Thursday, September 18, 2014


It was the perfect Spring morning and Rose was working in her garden. Though hesitant to embrace early retirement, she’d grown to love the serenity it offered. A gentle breeze caressed her face and the golden sun beamed its welcome to her as she pruned the bushes aligning the fence, taking care not to tarnish the delicate pink blooms. Macy was chasing after a Monarch in the yard, the orange tabby pouncing at anything that moved, and looked to be having the time of her life.
Rose stood back to admire her work, when a splint of silver caught her attention. She knelt down, dusting the fertilizer aside and unearthed a doorknob, realizing there was an old wooden door planted in the mist of her roses.
 ‘Is that light coming from the keyhole?’
Rose couldn’t see anything distinctive inside, but what she heard almost made her heart stop.
It was the voice of a crying child.
Coming from behind the door.
Rose clawed at the soft earth, desperate to aid the poor soul buried in her backyard. She didn’t think twice about slipping inside once she got the door open and found herself at the top of a short narrow staircase. It didn’t matter that she was a 47-year-old woman, alone, bolting off into the unfamiliar.
Someone needed her.
Rose hurried along and ended up in a dim hallway, tripping over something on the floor. She picked it up, turning it over in her hands. It was a pair of swim bottoms tangled in a bath towel with her name on it. She dropped the bundle and stood slowly, her eyes meeting the gaze of the framed solemn faces of her brothers and sisters along the wall.
An eerie sense of nostalgia loomed as Rose realized that she was standing in her grandmother’s house, the place her family lived after granny passed away because they were evicted from their home in the city. And the whimpering voice she heard was her own. It took everything in her to muster up enough courage to open the door of her old bedroom, but it wasn’t where she was that sent chills down her spine.
It was when.
Rose stood frozen in the doorway, the familiar feeling of remorse washing over her at the sight of her childhood belongings. It had to be the year she’d be starting eighth grade, because her walls were still painted that awful shade of lime with sample swatches piled all over her nightstand. The bedroom light was off, but the closet offered a manageable view of 14 year-old Rosie laying in the fetal position on the bed.
She stirred and locked eyes onto present day Rose.
“Are you an angel?”
Seeing no reason to frighten the girl, Rose said, “Yes, Rosie. I’m an angel.”
Pain was apparent on her tear-drenched face as Rosie tried to console herself, but it was of no use. Her sobs overwhelmed her once more and she buried her eyes into the pillow, clenching onto it for dear life. Rose swallowed hard and took a step inside the room.
“What, uh… day is it?”
When she didn’t get a response, she eased over to the foot of the bed, sat down and put a gentle hand of the girl’s arm.
“Please, sweetie, I need to know.”
Rosie rolled onto her back and a long trembling breath blew from her lips.
“Labor Day.”
Rose resisted the urge to throw up. She had returned to the day that destroyed her innocence some thirty-four years ago.
“Why?” Rosie said, staring at the ceiling.
“Why what?”
“Why didn’t you do anything? You saw what just happened, why didn’t you save me?!”
Rose felt her breath get caught in her chest. “I—“
“HE RAPED ME!” Rosie screamed, slamming her hands into the mattress. “He pinned me to the floor, ripped off my clothes and… you didn’t do anything about it. What kind of guardian are you?”
“I’m not your guardian,” The gears in Rose’s mind cranked. “I’m the voice of faith. My name is Hope.”
Rose reached out to stroke the girl’s hand, but Rosie snatched it away. She closed her eyes, praying for the right words to say.
“I couldn’t stop him.” Rosie whispered. “I tried to fight, but he was too strong. Once he was inside, I couldn’t even scream.” She gripped the comforter until her hands hurt. “He was my friend, how could he do this to me?”
Tears streamed from the corners of her eyes, running down her face to her ears and disappearing into her hair.
“Who will want me now?”
Rose kneeled down beside her on the floor, her eyes welling up for her younger self.
“Rosie,” She took a deep breath and spoke firmly. “Listen to me now. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. No matter what happens to you, no matter what you think of yourself, God has made you entirely perfect. You were created in HIS image, and no man, woman, no one can take that away from you. You’re still precious, still lovely, and still worth dying for.”
“I, I feel disgusting.” Rosie whimpered. “Like I’ll never be clean again. I can’t trust anyone, ever.”
“I’m going to share something with you, but you have to promise not to tell anyone.” Rose winked. “I could get into real trouble upstairs, if you know what I mean.”
Rosie lay silent for a moment.
“I can keep a secret.”
Rose smiled. “I’m going to tell you about the future. Your future.”
Rosie turned her head to face her angel, eyes wide. She nodded and Rose began.
“After tonight, you’ll become a hermit. You’ll stick to yourself throughout high school, and eventually become a social outcast, that is until you go to college.”
“Community college. You won’t have the confidence to try out a four-year university. Then, you’ll start working for an insurance company and stay there for ten years until you meet an editor who will help you launch a career in public speaking on financial topics around the country. You’ll make a lot of money and retire early. You’ll never marry and have no children.”
“So it’s true.” Rosie frowned. “I’ll end up alone because nobody will have me.”
“No.” Rose shook her head. “You’ll end up alone because you convinced yourself that you weren’t worthy of love.”
Rosie began to sob again, covering her face with her hands. “It’s all my fault! I shouldn’t have let myself be alone with him.”
“You couldn’t have known this was going to happen. There was nothing you could do.”
“Why are you telling me this? What good is knowing my future if I’m just going to be an old cat lady one day?”
Rose chuckled. “Funny you say that.”
“There is a cat, isn’t there? I knew it!”
“Sweetheart, there’s still hope.”
“But you just said—“
“You are more powerful than you think.” Rose peeled one hand away from Rosie’s face and held it. “You can grow in the knowledge that God loves you, and He has plans to prosper you in ways you can’t imagine. Somewhere out there, there’s a boy who God made just for you and you’ll experience God’s love in its deepest form through a beautiful marriage and the promise of a family. If that’s what you want. Or even if you decide not to get married, you life can be anything you want it to be. But it’s up to you.” Rose kissed her hand and stood.
“Where are you going?” Rosie propped herself on one side.
“I have to go back now, but I don’t want you to forget what I told you.” Rose made her way to the door.
“Wait!” Rosie scrambled to the edge of the bed and grasped Rose’s hand. “Will I ever see you again?”
Rose looked down at her, tears escaping down her cheeks. “You will. I love you.”
Her legs felt like lead, but somehow they carried Rose back down the hallway to the staircase, everything growing dark behind her. As she climbed, she began to sob. She had lived with this dark secret for over thirty years, never telling another soul. Rose used to have so many dreams, but she let them all die because she thought she didn’t deserve them, didn’t deserve to be happy. In that moment, she realized how she had let it consume her. Approaching the light of day shining into the tunnel from her garden, she resolved to make a change and start living fully and freely. She would take back control over her life.

“There you are, Rosie, I was looking for you.”
A handsome, tall man in jeans and a t-shirt came strutting from around the house and wrapped her in his arms.
“Beth just called. They say they’re on the way to the hospital now. Time to meet Baby Luke!” He brushed his lips against hers, kissing her deeply. “You’re finally a grandmother.”
Rose stumbled back and whipped her eyes to the plot beneath her feet. The soil lay undisturbed, every flower in its proper place and not a door in sight. She looked up at the man before her, heat rising to her cheeks.
“Daniel?” She whispered.
“Yes, love?”
Somehow, Rose knew his name. She knew he was her husband and they had had five kids together. Three girls and two boys. She knew they had been married for twenty years and she worked from home as a freelance writer. Everything over the last thirty years washed over her and her legs gave out.
“Honey!” Daniel reached out and caught her. “Are you okay?”
‘She did it.’ Rose thought.
‘She, I mean I, no we. We did it.’
‘We changed the future.’

Monday, September 8, 2014



    "Tell me where they're hiding it!" Jackal 20 slapped the prisoner across her face, the force knocking her onto the ground.

Nia bent down and translated the command in French to the young woman who lay motionless on the floor. When the prisoner didn't respond, Jackal 20 grabbed a handful of her hair, once gleaming coils now stained with blood, and dragged her to the other side of the chamber. He slammed her against the wall.
    "Tell me, pig!"
Nia gave the demand, keeping her eyes lowered. She tried to reason with the prisoner.
    "Please, Imani. Why won't you speak? Aren't you tired of suffering?"

Imani turned her face away, struggling to remain conscious. Jackal 20 was relentless. He kicked her several times in the stomach, lifting her up just to strike her back down again. She screamed out in agony.

    "Tell her if she doesn't tell me where the light of King Totem  is, I will break every bone in her body!"

Nia bent to examine the extent of the damage.

    "You've broken four of her ribs. If you keep this up, she won't live to tell you anything."

    "Then you better get her to talk, or she'll end up in a pit like the rest of them."

Jackal 20 stormed out of the chamber, locking the women inside. Nia carefully lifted the girl's shirt, trying to better asses her condition as tears streamed down her face.

    "Are you a doctor?" Imani moaned.

    "Yes. I was captured in a raid one year ago." Nia cringed. "They beat me often and feed me once every few days. The only reason I'm alive is to care for their wounded and translate their demands."

    "How do you know their language?"

    "My father was once a child forced into the Jackal militia, and he taught me."

Imani tried to sit up, but the pain was too great.

    "I can't die here. I've got to get back to the light."

    "So it is real! The Jackals told me it is the key to overthrowing the entire country."

    "If the light is smothered, it means death to the Totem legacy."

Nia bit her lip.

    "Please, Imani. I don't want to see you get killed! Maybe if you just offer something, a clue, anything. I can try to convince them to set you free."

    "You know in your heart that if I confess I'm as good as dead." With great difficulty, Imani propped herself up on one side, staring at the interpreter. "What happened to you?"

Nia's eyes glazed over, as if she could see what she was describing.

    "The Jackals nearly killed the entire village. Every woman and female child was raped then strangled to death. The men were either shot or brutally murdered. The male children were turned into soldiers. I thought I would die along side my family, but when I begged for mercy in their language and they saw my medical equipment, my life was spared. I wish to God I was dead."

Imani put a hand over Nia's trembling one.

    "What if I told you the light could mean the end of our pain and doom for the Jackals?"

    "How? The only thing strong enough would be a full scale army attack, but we have no king." Nia shook her head. "Everyone knows King Tunde Totem bared no children."

The look on Imani's face told her differently.

    "There is an heir? Then that must mean..."

    "The light will bring an end to darkness and lead the people to victory."

The cell gate swung open and in walked Jackal 20 followed by two other men. The were holding guns.

    "Tell me what she said." He glared at the doctor. "Now!"

Nia looked down at Imani, then slowly back up at the men.

    "No more." She laid down beside Imani, her arms outstretched. "I'll never tell."