Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Smell (the sense of smell) (07/29/10)
- TITLE: A Fistful of Pages
By Elizabeth Cain
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The blasts from our machine guns are making my ears ring, even with the protection of my ear buds. With my one good eye I take in the blurred sight of the religious rebels being slaughtered—by our hands. A sickening feeling comes over me when I watch one of the mothers trying to escape with her children into another tunnel; they are shot dead before they reach safety.
The military life of explosions and gunfire has left me partially deaf and my left eye is completely blind. All I see from my right eye is faded colors and blurred images; my world has become one of scents and tastes. My best years of service are behind me, but with the stress of war and rebellion my country needs all the able-bodied citizens it can get. So I help fight against the rebels inside out wall, starting with the Christians. So tonight, in this crypt, the Christians die!
My trigger finger relaxes when I no longer see any movement below us. The other guns fall silent as well, and an eerie silence surrounds the crypt. Without a word we begin checking for survivors and any smuggled Bibles they might have.
Several minutes pass, and the air has started to clear. As I search through more bodies I can now make out the smell of saw dust, cinnamon spice bread, salt water, baby food, foreign lands, candle wax, and many other scents. As I pass one of the tunnels I notice the smell of iris flowers and blood. Veering to the left I follow the mingled scents, lighting the passageway with a small flashlight attached to my wrist. I can see no more than a yard in any direction, causing me to stumble more than once. I scan the area intently as I slowly continue through the tomb. I come to an abrupt stop; my light suddenly revealing the figure of a girl leaning against the wall. She is clutching her right arm in pain, blood flowing from between her fingers and staining her sleeve. She seems to be having difficulty breathing; the gases must be killing her. For a moment I stand unmoving; my gun pointed at her, but I can’t make myself pull the trigger. She seems to be asleep, but I notice her lips movinng, I think I hear her say “Jesus”.
I lower my gun; no sense wasting a bullet on something that’s already dying. “Who are you talking to?” I ask, with mockery.
Her eyes shoot open, and though I can’t tell what color her eyes are, I can imagine the fear in them. With a shaky voice she answers softly, “I was … praying.”
I nod, “Of course. No doubt for your life to be spared. It’s your false beliefs that sentence you to death.”
“…Only in this life… But I wasn’t praying for… my life to be spared; I was praying… for you… and your friends... to be… spared…” She smiles at me, and takes in one last, feeble breath. Silence suddenly fills the chamber, her spirit gone from her body.
I carry her body back with me and lay it with the pile of dead bodies and smuggled Bibles. I try to forget about her words—but I can’t escape them. Why had she spent her last words on her enemies’ well being? When all the bodies had been gathered the pile was ignited. I watch the flames eat away at them; their scents lost to the flames and its smoke. Carefully I grab one of the unharmed Bibles and tear a handful of its pages out in a show of disgust, dropping the Bible back into the fire afterward. I let some of the pages fall into the fire with it, but I conceal most of the crinkled pages in my fist. I need answers, even if it means death. Thankfully, no one notices me hide them in my pocket. I’ll have to get someone else to read them for me, but no matter the risk I’ll find out what they say. If so many thousands of people were willing to die for believing these pages, there must be truth in them.
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