One Moment in Time
In the darkness, Abel heard a sound. It was high and sharp. Not a scream. Not a shot. Abel moved swiftly but silently. Again, the sound rang out. It was close to the road. It was close to the cliff’s edge.
Leaves rustled under Abel’s feet. A twig cracked. Those were the only sounds in the night now. Abel brushed small branches away from his face and moved forward. Would he be in time? He could not go more quickly. The noise would give him away. Surprise was everything now.
The sound came again, but now Abel could see its cause. He saw a dark figure raise its arm. The arm held a rock. Down it came. The sound was sharp, like metal. It was metal.
It was him! It was the convict. He must be trying to break a chain.
In town, they said he was dangerous. He had escaped that afternoon. And he stood between Abel and the cabin. Abel had to get past him. Abel’s mother was in the cabin with his small brother. They were alone. His father was away. Abel had to get to them before the convict found them.
But the convict stood on the path. On one side of him rose the steep hill. On the other side, the cliff fell off to the sea. There was no way past him. Abel’s heart pounded in his chest. The man had not heard him. Abel could rush him. He could surprise the convict, catch him off balance. And the convict would fall to the rocks and sea below. It would mean sure death. It would mean safety for Abel’s mother.
It would also mean that Abel was a killer.
Abel’s family did not believe in killing. Ever. They did not go to war. They did not fight. All his life, Abel had believed it was wrong to kill. But now . . .
The muscles in Abel’s legs trembled. He moved forward. He must think about his mother. About his young brother. About their safety. He must find a way to do this thing.
Suddenly, the dark figure cried out. “Thou art a fool, John Williams! Thou cannot mend a horseshoe with a rock!”
It was his father’s voice. The dark figure was not the escaped convict. It was his father. His father had come home. Abel leaned against the steep hill. Tears came into his eyes. A loud sob broke from his throat.
It was his father. The man he had almost killed.
copyright 2002 by Helen Tracy
Story information and discussion questions