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Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Exhale (08/15/13)

TITLE: The Price
By Sarah Dirk
~9th Place


“Deep breaths. Can you take deep breaths for me?”

He was traumatized.

“Breathe in. Hold it. Then breathe out.” Jen tried to ignore the cries of pain echoing around her, mixed with gun shots, and angry shouts.

“Breathe in. I need you to take a deep breath for me.”

His young eyes were terrified, but he was giving shaky nods. “Okay. We will do it together. Breathe in.” His chest expanded. “Now let it out.” Jen watched as he exhaled. “Good. Lets try it again. Breathe in. Breathe out.”

Slowly his breath calmed down. Jen waited, patiently coaching him. one breath at a time. In. Out.

A bullet whizzed over her shoulder and she winced as it smashed a window.

She had been in the Middle East only one year, coming over from North America to serve as a paramedic on the battlefield. She still hated the sound of gunfire, her stomach still turned as she patched up bullet wounds, and still had to grit her teeth and pray for courage every moment she worked in war zones.

So few people actually realize what the price of war really is. Not money, or land, but lives. Souls.

But they are so bent on revenge, they forget to seek the God of peace. They forget that His solution is different. If only He would be sought...

Picking up the boy in her arms, Jen ducked low and raced toward the “ambulance”, which was simply a large van, with the ambulance symbol plastered on its sides.

Another bullet tore up the ground in front of them, and the boy screamed in terror, clutching her tighter.

The ambulance door flew open and they were yanked into the make-shift vehicle. Jen quickly sat down, holding the sobbing child tightly.

“Shhhh. Shhhh.” She tried to calm his fears. pressing his head tight into her shoulder. It’s okay, hon. It’s okay.”

Rage boiled in her. How long had this war been going on? How cruel could it be that they would use children in their forces? Or was this child used for something else? Entertainment of cruelty? Oh! How could this world be this way?

And while the world lazed about, stuck in their own cares and concerns, the child paid with his blood. He paid with terror, and pain.

His shoulders were still heaving, but his tears had stopped. Jen did not want to let go.

Would she ever get over seeing the harshness of the world?

Bullets splattered in front of the ambulance, and it jerked to life as the driver threw it into gear. Bumping over ruts and holes, the rickety van flew out of the war zone, down toward a hospital.

The boy started screaming in fear, and Jen closed her arms tightly around him, burying his face in her chest. She wanted to scream too. What else could she do? She felt helpless. Why were so few people rising up to help? Why were the volunteers so few to stop the war, and so many to try to finish the war? Why was there such a thirst for revenge, and not peace?

Would God ever be sought out?

The van screeched to a halt, and the doors flew open. Jen waited for several other doctors to unload their patients. Meanwhile, she turned her attention back to the child in her arms.

“Okay son. Remember our exercise? We are going to breathe in, and then out.” She didn’t even know if the child spoke English.

“Ready? Inhale. Exhale.” She demonstrated.

The child tried to mimic her, and they worked together for a few moments, patiently.

“Jen? Get the child in the hospital. Your turn.”

She nodded at the doctor, and he gave her a hand out. Another bullet flew by, and she grit her teeth in rage. Not safe even here?

She made a move toward the large doors. Another bullet. The boy screamed. Blood streamed.

“No!” Jen turned white in fear.

He exhaled slowly.

The price of war.

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Member Comments
Member Date
C D Swanson 08/22/13
Oh my goodness! This punched me in the gut...Wow.

You told the story with conviction and it resonated truths. Excellent piece.

God bless~
Brenda Rice 08/22/13
So tormenting to think of the price of war especially on the children.

You did an outstanding job with the topic as well as with the tension of the piece.

I was on the edge of my seat.

Lois Farrow08/22/13
Beautifully done, although a harsh subject. Good on you.
Jan Ackerson 08/23/13
Simply marvelous, and by far one of my favorites this week.
C D Swanson 08/29/13

God Bless~
Nancy Bucca08/29/13
Wow, this is riveting. It packs a powerful punch. A very different, thought provoking take on the topic, which you nailed. Congrats on your EC.
Danielle King 08/29/13
'And while the world lazed about, stuck in its own cares and concerns.' This entire piece is really hard hitting. Congratulations on your EC win with this powerful piece.
Charla Diehl 08/29/13
This story gripped me with the ugly reality of war that it conveyed from start to finish. I felt the fear of the child, the angst of the medic, and heard the bullets whizzing by as the story progressed to its sad conclusion. I think we all wonder from time to time "when is God going to say--Enough!"
Charla Diehl 08/29/13
Sorry--I meant to include my congratulations on taking 9th place with this remarkable entry.
Sarah Dirk08/29/13
Thanks for the congrats, everyone! I was thrilled to open up the page and see my ranking. I appreciate the encouragement and advice I have received, and can only hope to keep improving! God bless.
Linda Goergen08/29/13
Congratulations Sarah, on your well deserved EC win!! Wow—your vivid descriptions brought the scene alive before my eyes, I felt like I was watching it and sharing the MC’s thoughts on war! I actually felt myself exhaling with the child at the tragic end. Terrific job on this!
Bea Edwards 08/31/13
Magnificent treatise on the realities experienced by the unknown heroes behind the scenes and the atrocities suffered by the causalities.
Ennis Smith 09/01/13
Sarah, this was such an incredible story. I was drawn in from the first sentence, as you chose to jump right into the action.

War is such an ugly activity. I use "activity" for lack of a better word. There are those in the world who actually covet it as such; an activity to generate wealth. All too often, the innocent are the casualties. I'm thinking of Syria, as I write this. Tragic.

Back on topic, you used a brilliant landscape to incorporate the theme of exhale. Well done ma'am.