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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Outgoing (05/05/11)

TITLE: The Next Five Minutes
By Donna Powers


“Good evening, Mr. Jones,” said the wizened man, whose grizzled head barely cleared the counter in front of me. “May I call you Craig?”

“Who are you? And where am I?” I asked.

“All questions will soon be answered,” he assured me. He held a big clipboard, and seemed to be checking a list. “Now, let’s see… you were in a car accident, right?”

“Yes, I was in an accident. I don’t remember much about it, though. Am I in the hospital? I think it may have been a pretty bad accident.”

The little man grimaced. “I’m afraid it was a bad one, Craig. There was quite a bit of damage.”

I looked around. The walls (were these walls? I couldn’t tell) were plain white and blurry – and there didn’t seem to be anyone else here, despite the man’s overworked manner. Where was this guy getting his information? ”Damage? What are you talking about? And who are you? A cop? An insurance guy? What’s going on?”

He sighed and walked out from behind the counter. “There’s no easy way to break this to you, Mr. Jones. This is the Outgoing Department.”


He patiently repeated himself. “This is the Outgoing Department. It’s your last stop before departing this earthly life. You see, you’re almost dead, but before you do die, God wants to be sure you have one last chance to – shall we say, ‘go up’; instead of ‘go down.’” He winked, as if that would help his strange words make sense.

Because they didn’t. Make sense, that is. Outgoing Department? I’d heard a lot of crazy theories about what happens, at the end of life - but this one took the cake.

“Look, buddy, I don’t know what your game is, but I need to get going. I’m supposed to be at a business meeting in a few hours, and I’m on a pretty tight schedule.”

The man shook his head. “I know all about your schedule, but it’s not going to happen. The accident totaled your car – and, as I just told you – you haven’t got long to live, so you won’t be going to that meeting. As for ‘my game’, as you put it: someone’s been praying for you, pretty hard, so you’ve been given one last chance to decide.”

”Decide what?” I asked. “You just told me I haven’t got a choice. You said I’m going to die.”

The man then held up the clipboard, as if he was asking me to check off the next of his boxes. “Yes, that’s true, Craig. I’m sorry, but you will die. After all, this is the Outgoing Department. But your destination is your own decision. What do you choose?”

"You're beginning to sound like my brother, Joe. He's always hounding me to 'get right with God.' Hey, is he the one who sent you?"

He just smiled, and pointed to a clock, which had suddenly appeared on the blurry wall above the counter. “You’ve got five minutes – and then you’ll be …umm… outgoing. It’s up to you; where you go, once you go out.”

”Five minutes?” I protested. “How am I supposed to decide anything that serious in five minutes?”

But the man was no longer in the room. All I saw – and heard – was the ticking of that clock.

But, slowly, through the ticking, came a more familiar sound. It was my brother Joe – and he was calling my name.

“Joe?” I called out, because my vision still seemed a bit blurry.

“Hey, guys, he’s coming out of it!” I heard Joe say. “How are you doing, Craig? Thank God you’re awake!”

“You can say that again. Look, Joe; I don’t have time to explain, but can you tell me again about how to get right with God? I promise you – this time, I’ll really listen.”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Noel Mitaxa 05/14/11
A whimsical, bureaucratic approach to God's grace. So much italicicised reading at the beginning made the going a bit hard, but you nailed it in the end.
Catrina Bradley 05/15/11
What an interesting story! Very creative take on "outgoing"! I was immediately drawn in and was fascinated all the way to the super ending. Who knows how many eternal lives have been saved by the prayers of the faithful? This sure is an encouragement to keep praying for the "lost" and NOT to give up.
Author Unknown05/15/11
I had a conversation w/ one of my 5th graders today :) Should have brought your story with me.

I liked it, but would have done something differently with the italics, too- just because it does distract and even though the MC is in two different places- it's all still happening to him, not a dream then real- so maybe a scene change but not a dream sequence- if that makes sense.
Sharlyn Guthrie05/15/11
I like your creativity with the topic. If an outgoing department was truly an option, I wonder how many would make a last minute decision.
Carol Penhorwood 05/18/11
It would be nice to think there will be an "Outgoing" Dept where loved ones will have an opportunity to make that last final decision. But the air we breathe is not promised to any of us for the next breath. But I pray that my prayers will be used by the Spirit to have an impact for the right decision...whenever it is made.

Very creative take on the topic!