River's Forest

By Natalie M., Iowa

2022 Write Now Winner - Grades 5 & 6

Jack stared at the plump rabbit. He hadn't eaten since his owners threw him out.

Jack was a Border Collie with dark brown eyes. He had a fluffy tail and floppy ears. He had a black, wet nose that always seemed to pick up a new scent every time he breathed.

Right now, his nose was smelling rabbit. The plump rabbit didn't notice him because it was too busy looking for plants to eat.

Jack almost gagged at the thought of eating leaves or clovers. He thought dog food was okay but the thought of finally having real food made him even more desperate.

Jack hid under the thick, green undergrowth, ready to pounce. He sprang out of his hiding place, but as he was about to catch it, he stopped. His instincts told him that something terrible was about to happen.

He started running and howling, as if he was warning someone that something terrible was about to happen. What was the terrible thing?

Suddenly the ground started shaking and rumbling. Jack crouched down and put his paws over his head. He shut his eyes tightly. Maybe it would stop if he blinked.

He opened his eyes but the shaking didn't stop. He saw houses break and fall down. He saw trees tumble and squish the grass below. He heard the desperate cries and screams of humans.

Then, the earthquake stopped. Just stopped. Silence. Like the world just paused. Jack opened his eyes to see the debris. Toppled over trees and houses. Trees that lay on other trees. Everything seemed to be broken.

Jack heard someone scream and point at the ocean, which used to be blocked out because of the trees. In the distance, Jack could see a huge wave and it was coming right toward the beach!

The humans stubbled over broken houses and ran for the tallest hill. Jack ran after them.

When he reached the top of the hill, all he could do was watch. He saw the little girl, in a yellow shirt, maybe about five, being held by her mother. She was crying. He also saw the huge wave getting closer and closer.

Was this hill tall enough?

Did he have a shot at surviving?

The wave was just a few feet away from the hill. It carried debris and cars.

The hill wasn't tall enough! The black, polluted wave carried him away as he fought back. He was pushed under and he used all of his strength to try to pull himself up.

Finally, he managed to grab onto a giant painting with a wooden frame. He used his last bit of energy to pull himself up.

The painting had yellow flames and a smoking sky. Dead trees lay on the burned grass.

It wasn't much but at least the biggest wave was gone and only smaller ones tried dragging things under.

He laid down. His black ears sagged over his tired eyes. His cold, wet fur clung onto his skin. Black water splashed onto his painting.

Jack saw something, or someone, struggling in the water just barely visible because it was yellow. Jack realized it was the girl he saw on the hill!

Even though Jack was tired, he jumped in anyway. He grabbed the collar of her shirt and swam as hard as he could toward the surface. Despite being thrashed around like a leaf flying in the wind, he grabbed the painting again and pulled himself up. He dropped the girl beside him.

She had black hair and brown eyes. She was soaking wet and crying. She looked tired and depressed.

Is this what everyone feels like? Or is everyone dead? Jack didn't want to think about that right now. He had other responsibilities like taking care of this young girl and making sure they didn't fall off.

"Thank you," she said. "My name's Mara. What's your name?"

Jack didn't answer. He nodded at his collar but it wasn't there. It must have fallen off when he was in the water.

Mara almost fell but Jack grabbed her shirt again. He may have bitten her skin but he wasn't going to let go. He pulled her up again.

"Thank you!" Mara said again, hugging him tightly. "We need to go there!" Mara's sudden yell made Jake jumped. Mara was pointing to a bridge.

Jack started swiping his paw against the black water trying to get to the only land he could find. He was so determined to get her to the bridge, he didn't notice her slapping the water, too.

Finally, they reached shore and they slowly walked up the hill to the bridge. When they reached the top all they could see were sad, wet people.

"MOM! DAD!" Mara yelled over and over again.

"Mara!" her mom yelled in surprised relief. "How did you survive?"

Mara pointed to Jack. "Him."

A man who must have been her father and girl who probably was her older sister ran up to her.

"Can we keep him?" Mara asked her mom.

"Well, we have been looking into getting a Border Collie," Mara's mom said, tapping her chin. "Yes!"

Mara smiled. "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"

"He needs a name!" Mara's sister said, flipping her straight, black hair.

"River!" Mara blurted out. "His name is River."

River rushed down to where he and Mara got off and grabbed the painting. He ran back up and dropped it at her mom's heels.

"Oh, right!" Mara said. She explained the whole thing to her family.

A year had passed since the disaster and River lived in his new home where he was well taken care of and happy. He loved Mara more than anything.

Mara had lived there for years. His family let him play outside in sun where another forest was.

That's my forest, River thought.

River proudly looked at the painting that hung on the wall. The same exact painting that he saved Mara with.

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