Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: START (02/25/16)
- TITLE: An Attitude Adjustment
By M. C. Syben
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Usually, I hate change but a mandatory transfer forced me to move from Florida to the Smokey Mountain’s, North Carolina. At least my mountain top chalet provides a ridgeline walking path; I’m not a stagnant couch potato here.
My two dogs love it and pull me along while protecting me from anything foreign. I guess I’ll get used to the hardwood forest. Still, unfamiliar shadows confuse my memory of landmarks. “I hope you know the way home. Next time we’ll start out earlier, girls.”
A newly fallen tree exposes a strange bluff. “That’s new. Hey, it might be a cave.”
Competing with curious dogs, I use a flashlight app to peer into a hollow. “Wow. It’s big inside. I see paintings on the wall!”
Excitement overcomes my typical reluctance to experiment. “Stay, girls.”
I tether their leashes with rocks and slither on my belly within. Am I the first modern person to discover this archeological gem? Did the local Cherokee adorn the walls with bear, coyotes, and hunting scenes? I snap photos hoping my smart phone is fully charged.
My intrigue ends suddenly when something catches the girls’ attention. Their anchors act like tiny paperweights when Kiki and Kayla take off, scrambling up the side of the entrance, barking viciously. Footholds dislocate, boulders tumble, and the ground shakes. The ceiling pelts me with pebbles that fall like hail stones. A sharp edge pounds my skull.
I stare into a black void as I reach for my dogs but they don’t respond. “What happened?” I wonder aloud, totally confused. I try to think while exploring the egg-size lump that erupts from my head.
“Yuck, blood.” It cakes around a tender wound. Thoughts begin to make sense. “A cave-in.”
I call, “Kayla. Kiki.” My voice acts like a hammer, pounding the space behind my eyes. “Oh, God,” I moan while sitting up slowly. I don’t hear any barking.
Panic teases me but I squelch it. I fumble around feeling for the phone I had clutched in my hand. As I brush away rubble and pick between rocks that had encircled me, I realize I’m lucky to be alive. “Thank you for saving me, Lord.”
Finally, my fingertips feel the smooth, plastic edge. But the device lights up only enough to see its face is smashed. I try 911. “No signal.” I meant to change my service provider to one that works better in the mountains. Sigh.
Procrastination may be my death sentence. Is there enough air for me? Or am I entombed? Would I suffocate to death? I choke back terror. “Who’s going to look for me?” I can’t help but whine. I haven’t met the boss, yet, or the few neighbors living on the mountain full time. I delayed finding a church. Maybe someone will find my dogs but they aren’t chipped and their Florida tags won’t hint at my mountain location.
“There’s no time like the present,” my mom used to say. I should have listened.
Am I shaking from fear or cold? I struggle to my knees and pull on the hoodie that is wrapped around my waist. Maybe I can stand—no, too dizzy. Surrendering to the darkness, I slink to the ground.
“God, send help, please.”
An angel whispers in my ear, “Reach up towards the light.”
A thin beam of sunshine from the ceiling greets me when I open my eyes. “It must be morning. I have air.” Hope encourages me. “If I climb up that edge, I could force the opening bigger. I might have a chance.”
Living depends on action right now. I realize “now” is a word I seldom use but there’s no time for self-pity or beating myself up. Instead, I breathe deeply as I navigate the fallen rocks—a step, a slip, try again.
Finally, I reach the fist-sized gap. I type a text and shove my arm, like an antenna, through the aperture, before hitting “send.” The phone dies. Did the text transmit first?
Suddenly, all light disappears. Kiki, Kayla are sniffing above. “Move, girls,” I laugh, relieved by their faith in me.
I pick at the breach like a chick pecking out of a shell. Each layer of peeled-away shale renews my spirit. Every gasp of fresh air is like a baby’s first breath.
“Lord, life is valuable. Help me climb out so I can fully embrace life. Please, give me a chance for a new start.”
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