All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
A Life Given in Vain
Grace rocked back and forth, scrubbing the liquid into the wood flooring of yet another house. Her fingers wrinkled like raisins and her back ached more and more each day. Her stomach felt tight and her throat burned. But not for long. Soon all of this would be over.
A child pattered across the clean floor. Grace paused a moment to stare at the small, bare feet leaving tiny footprints on the damp wood. A tear rolled down Grace's cheek and she slowly went back to her scrubbing. She looked up when the door behind her slammed shut. A young man had just arrived with a baby and was about to set her on the floor.
“Wait!” Grace's yell echoed in the silent room.
The man looked at her quizzically and held the baby close, “She is perfectly clean, Madam. Besides, the floors will have to get dirty at one point or another.”
Grace stared at her small hands, chubby face, and blond curls. The girl's bright blue eyes looked around as if in constant awe of the world. She kicked her feet, anxious to be free. The man again made a move to put her down.
“No, you don't understand,” Grace jumped up, but did not touch the child.
The man sighed, “What, exactly, do I not understand? All I know is we got a free coupon from a cleaning company to scrub our floors, and now you are trying to keep my child from touching them. You can tell your boss we will not take your services again, free or not.”
“Please, just take the baby away from here. Away from this city. It is not safe here,” Grace's voice was low and her eyes darted about. She looked like one half crazed.
His expression stayed aloof and unbelieving, “Either explain yourself or I am going to go put the baby to bed. I have had a long day and do not have time for this.”
Grace motioned to the bucket, which was filled with a pinkish liquid and smelled like strawberries, “That is not just soap and water. In that bucket is a poison which, once it touches your skin, will slowly kill you. It takes about a month for adults, but only two weeks for children. I beg of you, take the baby away from here. She is such a precious child.”
“You have been sticking your hands in this bucket all day, and you expect me to believe it is poisoned?” He snorted.
She slouched, looking like an old woman, although she was only twenty-six. “I have already been poisoned, a month ago in three days.”
The man started to get angry, holding the little girl close, “So, since you were poisoned, you decided to return the favor?”
“No!” Despair filled her voice and she clasped her hands as if in prayer. “It was the only way,” she choked on her tears, “to save my family. My sisters and brothers, all seven of them, need me. But I cannot live like this any longer. If I see one more hand pick up a toy, or one more foot step where I planted the poison, I think I shall kill myself.”
The man stared at her for a moment, his face void of emotion. Then, slowly, he placed the little girl on the floor. Her toes made a light tapping sound as she ran down the hallway and into a room on the right. Grace stood horrified for a moment, and then the realization dawned on her.
It had been a cold and rainy night. Grace was trudging home after another long day of work at the clothing factory. She was almost home when a man stopped her. It was too dark to make out his facial features. Grace probably should have run, but her mind was tired and she was not thinking properly.
“Are you Grace?” He asked.
She perked up when he said her name, “Yes... and you are?”
“It doesn't matter. What does matter is that I am giving you a chance that not many will have the opportunity to choose. I work for the Lithian government, and we want you on our team.”
“Why would you want me?”
“Young, ordinary, inconspicuous. No one would ever suspect you.”
Grace thought for a moment, “Suspect me of what?”
“You are going to be the deliverer of our newest biological weapon, Slow Killing Invisible Poison, or S.K.I.P. for short.”
Grace took a step away from the man, “I would never do such a thing! I'm sorry, sir, but you will have to find someone else.”
She turned to go, but he stepped in front of her, “You would be wise to take this offer, Grace.”
“I'm sorry, but I will not take part in killing innocent people,” Grace took another step away, and when he followed she could finally make out his features. He had a thin face, with large brown eyes and dark hair.
“We'll see about that. Good day, Grace. I will be touch,” And with that he disappeared into the darkness.
Grace sloshed through the growing puddles until she reached the door of their worn house. Her seven younger brothers and sisters tackled her with hugs and flocked around as she tried to pull off her boots. Grace's grandmother and mother called everyone in for dinner, as they bowed their heads Grace tried to forget the black-haired man on the street.
Now Grace looked into the man's brown eyes and a deep sadness came over her. Not because she would suffer, but because her family would. “You are an informer,” Grace said, not as a question, but as fact.
“You tried to save that baby.”
Tears made their way down Grace's cheeks again, “She is so innocent, how could I not try to keep her from the fate of everyone else in this city?”
The man stared at her, emotions flickering through his eyes as fast as flipping through channels on a TV.
“You will tell them. The recording is in your pocket right now, the mike beneath your collar has picked up my every word. I have condemned myself, and I know it. You will save another member of your family for turning me in. Maybe a brother, father, or mother. If they are all safe it will be a best friend or sweetheart. I am already doomed to death, what does it matter to me? Except that they will kill my family.”
“I will not tell,” He said it so quietly Grace was not sure if she had heard him right.
“What did you say?”
“I will not tell,” There was such determination in his voice and such a vicious look on his face it nearly made Grace faint. Or maybe that was the poison kicking in.
“Why? Why would you risk the lives of your family for mine?” Grace looked at him with hope, and yet still there was fear.
“You are good. You have always tried to do good. And having to choose between two bad options has nearly killed you. In fact, I am sure it will kill you. I do not have much good left in me, but the little I have is crying out for me to spare you and your family. So I will, but you must be very, very careful from now on.”
“Do not worry,” A dazed look came over Grace, “it is not much longer now.”
The man nodded. He did not ask what she meant, did not try to comfort her or give her false hope. He knew. He had seen it before, so many times before. The man left through the front door of the house, walked to his apartment, and fell into a fitful sleep.
In the middle of the night, a higher up spy crept into his room and listened to the recording. The families of Grace and the informer were introduced to the poison the next morning. The informer did not find out until two months later when he was told that his entire family had died painful deaths. The agency never heard from him again.
Grace finished the floor of the large, old-fashioned house and then went to her small bed in the cheapest hotel in the city. Her stomach ached all night, and she did not sleep. Instead, Grace knelt and prayed. The maid found her body the next morning. We must all hope the angels never told her it was all given in vain.