Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Vines (11/21/05)
TITLE: Entangled Heart
By Rachel Burkum
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Finally, I emerged and stood up straight to take a deep breath. The foggy air caught in my throat as I choked on the putrid smell of the nearby swamp. I doubled over, wheezing until I caught my breath. Slowly, I made my way down the dark, overgrown path, stepping over ruts, stones and mud holes. Seeing in the dark had become natural to me during the months gone by, but every day, the light faded more. My only hope came from the long shadows that were cast across the ground, proving that light still existed…somewhere.
Not paying attention for just a moment, my foot caught on something I hadn’t seen. My face plowed into the dirt, mud and swamp scum filling my mouth. Gagging, I pulled myself to my knees, spitting out the grime. Disgusted, I rubbed my sore shin and turned to look at what had caused me to fall.
A thick vine had crept across the trail before slithering up a nearby tree. I grimaced, my eyes narrowing in anger. “Greed,” I hissed. “I should have known. I’m sick of all this!” Standing with a huff, I wiped my face on my shirtsleeve and took a good look around. I had known the tangled mess existed, but having no power over my surroundings, I’d tried to ignore it.
Vines had grown up from the small seeds planted long ago, and now entangled everything in sight. Over my cave, through the brush, and around the trees, they choked the life out of everything their tantalizing stems touched. My home - this place - used to be bright and full of light, brimming with life and happiness. But once those seeds had been planted, there had been no stop to the havoc they wreaked.
In time spent alone, I’d identified and named most of the ugly intruders. The first to have sprouted was Pride. Growing quickly, it soon had overshadowed its own corner, spreading out to infect the cracks and crevices that had been neglected. It had nourished its own repulsive growth, soaking up all the light that had then been bright.
Next had come a vine not quite as strong. But wiry and fast, Anger had soon enveloped another portion of my home. After that, new vines had sprung up everywhere, uncontrollably at speeds immeasurable. Lies, Greed, Hate, Jealousy and Arrogance all invading my world. They stretched across any open space, their poisonous leaves infecting anything within their grasp. Once a beautiful landscape, my home now lay in ruins.
But the worst part for me was not that I’d been pushed away, driven to live in a cave with dirt and grime. It was that my host hadn’t seemed to care. He was the one who had allowed my world to be destroyed, and yet, day by day, he only fed those wretched vines, choking the very life from himself.
I angrily kicked at a stone, sending it flying into the murky waters. “You turned your heart into a swamp!” I shouted. “You’re killing yourself!” But I knew my words would go unheard. My host had long since given up listening to his conscience.
I trudged back to my cave, weary just from the emotional strain it took to move about. Maybe one day before it was too late, the light would return. Maybe one day, the heart I lived in would find the true answers to life. Maybe, just maybe, the vines would wither, and new life would flourish once again, my host having been washed clean and forgiven of his past.
The light was growing almost too faint to see. Soon, total darkness would take over, suffocating me completely. But it hadn’t happened yet. One could only hope.
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