Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Light at the End of the Tunnel( 01/23/14)
At the Heart of the Iron Triangle
By Elizabeth Baize
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Go! Just go! A starting bell clanged in my head. Only a year before, that sound would have sent me hurtling down a racetrack aboard a fiery Thoroughbred. Now, it helped me propel my five-six frame ahead on my own elbows and knees. Yes, I had volunteered, but this job lay in a realm beyond extreme sports. Tunnel rat.
Driving myself forward I reached the unknown turn and warily angled the flashlight beam down the continuing passage. Nothing. I shifted my weight beginning to maneuver around the turn when something brushed my forehead. Fear twisted inside me. Guerilla warfare knew no limits; death could strike before I took my next breath. Cautiously I directed my light toward the ceiling, prepared for scorpions or a two-step snake to slap me in the face. Something inched away from the beam, and I caught a glimpse of a membranous wing. Bats! I felt relief wash over me.
Redirecting my attention to the tunnel ahead, I pressed on. Jockey to tunnel rat. Leave it to me to push life’s envelope. I hadn’t even waited around to be drafted. Although secretly taking pride in my ability to resist the many vices around me, I couldn’t deny my addiction – a rush of adrenaline. Since my early teen years I had thrived on seeking out the next thrill. In reality, those years felt like one long tunnel. I continued to press toward something, but. . . right now I had to focus on staying alive.
The tunnel ceiling suddenly broadened. Shifting my beam, I caught sight of the bottom of a trapdoor above me. Cut the light! My ears strained for any sound. None came. Not even a ray of light seeped through the cracks. I could see nothing. With every fiber tensed for my one-man reconnaissance, I crouched beneath the thin board separating me from the next step of my mission. Are you ready to meet God, Jim? The thought nearly knocked me off my feet like a VC door trap. The next moment, the image of my mother praying at the kitchen table flashed into my brain. Stay focused, Jim. What a time to be sentimental! I had to move. Now!
Still holding my flashlight, I noiselessly pushed upward, my left hand holding my cocked pistol. I dared not fully expose my head above the level of the floor before attempting to clear the room. I froze. Still, nothing. The silence made my skin crawl. One, two, three, light! The ray illuminated a small bunker. Jerking the beam around the room revealed only a table and two chairs. On second glance, my eye caught sight of a paper on the table. How careless! Inwardly triumphing, I stepped into the room. As I clenched my fist around the scrap, my toe touched something else. Simultaneously I heard a pop – the pop of an igniting grenade. Four seconds, Jim! You’ve got four seconds! I dove toward the open trap door and propelled my body into the tunnel. Move! Move! Move! The explosion sounded close on my heels. I should be dead. They knew I was coming. Cold sweat dripped from my forehead. I mopped it away. Jim, God knew you were coming. For the first time in my life, I paused to consider His protection. Did I deserve it? Hardly! At that moment I knew my next mission – find and read that Bible at the bottom of my pack.
Up ahead, the filtered light of the Vietnamese jungle called a welcome. I pushed myself forward eager to reassure my waiting comrades, but inside something was different. I saw light at the end of my tunnel.
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