Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Missionary (10/19/06)
TITLE: Open Doors
By David Liberto
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Her own cough woke her forcefully. Waves of cold and pain remounted their assault as she slowly pushed herself up, joints creaking. Her sight meandered to the lone source of light within the cell, a frightened little flame atop a small votive candle. From her perspective, the weak flame hid behind the jet-black chain links, holding the candle and creating shadows.
She watched the shadowy shapes flicker on the walls, particularly on the cell wall across from her. A door had once stood within the wall, and attempts had been made to reach it. She cast her eyes to the waxy scars on her feet, ankles, and calves. She remembered well the futility of resisting the rusted shackles. The door had eventually disappeared, replaced by a wall and dark shadows. She shivered.
With her peripheral vision, she perceived a change and drew her gaze to the pale yellow light of the candle. The flame now illuminated with flickers of gold and it rose a little as if standing up. The corners of her mouth twitched at her friend, and she returned her eyes to the far wall.
A woman stood there.
The captive threw herself against the wall, ignoring her painful constraints, and huddled into a protective ball. <I>Who is that? How did she get in? Will she hurt me?</I> She felt pressure on her shoulder and screamed at the threat of pain. There was none. She felt warmth. Then it was gone. With delicate breaths, the captive lifted her head and pushed aside matted hair to investigate. Across the cell, sadness framed the woman's soft features, and the captive reacted with defensive anger. The gentle woman retreated a silent step, and the emotional prisoner wanted to scream, "no!" but nothing erupted from her lips.
The woman smiled warmly in understanding and quietly crouched down, leaving a small object on the ground. She stood and gave another loving smile that made the captive want to cry in fear of losing that smile. The woman turned towards the wall and stepped into a wash of golden light.
The flame withered back to a jaundiced light. The frightening sounds returned and she winced at each whisper. Tears welled, threatening to impede her view of the object, but she refused to lose it. Trembling, she slid forward slowly, with her shackles clanking and grating the stone. A small gasp of pain escaped as the chains tightened, but she beheld a small golden cross lying on the ground.
Darkness prowled about the tiny flame. She kept her focus upon the cross, and the flame fought back, keeping the darkness at bay. She reached out carefully; the cross lay only a few inches beyond her fingers. Then, she looked forward and noticed the stone door had reappeared. Its center bore an indentation in the shape of a cross. Her eyes widened.
The noises grew, darkness loomed, and a chill breeze induced fear. She shivered, and looked down at the cold metal already braced tight against her bruised and scarred legs. She returned her gaze to the cross. Her fists clenched.
Inhaling deeply, she lunged. Pain erupted in her legs and seared through her body. Pitch black enveloped the cell and ragged breaths of frigid wind berated her. <I>Pain.</I> She fought back the tide of fear welling up to her neck and face. <I>Pain.</I> Her skin made contact with the cross and a hint of warmth spurred her forward. Fear receded, supplanted by agony. Blood poured from her scars and her vision began to fade. Tears flung from her eyes as she moaned, pouring her soul into reaching out. She caught the cross between her fingers.
Warmth coursed through her. Her shackles groaned piercingly then cracked apart. She smiled, and then lifted her fingers to her grinning lips in awe. With weak, aching, and bleeding legs, she stood with the cross firmly in hand. The pale candle had burst into a raging torch illuminating the cell and door.
Veronica brought her cross to the door and opened it.
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