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Anyway, here’s my excerpt for the month. Another flash fiction story from FaithWriters Weekly Writing Challenge, entitled “Waiting Among the Dead.”
The once busy streets of the small village were eerily silent. The rain drowned out any sounds of what few people remained.
Lady Elinora de Montagu walked through the muddy streets, her wooden pattens sloshing through the thick mire. Mud coated the hem of her cloak and dark blue overdress. At one point in her life, such a sight would have bothered her greatly. But now, in a world beset by the pestilence, it mattered little.
Status mattered not with the plague; peasants and royalty alike succumbed to it. Her family had been no exception.
Death’s aroma followed her as she continued walking. Rotting flesh permeated every corner of the decimated town, but the smell became stronger as Elinora came upon the harvest land. Not long ago, it had been fields full of wheat; now, the land teemed with the dead.
Elinora averted her eyes from the fields. Tangled arms and legs limbs were exposed through the thin layer of soil that covered the mass graves. People died quicker than gravediggers could keep up with and because of that, the dead were often hastily buried by the cart load. She became lightheaded at the thought of her beloved husband and children being thrown haphazardly amidst hundreds of other bodies. Through hazy vision, Elinora focused on the stone church on the hill.
Please, let it be my place of refuge.
Utter exhaustion besieged her upon reaching the wooden doors of the church. She entered her haven, immediately confronted by the darkness within. No one was here to keep the candles lit—the priest had been one of the first to die from the pestilence. Despair and loneliness enveloped her as the shadows did.
Elinora hesitantly approached the altar, staring up at the crucifix behind it. She knelt on the cold stone floor, clasping her hands in prayer. The silence was oppressive; beads of sweat developed on her forehead and neck as questions assailed her mind.
What am I to do now that I am alone? How do I survive? Only God had the answers. All she could do was beseech Him in prayer.
“Pater noster, qui es in caelis…sanctificetur Nomen Tuum…” her voice shook with emotion as she uttered the Lord’s Prayer—waiting, searching, hoping for answers.
Instead, fragmented thoughts of the past weeks rushed through her mind.
Mama, please make the pain go away…it hurts so much…
Screams of a child in agony. Black splotches of putrid flesh covering her little girl’s body. Desperate prayers to ease her pain. Darling Isabell, her firstborn—and first to die.
“Noooo…” she moaned as she covered her ears, trying to drown out the sounds in her mind. She struggled to say the rest of her prayer. “Adveniat Regnum Tuum; fiat voluntas Tua, sicut in caelo, et in terra…”
But more images flooded her brain, overwhelming her soul.
I’ll be all right Mama…
Beloved Olyver, her only son. Trying to be strong through coughing a fountain of blood. A pale little body covered in black boils going limp in her arms. Another one taken by the pestilence.
Elinora bent forward, pain coursing through her body with each passing memory. “Why must I suffer so?” she cried out. “Why?”
We will fight this cursed disease, my Elinora!
Her husband Reginald. So strong and determined. But the dreaded blood-filled boils covered his body as well.
Bedside vigils, fasting and prayer, failed efforts to relieve his pain. Each day his suffering growing worse, with no relief.
Let me die…let me die…
He’d lived longer than most struck with the pestilence. But God had answered his prayer, ending his misery after a hellish seven days.
Elinora cried out in anguish, lifting her hands towards the heavens. “Why will you not hear my voice, O Lord? Why will you not end this torture?” Weeks of anger raged forth. “Have you abandoned me? Is it only this statue who hears my cries? Answer me!” Her sobs echoed throughout the church. “Please…answer me…” She collapsed to the floor, holding her face in her hands.
She didn’t know how long she lay there on the floor. Minutes, hours, days–it all seemed the same to her. She was still alone.
She lifted her head at the sound of her name. But no one was there.
Again, images of her family flashed in her mind. But instead of the suffering she had seen before, it was a picture of pure joy. Isabell and Olyver danced, their laughter a welcoming sound. Reginald laughed as well, his deep green eyes clear of pain. They were happier than she had ever seen them before.
The voice came to her again, calming her tortured soul.
Be faithful, my daughter.
In that brief moment, she felt herself standing in the presence of God. For a moment, the interior of the church seemed brighter, the air around her lighter. Overwhelmed by the indescribable happiness around her, she cried tears of joy.
God hath heard my cries…
As suddenly as mysterious vision and presence came, it vanished. The chapel became dark again, the smell of the dead assulting her nose.
Elinora’s chest constricted. She coughed violently, doubled over in pain. A splotch of blood appearing on the stone floor before her. The pain in her joints returned and a wave of nausea came over her, stronger than before.
Signs of the pestilence.
Her heart raced with the realization of the pain that would soon take over her body. Would her death come quickly or would it be a slow end?
She remembered the brief moments earlier when she’d felt peace and reassurance. The pestilance was His answer to all her questions.
Though she was afraid, the promise of what awaited her was balm to her soul. Through His mercy, she would soon be free from suffering forever.
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