Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Luggage (08/15/05)
TITLE: Not Worth the Salt
By J. C. Lamont
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She caught a glimpse of a figure skulk around the corner and could hear the angry shouts of a brawl in a nearby alleyway. Pulling her shawl tightly around her body, she opened the front door, but all she could see was a group of scantily dressed women dancing around a small fire. With a shiver, she noticed most of the men lingering on the street were more interested in one another than with the girls.
She sighed with relief when she heard her husband, Lot, arrive a few moments later, but he wasn’t alone. Two handsome strangers accompanied him.
“Joanna, these men are my guests for the night,” he said. “I couldn’t let them stay out in the street,” he added with a whisper.
Johanna noticed her two teenage daughters appraising the men’s chiseled physiques with their eyes. “You are engaged, young ladies,” she reminded them, handing them extra plates to set out.
After the meal, Johanna and her family prepared to retire for the night, when a large throng gathered around their house.
“Lot! Where are the men who came to spend the night with you?” Voices shouted. “Send them out. We wish to rape them!”
Raucous cheers and obscenities followed this demand.
Johanna watched in horror as her husband rushed outside to appease the crowd. After a moment, one of the guests pulled him back into the house. The mob appeared discombobulated and groped around in the street.
“If you have any relatives living here in the city, tell them to flee at once,” one of men said. “The darkness that reigns in this city has reached the Most High and He has sent us here to destroy it!”
Johanna gasped in shock.
“My…my daughters have fiancés,” Lot muttered softly, pulling on his cloak.
As Lot rushed out to find them, the man turned on Johanna. “Pack whatever you need to take with you. You will not be returning.”
Johanna raced through the house, her mind reeling. There was so much to pack. She had barely begun when she heard Lot return.
“They didn’t believe me,” he said.
The stars grew increasingly dim as Johanna continued to pack everything they would need. Clothes for her family, food, money, the pretty trinkets her husband had bought her. She was deathly afraid of leaving something behind.
“It’s time,” one of the men said. “Leave or you will be caught in the city’s destruction.”
“A few more things,” Johanna cried, desperately trying to cram more items into her bag.
“Now!” the man ordered, seizing her hand.
The men led them through the streets of the city as streaks of pink and gold streamed across the sky.
“Run for your lives!” they said. “Do not stop. Do not look behind you! Escape to the mountains or you will be killed.”
Johanna barely paid attention as she rummaged through her bag. She had a horrible feeling that she had forgotten something.
“Woman!” the man shouted. “Go! And do not look back! Do you understand?”
Johanna nodded and hastily caught up to her family who had already started to trek up the hill.
Only a few moments later the ground began to shake violently. She could hear screams of terror as trees and houses were smashed to the ground. Tears welled up in her eyes as she thought of her friends, her house, her life.
Forcing her thoughts off the destruction behind her, she concentrated on what she had; her family and the few possessions she had managed to salvage. Suddenly she realized what she had left behind. The salt. Not just a seasoning, salt was a valuable commodity; a handful was worth a day’s wages.
She glanced behind her.
For a split second, she saw a large crater burned into the ground where the city once stood and thick, black columns of smoke rising from the ashen rubble of what once was her home.
As the sun rose over the distant mountains, a large pillar of crystallized salt jutted up from the hill overlooking the ashen remains of the city – a vivid reminder of a human’s instinct to value luggage over life.
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