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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Winter (the season) (08/13/09)

TITLE: Catherine
By Colin Nielsen


Catherine woke. Long messy hair cascaded over her damp pillow. She gazed out the window into another cold day. Her mind drifted back to the little church in the center of town.


Catherine’s soul trudged along. Pulled into exile. Her once bright, radiant robe now stained with darkness and muck. Chains and fetters bound her hands and feet. Unbreakable. Lightening flashed and pierced the clouds illuminating the drab, sharp, and barren landscape. At first she resisted the pull of the chain, which was wrapped around her waist, but soon she lost strength and then she lost her fight and finally her hope.

Catherine knew the holy congregation would now be singing, praising, and having a great time laughing, raising hands and hearts to the Master. She used to be one of them, before that fateful Saturday afternoon. The pastor visited her home. Alone. He told her about his feelings for her. He told her he didn’t love his wife anymore, told her he wanted her. She believed him. She gave him everything and he took it.

Catherine’s soul passed tortured spirits, each one darker and muddier than herself. She pressed on, yanked by an unseen and rough force, toward the black cloud that hung low and blotted out the skyline. She glanced down at her dirty robes now brown with more soot and dust, and getting worse by the second.
Immediately after the event she wanted to run to the Master, fall to her knees and wash his feet with her tears and dry them with her hair. But the other souls looked at her with horror. ‘Unclean,’ they bellowed. They threw stones at her. She pressed on through the pain. They tried ignoring her. She pressed on through their indifference. All the while they all whispered in the dark until everyone in town knew what she’d done.
And just as she fought through the hatred and opposition and approached the Master and held out her hand, the self-righteous ones yanked her chain, forcing her to the ground. They spat. They cursed.
Sitting far away in the darkness, the grand Accuser rubbed his hands together and watched the whole proceeding with glee. The dark ones gathered around and whispered into self-righteous ears.
’Crucify her; crucify her. She is a Sinner. She is an Adulterer.’
The self-righteous ones drew a large scarlet letter ‘A’ hard into her forehead with a permanent marker, then threw her out on the street and turned their backs.

The phone rang, dragging Catherine to full consciousness. She reached. But hesitated.
Could be anyone, she thought. Could be another nasty congregant wanting to say something more.
‘You’re a family destroyer.’
‘God really hates you now. Child of the devil.’
’You’re going to Hell.’
‘You’ve wrecked our church.’
‘Why don’t you just leave?’
The answering machine jumped into action.
‘Cath, it’s Lisa. I haven’t seen you in like ages. Look. I don’t care what the others say. I’m still your friend. I know this other church we can attend. Please Cath. Give me a call. You know my number. Bye.’


Hard rain fell. Rivulets of cold dirty water dripped off her soul’s head. Through the dark gray cloud an open hand extended. She could almost reach it. Almost grasp it. The chain around her waist stretched and dragged her with more urgency. She strained and reached out but instead brushed the ‘A’ on her forehead. She knew who she was. Everyone knew. She could never go back.


Catherine picked up the phone and dialed a number she had jotted down earlier.
‘Southern Belle Escort Service, can I help you?’ a kindly receptionist said.
‘Yes. I need a job.’
She decided that next time a man used her, then he would have to pay a price.
Six weeks later, the small community church received its new pastor. They laughed, and clapped, and rejoiced, and forgot all about the whole unpleasant incident.
‘That was the best worship we’ve ever had, ‘they said, ’surely the Lord was in this place.’


The Master sat slumped on his throne, head shaking in his hands and weeping uncontrollably. His people stood in the sanctuary with bloodstained hands raised in worship at the same time one of his precious little ones lay murdered in the land of eternal winter.

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Member Comments
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Jan Ackerson 08/20/09
Oh dear, how sad!

This was very rich in atmosphere and description. I found the tie-in to the topic very minimal, though.

Very thought-provoking, and something that should make us all examine our own churches.
Jackie Wilson08/20/09
Good descriptions of the ovewhelming effect sin and guilt can have on us.
Mildred Sheldon08/20/09
Such a sad story of the effects of sin. I guess you were trying to show the wintery coldness of how bad choices lead to total defeat and even death.
Graham Starling08/21/09
Wow this is as powerful as it is sad. We have such a tendency to judge before we know all the facts, and to focus on the sin rather than the sinner. "Blood stained hands lifted in praise." What an indictment on many of our modern churches. It's usually the uncharismatic and unlovely who get the sharp end of our spite, because we are already predisposed to find something wrong in them. And the last paragraph that shows God's heart in contrast to the church, His pain not only at the lost, but our inability to see that we put them there. We need to hear this and learn from it.
Karen Pourbabaee 08/22/09
Strong themes...abuse of power, sin, guilt,hypocritical attitudes, loyalty of true friends;great descriptions/symbolism and a glimpse into the Father's heart.Very good!
Mona Purvis08/28/09
Mature, strong writing. Difficult subject. Almost written like a play.
Not on topic. But, I certainly see where you have talent. Who is going to read the first couple of lines and quit? Sign of a good story.
I look forward to reading more of your work. To fare better in the challenge, keep the subject closer.

Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 10/06/10
Wow this is a powerful story. It really tied into the parable in the Bible where Jesus tells the mob that he without sin should cast the first stone. I could tell you really put your heart into this one.