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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Escape (01/02/06)

TITLE: The Hiding Place
By
01/08/06


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The Hiding Place


Calcutta, India: August 1947.


Charles stared in horror at the morning newspaper headlines...

“Foreigners targeted by fanatical Anti-British mobs. All foreigners are urged to leave India immediately.

The exhilaration of the nation’s birth turned sour overnight, with a widespread frenzied killing spree. Religious and racial hatred manifesting in horrifying extremes...”

“I suspected it would lead to this,” Charles mused as urgent prayer gushed from his lips for protection and guidance.

Charles could hear the clatter of tea-cups as his wife, Elsa, prepared their breakfast. The thought of losing her to brutal attackers vexed his mind.

“Here’s you tea, darling!” Elsa chirped as she set the breakfast before Charles and then planted an affectionate kiss on his furrowed brow.

“Come, Elsa. We need to talk,” he told her. “Who would have imagined that such violence would erupt after British Sovereignty was relinquished to Indian leaders. After all, their battle against Britain was achieved through non-violent disobedience and persuasive dialogue. The entire northern region has descended into chaos. It’s as if generations of pent-up anger has been finally allowed to vent its fury.”

Elsa studied his face. Whatever was ahead, Charles knew that his wife would instinctively trust him.

“Armed patriots are seeking out foreigners. With their crazed minds they will see our white skin and think us to be British Imperialists. We can no longer remain in India. We must leave immediately, today! I’ll make arrangements for us to travel to South India by train and from there we can board a ship to Australia.

Slipping to their knees the couple prayed, “Lord, You brought us here and we ask You to safely take us out. We know that You are with us, Lord. Make a way for our escape.”


Calcutta Railway Station, 1.25pm.

A fear so palpable that it could be felt permeated the pulsating crowd - all alert, suspicious, straining for sounds of danger, all possessed with singular purpose - to escape the murdering madness that knew no rank, religion or creed.

Charles and Elsa forced their way through to the platform’s edge as the deafening groan of the train’s engine roared above the din of the waiting passengers.

The crowd impatiently surged forward even before the train halted. Charles lifted Elsa up into the closest carriage, then clambered up behind her. The cabin guard immediately saw them and escorted them to their seats. Moments later the train pulled away from the platform. The regular rhythm of the train’s movements soon lulled the weary couple into a welcome sleep, a needed respite from the strain of their peril.


“Saahib! Mamsaahib! Wake up! Hurry! Gunmen have stopped the train. They’ll kill you.”

“Oh God, help us!” Elsa cried.

“Quickly! Get up! Hide in here!” an Indian man urgently pleaded as he shoved away the petrified passengers and lifted the padded seat-cover. Others hurried to assist in the desperate race to conceal the foreign couple in the coffin-like space under the seat. Gunfire could be heard from the next carriage. Women screamed, men shouted, fear and tension mounted to breaking point. There was no escape!

The armed mob stormed into their carriage just as the men replaced the seat. Muted with fear the passengers sat paralyzed, awaiting their fate. It would be futile trying to bargain with the possessed gunmen, compliance to their demands the only chance for survival. The gunmen’s faces mirrored unnatural rage. With guns aimed they went from person to person seizing money, gold, and watches. Women contending to retain their wedding jewelry were cruelly beaten with gun butts. The fear of death hung heavily, some passengers emptying their bladders, others whimpering in the dreadful suspense. Their world had gone mad with the lawless holding the passage of life or death in their hands.

Lying motionless, Charles and Elsa could hear the savage demands of the gunmen. Their hearts pounded within their chests. Elsa struggled to stifle a scream. Holding her tightly in his arms, Charles whispered, “Don’t speak Elsa! Jesus is with us. Keep very still.”

The sound of gunfire and screams gradually faded.

Finally, Charles and Elsa felt the lurching of the train as it began to edge forward. Their hearts leapt in relief as they heard the excited chatter of surviving passengers rushing to release them. With haste they removed the seat-cover. “They’re gone and you have escaped,” the kind Indian man said in delight as eager hands lifted the couple from their hiding place.

The shadow of death had passed!

___________________
Psalm 68:20, NIV: “Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death.”

The above account is based on historical fact and on the true story of the Taylor’s miraculous escape as described in this story. Their journey continued and they reached their final destination without facing further dangers.


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This article has been read 1134 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 01/10/06
This was very exciting, and I wasn't familiar with the story! Thanks for sharing it!

There are a few places where you might consider tightening it up: "A fear so palpable that it could be felt..." could be "A palpable fear..." for example.

With a few streamlines, I think the sotry will be even more pulse-pounding! Well done.
Kate Wells01/12/06
Having lived in South Africa during the strife filled days of apartheid, when terrorist were attacking daily - I know what it feels like to experience the kind of fear you wrote about. You totally captured it! Beautiful job. I'd like to read more!
Debbie Sickler01/12/06
This was a very exciting story! Please let us know when you're done with the longer version!
Pat Guy 01/12/06
And God provided the kind people and the space in the seats! Amazing and well told! An exciting read!
Cassie Memmer01/12/06
A wonderful testimony of God's protection and 'way of escape.' Very nice.
Linda Watson Owen01/13/06
Oh, my! What a remarkable story and so remarkably told! Wonderful job!!
Amy Michelle Wiley 01/13/06
Well done! Suggestions for the longer version: I think you could cut the opening scene with the newpaper altogether and start the story with the fear at the train station. You'd just have to add in a little information to explain what was happening. I'd also like to "live" even a little more what the couple was going through as they hid in the box, smooshed so tightly they could barely breath... Maybe stay in the box with them, describing what they heard instead of shifting the POV to the outside. Great story! Would love to read the rest.
Suzanne R01/13/06
What a great story ... thanks for sharing it. I liked the touch about the clatter of tea cups ... it sounded so Indian, even though I realized already that one, if not both, was foreign. Well done.
Sally Hanan01/13/06
Even though you did a great job with the word count, this deserves to be longer in order to say everything you need to say. Stick with it and get it published!
Anita Neuman01/14/06
Hi, Karen! When I read your hint, I was afraid that this would be a story about you and your family. Phew!

You did a FABULOUS job of describing the train scene. I like Amy's suggestion about staying with the couple inside the seat while they listen to what's going on.

I'd be happy to help with a more detailed critique as you expand this. Email me anytime, dear friend!
Val Clark01/14/06
What an exciting read. A story well worth expanding! Do go for the five senses when you expand it. Work at keeping the sentences short when you want to hone the tension. (When you know who is speaking you don’t need to say : ” he told her.”)
Beth Muehlhausen01/15/06
Must have been - terrifying - and yet this is so touching: "“Don’t speak Elsa! Jesus is with us. Keep very still.” Nicely told piece of history!
B Brenton01/17/06
Heart stopping, Karen.

You're back in form. :)

Congrats.
Julianne Jones01/17/06
Well done. You've captured the fear and tension so well. I agree with Amy re the opening scene though. Perhaps you could use a newspaper headline/article at the station to set the scene and convey the info the reader needs. Overall, a very good piece. Congrats, Karen.