Parting the Clouds

Submitted into Contest #124 in response to: Set your story in a labyrinth that holds a secret.... view prompt

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Contemporary Fiction Drama

     Each step forward in the dark forest brought Joe Stinson face to face with another mysterious turn. He had driven around the entire afternoon trying to uncover the path to the ramshackle “mansion” that he thought would form the foundation of his future retreat on the Eastern Shore.

      Joe’s afternoon adventure, however, quickly caused a confrontation more complicated than the twists and turns of his own troubled personality.  For six months he had fought off the effects of the post-Vietnam PTSD that nearly had caused him to off what remained of his hitherto worthless life.

     Harry Spontaine, one of those rare VA psychiatrists who actually gave a damn, had convinced Joe to join the new construction rehabilitation program he had organized to give veterans fighting off the mental darkness that seemed to envelop many of them a creativity outlet aimed at dragging them back from the brink.

     “Normally we make sight selection a team effort,” Harry had told Joe, “but I figured your demons required you to deal with them as a solo before I brought in the rest of your crew. Also, I believe taking the lead on this would give you a good shot of rediscovering the leadership chops that had made you one of the top patrol commanders in Nam before you hit your mental minefield.”

     Joe wanted to prove that Harry’s trust in him had not  been misplaced and he needed to prove to himself that he could pull back the dark curtain that had dominated his life since returning stateside.  He knew that, buried deep within the twists and turns of his overly-convoluted mind, and probably within this dark forest, he would find the key that would help him map out the destiny he so richly deserved.

     As he began to drive further along the pitch black road on this cloudy summer afternoon, the vista began to open up to an area with the potential for a future home site.  

     In fact, just as Joe rounded the next curve he spotted what looked like a burned out foundation and the remains of a circular driveway. It would take a helluva lot of work, creativity and expertise to make something outta this “pig-in-a poke.”

     Joe had faith he could make it work, however, because he had sharpened his design and construction skills to a fine point while working his ass off in the classes Harry and his volunteer HGTV coaches had conducted the last few months.

      So Joe drove forward, ready to begin his first-ever home building project and the first step out of the mental and physical darkness that surrounded him.

      Stopping his car in what remained of the driveway, the newly-minted “renovation pro” began surveying the area. It would take an almost Herculean effort, he thought, to tear down the partially-collapsed walls cemented on all four sides of the building that once had stood as someone’s retreat in the Eastern Shore resort.

      “No time like the present,” Joe thought as he ripped the sledgehammer from the back of his pickup and prepared to tear into the walls and tear apart the mental barriers that too long had stood in the way of his much brighter future.

      As he approached the first wall and took his most powerful swing, however, something held him back. From behind what was left of the wall a large gray plume of smoke emerged and blinded Joe.

      A voice rang out from the strange smoke cloud, “You  really didn’t think this victory would come about without paying a price, did you Joe?  See, I have observed every move you have made since those days in Nam and I have controlled much of what has happened to you.  This new life of yours cannot move forward until you sign a contract with me exchanging the future of your soul in eternity for reaching the success in the present for which you have worked so hard.”

    “Have you orchestrated the dark torment that has imprisoned my mind all these years just so you could take me over?” Joe said. “I don’t believe you Satan. I have done all the hard work on my transformation on my own and I don’t need you to stand in my way.”

     Just as Joe began to take the next swing of his sledgehammer a bolt of lightning came down and knocked the hammer out of his hand. He fell backward and hit his head on the edge of the partially-collapsed wall.

     After what seemed like an eternity in what almost seemed like a coma to him,  Joe awakened to once again stare Satan in the face.

     “Face it man, you can’t win,” the demon growled. “My dark magic is far more powerful than your meager human will.”

     “I still refuse to give in,’’ Joe shot back. “I haven’t worked so hard to battle my mental darkness in this life only to sign away my soul to be plunged into your god-damned darkness for all of eternity.”

     Joe had just about gotten back on his feet when a bright and blinding light overtook what remained of the wall and covered the entire rundown building foundation.

    A noisy battle ensued between an angel that flew out from the light and the dark forces of Satan.  Before long, the demon’s forces vanished and the bright light continued to shine on a partially-completed new wall of a new resort mansion.

     “Keep working,” the angel told Joe, “you no longer will have any trouble from Satan. Now that you have seen the light and worked on the behalf of the light, you will get the life back that the demon’s forces took from you so many years ago.”

      As he went back to demolishing the old mansion and building the new one, Joe turned around to see two truckloads of his fellow classmates in Harry’s program pulling into the driveway. They unloaded their construction equipment in time to see several pieces of heavy equipment roaring up the road. For the next seven months Harry’s graduates put the finishing touches on the mansion as they carved the pathways to their futures.

December 12, 2021 15:06

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1 comment

Kevin Schenk
19:55 Dec 23, 2021

Wow, those are some demons indeed! Would have been nice to have more details of the battle, perhaps another time!


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