29th Day Bonus: Change of Plans

Jason came to with a groan. The first thing he noticed was that his head was hurting. The second was that he was in what looked like a hospital bed. The third was that there was someone sitting in a chair beside him.

“Who are you?” he croaked. He tried to lick his lips and clear his throat, but to no avail.

“Easy, now,” the man cautioned Jason as he tried to sit up in the bed. The increasing pain in his head was caution enough; Jason laid back down on the bed.

“Let’s start with who you are. Do you remember that?”

Of course he remembered. Wasn’t that what he’d been trying to forget for the last year?

“I’m Jason Shaw. I came here a year ago, last night I fell off the bridge south of town, and right now I could really use some water.”

“Hmm. Good enough,” gruffed the man as he picked up a glass of water on the table beside the bed and held it out for Jason to drink. “The name matches the one on your ID, so that’s good.”

“Your turn,” said Jason between gulps of water. The let him finish the glass and then set it back on the table.

“My name is Winston O’Dare,” he said. “I was out in my boat especially early this morning. I saw you hit your head when you went over the side of the bridge. Fell smack into the water. It took some work to haul you into my boat, but luckily I have some experience with the nets.”

Jason closed his eyes against the memory. Last night he’d been perfectly content to end it all, and by some fluke misstep he’d been fished right out of the water.

“I didn’t mean to –” he started to explain, but Winston O’Dare cut him off.

“Now, you and I both know you didn’t exactly ‘fall’ off that bridge. But I don’t think it’s any coincidence that I was there to get you out. I don’t normally set the boat out that early in the morning; I had just decided to spend a little extra time with just me, God, and the clear night sky. Clearly he had other plans for me this morning. I’m thinkin’ he has other plans for you too.” O’Dare leaned forward in the chair until Jason opened his eyes, instantly caught in the fisherman’s intense gaze. “The question is, is that bridge really what you want out of life? Or are you willing to let God show you the plans he has in mind?”

29th Day Bonus: Ending

He set out running. Jogging at first, as was his habit, then harder. Then harder, pushing himself and all his anger into each pounding step. He was tired, but he couldn’t feel it. He just so sick of it all — sick of disappointing and being disappointed, sick of the punches and bruises he endured, even encouraged, in a desperate attempt to gain what he knew he deserved. Because he was running, again. He’d never really stopped running, but he wanted to. He wanted to make it all stop. If he was going to be stuck with this ruined mess of a life, the least he could was not be around to see it. He headed for the bridge.

Surely it was high enough, the river below deep enough, the current swift enough to take care of the rest. His mother would be devastated, but he’d hope she’d at least find the same small measure of relief he sought. Regardless, she couldn’t stop him now. He was too far gone. He’d been too far gone for a long time now.

He turned up the cobblestone pathway, his heaving heart bottoming out with each pounding step. Up the arch of the bridge to its highest point. He veered off to the right, trying to steer his momentum to take him over the edge. In the pitch black night that had long since overtaken him, he missed the length of rope tangled around the side of the ledge, missed whatever was holding it there. His toe snagged on a half-closed loop as he vaulted over the side. He stumbled in midair, pulled up short by the unseen force. He felt his body swing back to the bridge, but could not stop the impact. His hands hit the stone structure first, followed quickly by the side of his head. And then there was nothing but the nothingness.

Fight For My Life

He lunges at me. I can feel the searing pain of his knife in my back. I’ve felt it before; I must get away. I twist as the knife pulls away. He readies his next attack. Spinning to face him, I bring my arm around with all of my might. My fist connects squarely with his jaw, sending himĀ  flying backwards. I will not go down without a fight.

He tumbles head over heels, but lands back on his feet quickly. I’ve barely had time to catch my breath when he swings for me again. But this time I’m ready, stretching away from the blade’s arc before it reaches me. I want to kick it away, but it is too far beyond me, so I scramble back.

His intention is not to kill me, but to immobilize me permanently with his wounds and pain. He’s done so much damage already, but he will not rest until I am through. He must be stopped, for the sake of my health and my sanity. I summon my waning strength and fly at him, knocking the knife away as my grip closes around his throat. We land on the ground, forcing the breath out of me even as I cut it off from him. I fight with everything I have to hold on. My only thought is this: “Die, Dream. Die.”

The Sound of Freedom

Banging. On a door. Loudly. Harshly. Persistently.

But only in the distance. The banging, that hopeful, rescuing sound, was not here in front of her. Not at this door, the one barricading her from freedom. Whoever was out there was far, far away. She could barely hear the banging. She was probably imagining it, along with the sound of her name.

She sat up straight in the blinding darkness. She wasn’t imagining it. Faint though it was, the distant banging and the call of her name was very real. She scooted across the floor toward the door in front of her, wincing against the roped that restrained her movement. If she could just reach it…

The call was getting stronger, the banging sound louder. How many other doors were out there? How many would they try before they gave up? She needed to reach the door. Abigail rolled over onto her stomach, coughing against the dirt and crumbling cement that coated first the floor and now the gag in her mouth. Maybe the gag would prove useful and keep her from suffocating faced own on this awful floor.

She began to slide her body backward, stretching out with her feet angled toward the door. Eventually the ropes binding her wrists in place pulled taut, catching and holding both her hands and her breath. There she waited, hoping against hope that they would not give up before they reached the door she was waiting behind. A glimpse of blue was the only thing she saw when she had been dragged into this awful, pitch black space. Her captors had knocked her cold, and when she came to she knew only darkness, the ropes binding her, the cement floor, and that door.

“ABIGAIL!” There it was — her name, followed by the banging. Much closer this time. Pounding right behind her. She kicked her feet as hard as she could against the door. The muffled vibration seemed to be insignificant at first, but Abigail could not give up. The sound seemed to get through though, and the screaming outside increased.

Banging. On a door. Loudly. Harshly. Persistently.

And finally, the door opened behind her. Abigail turned her head. Her eyes caught that glimpse of blue again — the wonderful sight of freedom.

Your Money, Or Your Life.

The parking lot is crowded. It always is; it’s the mall.

But it’s usually not like this. I can tell from the entrance that even the outskirts are being stalked for open spaces.

So what am I doing driving around the front area like a space is going to magically appear in front of me? I have no idea. Wishful thinking, I guess.

I turn into the next aisle of slots. They’re all full, of course; I’m just going to park in the back and hoof it to the doorway. As soon as this lady walking through the middle of the aisle moves.

Oh, no; she’s waving at me, walking toward my car. Is she trying to tell me there’s an open space somewhere? No; I don’t understand what she’s trying to do. And I don’t really want to roll my window down. But she’s headed straight for my car door. Guess I have no choice.

“Don’t worry, I won’t bite,” she says. Guess my face is displaying a weirded out expression to match my brain. Now she’s talking really fast — something about being on this side of town but needing to get home to the north side of town, and walking five miles to the mall. I live on the north side of town. Is she asking for a ride? But I don’t know if I can do that. Is that bad of me? And why did she walk this way? This is west, not north. This is confusing.

“… and I’ve been asking everybody and no one will give me anything but do you have $20 for a bus pass? Please?”

$20? For the bus? Does it really take $20 on the bus to get from one side of town to the other? This story sounds awfully suspicious. But maybe that’s just me. What does that say about me, then? I’m supposed to give people the benefit of the doubt, right? We talk about this at church all the time. So why am I so distrustful of someone who might actually be in need? I mean, what would Jesus do? Did I really just ask myself WWJD?

Crap. I have to do something. I don’t think i could face myself otherwise. I may not know if I really believe her, or even if I should, but hey — I’d rather go without a few bucks for someone who doesn’t need it than without a peaceful soul for someone I know definitely needs it (namely, me). I reach for my wallet. I know I have at least $5 leftover from the weekend.

“I don’t have $20, but I do have $5.” I pull out and hand it to her.

“Oh, thank you! Thank you!” she says as she backs away. I roll up my window and drive on, clearing through the fog in my mind. Was that some kind of test? Did I pass? Does it matter?

I finally parking another aisle or two over. I can see her as I get ready to leave my car, at another driver’s window closer to the mall entrance. Oh well. Good luck to her. I guess it really doesn’t matter after all. I gave at least a little toward what I believe, and I got to keep at least a little of my peace as a result. I’m gonna call it a win for everybody.

Such Is Francesca’s Life

As a young girl, Francesca was at home pretty much all the time. She would sit at home and read — she loved to read. But she also loved to go out and do stuff with people, as energetic teenage girls are wont to do. However, despite her energy, Francesca wasn’t the most socially adept of girls, so she spent most of her time in her room, stretched out on her bed, listening to music or reading, and wishing she had somewhere to go.

As an adult, Francesca was a different story. She was rarely at home. Having finally mastered the art of networking and social activities, she often spent most of her time out at gatherings and events. She enjoyed them and was committed to the relationships she had developed, but at the same time she missed the good old days of quiet evenings with some new music and a good book. She sometimes wished she could stay home and read all these wonderful books she’d collected and listen to this excellent music she’d heard about, but not yet actually heard.

Such is the life of the child and the adult.

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