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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: This Side of Paradise (not about the book) (07/14/11)

TITLE: Heart Shelter
By Anita van der Elst


I’ve never seen eyes this terror-filled before. Dilated pupils reflect a fear so deep that for long moments I suspect no comfort offered will ever reach the bottom. I draw a deep breath.

“I’ll protect you,” I insist.

Shuddering, she burrows into the shelter of my heart. “How?” she asks.

“Remember what you know about heaven?”

“Yeah, but I can’t go there until I die. I don’t want to die yet.” Although weak she gives evidence of commitment to survival.

I nod. “Heaven is the safe haven we’ll go to when we die, yes. But since we’re a long ways from dying, we’ll create a safe haven of our own here, within.” I place one hand to my chest and I nod again as she does the same.

“You’ve a good imagination, don’t you?” I ask.

A quivery smile flickers. “You’ve heard my fairy tales.”

“Exactly. So imagine being in a beautiful beach house, windows on all sides so we can watch the ocean waves rolling in at any time. We can hear them crashing and smell the salt.

“Around the house is a stonewall built from the many rocks we’ve lugged up off the shore. They shine when the sun’s rays hit just right and the mortar holding the rocks together can withstand a cannon ball. The wall is eight feet high and three feet deep. On top are pieces of sharp sparkling glass sticking up. Anyone who tries to crawl over suffers excruciating pain and has to give up and go away.”

I feel her hope begin to rise up.

“Directly in the center of the wall facing the beach is a double gate, bleached white, of thickest oak. On the inside a huge beam slides across to latch it and when it is in place, the iron hook on the end attaches to the iron loop and a padlock secures it. The key to the padlock is around my neck on a magical chain that cannot break or get lost. It’s permanently attached to me, like a part of me. There are no other keys.

“You will be in this house anytime the bad man is near. I’ll be there too. You can watch and see everything that’s going on. You can sit upstairs in the big rocking chair or in a window seat. You will be totally safe there yet you can talk to anyone you want to.”

Her upper teeth indent her lower lip.

“Whenever the bad man approaches the gate you’ll see him but he will get smaller and smaller until he’s no bigger than a little worm. He has no arms, no legs, no mouth. He can’t touch you, kick you, nor say anything to you. You’ve heard him refer to himself as nothing but a worm anyway and now you can see it’s true. Anybody could step on him and squash him flat. He’s not able to hurt you anymore.”

A gasp ends in a sort of giggle. “Could we put him in the garbage?”

“Yes, I should think so!” I respond with a stomp of my foot.

She grimaces. “But I wouldn’t want to touch him.” A pause, then, “I’m so scared I’m going to throw up.”

“Not a problem,” I shake my head. “You see, the Man who owns this house we’re in is very strong, stronger than Superman. He loves to help those who are weak and He wants to handle all that kind of yucky stuff. He’s stronger than you ever thought the bad man was. He is our strength. You know Him too. We can talk to Him at anytime because He lives in this house. We could talk to Him right now, if you want to.”


“Jesus, this fear of facing the bad man causes nausea big time. But You are strength. That truth is the key to grab onto. Don’t let anyone grab away the key and even if nausea takes over, Your strong love and acceptance takes over even more.”

We nod solemnly at each other.

The hour is approaching when I’ll face the bad man on trial. Someday the need for these kinds of proceedings will be past. A day when the gates of Home will never be shut because there’s no threat from anything hurtful or shameful ever again but until then, I make use of the creative mind God gave me. I turn from my mirror image and join my lawyer as he heads for the courtroom.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Robyn Burke07/21/11
Ah, interesting ending-- that little unexpected twist. Good work in drawing out the mystery of the who and what. I found this intriguing-- and of course the overall meaning of where our strength is found is awesome.
Verna Cole Mitchell 07/24/11
So much is said between the lines here that the reader understands and laments the tragedy of the situation. The title fits perfectly.