(Second Place Finisher in CFW Event #15)
Rissa watched the stream trickle to nothing more than a thin thread of water meandering over the rocks. Then a little further down it disappeared altogether. As she walked on, she found herself entering a desert, stretching out endlessly in a sun-beaten, desiccated expanse of sand. Heat-lines rose up like a mirage in the distance where the sand met the sky.
She continued walking, growing weaker. Drops of perspiration dripped down her face like tears, maybe some were. The heat sucked the life out of her as if she were in the depths of an inferno, being burned alive. Her lungs burned, her breath came in painful, rasping inhalations. The muscles in her legs screamed out in pain.
She found her feet climbing a towering dune now. She stumbled, picked herself up, fell again. She sat on the side of the dune ready to die. She glanced back at the way she’d come and studied the terrain of her soul, the timeline of her life mapped out before her in raw, savage reality.
She saw the young, green virgin forest in the distance, barely visible now. The river flowing down into the verdant valley, keeping company with the wildflowers. The rapids caged in by rocks, the waterfall that plunged into the stream. The grass turned into overgrown weeds and thistles, brown and dying. The stream kept on until it came to the edge of the desert and then it was gone. The desert stretched out infinitely, spotted with cactus. Then even they were gone. There was the fissure that marred the surface of the hard-packed sand with its black depths of brokenness. Finally there was the dune upon which she sat.
She forced herself to stand and continue on. She must reach the other side.
She crested the dune and then…more desert.
Her heart shattered and sank within her.
She half walked, half stumbled to the bottom and fell on her knees upon the unyielding sand.
She could go no further. She had no strength left.
The rocky terrain and the desert of her soul had drained the life out of her until there was nothing left. The pain, the loss, the failures, the strain—it was too much.
She fell on her face and cried out in agony.
Her voice echoing in the barrenness, coming back to her empty.
Dear God, she cried, Help me! I can’t go on. I need you. I can’t do this on my own. Come into this desert and save me, Lord, please!
Her tears fell in moist circlets on the sand. She didn’t notice the cool breeze blowing in from the north until a crack of thunder broke the silence. She glanced up at the great, gray billows in the sky and felt the first drops of rain fall on the parched skin of her face. Joy bubbled up like a well within her as she watched the water flood the dry places of her soul like a river of grace.
© Whitney L. Schwartz