I opened my eyes just a little bit so I could see a sliver of light. A warm and gentle hand slowly shook me as I became aware of my surroundings. My mom slowly whispered, “Ishaan, Ishaan, wake up.” Slowly I craned my neck and looked at the clock. “It’s 3:00 am,” I moaned. My mom gave me a look. ”Don’t you remember?” she whispered. “Remember what?” I asked. (I was still sleepy and still trying to process this information.) “I’m clueless, I have no idea,” I yawned. A couple of seconds later I closed my eyes and dozed off. Then something freezing hit my face. I gasped and jumped out of bed and opened my eyes. What was it? Never mind, I was wet. At least I was awake. While I scurried to go change, I remembered. “Oh, know I remember! We’re going river rafting!” My little brother stirred. “Shh,” my mom whispered. I looked at him. He looked so innocent sleeping peacefully, but I knew better than that. Only I knew better than that.
The California river was a long, boring six hour drive away and I couldn’t wait to start. It was super early in the morning, and the street was completely deserted, with a few lights here and there. It was so dark and quiet that tiredness crept over me. I yawned, and soon dozed off to sleep.
The car came to a sudden stop and I woke up with a jolt. My brother snorted, “Wow, you slept for a long time.” I just ignored him. I guessed that we had arrived because of all the trees and singing birds dotted all over the place. A pair of hikers past by us and there were tents were scattered all over the place. “Who wants breakfast,” my mom exclaimed. My stomach growled emptily. “I do,” I admitted. “Great, we have donuts,” my mom said. My brother’s eyes lit up. He greedily lifted his hand and grabbed his donut, and then I took mine. While I was eating, he swiftly took a huge chunk of my donut, shoved it into his mouth, and downed it in one bite. “Hey,” I yelled, “You took my donut.” Denying this he shook his he said, “No I didn’t, Why are you blaming me when I didn't do anything wrong.” My face turned red in rage as my muscles tensed. My mom turned around and said, “Calm down. You probably ate it without noticing.” My brother smirked, being happy of what he had done. As usual my parents were on my brother’s side. “This is so unfair,” I muttered. All of the sudden my dad yelled, “Hurry, we’re late.” I looked at the clock. We only had 5 minutes to get there. We sprinted to the river as fast as we could. If we were late the rafts would leave without us. Winded and out of breath we barely made it before the rafts left. Slowly, we pushed our boat off the bank and got it into the water. We climbed into the boat and then we were off. “Let’s go,” I beamed, but on the inside I was still mad. Mad about how unfair my life was. We had started our exciting adventure, but little did I know that this interpretation would be very different from what I was about to experience.
The light mist stroked my face as the strong wind brushed past me. Farther and farther we went, against the current, one stroke at a time. The raft rocked back and forth violently, threatening to throw us into the swift, deadly river littered with jagged rocks. We slowly pushed forward, but it seemed the farther we got the more it wanted to hold us back. But this was only the beginning. The real challenge was soon to come.
Then out of nowhere a huge current appeared. The wave rammed into us head on and catapulted me out of the boat. Time slowed down. For what felt like forever I was in the air, flying. I knew what was going to happen so I braced myself and got ready for the inevitable to arrive. After what felt like hours I began to fall, going faster every second. Only a couple seconds tilt impact. There was no stopping this. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.
Nothing could have prepared me for this. I hit the water hard, feeling as if I shattered every bone in my body. I yelped as I submerged in the ice-cold water, but no sound came out. The cold spread through my body, freezing my muscles so that I couldn’t move and inch. I was at the mercy of the current. It spun me in circles faster and faster, until I felt so dizzy that I was losing my self-consciousness. The current kept shoving me forward, no matter what was in the way. It slammed me against huge rocks and fallen branches. It got to a point where I couldn’t take it anymore. Yellow spots danced in front of my eyes. I could barely hear the faint voice of my parents yelling, “Ishaan.” My head felt light. “No, it can’t end like this. Someone please help me. Please. Help,” I thought. All of the sudden, everything slowed down. It was a miracle. My body was beaten badly and exhausted, but I pushed those thoughts away and said to myself, “I may actually survive this.” I popped out of the water and looked for our raft. My dad called to me, “Come here.” It was only a bit away, but I was in no shape to swim. “Only a bit left to go. This is the final stretch. You can do it,” I told myself. Using all the strength I had left, scraping down to the bottom, I swam forward. Every kick, one after the other, felt torturous, but I closed my mind and focused on one goal. I must get back to the raft. Slowly I went forward, and when I was so close, so close to the raft, my goal, I couldn’t do it. All the pain that I had pushed away came back, in one blow. The pain was agonizing. I started to sink deeper and deeper to the bottom of the murky river. So close, but yet so far. “No, I yelled.”
All of the sudden, a firm hand grabbed me and held on tightly. Slowly, I was pulled out of the water and onto the raft. Lying on my back I gasped for air, taking quick, sharp breaths to catch my breath. Painfully, I sat up straight and grabbed my paddle. My brother was on the verge of tears. “Are you okay,” I asked him. “I thought I lost you,” he sobbed. I stopped in my tracks. This was new. Maybe my brother did have a heart, and maybe deep down under that greed and selfishness he cared for me. I hugged him and assured him, “I will always be there for you. No matter what. And besides, all’s well that ends well. Right?” That seemed to make him feel better. “We should probably focus paddling so we can get through the rest of the river,” I said. He nodded.
While we kept paddling and pushing forward, having fun together, and enjoying, the scary memory that happened only minutes before seemed to disappear, bit by bit. Soon, it felt as if the traumatizing experience had never really happened.
We had completed most of our journey, but there was still one thing left. Remember when I said “the real challenge was soon to come?” At the end of the river, there is a huge rapid with a towering drop and to make matters worse there is a powerful current speeding you forward so you have no control on where you’re going. That is what I meant by “the real challenge” and it was about to come. The rapids started getting more violent and occurred more frequently, and if I looked far enough, I could see it. The water was white from the constant churning with the flow and speed of the river, but what was really scary was that from here it was as if the river was moving, and then it just fell.
As we neared, everyone’s anxiety rose, a bit more every inch. It’s one thing to hear it described by someone else, and another when you see it for yourself. We started to speed up, because the current was gaining speed. Thoughts raced in my head. I was starting to doubt myself. If I fell of in the beginning with the calm rapids, what would happen to me if I fell off here? What about someone else? I took a deep breath and told myself, “Don’t be a coward. Try to enjoy this.” I focused on that single thought and yelled, “Hold on!”
Our raft crashed into a rock, but this time I was holding on, so I was able to hold my ground. Although I was fortunate, my brother was not. He was thrown out of the raft and into the powerful, merciless river. There was no chance of survival in this part of the river for him, unless. Unless I did something. Even though my brother was a jerk to me, I still loved him, and maybe he still loved me back. How would I feel if I just left him out there for himself in the river. I reached out tilt the very edge and tried to grab my brother. Every second my brother was in the river meant an even lower chance of survival for him. He was a lot younger and smaller than me, and if I barely survived the rapids at the beginning which were calm compared to this, how would he survive this one. I reached out further and further, closer and closer the the deadly river, determined to save him, but this cost me.
The raft clipped a rock sticking out of the river and spun in circles leaving us powerless to control ourselves. I tried to hang on, but the power of the centrifugal force when the boat spun was too much. Spin after spin, my muscles aching more every second. I couldn’t hold on, because my fingers were slipping, and then I let go. I was hurled out of the boat and into the river, the last place where I would want to be.
I fell into the freezing water, and immediately lost control of myself. The current here was so strong, it was constantly spinning me in circles while forcing me forward. I collided with huge rocks, each one hurting more than the last, but none of this mattered. The single goal pushed me forward. Now that I’m here, I must save my brother. I scanned the endless river and saw a paddle lodged between two rocks. Getting there would be easy. I just let go and let myself be pushed by the current, but I didn’t think about how I would stop.
The strong current pushed me so hard forward I overshot my destination, but I barely managed to reach out for a grabbed a slippery rock. My fingers started to slip of the rock, one by one, each one making it harder for me to hold on. I was being swept farther and farther away from my little brother in trouble. With all my strength, I grabbed onto the rock with both hands, firmed my grip, and pulled myself up stream, against the strength of the river, but that didn't stop me. I pushed forward grabbing branches and rocks to pull myself forward. When I finally got to my brother every muscle in my body was aching and exhausted, but seeing my brother pushed those feelings away. He didn’t look good, but he was barely holding on for his life. The only way to get out of this scenario is to let go and try to end up on the bank of the river, so we could get on the raft from there. “Do you trust me?” I asked him. He nodded. “Okay, we have to let go, and when that happens, hold on to me.” He frantically shook his head saying no. “Trust me,” I said, and grabbed him. We were both desperate for air , and whenever we tried to swim to the surface the current always pushed us down, with greater force. It was like a game of tug of war with the river, and the river was winning. Then I saw my opportunity, there was a curve in the river, and here, we could use this to our advantage. I told myself, “It's now or never.” This was easy. I tried to get as much speed as possible with the current to push myself to the bank of the river, but it was not enough.
We were so close, so close to the safety of the bank, but not there. We didn't have enough speed and we were right next the the bank. Me and my brother wouldn’t survive. We were doomed. Wait, maybe not both of us. I heaved my brother, still holding on to him, towards the bank. Even if he makes it, there would be no chance of survival for me. He barely made it onto the edge of the bank, onto dry, safe land, but when he got there he didn’t let go. He held his ground and said, “I’m not leaving you.” In was stunned, and was speechless. While my brother was trying to pull me out of the river, I was still trying to comprehend this. When I was finally pulled out, we both sat on the bank, trying to catch our breath. Have you ever had so much to say, but you don’t know how to say it and you say so little? At that very moment I had a trillion thoughts zooming around in my head, but all I did was hug him and whisper, “Thanks. I owe you one.” “I should be thanking you,” he said, “You saved my life.”