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We sat there, under the tree, our tree. The tree with the leaves that spread to the sun like helping hands. The tree with the tall trunk and cool shade.

“It’s hot,” I complained, fanning myself with the back of my hand, the mid-August sun beating down from the unforgiving sun.

Mimi stood up. Her long dark hair draped down her back and her rosy face was pink.

Jared and I stared at her in confusion.

“We have been sitting here all day, complaining about the heat. I want to go hiking into the woods. My mom was talking of a small stream she found while she was exploring the new hunting trails.” And with that Mimi marched off.

Jared looked at me and I looked at Jared and we both stood up to follow.

Our tree stood on a hill looking over the dark, forbidding woods. Those trees were black and tall in a way that our tree was not. Those trees rose like mountains until they seemed to scrape the glaring cloudless sky. They whispered about some untold secret when the wind passed, rattling together with a sound like bones.

It was for this reason that I stopped at the forest’s edge. Long, thick, parched stems of grasses pressed up against my legs. A small red-and-black ladybug was crawling, ever so slowly, up one of the stems. It reached the top, lost its footing and fell.

“Emma, hurry up!” Mimi’s voice was impatient and I could see her far ahead, through the trees. Her yellow summer dress stood out like a ghost against the dark trunks and I hurried to catch up.

River God seeing a lady in white
But the most amazing part of her beauty was she seemed to emanate a faint, silvery glow

We followed no path in particular. The forest floor was carpeted with leaves, which had fallen in the late summer drought, making the ground crunchy and hard to see. There were no birds and no small animals. No, they had all fled, searching for water somewhere else.

We reached the place. A place where the trees were green and lush and the grass sang. When a gust of wind blew, it sang of joy and happiness and life. There were rocks beyond the grass that led to a river. Not a stream, as described by Mimi’s mother, but a rushing, swishing, pouring river. The water was a clear, beautiful, turquoise blue.

Mimi flung off her shoes and ran to dip her toes into the water and Jared followed not too far after. We hadn’t seen this much water in a long time. My feet dipped under the cold surface and felt the hard, round pebbles of the riverbed between their toes.

Jared gasped and I looked up.

River God red bug

On the opposite shore was a woman. She was tall and slender. Her hair was thick and hung in ringlets around her face. She wore a white dress though her feet were bare. But the most amazing part of her beauty was she seemed to emanate a faint, silvery glow.

I glanced sideways at Jared and his mouth was hanging open. I longed to shut it and ask this wonderful lady to forgive his rudeness, but I didn’t.

She opened her mouth and the word came out like a tumbling waterfall, fluent and enchanting. “Come.”

Jared stepped forward as if under a spell. Somehow, he crossed the river and stood beside her. She grabbed him by the arm and ran with a wonderful grace.

Mimi screamed and ran after her, sloshing through the racing river. The woman paused just inside the trees and looked back. Her eyes grew dark and hard, they seemed to grow bigger and bigger until they swallowed everything else. The world tipped under me and all was quiet.

My eyes fluttered open and I was back under the tree, our tree, with Mimi and Jared beside me. Something was different and I looked up to see the sky open in a torrential downpour.

River God Virginia Mason
Virginia Mason, 12
Hoboken, New Jersey

River God Zoe Yeoh
Zoe Yeoh, 12
Salem, Connecticut