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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "A Man is Known by the Company He Keeps" (without using the actual phrase). (01/31/08)

TITLE: Edge of Darkness
By Denise Stanford


I listened half heartedly to my next client, but I couldn’t let go of Jani.
I’d seen him only once before. That first meeting had been wary for both of us. Jani presented with a history of drug abuse and from experience, I was not going to take all he said as gospel.

It was a standard question to which he replied, “No I’m not using now. I haven’t since I gave my life to Jesus.”
He glanced up unsure of how that was taken, once reassured he had told how it all came about. His had been a thrilling but dangerous journey into the arms of God and he was convinced it would cost him his life.

Today he came again, nervous, tense; a slight tremble to his hands raised my concern.
“They're after me I know it. They don’t like losing. But I’ve made up my mind I’m going through with it. I need you to pray for me, it’s all I ask.”
Commonsense arguments were met with a watery smile, only when I assured him I would be praying did he look me in the eye, thank me and take his leave.

What Jani dreaded so much had been set up for tonight, in a sleazy club on the edge of the city, and he would be there even though he knew it was dangerous! It all sounded so melodramatic, but still it held the ring of truth. I couldn’t forget the sense of resignation about him, the same kind of distorted peace that came over the suicidal when they were about to activate their plan.

As soon as I could, I finished up at the office. In the op shop, I smiled weakly and paid, murmuring something about “…fancy dress, tarts and vicars’’ They smiled back nodding knowingly.

It was a long drive, I had trouble finding the place, and worried I’d be too late. Bouncers hesitated at the door until I dropped a threat and a name Jani hinted meant trouble. They stepped aside and let me in.

Music, loud with primal beat, pulsed with the lights. Hot air thick with smoke and threats, was stirred by urgent angry voice. I saw a huddle thick, dark, muscular moving as a body of threat.

Suddenly all hell let loose as the huddle was jostled by police colliding with everyone. Shouts to freeze sent me spinning to the floor and through a forest of legs I saw the pale face of Jani as he was dropped.

Stepped on and kicked, I crawled to his space and cradled him, crooning as I stroked his damp hair. Sightless eyes stared back as blood, warm and sticky seeped into my hand. The wound was tiny; the thrust of the long delicate blade had been dealt with surgical precision straight through the heart.

The room cleared and I drifted in a haze of disbelief. I felt a strong hand grip my shoulder, and a voice nearby said,
“She’s not part of this, leave her.”
How was I not part of this? I hadn’t stopped it. It was wrong so wrong; I should have tried harder, spoken louder, and been stronger. A detective crouched nearby searching for Jani’s absent pulse. My anger welled up and over flowed,
“Don’t judge me, how do you know I had no part in this?” I met his gaze with defiance; I felt so much a part of the injustice.

The detective moved his head, a slight chin lift that caused me to glance behind me. An angel army of men stood, surrounding us, victorious, strong and powerful, as endowed with the Glory of God as the previous occupants of the room had been entrenched in darkness.
“With you I believe,”
I look back at Jani, brave young warrior who had given his all to expose the evil he had escaped.
“With us”

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This article has been read 499 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Patty Wysong02/08/08
Wow! Gripping. I was a little lost at times, but not enough to stop me from reading and finding out what happened. That's one of the challenges with the word count. Good job.
Jan Ackerson 02/09/08
Lots of great atmosphere and suspense in this story.

I was confused a bit by the narrator; it's not until nearly the end that she's revealed as female, so that was a bit disorienting. And not all of the action/motivations were clear...

Nevertheless, very strong writing and a story that gripped me to the end.
Lucile McKenzie02/11/08
This held me to the end, also. You were dealing with word limits here and I think if you could expand it beyond the 750 word limit imposed by the challenge most of the confusion would disappear. Good job!