Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Commitment (01/05/12)
TITLE: Ready to Light the Darkness
By Lillian Rhoades
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Today is Burnie’s first day on the job, and he settles down comfortably between the oil lamp burner and the fuel chamber, nervously waiting to begin his only assignment.
He’s miles away from his home in flax fields where snow comes early and flowers dressed in blue wait for their petals to fall; a sure sign they are ripe enough to submit to harvesting.
As soon as Burnie was ripe enough, training for his mission began. He was carefully plucked from the field and hauled a short journey to the strange surroundings of a huge harvest house where he’s beaten, hackled, spun into fibers, and flattened.
Through it all, he endures, for thus he was created, chosen, and now commissioned.
After his training, Burnie begins his journey past flowered fields of ripening to a far distant field of service. Cut down to size, he’s carefully slipped through a slit in the nozzle of the burner, positioned and covered with a shiny, glass chimney. From flax fields to an oil lamp that sits high on a mantel’s ledge, Burnie waits by the Grandfather clock as evening draws near.
At the stroke of five, he hears footsteps approaching and Burnie steels himself, for the moment has come.
First the strike of a match, then the flicker of a small flame, and Burnie is quickly afire. With every fiber of his being, he burns. Night after night, Burnie works hard to keep the darkness at bay. During the day, he bears the brunt of sharp blades that cut away all that keeps him from shining brighter when darkness falls again.
Through it all, he endures, for thus he was created; created to burn brightly with steadfast glow so that others may see through the darkness; not him, but because of him.
For five days he commits to his task, and then comes early morning and the final hour. He always knew extinction was his destiny and he’s ready, for there’s nothing left to burn. And, after all, it’s not the wick that matters most, but the flame.
On the fifth day, when the whistle train makes its final run past the woods that separate the Mission house from the tracks, Burnie knows this is his final night to serve. As if he needed another reminder, the Grandfather clock strikes a warning that evening waits just beyond the next half-hour, and their short time together will soon end.
When morning peeps over the horizon, he hears the sound of approaching footsteps one more time. Gentle hands lift the spent and smoldering Burnie, a sparse remnant of what he once was, up through the nozzle.
Throughout the course of his mission, Burnie had not resisted the plucking, beating, hackling, spinning, flattening, burning, or cutting so that his one light could shine, if only for awhile. Now, mission completed, he’s ready to be put away.
On the sixth day, while the whistle train makes it last run past the woods that separate the Mission house from the tracks, and the Grandfather Clock rings out that evening lies just beyond the next half-hour; a lamp rests on the mantel. Footsteps approach and with the sound of a match strike, a small flame flickers and another wick takes Burnie’s place, ready to withstand the fire so that light can dispel the darkness.
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