Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Space (01/23/06)
TITLE: Empty Space
By Jessica Boling
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My thick coat begins to fail against the frigid temperature. I am shivering. Stamping my feet on the snow-covered ice, I try to preserve the warmth I have left. Anything to keep my blood flowing.
I look down at my pack, lying where I dropped it on the ice. My provisions are gone–except for the last can of meat, which is frozen solid. I have no way to defrost it. I have nothing to eat, nothing to drink, and I am alone.
Alone. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. My teammates abandoned me. Why? Didn’t they know they were signing my death sentence by leaving me out here?
My anger warms me a little; otherwise, it is useless. I will never find my teammates, and they will never find me. I left the campsite two days ago and trekked, I hoped, in the direction of the research station. Now I know I was wrong. Now it is too late: I am in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by space. Empty space.
I’ve dreamed of this all my life. Exploring is my passion. I remembered coming here for the first time as an eager graduate student. The vast landscape seemed beautiful then–the same empty space that looks horrible now.
Then, as a professor emeritus, I was happy to return to this place. After a fulfilling career in academia, I was offered the opportunity to live here full-time, acting as a guide for visiting faculty. I grew to know the terrain like the back of my hand. My life was full, satisfied. Finally I could be content.
What happened? I thought I could trust my teammates on this trek–all of them were professors from my home university. I argued with them about silly details; I knew the protocols, and they didn’t. I was leading the expedition, but when things began to go wrong, they wouldn’t listen to me. They ignored my academic honors, my experience, and my achievements. They abandoned me in this place that I used to love–but now I hate.
I did everything right: I got an education. I pursued my dream. I achieved all my life goals and more. I worked, toiled, and sweated. I kept my life busy and full.
What went wrong? When I stare at the empty space, I feel like I’m looking in a mirror.
I’m exhausted. I can feel my heart slowing down. I’m going to die here, and now it’s too late to fill the empty space inside me. Now that it’s too late, I know what could have filled it. Something I said I didn’t believe in. I said love was a myth, but now I know it’s the only thing that can fill the space. The empty, cold, horrible space.
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