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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Black (10/15/09)

TITLE: Hell-fire
By Frank Kocek


The radio was silent for a long while… giving both Apache pilots pause to consider a major malfunction… one even greater than the muddled mayhem going on directly beneath them? The wingman was just about to retransmit, when their helmeted earphones squawked to life, “Angel two-niner, roger your SITREP confirming wildfire and all firing stopped and two zero bravo charlie… with no friendly casualties. What’s your estimate of enemy wounded and any collateral damage? Over.”
The lead pilot looked across the seared landscape towards the village where knots of women were still milling about at least four or five ‘collateral damages’… while several other hysterical mourning parties gathered about some of the men lying in the burnt field… as even more raced from corpse to corpse with hands raised heavenward.
“Angel two-niner… it looks like forty or fifty women and children around the village… with several down! I say again… three zero civilians kilo…indigo…alpha… with maybe ten whiskey… indigo… alpha! There’s a flat spot just south of the town where a medivac can get in… but the field’s still too hot… and there’s got to be plenty of duds down there… claymores… grenades… and even …some of my rockets. Any report on enemy activity in the hills above. We see nothing up there. What’s our mission now? Over.”
Another long silence. Then, “Roger, two-niner… stand by. Over.” The pilots both looked at their fuel gauge simultaneously and flashed a signal pointing to their mouths. “Nothing to do now… but bring in the ’meat wagons!’” the lead gunner said to his pilot over the intercom, watching several women dragging one of the bodies across the charred stubble towards the village… and then another… and another. They had used the very same blankets the men had taken with them to fight the blaze … first to transport them… and now to cover their bodies. These white garbed women were already soot-stained and blood-spattered from lifting and carrying their fallen menfolk. As they slowly processed toward the village with their grisly loads, tripping and even falling… some collapsing with sobs of agony… it almost became too much for him to watch. For now from the far side of the village, similar groups of women began to bear lighter (though equally dead and bloodied bodies) down into the streets and yards of the town… with children still clinging onto the shawls and skirts of their mothers, siblings, and their pathetic pallbearers.
From his vantage point high above, the lead pilot was reminded of one of those medieval portraits of Dante’s Inferno… where even the garb and the smoke and the rocky outcroppings below were just like those macabre canvases. “The only thing missing is Satan himself standing watch over this,” he said aloud, shocked into emotional numbness … while still maintaining a hover by purely reflex wrist action. Thinking about the words he had just heard himself say, he was suddenly overwhelmed with horror, “Here I am… myself… in over-watch… as Angel two-niner?” Then remembering Ezekiel’s condemnation of Satan (28:15b, NIV) - “You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones.”
“I am SATAN!! We’re supposed to have been the good guys? Satan was the angel of light … and the angel of death!” His eyes were briefly drawn to the domed xenon searchlight mounted on his nose. He looked across to his wingman, and saw his gun barrels and remaining rockets still hanging in their firing tubes forming a perfect pitchfork silhouette under his …wings… with its tapering tail boom and rear twin tapered elevators appearing as an ominous barbed tail!
He quickly switched to his own internal channel, “Bob… we gotta get out of here… there’s nothing we can do anyway now… and fuel’s a’burning. We’re going to have a long debrief this time, buddy! Take the lead… I’ll call home… OK?” With that done, he switched back to the command freq, “Angel base, this is Angel two-niner… heading home. We got to feed these birds. And we’re coming home hot… unless you want us to scorch some more earth?” These last words came out from somewhere he’d hidden for some time now. In earlier times it was called ‘the wearies‘ …battle fatigue … shell shock …or a soldier‘s heart … and more recently it was labeled PTSD… but it was still the same as when Cain slew Able…and then realized what he’d done… he killed his brother!

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Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 10/26/09
Very vivid!

Not being very familiar with this type of fiction, I found myself confused most of the time. Would have liked some indication as to setting (time and place). And you wanted "Abel", not "Able" at the end.

You did a great job of plunking your reader right into the action, and at conveying the horrors of battle.
Allen Stark10/26/09
You took me back to a time as a medivac team member, I choose to not return to, but you captured the action of the pilots very well. BTW, separate your paragraphs for easier reading.
Mark Bell10/26/09
very accurate. well paced. great imagery. i loved the internal dialogue. nice job.
Aaron Morrow10/27/09
Extremely compelling. You did a great job of dropping me into the action. While I would have liked to see more spacing, the frenetic pace actually blended well with the formatting for me. Nice work!