Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: ACCIDENTS WILL HAPPEN (04/13/17)
TITLE: One Witness
By Holly Westefeld
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The city gate is in sight. I dare a glance over my shoulder, see that he has lost yet more ground, but know if I slow I risk collapse just shy of refuge. As soon as I enter, though, I crumple at the feet of the men of the city, lungs burning.
"Bring this young man water."
Hands shaking, I lift the cup to my lips, taking slow sips, despite the urge to gulp. Throat soothed and breath more even, I proclaim my need for refuge to the elders.
"You are young to be charged with murder, son."
"Yes, but there has been enmity between our clans for generations, so it is no surprise to me that the only witness to the accident, in which I had no hand whatsoever, cries murder."
Before I can impart the details, the avenger, Shua's elder brother Amon, stumbles inside the gate. He, likewise, is given water, but is restrained when he recovers enough to dive for my throat with his dagger.
"You know that you are not permitted to spill blood in this city," the elders admonish him.
"Then expel this fiend so my sister's death may be avenged!"
"Are you ignorant of the Law?" an elder asks. "This lad will stand trial before the assembly, and may not be put to death without the testimony of at least two witnesses that he caused your sister's death in malice. We will provide him refuge, and safe passage to his trial, and back if he is not found guilty of murder."
Amon departs, eyes smoldering.
As promised, I am sheltered, then escorted home for trial. The villagers are assembled, Amon's and my clans on opposite sides of the crowd. I am called to give my account of Shua's death.
"We met by chance, the first hot day of summer, both seeking to cool our feet in the stream. I did not even know to which clan she belonged, until after my heart was smitten. Then, I confess, I had not summoned the courage to ask my father to set aside the clans' history to seek a betrothal. I solemnly attest that I never behaved dishonorably toward her.
"We were sitting on rocks, at least six feet apart, when Amon startled us with a shout. We both jumped to our feet, but Shua slipped with wet feet. Her head hit the rock, and she moved no more. Amon did not even go to her, but attacked me straightway. I barely escaped to the city of refuge with my life."
Amon jumps up. "He lies! I shouted because he was taking liberties with my sister, then added insult to injury by smashing her head on a rock and throwing her in the stream to drown."
One of the elders speaks up. "Unfortunately, your family buried her privately, so the elders were not able to examine her to affirm or negate your testimony. You know that we cannot sentence someone to death with only one witness."
My heart lurches as Shua's younger brother, Ammitai, steps forward. A smile slithers across Amon's lips.
"I am also a witness. I had always looked up to Amon, and followed him most everywhere. I declare that not only is Amon bearing false witness, but that Shua is, indeed, very much alive. I will show you where mn shameful clan has hidden her."
The uproar resolved, Shua and I are escorted back to the city of refuge, there to marry, and live out our lives apart from the enmity of our clans.
Knowing that accidents would happen, God made provision for such eventualities in Numbers 35, Deuteronomy 19, and Joshua 20.
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