Sub-junior 1st Prize Winning Story - An Unusual Hike
“An Unusual Hike” by Siow Xuan Ting, Tao Nan School, Singapore, is the First Prize winning story in the sub-junior category of the first biannual Short Story Contest 2019.
An Unusual Hike
“Where are you guys?’’ I looked around. There was no one in sight. Clumps of bushes surrounded me. The pungent smell of rotting leaves and moss filled the air. Why had I walked ahead of the others and left my backpack with Sam? I took a deep breath to stop the fear that was starting to well up inside me. Panic filled me as I tried frantically to retrace my steps but to no avail. There were barely visible mud trails snaking through the undergrowth behind me. I soldiered on. Hopefully this was the path I had come from.
As I ventured deeper into the woods, the sounds of squirrels chattering and insects churring became more prominent. Gigantic trees stood around me like sentries. How far away was I from my friends? There was no giving up. I had to find them quickly. I took a deep breath and shouted at the top of my voice, “Sam, Tim, Tom, where are you?”
Nothing but the echo of my own voice filled the air. Suddenly, thunder roared and lightning flashed. Rain poured down. The cold air brushed against my cheeks, making my teeth chatter.
Shivering uncontrollably, I peered around. I desperately needed some sort of shelter in this weather. I had to find a cave, a tree with huge leaves or a hut that could shield me from the rain. After a long and tiring search, I finally found a cave.
The entrance was enormous, showing parts of the cave. I cautiously took a step in and wrinkled my nose against the musty smell that permeated the air of the cave. Spider webs hung from the ceiling and dead leaves were scattered everywhere. My muscles felt sore and my feet were aching. I walked wearily towards a rock and sat down, immensely relieved to finally getting a much-needed rest.
Just then, the distinct sound of sobbing filled the cave. I gasped. What was a person doing here? I moved towards the sound. The cave was getting darker with every step and the air was stale. Suddenly, I spotted a faint light in the distance. I slowly inched towards it.
As I got closer to it, I realized it was a lamp! The lamp was old and rusty. Beside it stood a cage with a little girl in it. The scrawny girl was curled up and staring intently at the ground, not daring to look up. There was no one else around. I slowly bent down beside her.
“Little girl, what are you doing here?’’
“I have…been kid…kidnapped. Help…me,” she said feebly, in-between sobs.
Her voice trembled in fear as she looked at me hopefully. Tears were streaming down her cheeks. As I looked at her frightened face, I could not help but feel protective towards her. I made up my mind. I had to get her out of there. I picked up a large stone from the floor. Lifting it above my shoulder, I swung it at the lock.
“BAM!” The lock broke into half.
The little girl crawled out of the cage and fell into my arms. “We have to get out quickly,” she whispered. We groped our way along the dark cave walls until we reached the entrance.
As we stepped into the open, I noticed that the downpour had stopped. Light shone through the gaps in the tree canopy, making the path easier for us to see.
Suddenly, the little girl nudged my elbow and pointed at a tree, fear clearly written all over her face. I immediately caught sight of a man clad in black staring at us. There was only one person the girl could be terrified of – the kidnapper!
As we fled down the rocky path, the little girl held on to my hand tightly. My heart pounded furiously. What if he caught up? I turned to check on the little girl. Her face was pale. I knew she could not go on any longer. I glanced around quickly. There was no one in sight.
I heaved a sigh of relief. The kidnapper probably tripped over a stone, I thought as I patted the little girl on the back to calm her down. What a close shave. The little girl’s cheeks were starting to turn rosy. She slowly stood up. I flashed her a smile. However, we still had a problem. We had to get out.
Not knowing which direction to go, we thrashed through the forest as far as our tired legs could carry us. Some parts seemed familiar while others were different. We were in a mess. Suddenly, I caught sight of some shadows scanning the area. I heard familiar voices shouting, “XT, XT where are you?” We had found them! I stumbled towards the group with the little girl behind me.
“I’m here,” I shouted as tears raced down my cheeks. They turned and ran towards me. “We have finally found you!” We put our arms around each other and hugged tightly. They did not notice the little girl hiding behind me.
I pointed at the little girl and said, “Quick! We must take this little girl to the nearest police station! She was kidnapped. The kidnapper was chasing after us!” On hearing that, everyone scrambled into the car.
As Sam started the car engine, the exhausted little girl leaned on my shoulder and closed her eyes. I smiled. What could had happened if I did not risk my life to save her? I was no longer the timid teenager that I once thought I was. I felt relieved that I had managed to help her escape. Who would have known that a leisure hike could turn into the adventure of rescuing a child from the clutches of a kidnapper?