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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Light at the End of the Tunnel (01/23/14)

TITLE: The Companion
By Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom


At the end the day, Phin stretched before falling in step with his best friend, Riley, as they filed out of the building. While walking down the subway steps, someone elbowed Riley. Phin spun around and growled, “Watch where you're going, you fool.”

Smiling, Riley patted Phin’s shoulder. “It’s okay; buddy, no need to get so upset. I’m just fine. Of course once we get home, I'll be a lot better.”

Feeling appeased, Phin didn't mention it again. Once in the train, Phin closed his eyes. He loved working with Riley, but his job was stressful. He constantly worried about making a mistake. He tried not to let his responsibilities bother him, but sometimes the stress got to him and he snapped.

Shame washed over him. That wasn't an appropriate reaction for someone in his position. He opened one eye and gazed at Riley. She was something special. He had no doubts about that. She would tell Phin things that she said she would never tell anyone else.

Just last night they had been talking; well, she had been talking, Phin mainly listened and stared at her face. Her words raced through his mind. “I’m just so afraid at times. I believe Jesus is the real Saviour and I don’t have doubts most of the time. . .but every once in a while, the thought of dying overwhelms me. I hate having those panic attacks. Thank God for you, Phin; I don't think I could handle the anxiety if not for your support. Before you came into my life, I couldn't even leave the house. I know you won't tell anyone, but I’ve even prayed and asked God to let me have a life after death experience so I wouldn't be so afraid. Pretty silly, huh?”

Phin felt so helpless when she had her attacks. He wished he could show her how much God loved her. He shook his head. Funny, how I know God is here, but she, who is so much smarter than I–she has doubts.

As the train screeched to a stop, the people around began gathering their belongings. Phin jumped up and looked Riley in the eyes. She smiled at him, and it made him feel all wiggly inside.
“Yep, it’s our stop; time to go home.”

They were the last ones to exit the car. As the train gathered speed and rumbled away, a man came running down the platform. He stumbled right into Riley. Her body was tossed into the air and smashed on the rails. The man didn't even stop to see if she was hurt.

Phin felt panic wash over him. He started barking and whining. He ran in circles, yelping, until finally some people noticed him. A couple came over. The man patted Phin’s head. “What’s the matter boy? Did your master dump you here?”

Phin raced to the edge of the track and barked more. The lady laughed. “What’s the matter, Lassie? Is Timmy in the well?”

The man hushed her with a wave of his hand. “No, I think there is something wrong. He’s a working dog. See it says so on his vest.”

“Oohh, does that mean a blind person is wondering around?”

The man shook his head. “No, he’s a companion dog. He helps calm people who have severe agoraphobia or anxiety attacks. His owner has to be here somewhere.”

Phin decided it was time to take action. He jumped into the tracks and landed on Riley. He started licking her face and trying to budge her with his nose.
Finally Riley came to. She opened her eyes and immediately began screaming and pointing. Phin turned to look. He saw a light at the end of the tunnel. Oh no, a train is coming. I have to get her out of here. Phin started jumping and barking, but Riley was frozen in fear. The light kept getting bigger and bigger. Just when Phin began to wonder how they would survive, the man jumped down and scooped up Riley and placed her in the arms of another bystander. Then he picked up Phin, jumped, and rolled them both to safety.

Phin bounded to Riley and licked her face. She hugged him close, bowed her head, and prayed. “Dear Jesus, thank you for always being there with me. Thank you for sending Phin into my life. Thank you for saving my life. The next time, I won’t be afraid of the light.”

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This article has been read 418 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Virginia Lee Bliss 02/01/14
This story kept me guessing. First I thought that Phin and Riley were two men, then I learned that Riley is a female. Then I thought they were a police force team. Then I thought they were both dogs. Very clever.
Verna Cole Mitchell 02/01/14
You kept me guessing, too. I loved the closeness of Riley with her guard dog and the way her prayer was answered.
Ellen Carr 02/01/14
This is a very creative approach,told from the dog's POV. I thought Phin was a man until you revealed his identity. Well told and a lovely tribute to those dogs that help people that way. Well done!
Noel Mitaxa 02/02/14
Very creative and sensitive approach to the topic, which kept me guessing for a while. I thought the dialogue was a tad strange - until I Phinally realised who was who - but you have captured a unique relationship very well. Great work.
Judith Gayle Smith02/02/14
I can only echo the comments presented. Very creative!
Graham Insley02/03/14
A great story told from a unique perspective.
Amy Michelle Wiley 02/04/14
Great job! I'll echo that I thought Riley was a male at first. One way to avoid the reader getting distracted by gender is to either pick an obvious-gender name or otherwise show the gender in the first or second sentence. Alternately, I've written short stories that never showed the gender, if it wasn't important.

I think you may have been able to get me on the twist if I hadn't recognized the dog's name. This story is fun but with a deep message. Way to go.
Danielle King 02/04/14
I am proud to boast that I never thought Riley was any other gender than she-mail.

I love this gripping story and was on the edge of my seat, while she was lying on the line. You painted Phin as being the adorable, faithful companion and helper in a very realistic way that sort of tugs at the heartstrings of dog lovers.

Overall, I say great story, spot on topic and well written. Woof!
Toni Hammer02/04/14
I'm super impressed with what you were able to bring to the story in such few words. Well done.

My only 'red ink" is I wonder if in this sentence you meant wandering instead of wondering.

“Oohh, does that mean a blind person is wondering around?”

Other than that, I found it to be spot on.
C D Swanson 02/05/14
Sweet story with an excellent ending. Nicely done.

God bless~
Francie Snell 02/05/14
I can't believe how you pulled this wonderful story together with such a time constraint as you mentioned. You surprised me with the MC turning out to be a dog. I love it. Great work on this one!
Linda Goergen02/05/14
Creative, captivating and delightful read! Great job!
Dannie Hawley 02/06/14
I hadn't known you'd submitted an article, but when I saw your name and began reading, I had a huge smile on my face as I knew Phin was your dog. I was excited to see if you'd actually used him as the MC or just his name. Soon I knew and my heart was as excited to get to the end of this terrific story as it was to read the comments. I just knew there'd be folks who didn't know Phin was a dog and that made it all the more fun for me to read. You've done a great job with this powerful, but totally delightful, piece.
Lillian Rhoades 02/06/14
Congratulations to YOU, Shann, for placing 13th overall and 11th in your rank.-)
Ellen Carr 02/07/14
Congratulations, Shann, on ranking 13th. Good on you!