Writing, Reading, All Things YA

GUEST STORY – Cascading Catastrophe by Emily S


Mentoring young writers is something I love to do. Encouraging youth to read and write is as important to me as my own writing.

I have been working with 14 year old Emily S on a piece of her writing and to be honest, I really didn’t have to edit much at all.

I am impressed by her dedication to writing, amazed by her intuitive understanding of story structure and ecstatic to be given permission to share it with you here.

Feel free to leave a comment and let her know what you think!

I started writing little stories in 3rd grade just for fun. When I reached 5th grade I started getting more serious with my writing. I love writing stories and it’s one of my favourite hobbies. My goal for writing is to eventually publish a novel. A lot of things inspire me to write. Everything around me has something that I could work with and turn into something great. Most of my inspiration comes from my grandmother who has 2 of her works published, and also from reading books and listening to music. My favourites are Sara Shepard’s The Lying Game series, Elizabeth Chandler’s Dark Secrets, Jessica Verday’s The Hollow series, and Lauren Oliver’s Delirium trilogy. ~ Emily S

Cascading Catastrophe by Emily S.

I could feel the cottony fabric rub against the bridge of my nose and tickle my long brown eyelashes. The fabric pressed into my eyelids as the handkerchief tightened at the back of my head. A muggy breeze came from the opened window of the little car I was seated in and caressed my flushed cheeks.

“You ready, Ellie?” Colton’s voice sounded close to my ear. The corners of my lips tugged into a smile at the sound of his familiar and comforting voice. Two warm hands took my wrists and pulled upward, lifting me up from the passenger seat. It wasn’t a harsh pull. It was careful—almost graceful. “I’m going to pick you up, ’kay?”

I could feel pebbles pressing into the underside of my feet, through my worn sandals as I stood upright. I had no idea where we were. All I could see was blackness, but I knew that my boyfriend would lead my way safely.

I nodded lightly in answer to his question, and then my feet flew up off the ground and strong arms held my body.

“Trust me, Ellie. I won’t drop you. I love you.”

“I love you, too,” I whispered.

A sound like static from a radio, muffled and bubbly, drifted to my ears. A familiar damp and mossy aroma caught in my nostrils, along with what smelled like wet rocks. I bounced lightly in Colton’s arms with each step that he took. It sounded as if he was walking on a dock.

I felt myself being lowered, and then I was seated on a wooden surface. I wobbled and swayed along with whatever I had been seated in as more weight stepped in close to me. Heated hands held the sides of my arms until everything was still.

The handkerchief was lifted from my eyes and the blackness cleared to light. Colton’s lovely face was the first thing that my blurred eyes focused on and a rush of happiness washed over me. I looked skyward and squinted as the bright glory of the sun sank into my pupils. I had to blink rapidly to get the burning sensation to fade away from my vision.

I sat in a canoe, which floated in clear water right beside an old dock, with a wooden paddle by my side. The chilly water sloshed on the sides of the canoe as it rocked from side to side while Colton scrambled to reach the paddle. He then sat back on the little seat across from me and stuck it into the water.

“I’ll paddle, while you relax and enjoy the peace.” The little dimple that I loved so much appeared on his left cheek as he grinned at me, obviously pleased with himself for arranging the date.

Everything seemed perfect. The sun was beating down on us, and birds chirped overhead without a care in the world. The surface of the water glistened and sparkled as our canoe calmly cut through the ripples of water caused by the serene breeze. It had only been 20 minutes and I had never felt so calm in my life.

We came to a split in the river. I glanced at Colton as he hesitated for a few seconds before paddling to the left.

This could possibly be the best date I’ve ever been on, I thought as I gazed at Colton who sat on the other side of the canoe, facing me. I took in his beautiful brown hair and breathtaking hazel eyes. He’s such a sweet boyfriend. I am the luckiest girl alive. I had to hold back the urge to jump over to him and kiss his flawless face because then I would have ended up tipping the boat over.

A distant sound interrupted my thoughts.

“What’s that noise?” I asked. “It sounds like—” I stopped talking abruptly when I noticed Colton’s eyes widen magnificently with fear, his gaze over my shoulder. “What’s wrong?” I turned my head to look behind me.

Waves of water flowed at an incredible speed through rapids ahead of us.

The river stopped going forward from there that I could see, so the only place it could have flowed would be…down.

A waterfall.

Our canoe was right in line with the downfall of water and it twisted out of control in the surging currents of water. It was only a matter of seconds before we would be part of that waterfall.

Before I could even react to what was going to happen, Colton tossed me a life jacket. The only life jacket.

“What about you?” I shouted in panic.

“I’ll be fine. Let’s go!”

I hurriedly buckled the life vest just as the canoe hit a rock, and we flipped over into the cold water. I coughed as the liquid filled my nose and mouth, and I swam away from the waterfall frantically, assuming Colton was right behind me.

I looked back, and fear spread through me like a wild fire. Colton was struggling by the canoe, moving faster away from me with the flow of the river. His foot was caught in the painter rope.

I shouted out to him and turned to make my way toward him, but it was too late. Colton had been dragged out of sight, down the massive waterfall.

I didn’t know what to do, but I couldn’t have just floated through the rapids helplessly and risked my own life. So I swam. I swam hard against currents and I swam strong for Colton’s sake.

I finally pulled myself up onto grassy riverbank, my sopping wet body aching from swimming for my life.

Everything had happened so fast, I couldn’t even wrap my mind around it. I didn’t want to wrap my mind around it. Colton had saved me, but hadn’t had time to save himself before he went over the waterfall. It made my heart ache to know that he thought of me first in a moment of panic, and maybe he even died for it, too. I tried to push the thought of death out of my head just as soon as it had come.

A boardwalk stood over some marshland not too far away, and a wooden staircase went downward beside the ledge of the waterfall for tourists to observe what nature had created. I sprinted to the stairs and hastily descended them, almost out of my mind with fear. Tears cascaded down my face, making it hard to see the next step in front of me. My heart was in my throat. Colton had to be down there.


Oh, please.

Colton. Has. To. Be. Alive, I thought as fear took over my brain on a whole new level.

All I could have done was pray to God that my one and only love would be at the bottom of that waterfall waiting for me to come to him. My muscles tensed with despair. Each step that I took made me feel as though I would pass out at any second.

Mist and fog swirled all around, and only a sliver of dim sunlight shone through the branches of a lone tree. The sand was a mess and littered with unwanted seaweed. Colton’s canoe was washed up on the shore, just a few feet in front of me. It was awfully busted and broken up, with pieces of wood strewn all around. There was no sign of him.

Then a hint of white on the murky water’s surface caught my eye.

The handkerchief. Colton’s handkerchief.

My knees gave out as I realized he was gone and I collapsed into the rough sand. A loud whimper escaped my lips as I stared at the limp fabric.

I cursed the handkerchief for being a symbol of what I loved, and the symbol of what I lost.

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3 thoughts on “GUEST STORY – Cascading Catastrophe by Emily S

  1. Emily – You have a great gift for writing powerful imagery. In fact, I don’t think you need the last line in the story. You already carried us there with your main character. When a writer like you does a great job of showing, as you have here, you don’t need to spend time telling.

    • Thank you so much. And I agree with you that it would be just as great without that last sentence, but I’ll keep it for now.

  2. UPDATE: This story was entered into a monthly teen-organized and judged contest on Goodreads and it won majority vote! Check out the group here—contests-and-tips-and-more

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