“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” Mark Twain

Friday Fiction: "The Pain of Gain"

Welcome to my contribution to Friday Fiction at Patterings. This story was written for the writing challenge about a year ago, and was truly unlike anything I had written before, or since. It is pretty dark, and probably disturbing--but I still think it is one of the best challenge entries I have written (even though it didn't make the EC LOL). I hope this makes you think, praise God for what you have, and pray for people in situations just like this (and there are more, I'm sure, than you could ever imagine). OH - and don't forget to check out Patterings for more wonderful fiction (and post your own if you have some you'd like to share!
The Pain of Gain

Zipporah, lying on the stone floor, opened her swollen eyes a slit. The room was unfamiliar, yet quite similar to the one she'd been dragged from right before she lost consciousness. She had no idea how long she had been out, nor when she'd entered this room. All she knew was it was daytime when she slipped away, and now it was night.

Looking up, she noticed a tile missing in the ceiling above her. The moon, a day or two from full, shone through it, giving the drab surroundings a ghoulish glow. She could see no other possible light source. But for that opening, the room would be pitch black.

Zipporah smiled at the light, reopening the scabbed-over gashes on the side of her face. She could feel blood dripping from her cheeks, but made no effort to stop its flow. Her arms felt like gelatin beside her. She did, however, mute her countenance a bit, impeding the further opening of her facial wounds.

Her grin changed to a grimace as she felt the tearing of flesh on her thighs. Shifting her eyes, she saw a guard cackling, a whip dripping with blood in his hand.

"Wiped that smile off your face, didn't I?" The guard's grin was eerily joyous, like a man who'd just received a promotion, or a bride on her wedding day. Zipporah's stomach turned and she closed her eyes.
How can a man derive such pleasure from my pain?

Willing herself to relax, she slowed her breathing and focused on her blessings. The glow of the moon. Happiness in her heart. The promise of paradise. The privilege of suffering for Him who gave up everything for her.

As she meditated, an image from God permeated her being. It began at the top of her head and coursed through her body until it was flowing through her very lifeblood.
Forever like the moon, the faithful witness in the sky.*

Opening her eyes again, she gazed up to bask in the ethereal glow. The corners of her mouth turned slowly upward and her body loosened.

"Get up." The guard's words rolled off his tongue like cream. He smirked, his eyes dancing.

Slowly and methodically, Zipporah rolled onto her left side and pushed herself to a sitting position, ever cognizant of the whip in her captor's hands. Every time she groaned or strained, his smile grew wider and his laugh deeper, until he was roaring with glee.
Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.*
"So, where is your Jesus now?"

Zipporah examined her captor's face, contemplating whether he expected an answer. Deciding the question was rhetorical, she smiled. He scowled, glaring at her peaceful countenance.

He lifted the whip above his head again, bringing it down with a snap, inches from Zipporah's feet. He chuckled as she flinched.

"Missed you by this much."

Breathing in deeply, she lifted her head and gazed up at the moon. The smile returned to her face.

"What - do you think you're going to escape out that hole in the ceiling?" He chuckled. "You can barely sit up, much less stand. Or is your Jesus going to charge in through there and save you? I have the power here, not Him."
You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.*
"You may not believe it, but you are going to die here, lady. Your death will be miserable and painful, and I am going to enjoy every moment of it."
"For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.*"

The pleasure in his eyes turned to hatred in an instant.

Zipporah focused her remaining strength on keeping the corners of her mouth turned up. As the whip tore at her flesh again and again, her body slumped to the ground. She slipped into the arms of her Savior with a smile, her ears echoing with the maniacal laughter of her captor.

And the moon shined red.


All scripture references, listed in order, are from the NIV
Psalm 89.37
Luke 6:25
John 19:11
Philippians 1:21


  1. Ouch and WOW! This still gives me shivers when I read it. It's certainly one of your most powerful pieces, really packed with emotion, detail and the rich descriptions of a character that is an example of something I need to be reminded of, at times. Great stuff! ^_^

  2. Wow, Joanne! This is a very powerful piece. We really do have it good, don't we. I can't even imagine what others go through, for what we pretty much take for granted. Very good, but chilling, story here. Thanks for sharing.

  3. This is riveting writing, Joanne. It's funny, the darkest one I wrote was so far away from me and one of the best received. Who knew? The detail here is like a movie reel through my head. Amazing.


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