General Fiction posted August 1, 2010

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When Life Throws a Curve.....

Pathway to Forever

by Begin Again

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A baby cries ... his proud, happy parents smile blissfully at their newborn child. At that moment, everyone believes life is beautiful, but like the long stemmed rose, in time, the thorns prick their spirit and blood flows from the wound. The road we travel through life is filled with unexpected pitfalls; twists and turns clouding, and sometimes changing, our lives forever. Tonight, in a small rural town, a young man discovers the dark side of forever and always.

Whipton is nestled in the lush rolling hills of Illinois, not far from the Mississippi River. It is one of those non-descript towns that by the time you realize you are entering a speed zone you probably are already leaving the city limits. If you're lucky, the local law enforcement is sitting behind a desk with his feet propped up, enjoying a cup of coffee, watching the latest episode of Law & Order. Otherwise you are sure to find him hunkered down in his cruiser, waiting for you and your heavy foot to enter his town.

Mayor Tom G. Creighton's great granddad, Luther Creighton and a handful of founding fathers built the town in the late 1800's. As the story goes, Luther and his new bride, Megan received the deed to 75 acres of undeveloped land as a wedding present. They both had tired of the hustle and bustle of big city life in Chicago and without any hesitation; they packed up their belongings and went in search of their new home. Immediately, Luther and Megan fell in love with the beautiful surroundings and decided to build a bed and breakfast. They were positive that their friends would want to visit and relax in their newfound home. Visit they did, and some even decided to stay and build their own homes; thus the founding of Whipton, Illinois.

Whipton hasn't changed a great deal since those booming years. On a summer day if you drive through town square, you would see a few old retirees gathered outside the barbershop, a young girl selling flowers outside of Carla's cafe, and the sign in the American Legion Hall promoting the Friday Night Fish Fry. Small homes boasting colorful flower boxes and white picket fences line the streets. The people tending to their flourishing small town businesses still have time for a "good morning" and a friendly smile. Whipton's cemetery sits on the outskirts of town. Generation after generation of families are buried there. All the gravesites are neatly manicured and flowers are respectfully placed in honor of loved ones.

Tonight, everyone is snuggled up on their couches watching television and nibbling on handfuls of buttered popcorn. The little children are nestled against mom, trying to forget about the storm raging outside their windows. Bolts of lightning flash across the sky, followed by loud, booming thunder that shakes every windowpane in town. It's one of those nights when no one wants to be out on the streets. No one except James Cascio.

James is a young guy in his early twenties, medium length brown hair, average build and a nice smile. He works with his mom at their family-owned cafe, but he dreams of bigger and better things. After putting long hours in at the cafe, serving coffee and fried chicken dinners to the locals, he still finds time to hang out with his friends or carry groceries for old Mrs. Taylor. When asked by any of the town locals, their first description of him would definitely include quiet, shy and a stay-at-home type of guy. He has a heart of gold and a romantic streak a mile wide. He is definitely a mixed bag of characteristics. You might find him and his friends gathered around the television, screaming unspeakable words of encouragement as their favorite wrestlers land crushing blows to their opponents. On the other hand, you could just as easily find him writing touching poems about life and love or spine tingling horror screenplays that send chills through the bravest critics. Tonight, a storm is raging within James, driving him in search of answers.

The black Chevy Blazer moves through the town, barely stopping for the stop signs. The rain batters the windshield, but James is oblivious to it. The car lurches around the corners, bouncing off the curbs like a roller coaster at the county fair. His white knuckles grip the steering wheel. Nearing the edge of town, he angrily whips the steering wheel to the right, coming to a screeching halt at the cemetery gates.

Slamming the car into park, he turns the key off and throws open the door. The beams of the headlights vaguely light the tombstones before clicking off. James, engulfed in darkness, stands in the torrents of rain. Returning to the car, he retrieves something from the seat, sliding it into his jacket, carefully protecting it from the rain. He hesitates as if momentarily forgetting his mission. The pouring rain, the huge oak trees standing guard over the graves, and the howling wind resemble a scene from one of his latest horror stories. Pausing, he tugs at his jacket, attempting to keep his precious cargo safe from the blowing rain.

Approaching the cemetery gates, he fiercely yanks on the gates fully expecting them to swing open. Realization sets in as the heavy chain and lock clank against the metal gates; the cemetery is closed. Refusing to be deterred from his mission, he scales the cemetery wall. Swinging his leg over the top of the wall, he loses his balance and rolls across the rain soaked grass. Swearing under his breath at his mud-stained jeans, he staggers to his feet and begins to stumble through the dark cemetery. His eyes dart back and forth, straining to read the names carved on the headstones.

A bolt of lightning crackles through the air, making the shadowy lettering easier to read. Finding the one he has been searching for, he drops to his knees at the gravesite. Unaware of the tears streaming down his face, he removes the book from inside his jacket and violently throws it on the ground. Another bolt of lightening flashes through the sky, exposing the book's title as if blazoned in fire. His coveted trophy is the Holy Bible.

Shaking violently, gasping for air, his heart-wrenching sobs fill the air. Reaching into his jacket pocket, he finds a book of matches and strikes one, setting the biblical pages on fire. The flickering flames sputter as if outraged that James had done the unspeakable.

Suddenly, the fire rekindles, proving it has a life of its own. Kneeling at the gravesite, James raises his face towards the sky, screaming to be heard over the thunder, "Is this what you want? Is it?"

Struggling to get to his feet, the anger boils over as he shakes his fists at the sky, screaming once again, "Come on, God, all powerful and mighty Lord of Saviors, answer me, damn it!"

Dropping to the ground, he loses all control. His breath comes in raspy gulps. He wipes his face against the sleeve of his jacket, but the agony he feels is too powerful to be brushed away so easily. Unstoppable tears stream down his mud streaked face as if floodgates have suddenly opened. Looking toward the sky, oblivious to the pelting rain, his torturous voice cries out. "Why...why are you doing this to me?"

Pounding the ground furiously, unaware of his bleeding knuckles, James struggles to regain his composure. Whimpering tones replace the violent screams as he pleads "Please God ... just answer me ... tell me where it all went wrong."

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