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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: River (08/31/06)

TITLE: An Excellent Dawn
By Betty Castleberry


The river was smooth gray steel in the early dawn. The old woman walked cautiously along the rocky bank, poking at the shoreline with an old broomstick she carried. Her hair hung in messy ropes, and her clothing was a bit too tight. She wore old tennis shoes with missing laces. On her wrist hung a plastic shopping bag. By the end of the day, it would be full of her discovered treasures.

Once, her life had been good. Her husband had provided well for her and her two children. Then, the dreams came. They just seemed silly at first, but they became progressively disturbing. Cruel black faces with crimson-slashed mouths spoke to her. The voices were sinister and taunting. They sung haunting melodies to her, clawing at her consciousness until she awoke, screaming. Night after night they came, until she could take no more.

The long descent began, and she could not escape. There was no more day, only dark, unending nights. She was afraid, imprisoned, but there was no one to help her.

That night was burned in her memory. The voices took form and surrounded her bed. They shoved her down farther and farther, their icy fingers burning into her flesh. Then, when she could go no lower, a black silence flooded around her.

The only thing she could remember well after that was the cold, white room and being with the others. The others were nameless to her. They cried, they beat their fists on the walls, and some even laughed. They came and they went, but she stayed. Someone in scrubs gave her pills. After she took them, she felt as if she were floating above them all, observing. The dreams faded, but she was still alone.

One morning, a man came in and helped her pack her few belongings. He smiled hopefully, so she smiled back, but she didn’t feel hopeful. She heard the words “halfway house.” That was where she was going.

She had been in and out of halfway houses and dingy apartments ever since that day. She struggled to keep the blackness out of her dreams. They were dark chains, locking her mind away into hopelessness. Her family was gone. There was no one for her to turn to, but walking along the river bank in the early morning seemed to clear her thoughts.

Her childhood home had been near the river. It had become her friend, a palliative for her loneliness. She knew its twists and turns well. Once, her father had even shown her a place where the sycamores were thick and very lush. In their midst was a spring which fed the river.

She needed to go to this place of calmness and sweet memories. The tall trees circled an almost hidden spot. As she walked into the grove, her shoes sunk into the damp earth. She could see the spot where the spring bubbled forth from underground. How fortunate this river was, to be fed every day, and to wind along, freely, with no encumberments. How she longed to be like the river.

Buried in her memory was a prayer her father taught her. She labored to recall it, remembering that the ending was important. Her father told her she must pray in His name, the one who made the river. Jesus was the light. He could chase away the darkness even better than the river. His promises would be like the spring, feeding and comforting her. Long ago, her father had said so.

A faint smile played at the corner of her lips. She began to turn in a slow circle. Tilting her face toward the rising sun, she spun faster and faster, her arms spread wide.
“Here I am, Jesus!” she shouted. “Feed me!”

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This article has been read 1035 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Donna Powers 09/07/06
Oh, I can see this dear woman in her travels. How well you described her. I love your descriptions. They are so vivid. This is very well done.
Kaye Petts09/09/06
Great Writing!! I could feel the old woman's pain and heartache.

My Favorite line:
How fortunate this river was, to be fed every day, and to wind along, freely, with no encumberments. How she longed to be like the river.

Only God could give her this longing and desire.

Keep writing and God Bless,
Jan Ackerson 09/10/06
Beautifully written slice of life and character study.
Joanne Sher 09/10/06
Chilling and beautiful. I LOVE the ending - and what an awesome job you did on description! I was engrossed from the first word to the last!
Marty Wellington 09/10/06
Powerful characterization! I was hooked from the very beginning. Vivid descriptions made for engrossing reading.
Marilyn Schnepp 09/11/06
And this beautifully written story comes, believe it or not, from a beginner. Very, very nice; written like a pro! I enjoyed it immensely! Kudos!
Rita Garcia09/13/06
I predict you will be quickly moving on up through the levels. Beautiful writing!
Alexandra Wilkin09/14/06
The description and drawing of this woman really brought her to life in my mind. Nicely done. God bless.xx
Jan Ross09/14/06
Congratulations on your "Highly Commended" win! God bless you as you continue to grow in your gifts and talents! Very well done!