Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Sad (07/26/07)
TITLE: Waiting Among the Dead
By Dara Sorensen
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The once busy streets of the small village were eerily silent. The rain drowned out any sounds of what few people remained.
Lady Elinora de Montagu walked through the muddy streets, her wooden pattens sloshing through the thick mire. Mud coated the hem of her cloak and dark blue overdress. At one point in her life, such a sight would have bothered her greatly. But now, in a world beset by the pestilence, it mattered little.
Status mattered not with the plague; peasants and royalty alike succumbed to it…her family had been no exception.
Death’s aroma followed her as she continued walking. It became stronger as Elinora came upon the harvest land. Not long ago, it had been fields full of wheat; now, the land teemed with the dead.
Because of the hasty burial of so many bodies and the constant rain besetting the fields, tangled limbs were often exposed. She became lightheaded at the thought of her beloved husband and children being thrown haphazardly amidst hundreds of other bodies. Through hazy vision, Elinora focused on the stone church on the hill. Please, let it be my place of refuge.
Utter exhaustion besieged her upon reaching the wooden doors of the church. She entered her haven, immediately confronted by the darkness within. No one was here to keep the candles lit—the priest had been one of the first to die from the pestilence. Despair and loneliness enveloped her as the shadows did.
Elinora hesitantly approached the altar, staring up at the crucifix behind it. She knelt on the cold stone floor, clasping her hands in prayer. The silence was oppressive; beads of sweat developed on her forehead and neck as questions assailed her mind.
What am I to do now that I am alone? How do I survive? Only God had the answers…all she could do was beseech Him in prayer.
“Pater noster, qui es in caelis…sanctificetur Nomen Tuum…” her voice shook with emotion as she uttered the Lord’s Prayer—waiting, searching, hoping for answers.
Instead, fragmented thoughts of the past weeks rushed through her mind.
Mama, please make the pain go away…it hurts so much… Screams of a child in agony…desperate prayers to ease her pain…darling Isabell, her firstborn—and first to die.
“Noooo…” she moaned as she covered her ears, trying to drown out the sounds in her mind. She struggled to say the rest of her prayer. “Adveniat Regnum Tuum; fiat voluntas Tua, sicut in caelo, et in terra…”
But more images flooded her brain, overwhelming her soul.
I’ll be all right Mama… Beloved Olyver, her only son. Trying to be strong through a fountain of blood. A pale little body, limp in her arms. Another one taken by the pestilence.
Elinora bent forward, pain coursing through her body with each passing memory. “Why must I suffer so?” she cried out. “Why?”
We will fight this cursed disease, my Elinora! Her husband Reginald. So strong and determined…but the dreaded blood-filled boils covered his body as well.
Bedside vigils, fasting and prayer, failed efforts to relieve his pain…
Let me die…let me die… God had answered his prayer, ending his misery after a hellish seven days.
Elinora cried out in anguish, lifting her hands towards the heavens. “Why will you not hear my voice, O Lord? Why will you not end this torture?” Weeks of anger raged forth. “Have you abandoned me? Is it only this statue who hears my cries? Answer me!” Her sobs echoed throughout the church. “Please…answer me…” She collapsed to the floor, holding her face in her hands.
She rose at the sound of her name. But no one was there.
Again, images of her family flashed in her mind. But instead of the suffering she had seen before, it was a picture of pure joy. Isabell and Olyver danced, their laughter a welcoming sound. Reginald laughed as well, his deep green eyes clear of pain. They were happier than she had ever seen them before…
The voice came to her again, calming her tortured soul. Be faithful, my daughter. Your suffering will come to an end soon. In that brief moment, she felt herself standing in the presence of God.
God hath heard my cries…
As suddenly as the vision came, it vanished. The pain and nausea returned, stronger than before. Elinora realized that she was infected with the pestilence. But she was strangely comforted. Through God’s mercy, she would soon be free from suffering forever.
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