2021, Junior, Creative Writing
“Are you sure it’s safe in there?”
Resembling a pufferfish in the bright red life jacket, a little girl stood on the dock, eying the swirling river warily.
“You’re just nervous because it’s your first time paddleboarding. Come on! The Han River isn’t that dirty.”
The girl thought of the crystal-clear pools she had swum in back home, all carefully cleaned and filtered. Wondering how anyone could swim in such filth, she nervously paddled towards her friends until a pale figure caught her eye. There, floating in the murky waters, was the body of a lifeless fish, almost mistaken for the countless plastic bags in the river. The little Korean girl gasped in horror. Its dull eyes showed no sign of hope as it floated aimlessly alongside the current. Shivering despite the humidity, a question resonated through her mind, “Why isn’t the world taking proactive measures to stop these monstrosities?” The girl pushed down the panic that was arising within her.
Maybe I should make up a story…
She imagined herself as a beautiful maiden, rowing the gondola across the narrow waterways of Venice…
The crisp cold air of December stung the young man’s throat as he trudged his way through the narrow streets. The cold murky water continued to rise, and every negozio he knew looked vastly different.
It had only been a year after the acqua alta, a major flooding that occurs once every four years. Nobody was prepared for the rising waters of Venice that winter. Near an open window, a news broadcaster spoke in rapid Italian.
“Climate change has made the waters of Venice rise higher than ever before… experts have concluded that by 2100, Venice might be completely submerged… The man continued along. He recalled humid summer days when he and his friends dove into the canal, whooping and laughing, as the cool water eased their fatigue. Such simple days of bliss were long gone. Almost nobody ever jumped into the putrid, green-gray waters anymore.
Maybe I should move to India. The man thought, half-jokingly. Sighing, the young man trudged onward as the evening fell in the sinking city.
“So… you’re saying that the river… self purifies?” The reporter couldn’t believe her ears. “Of course! Dump the waste, take some time, and the water cleans itself! It is holy water!” The professor chortled in chopped-up English.
“So, you think all of this—” the reporter pointed to the sewage gushing out into the Ganga River— “… is okay?”
Forcing herself to smile, the reporter attempted to block out the putrid odor. She, too, had once bathed in the river full of corpses and waste. The reporter knew better now, but the people surrounding her continued to sip the once-sacred liquid with an expression of bliss.
The people of India are drinking poisoned water; this needs to change. Why can’t they understand? The young woman thought, biting the insides of her cheek. Maybe the change will never come.
As the motorboat sped on, a group of kids gathered around a television in an apartment. “The world of kangaroos and koalas! Come travel to Australia today….”
The puppy couldn’t wait for tomorrow to come. He could almost see the pond filled with little critters and gentle, lapping waves. Cheerfully chewing a plush kangaroo, the puppy turned his curly brown head. His owner had entered and something seemed wrong.
“Oh, darling, I’m sorry. The droughts in Australia have gotten much worse…” She added when she saw the puppy’s horrified expression, “It’s all dried up. No more pond day.”
No more pond day?
The puppy buried himself deep into his blanket and closed his eyes. Maybe, he thought whimpering, maybe if I try hard enough, I can bring the water and ducks back.
But as the young pup drifted off to sleep, he already knew the truth.
No more swimming.
“No more swimming?” The Korean girl asked, incredulous.
“Yeah,” her friend answered. “I’m tired of paddleboarding. Let’s go back to mom.”
The girl frowned. She was forgetting something important that had happened earlier in the afternoon. She waved it off and sighed.
“All right,” she said to the yellow pufferfish. “Race you to the shore!”
“Jihoo! Wait up!”
And on that fateful day four years ago, I came back to the shore laughing without a care, eagerly thinking about the long shower I would have at home.
An honest reflection of me and the world, I voiced how turning away from a situation can ripple into tsunamis… and take a turn for the worse. In this piece, all of the characters think “Maybe”: "Maybe I’ll just wish it away." "Maybe I should ignore this." "Maybe, things will miraculously work out." Sadly, this is not the case. People and animals alike are—and will— suffer as the water rises. However, we can still see a glimmer of hope. Around the world, people are striving for a greener earth, a place where there would be more fish than plastics in the sea. Water is not just a drink or a place to wade in. It is a memory that flows onward as they pass each generation. I wanted to tell the world that one’s water story is not just their’s alone; it’s everyone’s. This is our story. Perhaps maybe, just maybe, it is possible for each and every one of us to turn that “maybe” into a “must."