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

TITLE: Bar the Door
By Carol Slider


When I first saw the city, its alabaster walls blushed pale crimson in the early morning light. I had never beheld anything as lovely as its palaces and temples rising above the well-watered plain.

I passed through the gates with the crowd, come to bargain for bright-hued silks, finely wrought ornaments, ambrosial perfumes and succulent fruits. Other sorts of merchandise, too—even then the city was known for its exotic pleasures. But all cities had such; and this was a delightful garden, green and glowing.

In a narrow street, a man crept out of shadow, circled my arm with sinuous fingers, and whispered silkily,

“Lodge with me, Stranger...”

I uncurled the grasping hands; he had an evil look.

King Bera greeted me as a brother.

“You are kin to Abraham? We have heard of him; he is a mighty man.”

“My family would be welcome here, my lord?”

“Very welcome. Graze your flocks outside the city, and dwell here in comfort and safety.”

I bowed, thanked him, and passed that night at an inn. The innkeeper spoke little, except when I told him the king had favored me.

“Well, then...” he nodded, his lip curled as if he hoarded a secret joke. “Sleep in peace tonight, friend; but bar the door.”

I barricaded the thick wood door with iron, groaning as I lifted the bar. And the fearful night came on.

Outside the barred casement, I heard unearthly hissings and moanings, howls and cries. No watchman tolled the hours; and sometime in the night, heavy blows shook the door. There was no light at all that night, not a glimmer through the casement. And I thought: This is an evil place.

But at morning light, how verdant the fields, how luscious the fruits, how rich the merchants’ wares! What better home for us? My wife Eda and I furnished a home near the center of the city. Eda bore no sons, but four fair daughters.

I sat at council with nobles and rich merchants. King Bera honored me; and when Abraham’s men fought for my king, I became his chief advisor.

Yet there were the nights. We lit our lamps and barred the door; but sometimes I felt the night creep in through crevices and cracks. My oldest daughter married a man of the city, a man of wealth and power—but on her wedding day, her eyes were dark and strange. The second daughter, too like her sister, also left us.

Then two remained—Phene and Thamma—bright-eyed, untouched. And I fell on my face and vowed to Abraham's God that I would keep them from this night that circled our house, mocking and challenging us.

It was an evil city—evil and seductively beautiful, like a treacherous woman. I knew what it was, yet loved it all the more.

Sometimes I would sit by the gates at twilight. Too many strangers had been seduced by beauty; I brought them home and lodged them safely, until the night—the last night—I met two who glowed with living light. No wonder the bestial hordes almost breached our sanctuary when darkness fell.

I knew why the messengers had come: the city must die. No time to gather possessions; no time to convince mocking sons-in-law and lost daughters. At dawn, the messengers took hold on us, and we were outside the gates.

“Flee,” they said, “without looking back.”

Eda howled; Phene and Thamma were dumb; and I grasped the arm of my deliverer and pleaded for Zoar, the smallest city on the plain.

Zoar was spared the divine retribution that only lost Eda glimpsed. But even as I turned my face toward it, I turned away; for the men of Zoar knew too much of our ways.

So we went to the mountains, weeping as we climbed, our tender flesh torn by painful rocks and seared by brutal winds. We found a crevice, somewhat sheltered, and rolled a stone over the entrance to keep out beasts.

Night came on, and we lit a stub of candle with a bit of flint. My daughters had provisions—bread, dried meat, wine. We ate in silence, and I thought:

God is just; Sodom was a wicked city; yet I have saved my daughters.

And then I looked at them in the dim candlelight, and recoiled—for I saw in their eyes a great dark void, like a city at midnight after all the lights have gone out.

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This article has been read 665 times
Member Comments
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Charla Diehl 10/22/09
Eerie feelings made me wonder where this story was going--I was thinking Sodom--and then I was chilled by your ending.
Loren T. Lowery10/23/09
Certainly we can run, but can we ever really hide. We must constantly be vigilant and on guard. I really liked the way this story unfolded and was told in such an engrossing way.
Deborah Engle 10/26/09
This gave me chills. Your excellent writing kept me reading, though these kind of stories are never my first choice. Very well done.
Beth LaBuff 10/26/09
Excellent, gripping, haunting, wow! ... my favorite part was that they took refuge in a hollow/crevice of a rock.
Myrna Noyes10/26/09
Excellent retelling of the story of Lot and his family! I enjoyed your vivid descriptions, such as, "We lit our lamps and barred the door; but sometimes I felt the night creep in through crevices and cracks."

The ending was truly haunting and demonstrated the damage done by dallying on dangerous ground. Great job!
Joy Faire Stewart10/27/09
The eerie descriptions and emotions are so vivid the reader is enveloped in the despair. Excellent writing!
Benjamin Graber10/27/09
Wow. This retelling of the story of Lot really brought it to life. The end was excellent - haunting, with the grim reality of the horrors of sin.
Mona Purvis10/27/09
Whoa! You made the black so vivid! The writing is just splendid. A winning entry, I'm sure.

Betty Castleberry10/27/09
This is beautifully written. It is most poetic. I like the ending. It allows the reader to imagine what comes next. Well done.
Diana Dart 10/28/09
Intense, gripping and oh so vivid. You portray the slime and darkness of this situation so well, I felt like I was there. I won't read Lot's story the same again.
Verna Cole Mitchell 10/28/09
Your descriptions of the city are lyrical, and the emotions you painted were authentic. This is an excellent interpretation of the Bible story.
Jan Ackerson 10/28/09
Wow, Carol! Where did THAT come from? Your writing is always excellent, and this one is both excellent and chilling. I got goosebumps reading it, and the ending is a real gasper. I'm in awe!
Bryan Coomes10/28/09
Another wow...the dark and haunting feel permeated throughout this one. Loved the descriptions and how you brought it home...
Linda Watson Owen10/29/09
Oh, Carol! This is far beyond WOW! I would gladly give up placing this week to get yours in Editor's Choice...it should be there. This depiction is superb. So gripping. You've nailed the ability to communicate eeriness and foreboding. What a work of art!