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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Soul (07/13/06)

TITLE: What Would You Give?
By Rachel Burkum


It was dark, but I didn’t remember seeing the sunset. All around me, people were talking and laughing, despite the long lines that I’d been standing in for what seemed an eternity. We all just wanted to get through that door.

The brick building had no windows, so no one could see what went on inside. But anyone who entered eventually came out with glorious riches. Everything from diamond jewelry to speedboats. All I really knew about this event was that my friend was a millionaire now, and he’d told me that the source of his wealth would only be in town one more night.

I aimlessly counted heads as the line slowly moved forward. There were still several hundred, but thankfully I was only feet from the door.

As I gained a clear view of the entrance, I noticed a lone figure standing to the side who was not joining in the fun. As the man in front of me finally had his chance to open the door, the stranger laid a hand on his shoulder, stopping him just long enough to whisper in his ear. The man laughed then disappeared inside without a second thought.

It would be my turn next. I could just imagine what my friends would say tomorrow when I showed up as wealthy as they. I didn’t know how all this worked, but it couldn’t be too bad or all these people wouldn’t be here, leaving as happily as they were.

I noticed the strange man staring at me. His eyes were soft, but they pierced like daggers. Before I could think, the door in front of me opened. As if in a trance, I stepped forward, but was stopped by the stranger.

“Death,” he whispered in my ear. “It’s not too late to change your mind.”

I didn’t have time to feel the fear creeping up on me as I was shoved from behind by an impatient woman.

“Come on! Move!”

I was pushed through the doorway. The building was pitch black, except for a red lamp sitting on a table in the center of the room. A man stood behind it, and beckoned me. “Come. Tell me what your heart desires.”

I approached and squinted past the light, but I couldn’t see his face. His voice was hollow yet enticing. I told him all I wanted and more. When I was finished, I was handed a pen.

“Sign your name to receive all you ever wanted.”

As I stared down at the book full of names, suspicion finally made its way into my consciousness. “What’s the catch?”

A slight shrug moved the shadows. “No catch. All I get in return is your soul.”

The pen hovered above the page as my heart rate increased. Sweat broke out on my palms as I mentally weighed my options. How badly did I want wealth? How badly did I want popularity?

I sat bolt upright, gasping for breath. “No!” I screamed, not fully aware yet that I was alone in my bedroom. Breathing hard, I stared around at the trash on the floor, the empty beer cans on the nightstand, and the cigarette still smoldering in its tray.

I slowly rolled my legs out of bed and sat, trying to sort through my dream, and yet afraid of the conclusion I’d come to. Somehow, my eyes caught the book under my bed. I instinctively pulled it out, not even remembering having put it there. I gazed at my mess then back at the Bible. My mother had said it held all the answers. But I’d ignored her and had sought money and fame. I’d given my soul to the world. I’d sold it in hopes of wealth, but in the end, all I had to show was poverty.

A tear escaped and ran down my cheek as I desperately flew through the pages, searching for some relief…some answers. Frantic that I could not find it on my own, I threw myself onto the floor and wept. “Lord,” I cried, “I don’t want this world any more. I want peace and happiness, not money and power. I want my soul to be Yours.”

The battle had been won. My soul was free at last, caught up from the clutches of death I had so narrowly escaped. I would never forget that dream.

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Member Comments
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Jan Ackerson 07/21/06
I liked this a lot--it is very well-written--until I got to the "it was only a dream" part. Why not make it a fantasy story, and have the events be real? It'd be more thought-provoking that way. You did an excellent job of setting the scene, and creating the mysterious stranger with his whispered warnings.
david grant07/21/06
I agree with the last comment. You totally had me until you woke up. Its an old worn out device that doesn't usually work well anymore. You worked it well enough, however. Glad the dream scared "the Hell" out of him!
Gary Sims07/22/06
I was caught by the imagery of the dream. It was vivid and had me seeking to read more. It reads very well through this section and then, poof! there's a change. The last half lost it's continuity. It became an article to skim through and left me feeling half empty, unfulfilled, and incomplete. Perhaps you could look at the last half to see if you can put more depth into it. Look at your assumptions. Instead of assuming that your reader would never sign their souls away, maybe assume that they don't understand the big deal. I hope this helps - dark pieces are a little challenging in bringing out the light and hope that Christ has to offer and that could be all that's happening as I read this - where's the hope?
Marilyn Schnepp 07/23/06
The dream was intriguing...and in my opinion not "old hat"; but I'd have had the man awaken with thoughts of having a yacht, jewels, money...but just for a day? And then what? No eternity? Is that all there is? What is One Day to an Eternity? No tomorrow with no Soul! Well written however, and unique idea.
Jesus Puppy 07/25/06
OOooo chills.. very well done, you drew the reader in than landed with a twist.. Good .. no Great job..
Joanne Sher 07/25/06
The dream part definitely kept me captivated - WONDERFUL description. I agree with much that has been said about the waking up part, but truly enjoyed the entire piece nonetheless!
Venice Kichura07/26/06
Powerfully chilling piece---excellent writing skills!
Dr. Sharon Schuetz07/27/06
This is some powerful writing. I like the whole concept. Great job.