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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Work (07/27/06)

By Philip Barnes



The whip cracked just inches away from the men's ears. If you worked hard it might not bite you, if you didn't... well, you just did. You worked until you passed out, and even then you worked in your dreams. It was never the whip that killed you. It was the freezing water or dehydration or starvation. The whip just kept you working.

Boom! Boom! Boom!

The drummer pounded out his constant beat. Lift up the oar, push it forward, and pull through the salty ocean. Over and over. On the backs of criminals and slaves the mighty vessel fought the ocean currents. The very bones of the ship creaked and moaned. The floor was stained crimson with the blood off the backs of countless criminals now long gone.

The chains clanked as the boat heaved. The sea was rough. Storms were coming


The whip cracked again. We'll be paddling though the night. The song of the rowers began.

Move the boat pull
Through the sea wall
To the work pull
Till the thieves fall

Rising waters pull
Over waves tall
To the work pull
Hearing Hell's call

Howling winds pull
Thunder lightning squall
To the work pull
Death approaches all

The storm raged on for fourteen days. The whips kept us to our work. Little water and no food, but still we paddled on. Shouts could be heard above; something was awry. A few stopped to listen and the whip flew again. An anguished cry was the usual response. We kept to the work

The hatch above opened and down came a soldier. His sword was in hand and fire was in his eyes. He lifted his razor sharp blade above his head and swung with all of his might at the helpless prisoner chained in the front row.


The sound of metal on metal and the monstrous shadow of a centurion could be seen. He flicked his wrist and the soldier's sword flew across the room and stuck into the wooden hull.

"No one dies!"

The soldier spat, "They're criminals and scum. If we kill them the rest of us have a chance. Otherwise we're all going to die."

"I don't think so!" The centurion grabbed the soldier with one hand and lifted him off the ground. "You are a coward. You tried to abandon us all, now you try to kill chained men. It would be in my right to cut off your head, but you heard what was said, 'not a hair will be lost from the head of any of you.'(Acts 27:34, HCSV) Now bring down some food."

The soldier ran like a frightened dog and the mighty warrior turned to face us. "He is right. We will probably all die today." His sword came down and hit the bolt of the chains and they fell loose around us. "But there is land. I have seen it. If you will row, we might yet live."

We lifted our hands over our heads and they were truly free. We could overcome the centurion by pure force, but the storms would take us. We could do nothing, and our fate would be the same.

"TO THE WORK!" came a cry from the aft.

The chant, "To the work, pull," began to resonate through the belly of the ship. It was faster and livelier than the drummer's beat.

"To the work, pull!"

The creaking ship gave way to the chants below.

"To the work, pull!"

The centurion sat on a bench and began row, elbow to elbow with the criminal and side by side with the slave.

"To the work, pull!"

The soldier appeared with bread and water. We ate and we rowed.

"To the work, pull!"

The chanting became faster and the boat moved quicker by the minute.

"To the work, pull!"

"Brace for impact!" The ship jolted. People were thrown from their seats. Water began filling the floor and light began to stream through cracks in the walls.

"If you can swim, jump overboard and get to land first. The rest follow by grabbing on to some plank or debris from the ship." The centurion lifted a bleeding man.

"In this way, all got safely to land."(Acts 27:44)

We praised the centurion who saved our lives.

"It was your hard work that got us to land. But if you really must know, you were saved by a fellow prisoner." The centurion brought out a small gangly old man, "May I introduce, Paul."

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Member Comments
Member Date
Marilyn Schnepp 08/03/06
Great story! I've got to read Acts 27:34 and 44; A MUST READ - for this story is very interesting and written very well, and I must see from whence it comes. Thank you for sharing this powerful story.
Joanne Sher 08/07/06
What an interesting and wonderfully told tale of Paul's shihpwreck from a TOTALLY different perspective than I had ever thought of. Your description is quite vivid and compelling. Great ending too - wonderful job!
Amy Michelle Wiley 08/09/06
Oh, I loved seeing the story from this perspective! I found the Bible verse reference to be very distracting smack in the middle of the story and wished it were a foot note, but otherwise well done!
Summer Cordon08/10/06
Congratulations! This is an excellent piece.
Sue Dent08/10/06
Oh, oh, oh, I loved this one!!! I'm so glad it placed! I'm so glad I could help it place! Excellent Job!!!!