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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "It's No Use Crying over Spilt Milk" (without using the actual phrase or literal exampl (02/07/08)

TITLE: Unmatched
By Ann Grover


Colourlessly, dawn hung at the single window, ponderous and indifferent. Morley knew without opening his eyes snow had fallen, trapping frigid air within its embrace. He could hear it in the muffled silence and smell its tang, mingled with the sour odor of dead ashes.

The fire.

Morley reluctantly peeled back blankets and rolled out of bed. Icy air hit his body, and he gasped, his breath rushing out in a steamy cloud. He pulled on his parka and boots and staggered to the fireplace.

With chilled fingers, he arranged moss, then added kindling and dry split pine and spruce. He extracted a sulphur match from the tin, struck it, and applied it to the tinder. Yellow ribbons flared, sparked, then, as if daunted by the cold, wavered and were extinguished.

Morley tucked more moss under the kindling and pulled out another match. His hands were numb, and he struggled as he struck again. As tenderly as he would a jewel, he held the tiny orange blaze to the moss.

Then, the inconceivable.

The tin tipped in his deadened fingers, releasing the matches in a cascade. They immediately combusted as they joined the fledgling fire and were consumed in a heated roar. Morley tried to rescue the matches, but it was too late, and the fire scorched his unfeeling hands. Disbelief contorting his face, he hurled the tin across the cabin, and the ricochet rattled hollowly.

Frantically, he decided what to do. Eat, warm up, then bring in more wood to keep the fire burning.

The water in the kettle was frozen, but Morley swung it over the fire, and soon, he was drinking tea and sopping up bacon grease with biscuits. A weak sun hovered on the horizon, providing enough Arctic hours for Morley to bring in a few armloads of firewood from the stack he’d cut in the fall.

Morley knelt before the fire, tossed on firewood, relieved, exultant. He made tea and ate, watching the fire, flames rhythmically dancing, a cadence of light and shadow...

When Morley awoke, it was dark. Panicked, he flew to the fireplace and blew. Nothing. He sifted through the ashes. Cold.

Morley curled up in bed, hopelessness clawing at his spirit, despair gnawing at reason, twin ravens of fear.

You’re going to die, you fool.

Morley leaped from the bed, flung open the door, and ran into the night. He stumbled, arose, drew in deep breaths of biting air, running until he collapsed. Crystals clung to his face, but he was oblivious, embracing the insidious softness of the snow’s bosom.

The moon rose, then bent over to kiss Morley, trailing tendrils of lover’s mist over his brow. Lovely warmth invaded his limbs, and he opened his eyes. He saw his beloved’s face peering passionately into his.

“Morley, one more dance, please?”

He tried to rise, but his leaden legs were dead things, his arms, lifeless stumps. A tear fell and he slept.

Hot pain roused him. Burning fire. Ah, the fire.

“Get up, Samuel Morley. No son of mine gives up." A man with a beard.


“Aye. Get up and start the fire.”

“But I dropped the matches, Father.”

“What of it? You know what to do.”

Morley squinted. The bearded man was gone; there was only an old spruce tree with snow-laden branches.

Morley rolled over and, unable to walk, crawled to the tree. His mind was thick, confused, but he had a vague remembrance. There was willow under the spruce, starved and dry. Gathering the pieces he needed, he crawled a few feet, then stopped, air struggling from his lungs in rasping gasps. He crawled a bit more, ice searing his knees, stinging his hands.

Finally, he sat in the cabin with his assortment of wood. He made a bow with green willow and a lace pulled from his boot. With stiff fingers, he whittled a drill, and twisted the lace around it. Another piece of dry willow became the bottom board, with a socket for the drill to set in.

Morley held a piece of poplar bark on top of the drill. Pushing the bow back and forth, he spun the drill, faster, faster. Morley began to sweat, a welcome discomfort.

Powder formed, then an ember. Carefully, Morley tipped the board onto moss and poplar bark lining. Acrid smoke wafted into Morley’s face.

It was indescribably sweet.

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This article has been read 998 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Holly Westefeld02/14/08
Vivid writing. I could feel the cold, the fire, the despair, the elation. Nice take on the topic.
Sally Hanan02/15/08
An incredibly amazing piece of writing. You are so talented. I love how the truth came through--quit whing and do something :)
Jacquelyn Horne02/15/08
What a unique way to say "quit crying and mop it up". Good job.
Verna Cole Mitchell 02/15/08
This piece is powerful in its description, as well as its message.
Sharlyn Guthrie02/16/08
I am amazed at your ability to write a story like this so poetically. It leaps off the page. Excellent writing!
Patty Wysong02/17/08
Oh, that gave me chills just reading about that kind of cold! Brrrrr. Great example of getting on with life and I love how the title fits so well.
Peter Stone02/17/08
Beautifully crafted and containing such clear imagery. Good to see the MC remembered that there is more than one way to light a fire.
Joanne Sher 02/18/08
Absolutely amazing, as usual. Your descriptions are captivating and vivid. You have such an evocative way of putting us right in the middle of the scene. Masterful, Ann.
Lyn Churchyard02/18/08
This one had me holding my breath. Willing a spark to form on the powder. Your imagery is superb. Well done Ann!
LauraLee Shaw02/19/08
This is outstanding. There wasn't a single detail I couldn't picture vividly in my mind's eye. I am in awe of God's work in you.
Jan Ackerson 02/19/08
I love the ebb and flow of your writing--long sentences, short ones, each word and phrase perfectly crafted. Great double meaning in the title, too!
Lynda Schultz 02/19/08
Your talent agrees with your title—unmatched. Great work.
Dee Yoder 02/19/08
I could read your writing for the rest of my life! Have you written a nice, looonnngg epic that would take me months and months to read? This is perfect, Ann. Nothing you write is ever dull; even a story about matches. Superb.
LauraLee Shaw02/21/08
Congratulations on your EC with this brilliant piece!
Beth LaBuff 02/21/08
Ann -- Congrats on you EC and level placing with this!!!!
Loren T. Lowery02/21/08
Beautiful and congratulations. Just beautiful!
Sheri Gordon02/21/08
Congratulations on your EC. Great writing.