Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Truth or Dare (08/28/08)
- TITLE: The Unbeliever
By Patricia Turner
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Others on the street, staring straight ahead, their agate eyes reflecting the emptiness of their hearts and fearfully distrustful of meeting another’s gaze, scuttled past the motionless form lying just outside the dim circle cast by a dingy streetlight.
On her way home, Cheri started past as well. “Stay away from strangers.” The mantra was firmly embedded in a mind already embittered by life.
A shiny flicker caught her eye.
Edging closer, she saw the corner of the contraband object protruding from under the man’s arm. Darting a furtive glance up and down the semi-lit street, she reached to touch it. Smooth grained leather covered a book whose pages were trimmed in gold.
Cheri backed away fearfully as her attempt to extract the book elicited a moan from the man. She melted into the shadow of a doorway as two men passed by, neither taking notice of the fallen one.
Once again the street was empty. Hastily she attempted to roll the man away from his book. Inadvertently she shoved too hard and he landed on his back. Grasping the object, she was stopped by the unaccustomed expression on his unconscious face. Never had she seen a face that appeared so peaceful, almost smiling. A forgotten corner of her heart felt a longing she immediately fought to suppress.
The steps leading to her tiny room below street level were only a few feet away. Thinking quickly, she tucked the book into the waistband of her pants, hiding it under her tunic, along with the half-eaten sandwich foraged from a dumpster. Grasping the man under his shoulders, she stayed close under the shadow of the building’s overhang, dropping to the sidewalk beside him when others passed. While no one saw the man, there were eyes that sought such as her.
His moans grew more intense, faintly crying out a name as she attempted to drag him down the short flight. He was thin, but heavy enough that his own weight made him tumble past her, crashing in a heap at her door. A man passing by on the street peered in their direction at the noise, pausing. From years of practice, Cheri froze in the shadows behind the man at her feet. The other man moved on.
After turning the latches of several locks on her door Cheri got the man onto the filthy threadbare mattress on the floor.
For the first time she was able to see him more clearly. It appeared he’d been beaten, yet she suspected hunger and dehydration had taken more of a toll.
As he slept, Cheri removed the crushed sandwich and the book. Hungrily she devoured the meal, not even tasting the moldy bread and slimy meat.
As she opened the book, the man began to moan. She snapped it closed again, feeling guilty.
Sudden terror gripped the young woman, realizing what she had done. This man undoubtedly was an infidel, one of the Unbelievers. It was only a matter of time before dogs picked up his scent and followed him here. Rapidly she scanned her small room. The mattress, a long table against one wall, and empty boxes stacked in a corner of what had been a storage room. There was no place to hide him.
The back of her head tingled as she realized with a honed instinct that she was being watched. Slowly she turned to look into the man’s open eyes.
Once again she was struck by that calm, rested expression that belied his weakened condition.
“Please don’t be afraid. My name is Vic,” he said, the sound of his voice musical, like the tinkle of water trickling down a storm drain.
“My name is Cheri,” she dared.
When the knock came two days later, Cheri, filled with a new sense of hope and peace, opened the door to the soldiers looking for Vic.
“Yes, he was here, but I sent him away when I learned who he was. He left the city last night at the last watch. If you go toward the east you might overtake him.”
Sweeping a glance around the room the soldiers left.
Cheri lifted an upended box stacked on top of another. The brave new “Unbeliever” smiled into the gentle eyes of the man who had brought the Truth that had brought her hope.
John 8:32 "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." KJV
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