Thursday, April 22, 2010

Congratulations Isabel Udo, 14!

Writopia writer Isabel Udo (left, answering a question about her writing process at the NYPL) won a 2010 National Gold Medal for her eerie and provoking short story: The Devil's Tide. Please help her celebrate by reading her prose:

The Devil’s Tide
By Isabel Udo, 14

Manhattan, New York: Saturday, April 19th, Sometime in the Future

There was a little blonde boy jumping up and down in the stands like he needed to go to the bathroom. There was a violet-eyed girl on the shoulders of her friends, being paraded around the soccer field. There was an eagle-eyed mother comforting her spoiled brat of a daughter. There was a pale-faced boy of eight, too deep in his game of Mario to notice any of the commotion.

I laughed to myself, knowing that these people, this place, and the feeling in it would all be gone once my deal with the Devil was executed. I could hardly wait to see people crawling over each other for a thin thread of life, a thread that was all they had left.
A girl’s cell phone began to ring.

“Hi Mom! Won the game 4-noth-!”

I could not make out her mother’s reply, but she clearly had interrupted her daughter.

“No, no…that’s not possible…” the girl insisted.

As if the Devil and I cared. I enjoyed watching the shadow of fear cross her face.

“What’s the matter, Katie?” asked the freckled 5-year-old boy standing next to her, who was quite obviously her brother.

“C’mon Jasper, we need to get home NOW!” she snapped, dragging him across the green synthetic turf.

“Not yet. I want some pizza. You promised,” he declared, stomping his left foot.

His voice was so irritating and whiney that I couldn’t resist running my fingers across the back of his neck. His eyes welled up with unexplainable anguish, and I admired my work.

“I said NOW!” she shouted.

She slammed the gate behind her and ducked under the ladder of a construction site.

In four hours, they would both be dead.

* * *

Miami, Florida: Saturday, April 19th, Sometime in the Future

There was a real estate agent driving down the road in her brand new Mini. She was headed toward the house she was about to sell, a 5 thousand square foot villa on the water. As she drove, she thought to herself, The sale of this house will turn my life around. She had no idea how right she was. She was thinking, of course, that the killing she’d make from this deal would have her set for life. No more money problems. No more sad faces at Christmas. When the kids get back from California, they’ll be so happy!

I knew better though. I knew there wouldn’t even be any faces at Christmas, only a shared feeling of depression and doom.

She arrived at the house and stepped out of the car. She admired the house—for it really was a nice house—then turned when she heard the buyers’ Mercedes coming down the gravel road. Behind her, a shadow loomed up, consuming the sky. It moved quickly, far too quickly to be a cloud. This shadow was the shadow of disaster.

* * *

Acadia National Park, Maine: Saturday, April 19th, Sometime in the Future

“C’mon kids, we’re almost at the top!” encouraged the park ranger to the five 8-year-olds trudging along behind him, even though they weren’t even halfway there.

I don’t know why people expect children to believe any pleasant fabrication they are told. They are smarter than they look.

The children’s counselor looked at the park ranger with one eyebrow raised, but knew better than to comment. The kids were getting tired and the excitement of seeing the moose at the bottom of the mountain was wearing off.

“You’ll get to see the puffins sooner if you hurry!” the ranger grinned.

Suddenly, the bright noon sun disappeared and an enormous wall of water surged up and towered over them.

I felt euphoric hearing the screaming that resounded in the hills as panic filled the air. This was some of my best work. The Devil would be impressed. I released my full fury on the entire eastern coast of the United States. Everyone felt it, young and old, sick and strong; no one was spared.

* * *

Manhattan, New York: Saturday, April 19th, Sometime in the Future

Jasper and Katie rushed along the sidewalk. Everyone was racing in different directions. Every face was wrought with terror. Everyone was pushing and shoving as they went—as if their lives depended on it. Katie’s face was white as a sheet and Jasper’s was a sickening green.

Katie dragged her brother down the streets of the city, toward the house she had lived in her entire life. As the East River hi-rise came into view, she was struck by the overwhelming desire to feel the comfort of her home again. Then she heard the terrified screams around her.

Suddenly, her face contorted in horror as the East River began to recede. Treacherous sharp rocks, plastic milk jugs, and dilapidated boards of recycled wood were revealed. Her already pale face drained completely of color. Going to the house would be suicide. Her mind ceased to function as she turned and ran, her brother dragging behind, terrified. Katie’s mind began to work again, focusing on one task, and one task only: running for her life.

* * *

Miami, Florida: Saturday, April 19th, Sometime in the Future

The thought of a million dollar check with “Lucy Carmichael” spelled out on it no longer had sway over her. She could not think of the house. She was unable to contemplate Christmas. Her only thought, was to run. It was pure instinct. And so she ran, like she had never run before.

The running was over once she reached the car. She could feel the pounding in her chest. It was as if her heart would burst from her ribcage.

She was a perfect example of the effects of some of my most devastating creations.

Lucy started the car and shot up the road at full speed. She disregarded the 15 mph speed limit. Her only thought was escape and the word seemed to pulse to the rhythm of her heart, filling up her head and taking over her senses. Escape, escape, escape…

* * *

Acadia National Park, Maine: Saturday, April 19th, Sometime in the Future

It was after the first wave of the tsunami, and the only people left on the mountain were the counselor and a single child. They stood motionless, panting at the edge of a cliff. Horror-struck, they had watched the others being swept away by the rushing tides.

The child stood on the precipice leaning over and staring at the ground below as the ocean receded again. The rocks beneath his feet began to slip, and as they did, he fell. The counselor, senses acute with fear and grief, reached out, grasping the child’s hand and breaking his fall.

The counselor and the child grabbed each other tightly, tendons straining painfully.

“I won’t let go,” reassured the counselor in a firm but desperate voice.

The child gazed up with unquestioning trust, though terror was written on his ghostly white face.

The counselor’s obvious devotion to this child disgusted me. I watched as their hands slowly slipped apart, only infinitesimally, but the child was only moments away from death.

The counselor and the child gazed fiercely into each other’s eyes, as they held onto one another by the tips of their fingers.

“DON’T WORRY! I’M NOT GONNA LET GO!” the counselor cried. As the last words escaped her parted lips, she lost her grip, and the child plunged downward, shrieks echoing throughout the mountainside.

The counselor stood motionless. She stared over the edge of the cliff where the child had fallen, and the cold, grey rocks stared back up at her in accusation.

I killed him, I killed him, I killed him. It’s my fault. He’s dead now. It’s my fault. I killed him, it’s my fault. He’s dead, my fault, all my fault…I killed him…

At that moment she could feel her life shattered into a million pieces. She stood at the edge of the cliff -- and jumped.

* * *

Manhattan, New York: Saturday, April 19th, Sometime in the Future

Jasper and Katie flew down the streets of Manhattan. Terror filled their eyes and fear dripped down their faces. They were both hot and cold at once, feverish with dread. Shrieks cut through the air like knives, but no one had time to see where they were coming from.

Jasper had begun to slow down. At the age of five he didn’t have the strength to run so far or so quickly. Katie dragged him down the street, paying no heed to his exhaustion.

“Katie, slow down, I’m getting tired,” Jasper panted.

“No, you need to hurry up or we’ll die,” snapped Katie.

She said it with more venom than I thought possible for a 14-year-old. I liked the way she was beginning to think. At last I was witnessing the fruits of my labor.


“Don’t you get it?! We will DIE if you keep dragging your feet like that! HURRY UP!”

“I can’t Katie, I’m sorry,” he whimpered.

He’s slowing me down. We probably won’t survive moving at this rate…maybe I should leave him…It could be the only way for me to survive…

Just then, an enormous wave began to tower over the chaotic streets and imposing buildings of the island. As it did so, every face turned skyward, including Katie’s. Standing above them was a frothing monster of water and debris. All knew danger was closing in. All knew its imminence. All knew they would die.

* * *

Miami, Florida: Saturday, April 19th, Sometime in the Future

Lucy’s hands were in a vice-like grip around the steering wheel. Nico and Pearl , my dear children, I will be there. I need you and you need me. I love you Nico and Pearl, I love you more than you could possibly imagine. She was sweating from every pore and her eyes were focused on the road ahead. I need to get to Nico and Pearl! She looked in her rear-view mirror. She saw the house that only moments ago had been the epitome of her dreams. It was framed by dark water, water so menacing it was as if the Devil himself was inside it.

I was a bit insulted by this last remark about the Devil being in the wave; He had only asked me to commission the wave that was about to wipe out half the nation. I was the one who had created this monstrosity. And I wanted the credit.

Lucy looked back up the road. The end of it inched toward her, painfully slow. She started to cry. The type of crying that wracks your body violently, shaking you, but makes no sound. It blurred her vision, made her eyes burn, and her head split with pain. This can’t be happening. Nico and Pearl need me. She looked back, and through the tears she saw the waterside mansion she had planned to sell be crushed under the watery giant that came rolling across the land. I will survive. Nico and Pearl will see me again.

It is quite beyond me why people think that just because they want something to happen, it will. Don’t they realize that there are greater forces at work than their own minds?

The wave was now behind Lucy, not a foot away from the back of her car. Looking back made her dizzy with horror and fear. Time seemed to stand still. Her heart stopped; her mind would not function; she couldn’t scream, and even the wave that towered, colossal, above her, seemed to halt in its tracks. Then, all too quickly, everything came back to life and her car was crushed by the weight of the water. Lucy struggled for air, her lungs straining. She pounded the door, and when it finally opened, she was sucked into a swift current with swirling mud and rocks.

She became light headed for want of air.

Nico, Pearl, know that I love you more than anything in the world, more than myself. I would do anything for you. I realize that I will be leaving this world today. My only comfort is that you, so far away, you will live, you will survive.

She was pathetic. I mean she was dying. Couldn’t she be a little more upset? I had to do something…

Her head spinning in confusion, Lucy found herself suddenly wishing for her children more than ever, as if a cold hand had touched her heart and softened her resolve. Her lungs burned like fire. The salty water poured down her throat, making it raw and painful. Nico, Pearl, I need you! I need you more than I need air! If I could just give you one last hug, if I could just say goodbye… Her vision began to tunnel. Nico! Pearl! And with one last painful gulp, all went black.

* * *

Manhattan, New York: Saturday, April 19th, Sometime in the Future

Katie and Jasper ran toward the crowd of people pushing and shoving down the narrow alleyway. The police were directing them into a school, though they knew there was no chance of survival, no possible way to live. The wave that was nearing the coastline had condemned them all long ago, but the police did not want people to panic. Better to live your last moments, thinking everything would be okay, than to endure knowing that your death would be a painful one.

As the massive wave came toward them, Jasper collapsed in tears, sobbing in despair. Katie’s heart softened at the sight of this and knelt down beside him.

“Jasper, calm down. We’re going to be okay. We just have to get up and run really, really fast until we get to Mom and Dad.”

“But I’m so tired, Katie. I don’t think I can run anymore.”

“Jasper, you can do it. We can get back to Mom and Dad together.”



I knew this was a promise she would never be able to keep.

Katie helped Jasper up, and they ran. They reached a huge crowd that was screaming and shouting as the police tried to direct them through a narrow alley. Katie was shoved against a chain-link-fence as people pushed by her, scrambling toward the open doors of the school. She couldn’t see Jasper; he had been consumed by the crowd. The bodies piled against each other. Her chest was being crushed and she could feel herself slowly being pressed into the ground. The crowd was converging on the school like ants on a carcass. Jasper, though only a foot away, could not see his sister, and, like her, was being pummeled into the cement of the sidewalk.

“Jasper…” she could barely speak as she was being crushed against the fence. “Jasper…” she repeated, growing light-headed and dizzy.

“Katie…” Jasper’s vision grew dim. Brother and sister were choking, dying, and in a split second, their lives were snuffed out, like candles in the wind.

* * *

I stepped through the swirling, fiery gates of Hell and made my way to the Devil’s office. I arrived and rapped once on the door.

“Enter,” came his icy reply. The Devil was a cold man, despite the smoldering inferno he inhabited. I opened the door.

“Good evening, father” I said. “All has gone as planned and I hope my devastation was to your liking.”

“You have done well. I’ve never had a son do so well at seven years of age.” He hissed.

“Thank you, father,” I mumbled with a shiver.

“We will discuss plans for the future tomorrow. I have thousands of souls to burn now.”

“Yes, father” I said as I slipped out and closed the door behind me.

I skipped to the playground to play hopscotch with my friends, listening to the sound of tortured shrieks that echoed for miles around.


Olivia said...

WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW! YOU ARE AN AMAZING WRITER! This is such a compelling piece. It is really good. Wow. I want to know what happens now!

Stephanie said...

Compelling is the perfect description of this piece. You are a very talented writer!

Monika said...

Isabel, this is an amazing story! I really felt anxious as I was reading it. You are very talented and I'm looking forward to reading more of your work.

Maya said...

AMAZING. I was sitting on the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading it. You are such a great writer, Isabel!!!!! I can't wait to read the sequel.

Tricia G. said...

Amazing! I was at the edge of my seat, waiting to see what the devil had in store. Left me wanting more.
Congratulations Isabel, well deserved!

Anonymous said...

Amazing! I was at the edge of my seat, waiting to see what the devil had in store. Left me wanting more.
Congratulations Isabel, well deserved!
Tricia G.

mom said...

I love this story! I feel so much for the characters! It is wonderfully written and constructed!

Li-Chen said...

I was so scared but I could not let it go. You are a devil of a writer! I am shaking all over and do not think I can sleep tonight... Bravo! and congratulations on the Gold Medal!(Please do not forget to attach an insomia remedy in your next episode:)

tarima said...

wow!!!! you are such a powerful writer!! my anxiety level was sky high. your story reminded me to not sweat the small stuff because most stuff is not at a tsunami wave length and to give extra love to my loved ones. thank you for the inspiration!!

Charlotte W said...

Hiiiiii izi! its Charlotte! I'm soooo proud of you dude! That was so awesome. Truly professional writing i loved it!

Cris said...

Hey Izi, as I said once your story is amazing. I loved it. Eu estou muito orgulhosa de vocĂȘ - I'm very proud of you. Congratulations!!!

Miru said...

IZIIZIIZIIZIIZIIZI, OMG YOU ARE AMAZING AT WRITING (rather, you are an amazing writer)!!!!! WOWWWW!!!! your dark side is very...dark... :) i love it XD

miru said...

IZI!!! OMG YOU ARE AMAZING AT WRITING (rather, you are an amazing writer)!!!!!! CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! WOWWW!!!!! your dark side is very....dark... :) I LOVE IT XD

Azraa said...

IZI!! that was an amazing story!! your super talented! i never knew u had a dark side xD i like :P