Below are writing samples by Katie S. ’19 which received regional awards from the 2018 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards program.
I dig my toes into the cold, wet sand, shuddering as a dark wave swiftly swallows my buried feet. Everything is cold: the air, the ocean, my skin, the stars. Behind me, window lights from houses reflect on the water, twinkling softly like fireflies. My own house is out of sight, but I know my little brother is sitting on the living room floor with the cat, watching the news with my dad. My mom was on the phone with her cousin when I left the house, when I left with tears in my eyes. I wanted to run back. But I’d already said my goodbyes
Everyone is born marked. Many believe it is a blessing, a message from the divine. It is imprinted in the soul and holds an answer to something very important in the person’s life. Though we are born with the mark, we are not born knowing its significance. Its meaning. Some of us never find out; knowing could come at any given moment in one’s life. For some, it is early on. For others, it is in adulthood, or retirement, or in some cases, never. But those of us who are lucky, or those of us who are cursed, can have our lives defined by our mark.
I am not afraid. I am not afraid. My feet have numbed, and the cold waves feel like a gentle caress against my ankles. I never liked the beach very much during the day, when tourists swarmed like pelicans, too many sunburnt bodies littered outside my bedroom window. But in the evening, it’s silence and stars. Waves don’t crash against the shore violently at night; the water is calm, and the soft lulling of wind and water calms my racing heart.
I knew when I was nine. It happened during school at recess, when I was dangling from the rusted monkey bars, arm outstretched, fingers reaching for the cool metal of the next bar. I never made it to the next bar. There was a burning in my chest, right over my heart, and then I knew. I fell from the monkey bars and vomited in the sandy mulch. Mrs. Reid sent me home sick, and as I waited in the nurse’s office for my mom to come, I let the nurse believe my tears were that of a silly stomach-sick child. That day, I knew that my mark would tell me when I died.
Over the years I have replayed that moment over and over, trying to recreate that exact feeling, the one that has plagued my dreams and haunted my steps for eight years. I often fantasize that I am wrong about my mark, that maybe when I knew, I was wrong. Maybe I interpreted the shattering pain wrong. Sometimes, I almost convince myself that it will all be okay. But the pain I felt that day on the playground -- it was the pain of my heart ripped across the universe. It was a pain that I couldn’t understand at the time and still can’t understand; it was a pain that I could only describe as life shattering. So when my mark started throbbing two weeks ago, I knew what was coming. I began to appreciate the tranquility of my life, exactly the way it was, because I knew it would never be the same again. I knew that I may never be again. And when my mark started glowing this morning in the shower, pulsing with purpose, I knew that my time was up.
My mark burns now, itchy and hot and painful. I pull my shirt over my head and toss it back onto the cold sand, wading deeper into the ocean. Living along the beach, I wear a bikini top under my clothes more often than a normal bra, so I walk out into the water. Waves lap gently against my chest, cooling the painful burn of my mark. Tilting my head back, my long hair is immediately weighed down by the pull of the water, begging me to drift out to the sea and join the mermaids beneath the moonlit water. I want to go out and swim, but I am supposed to die tonight, and maybe there is a shark waiting out there for me. That would be a horrible way to die, so I restrain myself.
The wind picks up and so do the waves, salt water splashing me obnoxiously in the face, so I wade back to the shore, feeling worse in the absence of the water. The wind plays with my wet body, and goosebumps line my limbs. My heart beats too fast. Have mercy on me I ask the universe. Any time now.
My mark begins to glow, brighter than I imagine possible. Perhaps a ship will run off course, mistaking me for the beacon of a lighthouse. The aching is overwhelming, and I’m overcome with a deep feeling of incompleteness and panic. I am not ready, I am not ready, I will never be ready. A tear leaks from the corner of my eye, but I tell myself it’s just the salt.
Goodbye world. Goodbye mom, dad, Henry and Nuffers, please take care of each other. Goodbye ocean, sand, stars, and tiny fish. Goodbye.
“Are you alright?”
I jump, whirling around, dashing away tears from my face. I won’t meet death in tears.
But it is not death, it is a boy my age, with ocean eyes and white blonde hair.
Death is a boy with ocean eyes and white blonde hair.
He unbuttons his shirt, revealing his Mark. It is identical to mine, glowing in the darkness. We shine together. The pain is gone, for now.
The Princess Saves Herself