2012 Totem Head Story Contest Honorable Mention:"The Great Escape" By Kristen Loughlin, 13 years old, Downingtown, PA.
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2012 Contest Honorable Mention


The Great Escape
Written By:   Kristen Loughlin, 13 years old, Downingtown, PA.

So there I was, trapped in the grasp of danger as fast rising water filled the dark, foreboding cave. My little brother, Peter, let out an earsplitting scream as the earth shook, and enormous rocks fell from above, blocking the exit to the cave. Now we had lost our only means of escape, and I had minutes, maybe seconds, to get us out of this dilemma. It quickly became clear to me that it would not be an easy task.

"Reina," Peter said in a small voice, the kind only a six year old has. "What are we going to do?"

He sounded so sweet and innocent, and I immediately felt guilty. I was the one who had wanted to explore the cave in the first place. It had seemed like a harmless adventure, straying from our family’s campsite in the woods, but then things began to go wrong. I dropped our only torchlight. Then the earthquake, causing the avalanche, left us in darkness, with the smallest sliver of light from the location of the leakage, unable to escape. But none of that amounted to anything in comparison to our worst problem; the avalanche had caused water to begin flowing rapidly into the cave. If we didn’t get out soon, we’d drown.

"…Reina?" Peter said again. I silently scolded myself for getting so caught up in my thoughts. I had wasted precious time. The water was up to my knees now, and Peter’s waist. "What would a superhero do?" he asked himself.

Even in our moment of peril, I couldn’t help but smile. Peter loved superheroes. Through the dense darkness, I managed to spot that he was wearing a Superman tee-shirt. I gave him a gentle squeeze.

"Don’t worry, Peter. I’ve got a plan," I said.

It was a lie. I had no notion of what to do next, but I grabbed his hand. "We’ll be out of here in no time." I gave him a reassuring smile. "Now come on. We have to feel the walls for possible exits."

My eyes were slowly beginning to adjust to the darkness, but it wasn’t much help. I could barely see my hand in front of my face in the faint light from the rock’s incisions. I stumbled blindly over to the nearest wall, pushing hard against the water’s current. I knew we didn’t have much time left.

"Okay, Peter. I need your help." I said, though I had to shout over the rushing sound of the currents. "Let’s pull these rocks away. Hold my belt loop, we can’t get separated. It would be nearly impossible to find each other again."

He obeyed, but as soon as we began our painstaking task, the earth shook again. I sheltered Peter as debris fell all around us. But when I opened my eyes, all I could see was…

"Light!" Peter shouted, finishing my subliminal sentence, but his voice was slightly muffled. I realized with a start that the water was above his head now, leaving him hopping from foot to foot to stay above it. I lifted him up onto my shoulders and silently peered up. My gaze landed upon a small hole the earthquake had made.

"Peter, do you think you can reach it?" I asked cautiously. The water was up to my shoulders now.

"Maybe…can you lift me higher?" he replied. I sprung upward with all my might, which is not easy with a little boy on your shoulders, and shot off the ground. The water surrounding me made me lighter and helped me to gain altitude. I heard a triumphant shout from above me and knew that Peter had grabbed onto the opening.

"Reina! I…did…it…!" He said, struggling to speak. I knew he couldn’t hold my weight much longer.

"Peter, I’m going to let go. Just hold on tight, and I’ll make the hole bigger. It’s not wide enough for us to fit through." I didn’t wait for him to respond and released his ankles, plummeting for a second before landing with a crash in the crystal-clear water beneath me.

I took a deep, shaky breath and dove beneath the surface. Once I reached the stone bottom, my eyes began darting frantically around, looking for anything that might save us. However, all I saw were rocks. Small rocks, big rocks, thin and wide rocks. I almost screamed in frustration. There had to be something useful down here. There just had to be…

"Rocks!" I blurted, momentarily forgetting that I was underwater. I swam to the surface to catch my breath and saw Peter, still clinging to the small, sunlit opening. The water steadily rose to his waist, and he clenched his tiny fists tighter to the hole. I pried my eyes away and dove again, shooting down to pick up a long, narrow rock.

I harnessed all my strength and brought it slowly to the surface. I threw the rock with all my might at the opening and it struck with a crash, narrowly missing Peter’s fragile fingers. The cave began to collapse, and in the process of doing so, plugged the hole from which the water was leaking. The ceiling cracked where it had collided with the rock, proving not to be as thick as I had presumed, and Peter fell. I grabbed him with one hand and our escape route with the other, and shoved him out the widened hole. I followed, panting and grabbing on to my little brother. When we sat safely on the opposite side of the cave, I heaved a sigh of relief. I was beyond thankful that we were out of harm’s way.

"We did it," I whispered to my brother, holding him tightly in my arms. "And you were so brave, Peter. Just like a superhero."

"Just like a superhero?" He said, his face instantly lighting up. I traced the logo on his tee-shirt with my finger. As I silently relived our adventure, I realized how close we’d come to doom. Without Peter by my side, I might never have made it out. His bravery was essential to our escape, and we had prevailed because of it.

"You bet." I said, grinning broadly at the sight of my little brother’s radiant face. "But to me, you’ve always been a superhero." And with smiles on our faces, we set off for our campsite, leaving behind only our gentle footprints in the sand.




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