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TITLE: July 4,2014
By Lillian Rhoades

Given my inexperience as a fiction writer,:-) I was VERY grateful to have captured 2nd place with this story. However, I would like additional pointers as to what I could have done better to have made it to 1st place?
Beyond These Walls

Alone in the cool, dank cell, Palo has little to do except wait for the day when he will be put to death. Nothing moves except his eyes under half closed eyelids. They dart from side to side, until finally settling on the little hole between the far left wall and the concrete floor. Eventually, his expectation is rewarded with the appearance of his sole cell mate.

He sees him through the limited, dull glow of the ceiling light and a ray of sunshine that barely makes it through the one barred window. Experience has taught him not to move. Even the slightest clink of his chains would send his furry friend scampering back into the hole and away from danger.

Palo moves his lips, careful not to let his words break the silence.

"Good morning, friend.”

“What’s going on beyond these walls today?”

He pauses, as if to wait for an answer. Then, once again, his lips move.

“Are flowers blooming and corn fields dancing?”

He pauses once more, and his mind wanders, until imagination becomes reality. Since fantasy has no limits. it can soar beyond reason. And at her command, the tiny mouse hole expands and Palo’s chains fall off. Slipping through the hole, he escapes from captivity into a paradise ablaze with multi-colored pansies, rosebushes, white lilies afloat in their water bed, and a polka dotted butterfly that rests on the edge of a rose bud.

He picks a petal from the rose bush, and bends his head to take in its fragrance. His fingers caress the softness. Freshly cut grass drives away the smells of his prison cell. The sun beams down upon his thin, pale face, and he welcomes its warmth.

In a moment, he is startled by his mother’s voice that mingles with the murmur of summer’s breeze, Surprised, Palo shifts his head to listen.

“Come home, my son. I’m waiting for you. You’ve been gone too long.”

“I hear you, Mom, and I’m coming as fast as I can.”

Palo leans his weakened body against the concrete wall. Short, panting sounds escape through parted lips.

“I… have… one… more… hill… to… climb.”

“You can do it, Palo, my son. The last hill is always the hardest.”

“Hey, You,” calls out a passing guard.. “No dozin’ at this hour of the day. Wake up!”

Palo slowly opens his eyes. The guard’s bellicose voice extinguishes the gentle tones of his mother’s voice.

“You know the rules ‘round here,” the guard continues. “You sleep when you’re told, and not before. Understand?”

“Yes, Sir.”

The sun has shifted, and its rays no longer lend light, but Palo can still see the hole; and he remembers. Warned against closing his eyes, he forces his gaze towards it, and with a voice weakened by torture and food deprivation, he begins to speak slowly, hesitantly.

You’re right, Mom. The last hill is the hardest… Someday I’ll reach the top… You’ll be there… Can’t wait to see you…. When I left for the mission field… no idea… that would be the last we would see each other on earth. Look for me…I’ll be home soon.

The guard interrupts Palo again, as he thrusts his supper of lukewarm porridge through the bars.

That night, surrounded by darkness, Palo silently prays.

Thank You God that my mind has no chains. I would also like to thank you for letting me see beyond these walls to the time when I will be free.

Just before sleep comes, he quotes from memory, the words of Paul, the Apostle:

“Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains. (2 Tim 2:8, 9 NKJV).

As he sleeps, he’s transported once more from concrete and mortar, and iron bars to blue horizons, jasper walls and streets of gold.

This time, there are no more hills to climb.
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