed placid this week. A win over Seattle, the rainpit from which Quinn emerged quickly and physically before he arrived in Atlanta, seemed to slake the thirst of those who kept the Old Ways alive outside of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
So Andre Roberts, bless his heart, did not suspect a thing when Quinn summoned him to his office in Flowery Branch . His heart did not beat faster as he approached the hallway, though it seemed longer and darker than usual. He did not quiver in fear as Keith Armstrong opened the door for him, his eyes sad and inscrutable. Perhaps he should have.
“Come in and have a seat, Andre,” Quinn said, gesturing toward a chair made of charred, tattered jerseys. It was then that Roberts felt uneasy.
“What can I do for you, Coach?” Roberts asked, trying not to look into the corner of the cavernous office, where he saw a glint of metal.
“I’ll level with you, Andre, you really porked the crocodile Monday night,” Quinn said. “Now I know it’s not all on you, but that muffed kickoff could have cost us the game. Do you know what a 5-5 record would mean for us, Andre? It would mean that the great lord of metal and darkness might turn his baleful gaze to all of us, and that would be the end of the Atlanta Falcons organization. I have spoken to Coach Armstrong, and fearfully, he told me there was only one scapegoat this week.”
“There must be a sacrifice, Andre. The great metal falcon has spoken.”
Too late he saw the trap laid for him. Too late he saw the floor grind open in much more efficient fashion than the roof of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium opens. Too late he saw those eyes, as red and malevolent as the heart of some great forgotten behemoth. He plunged backwards and down to the only true end zone, the place where his hands and legs would not avail him. He cried, just once, and then there was silence. The floor ground closed again, and the light from the pit of fire faded.
Quinn sat for a long time, almost alone in the gloom of his office. What he thought, and whether he regretted what he had become, was left entirely unsaid. Finally, wearily, he turned to the great metal statue in the corner.
“So we thinking Zaxby’s for dinner tonight?” he asked.
The answering screech of triumph could be heard throughout the halls of Flowery Branch.