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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: The Writer's Life (05/13/10)

TITLE: Pieces of stone
By Joanna Stricker


The tightness in his chest increased as Hanif knelt beside the crumbled rock. Without conscious thought, his feet had led him to this place at the foot of the mountain. Guilt clawed at his throat as he wrestled—this was his fault.

Why had he answered their questions? Because they asked—as a scribe, you had the training and knowledge. But, as every man knows his own faults, he knew the true reason lay in his desire to be accepted by the Israelites.

His chest constricted around his heart. He gasped.

There was no reason for ailment. He was healthy. Was he was about to die? Many had already. No Levites were around with their swords so he would die of the plague. He would have preferred the sword to dying here. Alone.

He had been raised by the Egyptians. Trained as a scribe, he had gained the esteem due to those of his profession, yet his birth was of unknown origin. He was not Egyptian, nor Hebrew. He had flown Egypt with the Hebrews, but his knowledge of their language and adaption to their ways had been useless. He remained a stranger, a foreigner—without a god, without a people.

He reached toward the stones; but pulled back. He felt the struggle within his chest, which was greater? The despair…or the fear? Even as Moses had descended to the base of the mountain, Hanif realized—that his lifelong dreams of belonging, of being a part of a people, were never to be.

They asked for the stories of the gods…they asked about the priest’s practices. From a child he had been trained in knowledge of Egyptians religious activities. Given his hatred of the Egyptians’ vile practices, he should have refused the Hebrews queries.

Why hadn’t he found a place among this people? A few days ago, he would have gladly given all of his costly papyrus’ to become a part of this people. He had watched in awe as the Hebrew God had performed one marvelous act after another. Before going the mountain, Moses had declared God’s commandments. Hanif’s attention had been caught by the admonishment to not “mistreat a stranger”, bearing in mind their own oppression in Egypt. Those words had given Hanif hope, hope that was now gone.

Hanif didn’t think he could ever scribe again. Something inside him had shattered when Moses broke the tablets.

His hand trembled as he reached out and picked up a piece of stone. A groan escaped his lips as he saw the fractured script within his hand. Imagine…the hand of God had formed these words. His heart felt as broken as the tablets. A wail rolled up his throat, as it sprang out of his mouth, others followed.

If he was to die, it would be here, now. He dropped the stone and forced his hands into the pile of rock. He believed. He believed that the God of the Israelites was the one true God. Hanif deserved to die; he had helped this people to sin against their God, and as a result many had died.

“Have mercy! Have mercy!” The words forced their way through his cries. Tears poured down his cheeks, and he pressed his face to the ground.

Cords of pressure tightened around his chest. Paralyzing pain stole the breath from his lips. He lay as one dead, his thoughts immobilized for long seconds by death’s grasp.

Slowly something released within him, and air began to fill his lungs. As his mind began to reason, he realized the pain and tightness was gone, but something was different. He didn’t know what he felt…or did he? It reminded him of the presence that had been on the mountain, the presence that the Hebrews had feared as much as he had. Only his fear was gone, and in its place was something strange to his experience. Could it be…the Presence? Inexplicitly, he knew it was…and that this was not his day to die.

Thank you! The thought exploded within him, and his heart knew that this God heard!

Blood welled from cuts as he pulled his hands from the rubble and rose to his feet. When able, he began his journey toward camp.

He would search for the Levites.

His course was set; he would not rest until he became part of this people—a people with a Living God. His heart whispered…a God who accepts me!

Quote from NKJV, Exodus 22:21.

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This article has been read 623 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Gregory Kane05/20/10
I thought that you had an excellent, gripping introduction. My only quibble would be that although Hanif is stated to be a writer, this is merely incidental to your story. But it's good to be reminded that even back in the days of Moses non-Israelites could be accepted as God's people
Judy Wood05/21/10
Interesting thoughts on how someone who wasn't an Israelite might long to know their God after seeing His mighty deeds.I enjoyed your take on the challenge.
Mildred Sheldon05/21/10
Thank you for such a beautiful story. I enjoyed this greatly. Even back in the time of Christ foreigners and aliens were part of Gods chosen people. We serve an awesome, loving God. Good job. Keep writing.
AnneRene' Capp05/21/10
Well done, captivating me in this engaging story. I learn a lot when writers re-tell a biblical account. It always sheds new light on it for me also.
Lucile McKenzie05/23/10
Great story! I, too, like to retell a Bible story from a different character's point of view. This was especially creative! Well done!
T. F. Chezum05/24/10
A very well written story. I enjoyed the read.
Rachel Phelps05/24/10
This was wonderfully atmospheric. Great sense of place. I do agree with the previous commenter who said that the prompt seemed incidental to the story, but you did an excellent job developing an intriguing story. Well done.
Maria Egilsson05/24/10

I found the missing word!

I thought your story veered off the topic of "A writer's life" but it shone with the glory of God's forgiveness.

Picking up the pieces of the broken tablet on which God had written, Hanif's broken stony heart was pierced by Grace.

I'm glad I came back to read this.
Joan Campbell05/24/10
I always love stories drawn from the bible. You did a wonderful job pulling the reader in to the scene and Hanif's emotions. I really, really like this one!
Beth LaBuff 05/24/10
I loved that he picked up the broken stone tablet, and acknowleged it was carved by God. Powerful work! Very, very good!
Susan Montaperto05/24/10
Thanks for a powerful story of God's grace in the time of Moses and the Israelites.
To read of Hanif grasping the pieces of stone and crying out to an unknown God who would forgive him, was breathtaking.
Amanda Brogan05/25/10
I'm reluctant to guess what you think is wrong with this piece because I thought it was one of the best written stories in Intermediate this week! It may have been slightly off-topic (is that what you thought was wrong?) but with your obviously natural talent for story-telling, I guaruntee you'll be in Advanced in no time! :D

I thought the story was very creative - told from a point of view that many would not consider from someone who traveled with the Israelites. Many people who only know surface knowledge about the Bible may not know that Egyptians also joined the Israelites in leaving Egypt, so I think that's a great thing to base a story around. This story would be perfect to include in a book! An entire story about Hanif and his past and his search for acceptance . . . and God.

All in all, this story is wonderful! Keep up the awesome writing!
Lyn Churchyard05/25/10
Like all good stories, this hooked me from the very first sentence and drew me along.

I didn't find the missing word, only a missing apostrophe, and an apostrophe where one shouldn't be :-)

This may have been light on topic, but it was probably the best non-poetry entry I've read so far. It was extremely creative and even though I've read the account of the children of Israel in the desert many times, but this was certainly not from an angle I'd ever considered before.

The vision of Hanif on his face before God crying out for mercy and his realisation that God had heard him and had indeed granted that mercy brought tears to my eyes.

This was well written, full of emotion and I loved it. I also would like to read more about Hanif as he draws closer to the God who hears and accepts sinners. Well done!

Amanda Brogan05/27/10
Yay! You got third place!!! Told ya this was a good one. ;)
Troy Manning05/27/10
Nice dramatic characterization. Congratulations on your ribbon! :) ("Inexplicitly" should be "Inexplicably")
Maria Kana Santos05/27/10
I thought this was excellent! I appreciate your writing style, your deep thoughts and emotions, and the uniqueness of the subject you chose to write about. Indeed, God is merciful to all! Congratulations with your winning award. God bless you richly, fellow writer.
Lyn Churchyard05/27/10
Congratulations on a well-deserved third place, Joanna! Your entry was the first one I looked for when I woke up this morning. Well done!