Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Lifeguard (11/09/06)
TITLE: A Whispered Warning
By Ryan Tribble
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Indeed, I remember the day it all began; when I received a letter during a time when money was scarce. Somebody knew the situation, and my past; for the letter was a job offer as a lifeguard for Olympus Recreational Park.
I found myself in an empty park on a foggy day; there was an eerie feel about the place, for its only inhabitants were shadows. I had arranged to meet a G.M. Charon in the pool building, and he was half an hour late.
Curious, I began to wander about in search of life, when I heard a voice with song—like a woman’s, yet more enchanting. Besides being immortal, and alluring, it was terrifying. I was the instrument, she, the musician; I had no choice but to yield.
In a trance, I stood at the edge of a pool staring down into the water. As the voice called to my soul from the shadowed waters, reason was locked away, and I dove into the water unwillingly.
As I descended the voice drew nearer, the depths darker, and my breath shorter. Like a mouse I snatched the bate; the trap shut, when the voice ceased, leaving me stunned. Unaware of my surroundings, I inhaled water instead of the air I desperately needed.
The water had a taste of bitterness; not to the tongue, but to the soul. Untold fear consumed my soul; heaviness weighed upon me as if I had committed the unpardonable sin. Eternity passed before I reached the surface gasping for air.
“Help!” I choked, but countless other cries drowned my own. I soon realized I was not wading in a pool, but in a river dividing two shores; confused I swam for the nearest.
The infernal water consumed all hopes, revealing a void; until now I had never been aware of it. I rested on the shore and examined my surroundings. A grey mist confused my discerning, but the echoes of horror gave the impression of a subterranean world.
I turned to the other shore, and made out an approaching figure on a raft. With each stroke of its long pole its image became more vivid: First, a tall figure on a barge, then hooded, until finally its cold breath forbade my curiosity.
As I began to back away I found myself among others who also stood trembling naked before the terrifying presence. His bony hand pointed to the barge:
“Mortals, can you pay the price?
To whom have you paid homage?
Fire will reveal your god’s vice.
If stone, life eternal; if chaff, bondage.”
“Am I dead?” The question lurked from every shadow as we crossed the river, but I kept silent. The majority of others were frightened, but there were some whose faces quelled my own fear. I desired to question them, but the ferryman’s gaze forbade me.
The barge stopped with a jolt when we reached the opposite shore. The ferryman pointed to five doors, “who is your god?” Above four of the doors, towered images carved from a marble mountain.
Dividing these was the narrow door, humbled by the splendor the others. Above it were the words written in blood, “Come murderers, liars, thieves, adulterers.”
Obviously, the narrow door wouldn’t do; I turned to the others: Athena, Aphrodite, Dionysus, and an aged man with two engraved tablets of stone. I considered each until I recognized the tablets as the Ten Commandments—obviously the way.
By visions of Heaven, the thirst in my soul had become maddening; I entered the doorway of Moses to quench the thirst with the water of life. Frightened, I attempted to withdraw; but instead of the door was an adamant wall.
The source of my fear stood before me as a withered monster, with the familiar likeness of a man. It fearfully stared into my eyes as I stared into its, never flinching. The monstrous revelation of this moment was that I was not staring at a creature, but a mirror.
Horror filled me as reality sunk in—I was wrong. There was no turning back, for with each fleeing step the adamant wall was close on my heels. Descending gradually I ran ever onward, never backward.
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