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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: River (08/31/06)

TITLE: Now or Never
By Kaylee Blake


“It’s now or never,” I whispered softly.

I stood, with my little family, hidden in the shadows along the banks of the Ohio River. My feet numb with fatigue and cold, my dress worn and dirty. Scared, but ready. That icy, muddy river was just one step closer to freedom.

Momma was very jittery. At every barking dog and snorting horse, she jumped and clutched me and my sisters closer to her breast. Poppa cradled my baby brother’s still form in the crook of his arm.

We waited.

It was night, but the moon threw long shadows with its eerie light. Every sound was carried on the wind. The choppy water slapped angrily against the shore. It seemed that everything was against our journey across the river.

Quietly, a boat pulls next to the shore and in it are the old Quaker man and his son; our final parting with our dear Friends. Soundlessly, Poppa motioned for Momma and my three little sisters to get in the small boat. Her eyes wide with fear, she began to shake her head. Poppa grabbed her by the arm and whispered something in her ear and she nodded in agreement. She clasped his hand tightly as he helped her in the boat. One by one, de deposited my sisters in Momma’s arms.

The boat pulls away. We must wait again. It will be a couple of hours. They needed to row carefully to avoid the chunks of ice in the rough water.

All at once, I felt nauseous. The thought of a slow ride in a small wooden boat on the angry Ohio River, did not agree with me. Poppa’s strong arm circled my shoulders and I leaned against him heavily as I clutched my middle.

Suddenly, the raucous laughter from the tavern behind us was drowned out by the sound of rapidly approaching horsemen. And, then the sound every runaway dreads: barking, howling hounds.

We crawled underneath the trees as far as we could go. Panic wrapped its icy fingers around my throat and squeezed. My body shivered with cold and fear. The dogs were running our way, snapping and snarling.

We had been found.

“Massa” crouched down to look my father in the eye. “So, you thought you’d run away from me?” he sneered.

By the Master’s side, his son appeared. The young man’s face was dark with fury as his eyes crawled over my body and through my thin dress. He grinned maliciously.

I felt something leap within me. My baby knew, as well as I, that we would not survive the night.


Naked and limp, I was tossed like a rag doll into the irate Ohio River. Waves crashed over my head again and again as I struggled to stay above the surface. Gasping for air, I instead gulped in muddy water. A large block of ice headed toward me, but I was powerless to swim away. Numbly, I watched its approach and closed my eyes right before it crashed into my head. I was barely conscious of the water closing over my head one final time as I sank to the bottom of the murky river.


And now I stand on the banks of another River. The sun is shining, it is warm, and the blue water is calm. The only thing separating me from eternal freedom is this little river.

On the bank across the River, I see a man, clothed in white. So astonished am I with his beauty, I forget to be frightened. He holds out his hand and looks at me and smiles. “Cassie, my daughter. Come.”

But I cannot. I am frozen with uncertainty.

Still with his hand outstretched, he walks towards me. His steady steps do not hesitate at the water’s edge. He keeps on going, unwavering as he walks upon its surface. Pausing half way across, he stops and repeats his message. “Cassie, my daughter. Come.” He stands motionless on the middle of the River, waiting.

All my uneasiness and hesitation vanishes. “It’s now or never,” I whisper softly.

And so I meet him on the River and place my hand in His.

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This article has been read 1450 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Allen Clupny09/07/06
Nice job. I knew this was about a runaway slave, but you spun it with a different ending. Good descriptions and direct dialog. Keep up the good work. God bless.
Brenda Craig09/10/06
Like previously mentioned, I didn't expect the ending. Sometimes in order to make a nice story we might feel the need to leave the hard stuff out. You didn't. I appreciate that. Wonderful ending. Blessings, Reflectons
Jan Ackerson 09/10/06
Very creative, awesome ending. Be careful of switiching from past to present tense. You did a great job with the suspense.
Joanne Sher 09/10/06
I definitely didn't expect the ending either - you pulled it off very well! I love the juxtaposition of the two different rivers! Your description was also very, very vivid.
Donna Haug09/10/06
I was picturing a family going west. I didn't clue into the runaway till the dogs started baying. I was glad to see you didn't leave her dying in the first river, but I enjoyed seeing her crossing the final river. Good work.
Donna Powers 09/10/06
Very stirring and well-written story. I was caught up in the drama from beginning to end. Very good!
Marilyn Schnepp 09/12/06
Fiction doesn't usually tug at my heartstrings, but this one did. Nice job. Kudos.
Lisa Stephens09/13/06
Really sad. It almost made me cry in the end. But at the same time it's happy (if that makes any sense). I thought it was a good idea, and, overall, a good peice. It could use some smoothing out, but I think all stories could use that. Also I was somewhat confused, especially during the beginning. But I thought it was a real sweet story.
Jen Davis09/13/06
A compelling story with a wonderful ending. Other than the shift in tenses this was very nicely written. Great job!
Jan Ross09/14/06
Congratulations on your "Highly Commended" win! God bless you as you continue to grow in your gifts and talents! Very, very well done ... wonderfully written!
Cheryl Harrison09/14/06
Congrats! I love the ending of this piece. Keep writing.
Laurie Glass 09/15/06
What a gripping piece - no wonder it placed. Congrats.