Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Don’t Look Back (04/19/12)
TITLE: A-Running with Moses
By Marina Rojas
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She thought her hand was going to fall off as tightly as it was being gripped by the strange dark woman running low in the grass beside her. Devi tried hard to run as fast as she could, but she was winded and getting tired fast.
It seemed like they all had been running forever. If she could just take a moment to catch her breath, to sit down…she slowed her steps just a little bit.
“Hurry up! Run! Run for your life!” The voice rasped quietly in the night and she just gave in to it, forcing her legs to run when there was no more strength left in them. Forcing her lungs to take in more oxygen when she could barely breath.
Tall weeds were hitting them all in the face with little stings across their cheeks. She could have sworn she’d swallowed a bug or two, so she tried desperately to keep her mouth closed tight even though her lungs were screaming for air.
Her ears were on high alert, listening for any sound behind them, a snap, a tweak, the bark of a dog or the high pitched calls of the ones who were sure to come after them even in the dark of night.
She craned her neck as far to the side as she could without turning her head. What was that? What had she heard? Were they nearby? Had they caught up with them? Devi started to look back again.
“Don’t look back! Don’t look back!”
People were falling around her. She could hear the little ones stumble and fall and almost begin to cry. Strong hands covered the children’s mouths, suppressing any sound trying to escape their lips.
Hands reached down to the ground to lift those who had fallen. Wide eyed and full of fear, the smaller ones stifled their tears and held on for dear life.
Run, run, run, don’t look back, don’t look back. Devi used the words to set a cadence for her stride.
Soon she spotted a clearing next to a river bank. The strange dark woman brought them to a halt and motioned for them to all stay hunched down, hiding in the tall grass next to the riverbank.
Devi was grateful for the break. Her chest was heaving trying to drink in all the air she could, as silently as she could. She looked from face to face, counting the numbers. They were all still together, they were all in one place.
The old woman moved towards the riverbank, entering the water with the silence of an alligator. She stayed low to the water’s surface, moving towards a clump of lilies floating near the river’s edge. Silently she pulled a raft from out of nowhere, and turned to motion them into the water.
Reluctantly, they moved one by one into the cold waters of the night. The old woman was quiet and only reached her hand out to them to help them board the raft. As soon as the last one was sitting aboard the wet planks, she cast the little vessel out to the middle of the river.
Devi squinted in the dark to try and see where they were going. She watched the old woman deftly handle the raft down river. The moon hung low in the pitch black night but she moved the rudder as if she knew the placement of every rock that could be in their way.
Devi looked away when the old woman caught her stare. Somehow, Devi knew, she was helping them, but she was still afraid of her. She had never met a woman like this. She looked at the long-rifle she carried at her side and remembered the promise of death to anyone who looked back. Once you’ve started, she had said, there’s no return, no surrender. Devi knew that she did not want to go back to where they had come from. She only wanted what was ahead.
A long, long way down the river, the old woman who the others called Moses began to sing in a low sturdy baritone.
Wade in the water
Wade in the water
Children wade, in the water
God’s gonna trouble the water
Who’s that young girl dressed in red
Wade in the water
Must be the children that Moses led
God’s gonna trouble the water.
Looking over her shoulder Devi glanced behind them. “No child,” the old woman intoned, “Don’t look back.”
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