Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Black (10/15/09)
TITLE: The Black Valley's Keeper
By Joshua Janoski
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The dreariness and gloom that fogs over the canyon makes it a perfect day for gardening. I grab my tool and put on my cloak. I step out of my house and slam the door shut, sending a clatter that bounces off the canyon walls.
The sound makes me ponder what it might feel like to be alive. I stand at the edge of the cliff side and peer down at the black valley below. The arctic wind whistles through me and leaves a slight chill in my bones. I cinch my hood and make my descent down the dirt path leading from my house into the canyon below.
The full moon glows the color of blood. Is it night, or is it day? That I do not know. For in this place, there is only black. I see things here not because I have light, but because I am darkness. I step carefully around the spiraling path, my cloak dragging in the dirt. The howling of bloodthirsty predators can be heard in the distance.
I step off the path and onto the flatlands nestled between the craggy walls of the canyon. I look around at the flora covering the cracked ground - black roses and thorns. I bend down and pluck a bud. I put it up to my nasal cavities and try to breathe in a whiff of its fragrance. I smell nothing. Is it because these flowers have no smell, or have I no ability to breathe in the beauty of the world?
I throw the odorless flower down in disgust and lower my scythe. I begin chipping away at the thick bed of thorny blackness. I hear laughing approaching in the distance. I look up from my work and listen closely as the voices grow louder.
Now the serious reaping begins. The figures appear in the haze. It’s a man, drunk and with his arms around two women. The trio staggers towards me, oblivious to where they are at this very moment. I hold out my scythe, lining the sharp blade up with their throats. They step into the blade and then vanish. Three orbs containing their souls float in the air. The ground begins to tremble and crack as a large black hole opens up next to my feet. Fiery lava boils and bubbles from within the open chasm. A demonic shriek sucks in the orbs and they disintegrate in the churning sea of orange and red. The ground comes back together and seals the entrance into this perilous underground world.
I want to laugh, but my jaw bones stay clenched tightly together, not allowing me any pleasure. I resume my pruning of the roses. The wind rips into my bony fingers causing them to writhe in pain. I drop my scythe and curse the air under my noxious breath. Distracted, I almost don’t notice the young man coming my way. He carries with him a leather bound book bearing a cross on the cover. I hurry and pick up my scythe and ready the blade to slit his throat.
Curses! He passes through the blade unharmed and continues his journey. This isn’t the first time this has happened. Some who pass through my valley are able to escape it unharmed. They show no fear. I turn around and watch as the boy walks out of the valley, escaping the shadow of death’s grasp…my grasp. I notice a man clothed in all white walking with him. His brightness illuminates the deep black of the valley and creates a clear path for the young man. The black roses and piercing thorns shrivel as the rays touch them.
Every time a traveler escapes my blade that man dressed in white is with them. My skeletal body fears that man, and I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because he is my worst enemy. Or perhaps it’s because he is man’s closest friend. Either way, I am forced day after day to let his people pass through my valley without fear and without harm. Death’s touch has no power over them. The black cannot consume them.
I walk back to my house and remove my cloak. I lay aside my scythe and sit my bones down. There will be those wise enough to let Him guide them, and there will be those foolish enough to enter my valley alone… It is those fools who I will be waiting for.
Author’s Note: This story is based on Psalm 23:4 as well as the personification of death known as The Grim Reaper.
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