The night air turned chilly as I took the long way home from school. I had stayed late for tutoring and knew that if I wasn’t home at exactly 8:30, I would be condemned to a life of after-school scheduling and constant disappointed eyes from my over-protective mother. That I wasn’t willing to risk, because even though I hated all the extra clothes on brisk days and the first-aid kit that was packed into my bag every time I left the house, I appreciated the sentiment.
After nearly ten minutes of walking, I pulled myself out of my thoughts and heard the sound of running water, or rather, water running over rocks. Like a creek. I was near the housing complex, but I had never heard any sounds like that coming from it before; every natural piece of forest and brush had been wiped away in its making. The sounds were oddly soothing, and before I knew it, my feet were carrying me to its source. In the back of my mind, I knew that my mom would worry, but I didn’t care. My only purpose at that moment was to get to the creek and figure out how it got there.
I began walking faster. I was deep into the complex when I saw a small winding trail off to the side. There seemed to be some kind of oasis at the end of the road, begging to be discovered. So I followed the trail. Birds, trees, and even the wind, it seemed, howled at my entrance and urged me forward. It was as if I was meant to be there and something was meant to happen, but damned if I knew what it was.
Finally, after a long trail, I found the source and gasped. It was one of the most beautiful scenes the world could have conjured. A small waterfall fell over cascading rocks, and the water led down a stream to a larger pool. There were fish jumping out, and frogs leaping from rock to water, and there was even a bird on a rock in the center of the pond, just staring out into the night sky. I made my way to a series of rocks, each one just big enough for a foot to step on. I put one foot in front of the other and made my way to the center of the pond, where the bird perched. I was mesmerized. I wanted to hold it. I wanted to feel the feathers that had been everywhere. The feathers that had experienced no restraint. As I watched, the bird slowly turned its head and looked at me. I froze. Its eyes bore into mine and I needed to know the secrets it held. Without thinking, I sprinted across two more rocks, but stopped when I noticed my foot had crooked another way. I tumbled into that water, which was deeper than it looked, and all I could do was smile as I went down.
I knew that I was in trouble, but at that moment all I could think of was my mother. As cold water came rushing at my face, I remembered I had to breathe and began to push my way to the top, but quickly realized I couldn’t. All the extra clothes my mom made me wear were weighing me down. As my heart slowed and an inky blackness settled over me, I laughed. Even though I knew I was dying, I laughed the hardest I had in my whole life—the fact that my mom’s precautions were helping me drown made me giddy and hysterical. My last thought was of my mom and how she would take it when someone found my body and told her the reason I had drowned. I kept laughing. I no longer wondered what the creek was doing there or how I had tripped in. I only thought of her. My mother, the one who loved me so much she killed me.
Jennifer, eleventh grade, Travis High School
This week, we’ll be posting the finalists for the Rose Million Healey Award in Short Fiction. Come out to our community-wide reading Saturday, May 2, to meet the authors and find out who the winner is.