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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: End Times (02/27/14)

TITLE: The Astronomical Clock
By Phillip Cimei


Jacque sat somber awaiting the verdict. He knew it wasn't going to be good. He was used to bad news. Life had been hard on him these past few years. His wife succumbed to a long battle of cancer last December; his daughter committed suicide three years ago. And now this.

“I'm sorry Jacque, the treatments have not been working; the brain tumor has grown so fast no radiation, operation or chemo will help. I have prescribed you some stronger pain medication. I'm afraid it will keep you mostly sedated.”

Jacque tried to mask the uncontrollable twitching as he stared into space. Tears swelled up as he asked the inevitable question, “How long, Doc?”

“Soon, real soon. I'm so sorry.”

Jacque left the office with a prescription clasped tightly in his hand. He wandered aimlessly down the streets in the old section of Strasburg, France. Then, he turned into a store and walked up to the chemist, still holding the prescription.

“Yes, may I help you,” said the chemist at the desk.

“Do you have any cyanide?”

“What do you need it for?”

“I have a rat problem and need to put some in food to kill them.”

Jacque left with a bottle of cyanide in one hand, the prescription still in the other and a plan.

As he stepped into the street, his eyes caught a glimpse of Notre Dame. His chest exploded with excitement. As a child, his mother would take him to see this magnificent Gothic structure with its ornate carvings, breath taking stained glass and “the astronomical clock”. “This will be the perfect place, “ he said.

He walked briskly to the west entrance, clasped the cast medal handle on the massive door and entered. He immediately focused his attention on the towering astronomical clock. He had lucked out and had entered at the scheduled time when the unusual movements would begin.

He watched as figures would emerge from one side and parade around in a semi circle, then disappear on the other side. Death stood with his sickle watching as each age appeared and passed in front of him. A child looking so innocent and pure would hold up his tiny hand and strike the bell indicating the end of childhood. Youth with an inquisitive look raised his hand and rang the bell, an adult with his robust arm would strike the bell, then an old and decrepit man would lift his time wearied arm and strike the bell. Finally, death, depicted by a skeleton, would strike the passing of life. Jacque sighed a deep breath.

Jacque knew where his life fit in this parade, he focused on death and thought how soon “his” bell would be rung. He bowed his head and wept bitterly. Then he felt a hand rest on his shoulder.

He flinched and turned, “Who are you?'

A man, who bore a similar resemblance to Friar Tuck in the movie Robin Hood, dawned a comforting smile and said, “ I am brother John. You look like you need a friend.”

Jacque broke down and confessed that he came there to see one more time the story of life through this clock and then end his. His lips quivered as he confessed his hopelessness.

Brother John told him that each stage of life has its end, childhood, youth, adulthood and old age. Even life has its end time.

Brother John gently raised him up and said, “Come with me and I will ease your pain.”

He led Jacque through the ominous archways to the base of what looked like the side of a mountain. There at the top of this structure was a cross with the figure of Christ hanging on it.

“You see that man there, he bore the same anguish as you knowing that he would soon die. He prayed to God so fervently that great drops of blood spewed from his pours. He was given comfort from his father and his trust carried him through. Do you believe in God?”

“Yes, yes I do.”

“Do you believe in that man who bore that pain for you.?”


“Then go home, and I will send some sisters to care for you till the end.”

“Jacque, wake up. Jacque come on, it is time to get up. You will be late for your school field trip to see the astronomical clock.”

Jacque stirred a little, shook his head and let out a sigh of relief. It was a dream



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This article has been read 271 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sarah Wipf03/07/14
Wow! Intense & powerful...what a story! Great job!
C D Swanson 03/07/14
Powerfully intense! Excellent job with this gripping entry...I never would have thought it was a dream, you totally took me by surprise.

Fantastic story,I'm sure it'll get the judges attention!

God bless~
Larry Whittington03/07/14
Interesting turn on a well written story.

Creative writing thrives on these.
Toni Hammer03/09/14
What a roller coaster. Great story with a fantastic ending.

Two "red ink" comments. When describing the door handle you said "cast medal" and I believe you mean "metal." The other is to check your punctuation marks before submitting. Near the end you have both .? in one set of speech, and you were also missing an opening quote mark.

You're a gifted storyteller as this proves. I encourage you to spend a little more time editing to make the tales stronger.
Sheldon Bass 03/10/14
I love stories of dreams and you did a great job with this one. Good writing and good descriptions. I could feel the MC's emotion.
Mar  03/11/14
Wow I never would have thought it was a dream. Sad intro, but roped me in from beginning! Good writing, double check, triple check punctuation, mistakes always sneak by us!
Rachel Malcolm 03/12/14
This is a powerfully written piece. I felt Jacque's pain and hopelessness. The scene at the astronomical clock was riveting and was a perfect image for this week's challenge topic.

Be careful not to overuse the "it was only a dream ending." Jan did a lesson this week on great endings. http://www.faithwriters.com/Boards/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?f=67&t=37967 She used to be a challenge judge and the dream ending was quite common.

I'm glad that Brother John has a place in your story. He is both strong and compassionate as he points Jacque towards Christ. I hope that I can learn to balance both strength and love when ministering to people who are suffering.