By J. A. Weymouth
Everything seemed slow the moment Mary fell. Noah’s eyes bulged trying to see her in the dark. The red of her coat could only be seen just by the fade of moonlight through the trees, bobbing in and out of the stream. All was silent in the presence of the violent water carrying the unconscious girl away. Stillness took over the forest critters, frogs no longer croaked, owls silenced their callings out to the night as they waited, watching the boy run after his sister.
Noah meandered through, forcefully pushing past branches. The dense forest could not stop him as he pulled away from rogue twigs and leaped over high, imbalanced rocks careful not to slip or lose sight of the shade of red barely seen in the moonlit water. He was not going to lose his sister.
He thought anger. He thought desperation. He thought rage as he followed. But then the adrenaline rushed in, blocking out painful feelings.
It felt like he was running ahead, that Noah had finally managed to get to a point along the river’s path where he thought he could catch his sister.
Up ahead, he saw his sister being carried towards him. Noah had not seen her face and tried to ignore the upsetting feeling that was stirring inside him. Stones led the way through the river and he thought the largest would be a good place to try and catch her. Nervously, Noah took his first step onto the rock. Second. Third. He made it to the middle without falling and steadied himself ready for the catch of his life.
Noah knew he had failed the moment before he caught his sister’s jacket. It was empty. There was no Mary.
After he threw the jacket against the shore in frustration, thinking himself stupid after another failed attempted at saving Mary, he began to move again. But before he could take another step, he heard a moan – distinct – coming from within the water. It had come not much further from where he was standing as it had sounded like a baby animal in distress.
He knew it was frivolous to stand and think to confirm whether it was his sister making the noise, so he moved in the sound’s direction – and hoped.
Pale lips pursed through the surface of the water, now opening to suck in the air – desperately. Mary had survived only to be carried away into a small enclosure from the side of the river bank; a separate stream dragged her into a dead end.
Noah became too far to stop her but he thought there was a chance to save her as he watched on miserably.
Water tickled Noah’s toes as he stood upon muddy ground. The water levels had risen, the river was flooded and now the urgency of his endeavour was becoming more and more desperate. When he finally made it to the small enclosure, he could see that it was in fact a cave against the cliff side before the rising of a hill. Noah thought it lucky he had made it to this side of the river earlier on, as now it seemed impossible to cross the river with the force of the current in his way. The only obstacle in his path now was his ability to maneuver himself into a steady position to reach his sister as there was only enough room for his footing to shimmy against the cliff side. One slip and he could fall into the river and drown.
With steady feet and keen focus, Noah made it to the side of the cave and looked in. The cave was a lot deeper than he expected and Mary stood there at the bottom, waist-deep in water and conscious. Besides the blood and swelling near her left eye she appeared to be well enough despite her fall in the water. She yelled out in glee when she saw her brother. Her hand stretched out. He grasped it tightly and pulled.
Her sister was such a small light thing. Noah knew this well. Small for her age he always found it easy to carry her on his back during their games of piggy-back rides. But there was something terribly wrong when he could not lift her from the cave.
‘My leg is stuck,’ she whispered painfully but Noah ignored this and pulled her as hard as he could but all of a sudden he heard a terrible snap like the sound of a delicate twig breaking. She screamed this time and cried out to him to stop. ‘Stop Noah! My leg! I think it’s broken.’
Noah’s mind was racing. With the water growing more and more ferocious as it rushed in to fill the cave, he needed to think of something quickly because Mary was now shoulder-deep in water.
Noah would have dived into the water with Mary to see the damage to her foot for himself but the cave was too narrow and he would not have been able to fit. He tried to dip his hands in the water to see if he could reach the bottom but it was no good either, the cave was just too deep.
Soft water droplets fell onto Noah’s face. Rain was beginning to fall. Cold shrouded him with a light coat of mist.
This was not happening. How could this happen? Only hours ago were they playing on top of the hill in the wind with their kite flying pleasantly above them. They were having fun. It was a good afternoon. By now, they would be at home with their mother, having dinner by the wood heater.
So how could this have happened?
Slowly, the realisation came to Noah that he could do nothing for his sister but watch. Watch as the water slowly rose above her. Watch the water slowly drown her. And all he could do was hold her hand and watch.
Something happened. The mist that had surrounding him became still in the air. The water froze in place. Everything quieted into silence and stilled.
Noah looked eerily into the distance and saw that everything that surrounding them had frozen into place. He looked at his sister, as the water had become motionless before it completely engulfed her, and looked into her petrified eyes. It seemed Mary too was solid, still and unmoving. Everything around him was frozen. Completely still in this one moment of time.
Then everything sped up around him as quickly as he realised it. And he was standing over his sister. Somehow they had made it out of the water – to the bank of the river. But Mary was lying still by his feet with her eyes now closed.
‘Mary…’ Noah nudged his sister. ‘M-Mary,’ his voice became broken with the realisation that something wasn’t quite right.
Dawn woke to the sight of a young boy crying as he lay beside his dead sister. Frogs began to croak in the distance as the gentle, warm light stirred the forest awake.
I would like to thank everyone for your support and enthusiasm in the duration of this story. Thank you so much for your kind words and feedback. It is what helps motivate me in the creation of these stories.