The genre of fantasy allows a writer to travel through time, revisit ancient tales and reset them in the future, give voice to the outlandish and stretch our abilities to imagine and believe in the story we are being told. In “The Lions’ Den,” Mary Elizabeth Dubois (2013 Gold Medalist) soars back to biblical times for inspiration, and uses the apocryphal episode in which Daniel is placed in grave danger because he worships God. See if her re-imagining rings true for you—or at the very least, weaves its own magical web!
The Lions’ Den
Walking was such a treacherous thing.
She had been walking and walking and walking since she was a small child. Barely breathing, they taught her to walk. Before she learned how to eat or say her name, she was taught to walk.
Treacherous, treacherous walking.
Danny was her best friend. He always walked next to her, ever since she could remember. Why was it she had never walked next to anyone else since her Maker left her side? She couldn’t remember the faces of anyone else besides her Maker and the people who walked in front and behind her.
The earliest memory 14 had was holding the hand of her Maker, sweat dripping down the left side of her face like a small rain.
They were in the desert.
It was the first time 14 had ever walked through the desert, though it wouldn’t be her last. She remembered her Maker speaking to her softly, though she couldn’t recall what was said. She could only see the sun, the sand, and the endless lines of children in front of her.
They marched on.
It was two years later that Danny would finally appear.
14 was walking through a seemingly endless prairie at this point in her Walk. He came walking towards her horizontally, perfectly in step with her. He moved sideways while still moving forward, never breaking the rhythm of the synchronized steps in which everyone walked. His Maker was directly behind him.
Though they were moving rather slowly at that point in time, he walked purposefully; a gentleman’s stride.
“Hello,” he said. He had reached 14. He no longer walked horizontally, but instead moved only forwards now.
14 would always remember that he had spoken first.
They were five years old.
A major concern for the next five years of the Walk was why Danny’s name sounded so different than the rest. Everyone else in front and behind of their line were called by number, or so their Makers had told them.
Danny did not sound like the rest. His name was short and rhythmic, and this puzzled the other children in the lines nearest to 14.
“Danny,” they would say. “Dannnnny.”
Then their Maker’s would shush them and take their hands, all the while making sure they were perfectly in sync with the rhythm of the endless steps.
“Are we not so lucky to be preserved?” their Makers would say.
And so the children recited with the voices of a thousand angelic bells, “We are fortunate to be preserved.” And the mantra was repeated daily and nightly.
14 noticed that Danny always stumbled over the word ‘fortunate’.
Bread was always passed from the front of the lines to the back. They would each get small, single pieces, and it was lovely, because they didn’t know any better. The breadbaskets came twice a day.
“Bread,” the children would chant, once their Makers taught them the word. “Bread. Bread. Bread.”
One day, as the children were chanting, and the breadbaskets were nearing their own lines, Danny whispered something under his breath.
“But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the king’s food or wine…”
When 14 asked him what he meant, Danny just looked away towards the far hills and took her hand in his own.
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