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Clearwater Lake, 2014 This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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That small dot on the map held more memories than a trunk in an attic; the vivid scenes of bonfires and the shimmering water, the way the sun hit the massive basses my dad caught, and the way the trees ominously swayed in the heavy rain during the ten-minute weather changes. One memory, however, caught me off guard in the smallest things, and it transport me back to that electric night in the summer of 2014.


When the lights died away and the once lively house grew silent, we slipped out of the crowded cabin and stashed our shoes under the deck. The air from over the lake sent a tingle down my back, like icy hands leaving their frosty trademark on my skin.


My bare feet sunk into the cool sand as we ran down to the waterside, our hearts beating so loud we feared the thunderous thumping would wake our sleeping families up in the red house. We disappeared into the sightline where the crystal tides washed up onto the caramel shores, the moonlight as our only beacon. The glassy lake was soon shot with ripples over the surface, accompanied by the loud splash created by the eight-year-old girl with a devilish smile. She was soon followed by two more girls with iridescent grins, before disappearing behind the dense trees on the shoreline.


We followed behind and were greeted with a warming sensation as we stepped into the tepid, spring-fed lake. He smiled, and I felt my stomach flush and my heart flutter as we began to walk across the dim shore.


Low hanging branches dotted the beach, serving as a host for the crickets humming their soft melodic chirps, accompanied by the muffled giggles and splashing as the night went on. We passed a patch of violet flowers in the water, their purple buds holding the secret of our nighttime adventure. Each breeze that tousled our hair carried the smell of pine needles and abandoned fire pits, with the promise of an early sunrise.


The three girls in front of us soaked their shorts and the bottoms of their shirts as they waded deeper into the water, watching the tiny, silver minnows streak below the shallow surface. Their glimmering scales reflected like millions of dazzling crystals under the rippling waves, that scattered to every side as we got closer to their groups. Weeds swayed underwater with each wave that swept in, the green and brown strands like hands that tickled our ankles with every step.


Beyond the patches of moss and plants, we reached a clear sand bar. He ran a hand through his sun-bleached blonde hair, as he sat down on the sandy shoreline. We all sat with our feet emerged in the waves, with a beautiful silence all around us. The lack of conversation was not uncomfortable or unsettling, but peaceful and calming.


The large cabin was now a speck on the horizon amongst the towering trees, still silent and dark. All the houses on the hills remained as dark as the twilight sky on a cloudy night, while its’ residents remained peacefully dreaming about their long days on the lake.


The best part about summer nights in the Northwoods was how clearly the stars show, with no city lights to douse their glow. A blanket of stars spread across the dark lake, engulfing the clouds passing by in the speckles of light from the quintessential constellations. A glowing yellow object floated past, evoking a gasp from the youngest girl. She squinted her eyes shut to make a wish, while her brother chuckled beside me, knowing it was only a satellite.


We sat for a while, completely losing track of time and too tired to notice the moon being covered by a black cloud. Within five minutes, the rest of the light, fluffy clouds had been tinted with a dark grey. The winds picked up, and the tree branches threatened to snap at any minute as they swayed above us. Jumping to our feet, we ran across the shore as the water sprayed up into our faces and soaked our clothes. Lightning flashed across the sky like a void in the endless valley of stars, accompanied by the loud rumbling of thunder in the distance.


Every little thing I had noticed on our way here was ignored on our way back. All I saw now were the fallen tree trunks we tripped over, the choppy waves that sloshed up our legs, and the long vines that snagged in our wet hair. The surface of the lake was no longer glassy and smooth, it was now replaced with the ominous and murky waves getting closer to the shore.


We ran until our legs screamed and our lungs burned, until the whipping rain had soaked us to the bone, and finally, we reached the shore in front of the red house. A hot shower had never sounded better, but with the others still sleeping there was nothing we could do but dry off and go to sleep. Forgetting our shoes completely, we trudged inside, soaking wet, and shivered into towels until the sun broke over the churning water.






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