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

TITLE: Room 316
By Bryan Ridenour


Jessica's glazed eyes stared at the book resting in her hands. The tattered binding revealed years of use or misuse; she didn't know which. "Are you going to offer me any hope?" she yelled at the worn bible. “I need a reason to live,” she screamed, flinging it across the room. A thought occurred and she fumbled for the phone, dialing '0'.

"Front desk," someone answered cheerily. "How may I help you?"

"I want to cancel my wake-up call," Jessica informed weakly, defeated.

"May I help you with anything else, Miss?"

Ignoring the question, Jessica hung up the phone. An amber colored bottle, perched on the nightstand, promised deliverance from regrets and hopelessness.

"End it all," a voice taunted.

"Come into the darkness. All hope is gone," chanted a baleful choir.

Shadowy beings darted around the room, pointing inky talons, enticing death. Jessica cowered under the sheets, grabbing her head as the tormenting howls echoed in her mind. "O God, are you even there?” she cried. “Do you still love me?”

Jessica wrestled from under the bedding. Stumbling to the bathroom, she splashed water on her face, droplets joining tears coursing down her cheeks. "No towels," she mumbled, uttering an oath. She shuffled to the nightstand and grabbed the phone.

"Room service. Can I help you?"

"I need towels," she responded.

"Yes Ma'am. I'm sorry for the inconvenience. What room please?"

"Excuse me? You don't know what room I'm in?" she asked, unbelieving.

"Miss, I'm sorry, but our calling system is malfunctioning at this time. So, if you'll just give me your room number, towels will be delivered shortly."

"Just a minute," she muttered.

Jessica rifled through a small handbag, retrieving a key card with no identifying numbers. She trudged to the door, opened it wide and stomped back to the phone.

"I'm in 316. Please..." Stunned, she dropped the receiver into its cradle.

"I love you," a voice whispered.

"316...316..." she repeated, grabbing the worn book. Flipping pages, she stopped in the Gospel of John. Her finger traced a line under the verse hidden in her heart as a child. "For God so loved..." she read softly.

“How can God love you?” lashed a raspy challenge. “Your life is so dirty….so filthy…so black. God could never forgive you.”

“I love you,” another voice reminded, tenderly. “Return to me child.”

Thoughts of past failures flashed across her mind. Fleeting glimpses of family altars, reminded her of innocent times long ago. The voices battled to be heard. Some shrieked condemnation; One offered grace.

She clutched the Bible to her chest, ignoring the taunting accusations. “316,” she sighed, dropping to her knees. Weeping, she sensed love and forgiveness, a reason to live.

Roused from her sobbing, Jessica pushed to her feet and answered the gentle tapping at the door. A smiling hotel employee held a bundle of white towels.

"Are you ok Ma'am?" she asked, noticing Jessica's tears.

"Yes," she sniffed. "I'm going to be. God just spoke to me."

The employee raised and eyebrow, displaying an uncertain smile.

Jessica took the towels. “Thank-you,” she said, hiccupping back emotion. "One more thing," Jessica added. "Can you give the front desk a message please?"

"Yes, Ma'am."

"Please tell the front desk I need a wake-up call…8:00 am."

"I'll deliver the message immediately. Good night."

"Good night," Jessica smiled, closing the door.

Hideous black beings scattered in every direction as she moved around the room. Brilliant white warriors stood sentinel, swords drawn. "316," she said, smiling. Drawing peace from the presence of God's spirit, she collapsed content on the bed. Pulling the comforter to her chin, her eyes closed in restful slumber. A child had come home.

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This article has been read 677 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Charla Diehl 10/22/09
I wanted to know what brought Jessica to that hotel--maybe a glimpse into her past that explains the present. Other than that, the story held my interest. I liked the scripture tie-in and truly loved the ending.
Loren T. Lowery10/23/09
Despair and yet hope was there by just "calling" out. I liked the way you showed your MC's past reliance and dashed faith by the tattered Bible. I knew immediately when she told the operator her room number where this was leading and was not disappointed by the promise of that single verse.
Ruth Brown10/23/09
And this is why you are in the Master Class. Great imagery.Very well done!
Beth LaBuff 10/27/09
I loved the moment when the "316" dawned on her! Great atmosphere in this emotion-filled story!
Myrna Noyes10/27/09
Love that last line--so simple, yet so profound! :)

I like the glimpses in your story of the spiritual world around us--unseen, but very real. Also, the "316" thing reminds us that God does work in mysterious ways His wonders to perform!
Betty Castleberry10/28/09
I'm glad your MC had a change of heart. This was well written and held my attention throughout. Loved the ending.
Laury Hubrich 10/28/09
I love your descriptions. Very good.
Jan Ackerson 10/28/09
Very good! I loved the aha! moment, too.

There was one place where "Bible" wasn't capitalized, I think.

I liked that you didn't give us the back story for her despair...you needed all your words to tell the story that you chose, and you did it with great skill.
Richard Morgan10/28/09
I loved it!
Absolutely loved it!
One of the best pieces I've read on here.
Stephen King had better watch out.
Carol Slider 10/28/09
Her room number was a wonderful coincidence... or maybe not a coincidence at all. God certainly works in mysterious ways! Good job.
CE Watson10/30/09
Great reminder and so very well told!