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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Shopping (03/01/07)

TITLE: Tragedy at the Mall


The escalator came to an abrupt stop. Tired, irritable shoppers trudged the remainder of its metal steps. Sandy held her four-year-old son’s hand. “Come on, Tommy, we’d better go.”

“But, I wanna ice cream. You promised… and I have to go to the bathroom.”

Sandy looked around for a sign to direct them to the restroom. “Great idea! Then we’ll collect Kathy from school.”

Leaving the restroom, they made their way to the food court and stood in line at the ice cream shop. People bustled about with shopping bags, pushing and shoving their way through the food court. Sandy thought about the cute pink bunny Tommy had chosen for his sister Kathy’s birthday, and the gold bracelet that she had engraved for her. Glancing down at the shopping bag, Sandy saw a little pink ear poking out of the top. She smiled as she caught sight of the evening dress she had purchased for the church’s missionary dinner on Saturday.

Tommy chose vanilla ice cream with gummy bears and chocolate sprinkles. His mother chose a vanilla yogurt cone. After paying the clerk, they walked, hand-in-hand, toward the exit, the shopping bag swinging gently between them. “You have ice cream on your nose,” Sandy chuckled.

Tommy looked up with a huge, creamy grin. “I love shopping with you, Mummy.”

The explosion was deafening. Multitudes of light fixtures flickered wildly before casting the mall into a dingy darkness. Sandy lost her footing as the floor shook violently and suddenly gave way beneath her feet, separating her from Tommy. She fell away into… emptiness.

She heard the screams. She felt the pain, then… nothing.

Sandy woke to the sound of pounding jackhammers and distant sirens. Screams of panic sounded hollow and far away. She coughed violently, spitting out dust and concrete fragments. Pain shot up her leg, ripping through her thigh like a fiery dagger. Dizziness threatened to overcome her. In the darkness, the smell of sour yogurt mingled with dust, assaulted her nostrils. She vomited. What happened?

When the nausea subsided, she used her hands to assess her immediate surroundings. She was lying on her back, face-up. Directly above her there was a chunk of concrete which sloped upwards. She traced her hands across it and down behind her head. She recoiled when she touched what felt like someone’s arm. Her legs were pinned under a pile of debris. “Tommy, Tommy, where are you, Tommy?” she began to scream, but her own voice ricocheted off the walls of her dark, tiny tomb.

Fear threatened to engulf her. She began to weep quietly and pray. Closing her eyes to avoid further irritation from the dust and grit, she recited scripture she had been memorizing. When verses no longer came, she began to sing. Tears trickled down her face. Muffled cries for help continued—some ceased. Intermittent showers of debris rained down around her while the sound of constant drilling of jackhammers pounded in her head. Please, Lord, let them find us. Her thoughts wandered to her husband, Bob, and their children. Praying soothed her anxiety for Tommy.

Sandy reached out again in search of the limb she had touched earlier and discovered it had broken off a store mannequin. Relief washed over her. The ear-shattering din from the drilling stopped.

“Anyone down there? Hello, can you hear me?” The voice seemed to come from all around her.

“My name is Sandy Reagan,” she sobbed. “I was shopping with my son, Tommy. He’s almost five and wearing a Thomas the Tank Engine tee shirt. I can’t … hic… find … hic …him,” she hiccupped.

“Sandy, please stay calm. We’ll find him. We’ve already moved a lot of concrete, but we have to know how stable it is and your condition. What can you tell us?”

Several frantic hours later, nursing a frightful headache, a broken leg and the need for several stitches in her thigh, Sandy was eased from the rubble. Bob and Kathy were waiting by the ambulance. Tommy was asleep in his father’s arms, his hair matted with blood from a cut above his eye—his only injury. Sandy cried tears of joy, thanking the Lord for the safe ending to their shopping trip. Their purchases no longer mattered—her son was safe. Memorizing more of God’s promises, would be a priority in her recovery.

That evening, newsrooms everywhere reported the tragedy at the mall. No one had yet claimed responsibility for the bombing….

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This article has been read 1102 times
Member Comments
Member Date
julie wood03/08/07
What a powerful, moving, and beautiful story! Everything here came alive for me and I felt as though I were right there in both scenarios. Wonderfully vivid descriptions--both of the happy scene with the little boy's "creamy ice cream grin" and the pink bunny ear poking up out of the mom's shopping bag--and the contrasting nightmare world of the narrator trapped under rubble and darkness and praying in her fear and desperation. The sharp contrasts between the narrator's world before and after the bombing were especially powerful. Terrific job!
Marilyn Schnepp 03/08/07
Electrifying story with a wonderful ending. Kept my interest throughout - a great read, a great write, and a powerful reminder of what prayer can accomplish! Very nicely done! Terrific job!
Pat Guy 03/08/07
Wow! This gave me chills! You did a fantastic job on description - I felt I was there all the way.

What is really sad though, is that it's so possible for this to happen today. *shudder*

Jan Ackerson 03/08/07
Wonderful job with the reality and the immediacy of the situation...one can see the flickering lights, feel the dust in the air, etc. What a world we live in--come quickly, Jesus!
Kathie Thomas03/10/07
Excellent story - sad this is a reality in so many parts of the world today. What would I do if caught up in something like that?

Thank you for reminding us of the importance of remembering Scripture.
christine bastow03/10/07
A very moving story that totally captivated me. Congratulations on such an excellent article.
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/10/07
This fightening story seemed too real. Excellent job!
Amy Michelle Wiley 03/11/07
Powerful and thrilling. Good job at keeping up the intensity!
Jacquelyn Horne03/12/07
What a traumatic experience! So glad it turned out well in the end. Thank God for prayer. Good writing.
Valora Otis03/12/07
Chrissy! This is terrific! You had me from beginning to end. So glad you stayed with the challenge my friend. Great description and very good job with the intensity.
Steve Uppendahl03/13/07
Excellent story! Very dramatic and well done descriptions.

It does end a bit too abruptly and neatly, but with 750 words, what can you do?

You could take this idea in a much different direction, if this had a more...unsatisfying result of the bombing. Your character(s) finding out more of what happened and why, feelings and actions of revenge, and the frantic search for answers, etc. you could have a much longer and very powerful story on your hands.

Think about it.

Great entry!
Joanne Malley03/13/07
What makes this most frightening is that this is more than possible in our world today. Thank goodness we have Christ despite the terror around us. Well written and suspenseful. Blessings, Jo
Marilee Alvey03/13/07
This was a well written piece. A very sweet, ordinary day was shattered in a moment of chaos, unfortunately a sign of our times. This was a good technique to use because we weren't prepared for the nightmare that followed. That's how life is, though. Your descriptions are excellent, by the way. Your leisurely pace picked up when the unimaginable came. You've shown some real talent here. Congratulations!
Allison Egley 03/13/07
Oh, this is magnificent in every way. You had me at the edge of my seat the whole time, and you had me cheering at the end. I wish I knew the "whole" story, but it's one of those stories where we'll never know everything. Wonderful job building suspense and keeping the reader's interest!
Catrina Bradley 03/14/07
Great detail really makes this story jump off the page, and my heart jump into my throat. Wonderful writing - great job!
Kate Grey03/14/07
Great story! You did well capturing the suddenness of the transition from "before" to "after", as some of the others said. Yours was a poignant reminder that family is most important.

Sandra Petersen 03/14/07
I liked the way you began the story with your MC having a good time with her son, then plunged us into a fearful nightmare. Way to write it!

I was relieved when she discovered the limb she found on her original exploration was a store mannequin!

And how horrifying to read that last sentence: "No one had yet claimed responsibility for the bombing…" This was suspenseful, kept me reading to the end. Great job, Chrissy!
Jen Davis03/14/07
Oh, My gosh! You had me sitting on the edge of my seat. I was so relieved to know they were both okay. Lots of great detail throughout the story. A powerful ending as well. I had assumed it was an earthquake, not a bomb. Great job!
Loren T. Lowery03/14/07
You've written a tense and belivable article that could be tomorrow's or even today's headline. We must continue to be vigilant and where would we be without our faith?
Sara Harricharan 03/14/07
More please! This was amazing! I was with Sandy all the way through, the touch of the ice cream cones were very realistic and even when she fell and later smelled sour yogurt, that was great with keeping that in there. I was so glad to know that Tommy was safe too and her promise at the end to memorize more verses. Excellent writing, Chrissy! ^_^
Joanne Sher 03/14/07
Amazing description - you did an exceptional job of putting us right there - both before and after the explosion. Your MC's thoughts and speech seemed right on. Excellent!
Rita Garcia03/14/07
You held be spell-bound, great story for the topic and well written!
LaNaye Perkins03/14/07
Awesome story, you pulled me in from the very beginning. Well done!
T. F. Chezum03/14/07
Well written, fast moving story. It was a little bit of an abrupt end, but the word count thing has bitten us all. Great jo holding the readers attention.
Julie Arduini03/14/07
This was one of those I hold my breath and try not to skim for the end because I was that anxious to see if Tommy would reunite safely with his mom! The descriptions, emotions, it all was powerful and all too real. Very well done!
Julie Ruspoli03/15/07
Wow! What a story! Very nicely written. Reads like the opening scene of a TV drama.
Janice Fitzpatrick03/15/07
Whoa. Arer you good at this style or what?:0) I have read several of your writings and you have a versatile gift where you can write different ways and each time it is still effective. Wow. I felt like I was right there trying to reach for the mom and rummaging through the piles of debris scouting fervently for her missing son. great impact and action, unexpected,way to pack a suprise punch!Bamm!:0) Grin. God bless your writing. Oh, by the way, thank you for the congratulations on 9th place but hehe, I looked and I must either have vision problems or you maybe confused me with someone else,ha. That happens, don't worry about it. He-he.:0)
Elizabeth Baize03/15/07
Wow! You definitely captured the truth that something can happen so fast. I was just reading along, when the explosion suddenly ripped apart this normal shopping day. I appreciated how you also brought home the lesson of the importance of Scripture memorization.
Christian Coutts03/18/07
Powerful article that had me holding my breath. So real and frightening.