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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Cousin(s) (05/22/08)

TITLE: The Only Message They Heed
By Peter Stone


“Thanks for the lift, Mikhail,” I said.

“Don’t mention it, cousin. Welcome back,” he grunted.

“You’ve changed,” I said, aware that a permanent scowl now marred his once jovial features.

“A lot happened while you were at uni, Alexei, it’s not the same world…” He broke off as his phone rang. He flipped it open while keeping the other hand on the wheel. “Mikhail…What? Again? Don’t these people learn?...No, no, I’ll deal with it…No, stay put--I’ll come to you. You’re near the bridge?...Fine, see you in ten.”

“Something wrong?” I asked.

“Nah, just a bit of house cleaning to take care of. It’ll only take a few minutes--then I’ll drop you home.”

With a near inhuman display of mechanical precision, Mikhail drove off the highway and followed a dirt road into Vojislav Wood. Uneasiness spread through me like a malevolent cancerous growth. Who was this stranger beside me? What had happened to the carefree, fun loving prankster with whom I had spent my youth?

Mikhail drove off the track into the small clearing to the left of the bridge that spanned Vojislav River.

Three people awaited us in the clearing. Two unkempt, rugged young men held a woman with a dark complexion between them. Tears stained her dust-caked cheeks. Gnawing doubt blossomed into fear.

Mikhail took a pistol from the glove box. “Come or stay, don’t care either way. Just don’t get in the way.”

While at uni, I had heard rumours of bad things happening out here near the border. Jumping out of the 4WD to walk beside my cousin, I tried vainly to reassure myself that he could not possibly be part of such insanity.

As we drew closer, I realised that the men were not restraining a woman but a teenage ethnic girl. She had probably been using the wood as a shortcut to get home from a part-time job. Her eyes widened at the sight of the gun.

“Kneel down and put your hands on your thighs,” Mikhail snapped as he chambered a round.

Whimpering helplessly, she shook her head.

Mikhail pressed the gun against her stomach. “You can have it in the guts or the back of the head--your choice.”

I stepped forward. “Mikhail, you’re freaking me out! Let the girl go.”

Deadpan eyes met mine. “I told you not to get in the way, Alexei.”

“What has she done to you?” I demanded.

“These ethnic filth take our jobs and our land--and spread their insidious religion everywhere they go. If we don’t act, our heritage, our society, will be destroyed.”

“Violence is not the solution, Mikhail.”

“It’s the only message they heed, Alexei.”

Jesus, I prayed in desperation, if you’ve got a miracle up your sleeve, now’s the time to play it. Immediately, a vision of unmistakably clarity flashed through my mind.

Although shocked by the knowledge the Lord had imparted to me, it also gave me strength. I pushed the gun to one side.

“Back off, Alexei,” warned my cousin.

Ignoring him, I lifted the girl’s narrow chin. “Your great-great-grand father, what was his name?”

She looked at me blankly.

“Come on!” I all but shouted. “Your great-great-grand father was famous. Tell us his name!”

“Akhmad,” she stammered.

“Tell us his whole name!”

Her dark eyes darted about frantically.

“Come on girl, think!”

“Shamil! Akhmad Shamil!”

From the corner of my eye, I saw Mikhail jolt as though struck.

“Recognise that name, cousin?” I said, refusing to relinquish my grip on the gun.


“Do you recognise the name?”

“Yes, damn you! He’s our great-grandfather. But this girl…related to us…how did you know?”

“That’s not important. What is important is that this girl is our second cousin, once removed,” I concluded.

“Your great-grandfather’s one of them?” one of Mikhail’s comrades asked, aghast.

I was unsure whom Mikhail hated more at that moment, the girl, or me.

Drawing the girl from the slackening grasp of her captors, I put my arm around her protectively. “Come, cousin, I will walk you home,” I said to her.

“Don’t make me shoot you too, Alexei!” Mikhail threatened, aiming the gun at me now.

“Don’t you get it, Mikhail? Do you have any idea what you’ve been doing with all this ethnic cleansing? If you go far enough back through the generations, you will find that our two nations share the same ancestors--we are all cousins! You’ve been killing your own family!”

I escorted the girl safely to her home.

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This article has been read 1278 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Shirley McClay 05/29/08
Chilling.. I had goosebumps for the first half of the story. So glad he didn't kill them both.
Lynda Schultz 05/29/08
The lesson is an important one to learn—we are all related and when we allow prejudice to drive us to madness, we end up harming our own. Riveting story.
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/29/08
This story was suspenseful, beginning to end, excellently written with an excellent truth portrayed.
Joanne Sher 05/31/08
A very visual, chilling piece. I was engaged all the way through.
Laura Anne Harrison06/01/08
You've done a good job in the telling of this thought provoking story. It's message is one that everyone needs to hear and heed.
Betty Castleberry06/01/08
Riveting. This reads like part of a larger work. I would like to see it expanded. Very well done.
Sharlyn Guthrie06/01/08
Gripping story, and such a powerful message here, too. Excellent writing.
Marilee Alvey06/01/08
All I can say, reading this, is that the judges will have a difficult time this week! Your skill at telling this tale was incredible. You had me, all the way. Your tale could take a non-reader and turn him into a reader for life! Short, dramatic, suspenseful, lush with detail. Congratulations!
Cheri Hardaway 06/01/08
They don't call this level "Masters" for nothing: Your story is powerful, gripping, compelling, and masterful. What an incredible truth buried in this story about cousins. Wonderful use of the topic. Excellent work. Blessings, Cheri
Lyn Churchyard06/01/08
Suspenseful, chilling and moving. All the ingredients for a best selling novel. You've done it again Peter. Well done, Very well done indeed.
Yvonne Blake 06/01/08
Wow! You have written a strong story here. The tension could really be felt.
Well done..
Joshua Janoski06/02/08
This played out like a Hollywood blockbuster movie. I could see everything perfectly in my mind, and I heard the intense dialogue during the scene with the gun. Awesome story!
Jan Ackerson 06/02/08
You are SUCH a strong writer! This unfolds very cinematically, and the suspense and tension are palpable. It's no wonder that you're dominating the challenges this quarter! Well done!
Debbie Wistrom06/02/08
The tension when Alexi is talking to the girl is gripping.

The flash from Jesus is quick, but so sell done that we catch it.

This is one of my favorites this week.
LauraLee Shaw06/04/08
Suspense. Drama. Awesome stuff.
Masterful descriptions and characterization, like this:
Tears stained her dust-caked cheeks. Gnawing doubt blossomed into fear.
LaNaye Perkins06/04/08
Oh WOW! This was awesome. You had me on the edge of me seat. Great writing my Faith Writer friend!
Sara Harricharan 06/04/08
Lots of suspense going on here! I'm glad he didn't kill both of them, I felt bad for the girl.
Beckie Stewart06/04/08
Oh my. What a powerful piece of writing.
Mariane Holbrook 06/04/08
Your writing is so tight, so intense that I couldn't possibly be torn away from this story! You're the best!
Beth LaBuff 06/04/08
Wow… very creative… If this were a book, I wouldn't have put it down. Great work.
Aaron Morrow06/05/08
Excellent work Peter, very realistic characters and the resolution was outstanding.
LauraLee Shaw06/05/08
C O N G R A T U L A T I O N S !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lyn Churchyard06/05/08
1st Place and an EC to boot!! woo hoo. I'm so excited for you. :-)
Cheri Hardaway 06/05/08
1st Place and an EC! Excellent work! Blessings, Cheri
Beth LaBuff 06/05/08
Congrats on your win with this awesome story!
Sharlyn Guthrie06/05/08
I'm so glad to see this story at the top of the list where it belongs. Congratulations!
Amy Michelle Wiley 06/05/08
Strong story. I would have liked a few more clues to figure out where this took place, since I didn't recognize any names, but good job. Congrats on the EC.
Sally Hanan06/05/08
Excellent win Peter. You deserved it with this kind of writing.
Lollie Hofer06/05/08
Powerful story with strong verbage. It doesn't get any better than this. (Don't be surprised if Hollywood comes knocking. :)) Congratulations on this incredibly well-written piece and for placing at the top. It was well-deserved.
Janice Fitzpatrick06/06/08
Congratulations! Wow, this is such a keep you on your edge of the seat piece. Love it! Relieved that he didn't kill anyone else. We need to hear more stories like this. None of us are better than the bitter cousin, as we too kill one another's spirit with our actions or words, with our own bitterness or selfish for giving this to you! Great job!! Janice
Janice Fitzpatrick06/06/08
I couldn't edit what I said but I typoed. I meant we often destroy one another's spirit through our words or actions of selfishness or bitterness,etc. Praise the Lord for giving this to you was what I was attempting to tell you. :0) I keep tripping over my fingers this morning.LOL. God bless you. Janice
Betsy Markman06/06/08
Kept me tense and wondering all the way through. Good job.
Lynn Jacky 06/06/08
H Peter - congratulations on first place. Excellent writing, great story.
Chely Roach06/07/08
Wow, Peter...this was amazing. What a masterful piece of writing. Congratulations on your win, it was well deserved.
Helen Dowd06/07/08
Wow! What a suspensful story! Congratulations on a well-deserved win. How many of us would have the courage that cousin had, to step in and defend a helpless girl? I wonder! Great writing. It's so hard to tell a story like that in only 750 words....Helen