This story is by Joanie Clay and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The sky is falling. Sheets of water pour from the heavens, and screams erupt as people scramble for safety from torrents bursting through rock. My chest burns as I run, fighting for higher ground. Everyone pushes toward the same destination.
“The door is closed!” I yell.
“We’ll pry it open!” Asher yells back.
The old man isn’t crazy after all. He tried to warn us. Why didn’t we listen?
My sandals slip on wet stones as I climb, desperately searching for a grip. Stumbling, my brother clutches and steadies me from sliding down the rugged slope.
An old woman falls beside me with a sickening thud. Holding to a small branch growing out of the ground, she cries in pain. “Help—please!”
“Leave her!” He shouts.
“Asher, we can’t!”
I hesitate before turning to offer my hand. Fear glistens in her eyes.
Behind her, a massive surge rips across the landscape, rushing toward us. Tearing my hand away, I leave her weeping and plunge forward to reach the giant wooden structure. Enormous boat walls tower over the pleading mob.
Panic rises at the sight of the sealed door. Pounding fists swarm every side. “Noah, Let us in!”
Asher claws the ark looking for loose boards. Terror covers his face as he glances back, and I brace for impact.
Brutal waves wash over my head as the roaring flood swallows the earth. Limbs flail as hands grasp for hold through the violent swell.
Which way is up!
Thrashing, I try to find the surface. Strong arms push my head down and clamber on top of me. Insides bursting, I feel like I’ll explode until finally taking a breath. Gasping for air, I choke, and a suffocating heaviness rests over me.
Cold liquid fills me as I sink. Slow and still, I surrender to a watery grave.
Awake, I see my body floating among broken debris under murky water.
Am I dead? My senses feel sharp and strong—more alive than before.
Adjusting to the unusual sensation, I glimpse around. Bodies drift beneath the surface in every direction. Others lay mangled, caught, and smashed in underwater rubble—hair and extremities the only movement from the gentle rocking of settling waves. Devastation beyond imagination engulfs the scene. Scanning the sunken terrain, I hunt for my brother.
Empty eyes stare back. Stunned and shattered, grief explodes inside me.
I’ve lost my best friend.
I can hear a multitude of chaotic thoughts from the shock and confusion of lost souls. Where am I? Where is everybody? An uneasiness creeps over me.
Thick and tangible darkness surrounds me. Invisible talons come alive and gash my skin before grabbing me. Desperate to break free, I struggle against the unseen force, but it pulls me deeper. We move below sea-level and through rock before falling to the belly of the earth. Repulsive smells of sulfur and brimstone penetrate the air. Crushing heat turns scorching as we descend faster, and I join the chorus of those crying out for relief. The screeching and wailing of fear and torment feed the cackle and growl of demons.
Can anyone save me!
Gnashing my teeth against a blazing and unquenchable inferno, I yearn for a drop of water to cool my tongue. Worms and maggots eat flesh that won’t die—an eternal death. Torture presses from every side as depraved demons inflict harm.
What is this cursed place!
Preachers who defied the God of Noah in life now deliver a message of perpetual separation from God.
“The wage of sin is death! The wicked go down to the realm of the dead, all the nations that forget God!”
The collective groans of horror and agony overwhelm me. Too much to bear—it’s a fate worse than death.
How long is eternity? Time and hope don’t exist here, but centuries spent in endless suffering and despair feel everlasting.
I see the reflection of permanent anguish on every face. Not able to communicate, I can still see and hear the sorrow of each one—including my beloved brother.
Surrounded by so many, yet so alone.
Simmering in hopelessness, I almost don’t notice the trembling. In a moment, the deep cavern thunders and rolls, and a fresh terror fills the abyss.
What new hell awaits us!
The void cracks wide, and a piercing light slices through the dark. The radiance would be blinding if I had eyes of flesh, but the beauty of its majesty draws me. One like the Son of God appears, and a crescendo of shrieking demons sound.
“Have you come to torment us! It’s not our time!”
They continue spewing words, but the radiant one commands, “Go!”
With one word, the power of His might hurls the evil spawn backward and casts them into a vacuum of nothingness.
Only seeing the shade of death for ages, the brilliance of colors flowing from Him breathes life into every corner. Reaching toward His light, I fall before Him, my face to the ground.
“I’ve come to heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and open the prison to those who are bound!”
Sounds of breaking chains echo through the void, and every voice shouts praises and thanksgiving. He’s come to save us! Thank you, Lord! What a mighty Savior!
Suddenly realizing we can talk to each other, families laugh and embrace for the first time since before that terrible day. Asher races towards me, smile beaming, and wraps his arms around me, tears of joys streaming both our faces.
For three days, Jesus speaks of love, grace, and the plan of redemption. Listening, my heart burns within me. His words hold a fire more penetrating than those of hell.
“When God created Adam, He gave him dominion over the earth. He put every fruit tree in the garden, including the tree of life, and said they could eat any except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The serpent tempted the woman to persuade Adam, and because of Adam’s sin, the serpent stole his dominion and became the god of this world. I came to take back the keys of death and hell, and am the only way, truth, and life, and no man comes to the Father but by Me.”
Remorse washes over me. Why did they take from a tree that brought death when they were free to choose the tree of life? Why were we so foolish to do the same?
With discerning eyes full of compassion, He turns to me. Without my saying a word, He knows the question of my heart. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. By one man’s disobedience, many were made sinners, and by one Man’s obedience, many will be made righteous.”
He tells about Noah and the sign of his promise—the rainbow—the colors surrounding Jesus.
“Instead of the floodwaters of rebellion that brought death, I give you living water that brings life. No longer sons of disobedience or slaves to sin, you are now children of the Most High, and today you will meet Him in heaven.”
He came from death to life, to bring us from death to life.
Asher takes and squeezes my hand. “We’re free.”