Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Countdown to Christmas/Advent (10/23/08)
By Darin Chan
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The shame of it all! His arms burning as he swung his pick alongside the thin, sinewy woman. He could read the shame etched in her once beautiful face now marred with dust. The stench of sweat and unwashed filth filled the air as the clangs of picks and shovel thuds broke the silence of the dewy, still morning.
35, 34...he remembered the dream numbers. Now, he wanted to talk to her, to tell her the good news. But a soldier was hovering nearby.
How at first he had prayed that God would deliver him from this despairing hell-hole, Camp Alpha, located in the middle of china. Crew Alpha 76 had been sent to clear a path through the mountain ranges where now in November, the winds could bring the temperature down.
Anyone classified as in need of physical rehabilitation were assigned to Alpha 76. Thomas Chung didn't see himself as a government rebel or dissident, both of which were stated on his charge-sheet. Though it was close, only recently did he see himself as a freedom fighter for God - setting captives free from the prison of the mind - from the burden of guilt and shame.
If the political authorities knew of his secret, this stinkhole would seem like paradise compared to what was prescribed for spreading the Gospel and "political rebellion".
At first, he dared not share his secret Christian identity with anyone when he arrived, definitely not in a place where the "scum of the earth" were squashed in along with possible spies. He just couldn't trust anyone here.
His mind soon changed when he had seen how the guards had beaten a prisoner for stealing. Their black, hardened steel batons rained down on him like hail till he wasn't squirming anymore. He was in prison hospital for months. At that moment he realised how lonely he felt. How he wished for a brother to pray with and to talk to.
"oh God, help me Lord, I need your strength," he prayed under his thin blanket that night. His heart longed to burst. Then he remembered the beaten man's buddy, a bald man had whispered something to him yesterday. "35."
At first, he had ignored the man. But, he persisted. 35. He must be crazy, he thought. Knowing the guards would harass trouble-makers with their black steel, he swung his pick harder into the ground. Thirtyfive what?
As he laid back on the bed and waited, the dream came back. 35,34,33...
He knew that prisoner identification was a 13 digit number. What was the connection? How was the dream of numbers and the balldie connected?
The man had said 35 yesterday and the day before 36. He waited some more, staring at the ceiling. Baldie was counting down he realised.
He had decided to confront Baldie tomorrow.
"34." Baldie had told Thomas.
"34 days" Thomas fished.
Baldie nodded. He wasn't giving much away.
"34 days to something special?" Thomas continued.
"34 days to a special day."
"One of the most special days in all of history."
"The day a special man was born."
"More than a special man."
They prayed and celebrated that night.
He kept swinging away, a bird was chirping away in a cluster of trees. The guard had left, and Thomas could see the woman struggling away.
Looking around, he saw the coast was clear. He looked down and found what he was looking for and flicked the pick.
The small rock landed next to the woman, but she didn't noticed. Again, he scanned for guards, and again the coast was clear. This time he aimed for her leg. And hit her.
She looked up and he whispered loudly 24 to her. She frowned and shook her head.
He smiled and whispered, "24".
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