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Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Fearful (08/23/07)

TITLE: The Torment
By Debora Dyess
~2nd Place


His nightmare always started with dark, penetrating eyes staring past his face, into his marrow.

“The press called you an animal. I don’t agree. If you were an animal, we wouldn’t be shocked and appalled at your behavior. We are. We would’ve hunted you down and shot you in the street. Instead you’re here, receiving sentence after a trial. If you were an animal you’d be created and loved by God, but not created in His image. You were. Somewhere inside you is an image of God, and that makes you something different than an animal.” A tear coursed down the old, wrinkled cheek. The voice cracked. “I’d condemn you to Hell, if I worked on my own accord. But I’m also created in the image of God, and recreated in Christ. So I cannot follow my anger, as much as I may find satisfaction in that path. Instead I pray for you.” The woman paused to clear her throat, squeeze her eyes tightly closed and control her voice. “I pray that, sometime before you walk down that hall to face death, you’ll look inside your soul and find the part of you that’s also a part of God. I pray that you’ll find your Creator and follow Him. This way the death of my Anisha will have meaning. The loss of her mortal life will, perhaps, be a part of changing your immortal soul. And that will give her life, and her death, meaning.”

He usually jerked awake at this point, before the old woman turned, walking away from the podium where his other victims’ family members ranted, cursed and screamed. In his dreams he usually didn’t have to endure the backward glance of the frail grandmother as she touched the courtroom exit, but tonight the dream reached that moment, and traveled beyond. Tonight he dreamed himself on the last walk of his life—shackled, handcuffed, leaving death row to face death itself. As he entered the small room, he looked into the area housing spectators and saw her, dark eyes still penetrating, still looking beyond his face.

He pulled himself from sleep.

That final journey would occur in less than 48 hours. He feared the walk, feared the needle and the darkness that awaited him. But more than that, he feared seeing the grandmother of Anisha Williams. A chill ran through him as he imagined her in the spectators’ room, staring, looking for his soul.

His soul. He growled at the thought, the sound escaping his throat in a low rumble.
He pushed away the fear that the old woman might be right. He’d spent much of the last decade pushing that idea aside, holding onto his hatred, his hardness. The old woman had ruined most of his pleasure in evil, but he clung stubbornly to what was left. He still delighted in new crimes—the stabbing of an inmate, the blackmailing of a careless guard—but he could no longer enjoy his heyday, the killings that had landed him first in court, and then here.

He tried, on occasion, to picture the victims. But the pleasure was gone.

It started with Anisha. When he pictured her face, terror etched in every cell, horror haunting her eyes, it morphed, every time, into that of her little grandmother, staring at him with such conviction, such passion. He watched, angry and disappointed, as it changing from his lifeless treasure into the lined, heart-shaped face of her elder.

Losing Anisha was bad enough, but before too many months it happened with every girl he’d murdered. He’d pull their memory into his mind, replaying each death like the cherished moment it had always been. They, too, would become the ancient. Soon all the girls were gone, ripped from his memory by the Williams woman’s prayer.

‘…before your walk down that hall to face death…’ He shivered. What would it be—darkness, like he imagined, or a place of either eternal punishment or eternal reward?

The question lodged in his mind. Fear grew, gnawing at him like a rat. He watched the moments tick by, imagining the torment of every Hell he’d ever heard about. He stayed nauseated, his heart pounding the seconds until he found out first-hand what lay beyond.

Just before time, a chaplain entered his cell. “Can I do anything for you?”

He looked up. The loss of her mortal life … part of changing your immortal soul, he heard again.


Accept Jesus as Your Savior Right Now and be Certain of Eternal Life.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/31/07
This is an awesome story. We don't like to think of those who commit atrocities to children as deserving of God's love, but we are all made in His image. Your message is clear.
Dianne Janak08/31/07
This was so well written, and absolutely gave me chills, and also conviction. We sit in judgement of sin as if ours is not as evil as other's. God sees differently, through the blood of His Son. We need to be reminded from time to time of that... good writing!
Joanne Sher 09/01/07
This was extremely vivid and evocative. You pulled me (kicking and screaming, I might add!) into this man's head and gave me a true picture of what could be going on in his mind. I don't know what else to say besides wow. Your ending is perfect.
Dee Yoder 09/01/07
It's difficult to pray for a person who had committed such a crime, but the older Christian woman set an example of how we should view any person who has sinned: a soul that God wants to reach. You did an excellent job getting your point across in your story.
Sharlyn Guthrie09/02/07
Wow! You nailed the topic with this one, and managed to end on a positive note, as well. Excellent story.
Laurie Walker09/03/07
For me the most breathtaking sentence was "Somewhere inside you is an image of God". How many times do we forget this, even with the most wicked of mankind.
Sheri Gordon09/04/07
Wow -- this is chilling, with a powerful message. Very good writing. Gripping from the first sentence.
Kristen Hester09/04/07
This is indeed chilling. I live in THE city were the most executions in the US are carried out. I've seen the protestors gathered on our streets--from both sides. It makes you think! You did an excellent job getting into the mind of the man about to be executed. Great writing!
Teri Wilson09/06/07
Conrats on your win. This is a gripping, gut-wrenching entry. I was completely sucked in from the very beginning. Excellent work! Blessings, Teri
Sherry Wendling09/06/07
Immensely gripping, down to every detail--even revealing a glimps of the sick love in the perpetrator's mind. The redemption principle magnified--tremendous work, with a well-deserved win!
Sheri Gordon09/07/07
Congratulations on your EC -- very much deserved. Excellent writing.
Dianne Janak09/09/07
Just read this and wanted to tell you the writing is incredible, and the whole story stirred me. To be able to pull this off takes a master writer. Thanks for the entry.