Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Writing (01/11/07)
By Lori Othouse
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Sydney tugged at the unlabeled box crammed into the corner of the garage. Nothing. She took a deep breath, tightened her grip and yanked again. Suddenly it gave way, sending her backwards and landing squarely on her lap. She groaned, slowly stood and resolved, once again, not to put off spring cleaning for so long.
She carried the box inside and plopped it on the kitchen table. Expecting old clothes or books, she stopped short upon seeing the contents. A large portfolio sat on top of numerous notebooks, writing magazines and several textbooks. Hesitantly, she pulled out the heavy binder and opened it for the first time in years.
Inside the front cover was a quote from a college professor – “Your life is unwritten – make every word count.” A rather outspoken Christian, his inspiration was infectious. The years seemed to rewind in a sweet haziness as she turned the pages. It was her dream once, this solitary, introverted life of a writer. But the smile from her first feeble attempts quickly turned to a frown when she observed the increasing number of red marks and comments on her work:
“Flat” “Lifeless” “Where’s the passion?” What did that mean? Writing was her passion! Wasn’t it? Even now it was humiliating. As inspiring as her professor was, his criticism was crippling. Obviously, being a writer was not God’s plan for her.
Not wanting to go there again, she quickly repacked the box, closed it and carried it outside. It dropped with a dull thud next to the garbage can. Sydney turned to go back inside, not looking back.
Heavy drops of rain beat against the windowpane. Sydney heard them vaguely in the distance, but couldn’t feel them. She walked along a narrow path, alone. A boisterous noise to her left caused her to look up. There were people, multitudes of them, walking in a wide-open area. They were laughing, talking, obviously having a good time and Sydney felt somewhat envious of them. A flickering light ahead of them turned her gaze forward. Squinting at it, she suddenly caught her breath. There was a jagged cliff at the end of the path with flames engulfing the great chasm below. She immediately knew them to be the flames of Hell. Looking back at the crowd, she realized in horror that they couldn’t see their destination. They were walking right into eternal death and didn’t even know it.
Instinctively, Sydney screamed for them to stop, but to no avail. Not one of them could hear her. Desperate to help, she found a pen and paper and scribbled out a warning, clumsily throwing it toward the crowd. A few people stopped, picked up the paper and read it. Their eyes opened wide, spiritually as well as physically. They began to turn around and make their way toward her. It worked! But there were still so many more out there. How could she possibly reach them all? Suddenly, she saw her former professor on the path with her.
“Look at them!” she cried desperately. “They can’t hear me! I have to write to them, but it only reaches a few at a time!”
Her professor smiled. “Congratulations, Sydney. You’ve finally found your passion. Now write.”
With a loud clap of thunder, everything went black and the rain pounded furiously outside. Instantly awake, Sydney sat up in bed, her heart racing. The realization of what she had seen began to sink in. Without hesitation or shoes, she bolted outside. Her fingers dug into the soggy cardboard as she carefully brought her box back inside. Shivering with cold and anticipation, she slowly reopened the box…and her dream.
The instrument quickened in the now steady hand that held it. Hitting the page deliberately, it began the next chapter and found it wasn’t the last, but the first of many yet to be written. Disappointment and doubt could not be found. There was no longer room for such indulgences. The ending of the story had changed.
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