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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Year(s) (01/20/11)

TITLE: Before I Wake
By Shelley Ledfors


Now I lay me down to sleep;
I pray thee, Lord, my soul to keep.

We’re in a meadow at the crest of a hill. Sunlight glints across wave tops on the ocean far below. He sits on a low, smooth rock just above me. I lounge in the grass by His left knee.

“Watch,” He says.

Our immediate surroundings remain the same but the sea fades; it becomes a small city. He points to a highway on the edge of town. A red Volkswagen beetle travels along the lane. Around a curve, visible to us from above—but beyond the view of the bug’s driver—a rusty, dented pickup crosses a solid yellow stripe to pass a slow-moving van.

There’s little doubt as to what’s about to happen. I watch, concerned, but not afraid. In this meadow—with Him beside me—calm pervades.

We remain on the hill but my awareness changes; I see the scene in detail, drawn close as though I watch through a camera’s zoomed-in lens. The pickup driver walks, with help, to a waiting ambulance which carries him away. It takes much longer for rescuers to extract the other driver from the tangled mass of metal that was once her little car.

He watches me as I watch her.

I know. Not by revelation. Not through emergent thought. Not in a proverbial light-bulb-moment; I just know. It’s like I’ve always known but had forgotten for a time.

“It’s me.”

He nods.

The view shifts rapidly now. Bits and pieces of my story flash by in quick succession like chaotic movie action scenes.

Hospital. Surgery. Friends and family gathered. Prayers.

Doctors, nurses. Conversations, prognostications. I hear, but can’t participate.

“Vegetative state.” “Permanent.” “Residential facility.”

New building. New room. Fewer machines. …Fewer visitors.

My husband, Tony, is there. As often as he can be. Others come and go.

The view settles for a moment. In a rare occurrence my body and mind unite in time and place. Tony sits beside my bed; he dozes in a chair. I wish I could reach out to him and brush back his too-long hair. When did it turn so gray?

How long has it been?

I’m back in the meadow, with Him. Waves, once again, break below.

“It’s been seven years.” He answers my unvoiced question.

Seven years…

“I want to show you something else,” He says.

This time the focus is beside Him. A spark appears. It flares, burning a hole through the sky. What lies beyond seems impossibly bright yet I can see without discomfort. I stand and stretch to get a better view. I glimpse a throne but it’s angled away. I cannot look at the One who sits there. A host is gathered round. I recognize a few of them. I see my mother but her attention is fixed on the throne. She doesn’t know I’m there.

Someone with her does. Holding her hand is a little boy. He turns and squints to look through the hole into the meadow. He sees me and waves; he giggles and bounces in delight.

I gasp and look at Him. He nods.

Until that moment I’d never known whether the baby Tony and I had lost had been a boy or a girl.

The brightness dims. Slowly, at first, then faster as the edges of the burned sky stretch out to close the gap.

“No!” I cry, but it’s too late. A lingering ember offers the only glimpse of what lies on the other side. Then it, too, fades.

I sink to the ground. He reaches for my hand.

I exist in fragments. My body’s in one place. Mercifully, my mind stays mostly in another. My soul reaches beyond while my heart is divided; a piece of it is in each spot.

...And it’s been so for years.

Again, he answers my unspoken thought. “It’s time for that to change. It’s up to you.”

“I can choose?”

“You can,” He says.

I look to my right. My hand’s entwined with His. Just past, a spark appears. It flares, burning a hole through the sky.

My left hand rests in Tony’s. His head is bowed low. His nose nearly touches my thumb. Something warm hits near the knuckle. It glistens in the light.

Now I lay me down to sleep;
I pray, thee, Lord, my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake…

I look, once again, at the hands on either side. I make my choice and squeeze.

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This article has been read 978 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 01/27/11
Wow, awesome story. Kudos.
Anita van der Elst01/27/11
This one hit deep. I know I would choose, if it were indeed possible, maybe selfishly, to go with The Hand on the right through that hole burning in the sky. Lovely writing.
Lisa Johnson01/29/11
I am like Paul Harvey...waiting to know the rest of the story.
Verna Cole Mitchell 01/29/11
Wow! What a powerful story and what a decision! Great storytelling.
Dee Yoder 01/31/11
Awesome story telling. This really touched me. I wonder, too, which hand I would choose? Love the way you let the reader find an ending.
Cheryl Harrison01/31/11
This one gave me goosebumps and brought tears to my eyes. Great job.
AnneRene' Capp01/31/11
WOW-Stunningly superb! To say more would do my review injustice.
Eliza Evans 01/31/11
Fantastic. I am hugely impressed. One of the best I have read on FW. The writing has such a beautiful, natural flow. Compelling story-line, as well. Hits just the right notes. What a pleasure to read.
Kate Oliver Webb 01/31/11
I am totally in awe of this story: the incredible imagination, the gift of putting those perfect words together to create a moving, unforgettable piece which urges (no, demands) the reader also make his or her own choice. WOW!
Rachel Phelps01/31/11
Superb. Excellent pacing and such an enthralling tale. Love it.
Amy Michelle Wiley 01/31/11
Ahhh, this is beautiful! I both love and hate how you left the ending a little open. I think the last line of the poem means she chose heaven, but I'm not sure. I don't know what I would choose.
Laury Hubrich 02/01/11
wow! okay. At first I thought that meant she squeezed Tony's hand, waking up, but now I'm not sure.
Michael Throne02/01/11
Beautiful story. This is perfect.
Lisa Fowler02/01/11
This is a wonderful piece. Your depection of the child you never knew brought tears to my eyes as i have had a similar experience. Some days I get so excited about going to Heaven and holding my unknown child in my arms. Thank you for sharing this work.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 02/01/11
Oh, I have chills! You did so many great things with this piece. The number 7 is one of the special significant numbers in the Bible. I like how you used it too.

I also like how the ending is open ended. This is a work of pure genius. You're truly a Master.

My tiny red ink is due to me and not your writing, but it made me smile so I thought I'd share. You mention the bug's driver. My mind went to A bug driving. I forgot for a second VW's nickname is Bug!

Thank you for a great story on so many levels!
Kimberly Russell02/01/11
This piece was riveting--hooked me right from the start. Really well done.
Verna Cole Mitchell 02/03/11
Congratulations of placing "way high" in EC with this truly wonderful story.
Lollie Hofer02/03/11
Incredibly well told tale. I, too, like how you left an open ending. Congratulations on your well-deserved recognition.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 02/03/11
Congratulations my friend. This was an outstanding piece and is one of my top five all-time favorites. I'm honored to know and be friends with such a masterful artist!
Barbara Lynn Culler02/03/11
WOW! The tears came with the revelation of the little boy. What an awesome piece!
Carol Penhorwood 02/03/11
What can I say that others have not already said? Truly exceptional in every way! Loved the ending.....
Rachel Phelps02/03/11
Congrats on your placing with this awesome story. Excellent and unique.
Lisa Johnson02/03/11
I knew I liked this the first time I read it. Congratulations on placing so high in level and in EC.
Bonnie Bowden 02/03/11
Your story was mezmerizing.
I've heard that people in comas really do lie in two worlds.

Well done. I'm glad this story is going to be published.
Henry Clemmons02/03/11
Congratulations on your EC, Shelly and a masterful story!!
Judie Stone02/07/11
I loved this story. It was so powerful and kept me at the edge of my seat. I truly believe that Gods' Purpose is in everything even the biggest
question of all, "WHY?"