Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Valley (08/10/06)
TITLE: Potholes of Inconvenience
By Stephanie Bullard
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But something happens. My foot reaches for the piece of ground that it expects from years of experience. Instead it hovers for a moment, fumbling with the empty cavity of air. It connects forcefully with the ground, jarring my teeth, slamming my stomach against my diaphragm. I pause. Glance around. Softly sloping sides glide down nearly half a foot to form an indent in the middle of my road. A pothole of inconvenience. I brush off the bit of dust that accumulated from the unexpected and sudden descent. I move on. A mere pothole…nothing I cannot handle.
But something happens. When my foot hits the ground, my ears are met with a slarshing sound. Cold wetness seeps in around the corners of my shoes, leaving my feet damp, splashing bits of globular mud onto my pants. I pause. Glance around. A severe dip in the once-flat path I had been traveling leaves slanting sides that spill down into a marshy lowland. Green grass gives way to brownish mud. A ditch of trouble. I shake the damp earth from my shoes and begin moving forward. The incline is not too high. I can make it, with a bit of concentration and effort.
But something happens. My feet are once again on solid ground, but the incline towards which I was moving has altered. I pause. Glance around. The slopes are steeper, longer, much higher. The air is cooler, the sky above darker, with grayish clouds that release a fine mist of rain. A chill creeps into my bones and a shiver wraps around my shoulders like an adverse shawl. A valley of despair. Trying to shake off the coldness that has overtaken the air, I trudge forward, but a sluggish lethargy pulls on my muscles. I try to remember the flat, easy road I once traveled, the sun that once shone on my head, but they are distant recollections, quickly fading into oblivion, whisked away by the chill wind. I move towards the oblique sides, trying to disregard the exhaustion. Surely I can make it…maybe if I just rest a bit…
But something changes. My dragging feet scrape against jagged rocks that slice through my shoes, lacerating my skin. I stop. Glance dully around. The steep slopes of the valley have transformed; sheer walls of slick, black rock jut into the equally black sky above, piercing the roiling clouds in an expansive height, the altitude of which I cannot fathom. A thick fog has obscured the view even feet in front of me. The air is frigid and heavy, pressing in around, against, and down on my body until I feel as though my legs will break from the mere exertion of staying on my feet. A ravine of hopelessness. I struggle to take another step, but my strength evaporates and I collapse to my knees. A sob builds in my chest and tears its way through my throat. I try to remember…something…but I cannot remember what it is I attempt to recall. More pleasant times perhaps, but the idea of pleasantness is an absurd notion when I lie crumpled in an incapacitated heap. I cannot go on. I cannot get out. In my last desperate attempt, I cry out.
“Oh God! I cannot do this on my own. Help me!” With that I drop my head and let the hopelessness flood my soul in the darkness that grows ever thicker.
But something changes. I feel a new force on my shoulder; not the despondent weight that has been crushing me into the unforgiving ground, but rather an encouraging pressure, impressing upon me a promise of companionship and assistance. Far above, a single shaft of light breaks through the ceiling of black. I lift my tear-stained face and see a hand, reaching out. I take it. It pulls me back to my feet and I begin to struggle on, confident that I am no longer alone. It will not be easy. No one ever promised that. But I will make it. I know that. I pause. Glance around. And notice that the ravine has become a valley.
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