Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: River (08/31/06)
TITLE: Unexpected Rescue
By Rachel Burkum
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“God,” he shouted, “if you really don’t want me to die, then show me why I should live!”
Nothing. The silence confirmed the emptiness he felt in his heart. A wind sent chills down his spine and he glanced from side to side, making sure no one was on the bridge but himself. As always, he was alone. Not even God seemed to be around anymore.
Pulling his jacket tightly around his shoulders, Jim ignored the tear that ran down his face. Anything was better than the life he had - even death. He shivered and took a step forward, holding one foot out into oblivion. Just as he started to let himself fall, a cry for help jolted him to attention. He stepped back, his ears listening intently. Scanning the area, his eyes caught sight of a woman along the riverbank, frantically running back and forth, yelling and pointing towards the raging water.
Forgetting his reason for being on the wrong side of the bridge railing, Jim suddenly spotted a pink object floating southward. All too quickly, he realized that it was as jacket, wrapped around a young child who was desperately trying to stay afloat.
The mother’s shout sent Jim’s adrenaline rushing, his mind forgetting all else. Before he could think, he was falling headfirst, his arms stretched out in a dive. The icy water was a shock to his body, and he struggled to bring himself to the surface, gasping for air.
The little girl’s cry was stronger than the river’s current and aimed Jim to her helpless form. “Hang on!” he shouted. Turned around, pulled under and dragged along like a rag doll, Jim didn’t know how he was able to grasp the child’s hand. His arms ached, his legs went numb, and his lungs screamed for a rest. He could feel the girl pressed snuggly against his chest as he kicked and groped for land. At last, his hand reached something solid.
“Come on, take a deep breath.” Jim patted the little girl’s back as he knelt beside her. He struggled to keep himself from shaking as the cold drove right to his bones. “It’s okay now, you’re going to be fine.” The girl shivered uncontrollably and wrapped her arms around his neck.
“It was s-s-so scary,” she managed through tears of fright. “B-b-but you saved me. I thought I was going to-to die.”
“Shh, it’s okay.” For what little good it would do, Jim took off his drenched jacket to give the child another layer of protection against the biting wind. “There now, calm down.” He could see the mother running towards them, and only then realized how far downstream they had drifted.
As he held the girl close to comfort her, his heart felt as if it would burst. If he had not been on that bridge, this little girl would probably have died, robbing the world of another sweet soul. And if she had not been in the river…he would surely have died.
“Oh, God, I’m so sorry.” His own inner cries reached heavenward. He had asked for a sign - had it taken something as drastic as this for him to see that God wanted him to live? Had it taken the experience of losing himself to save another to understand that he still had worth? Perhaps there was hope after all. Perhaps -
“Thank you, oh, thank you!” The mother had reached them and caught her daughter up in a hug. “Oh, my baby, are you okay?” She finally seemed to notice Jim and gave him a tearful smile. “How can I ever thank you? You saved her life.”
Jim stared at her in thought, and then shook his head. “I didn’t save your little girl’s life, Ma’am…she saved mine.”
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