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The Mustang Messenger

The Mustang Messenger

The student news site of Kennesaw Mountain High School

The Mustang Messenger

The student news site of Kennesaw Mountain High School

2023 Writing Contest: 3rd Place Winner “The Sun Rested High in the Sky”

Photo by Eleni Witte, 12th grade, Dec. 1, 2023

2023 Creative Writing Contest, 3rd place winner
Writer = Caitlyn Russell, 10th grade


The sun rested high in the sky, beaming down onto the sand as its dunes stretched as far as the eye could see. Small towns and cities dotted the horizon like lighthouses in the open sea. 

In the center of these badlands lay a range of canyons, one chasm sitting east of the town of Scorched Peak, the ravine like a gaping maw. The inland towns always had it harder with the weather. With no coastal breezes or AC being a commodity, the temperatures tended to turn the attitudes of the region sour.

It was noon, inhabitants of the desert region could always tell due to the sun’s position (and the unbearable heat reaching its peak). Those traveling by train or by horseback could at least feel the wind on their face to cool them off, but the same could not be said for those on foot. 

Edith put one foot after the other, a tight grip on her belongings. She didn’t have much, but it was enough. People moving out of their towns was a common thing, especially out of the town she was leaving behind. Calling it a bloodbath was the most polite thing she could describe it as. Scorched Peak was a town plagued by historical violence and strife; a birthplace of most outlaws, Edith included. 

She could feel the sun’s rays practically burning a hole into her wide-brimmed hat. The winds began to pick up, cooling her off temporarily. 

         “We ought to move by the coast, it’s colder there.” Edith spoke into her wrist, a speaker embedded into a bracelet she was wearing. The newer technology was something most struggle to get their hands on, and Edith’s own hands certainly weren’t clean of guilt. But, that was life here, no matter where you went you were sure to find folk who were willing to do anything to get what they wanted. For some, it meant telling small fibs, and for others it meant taking lives. 

         On the other end of the line was her friend Cassandra, they’d offered to let Edith stay in their home until she was back on her feet. She’d known them since they were teenagers, but when Cassanda moved towns, she found it hard to keep in touch. Now that she was moving into the same town it’d be a nice way to catch up.

         “Been living in Devil’s Reach all my life and I never had a single issue. If you’re thinking I should move to Goldbank then you’re just plain dim. It ain’t safe.” Cassandra scoffed.

Edith rolls her eyes so hard they almost fall out of her skull. 

“You’re being dramatic. It ain’t as much of a hell hole as Scorched Peak, and I certainly survived that place.”


Edith glanced down at her legs, crafted of iron and wires. The sand silently scraped against the metal, some grains getting stuck to the scratched surface. She was lucky to get such a nice pair of replacements, most have to get by with rusted and scrap-work cybernetic limbs. Yet, they painted a target on her back. She feared people killing her just to take them to sell, leaving her weary of strangers.

“But I did, ay?” Edith eventually spat out a response laced with venom, less than she wanted.

She could hear her friend sigh through the speaker, the sound crackling and popping as it came through, “You sure did.”

A quietness washed over the two, one only made less loud by the intensifying winds rushing against Edith’s ears, pushing her hair back.

“You really couldn’t have come and got me?” She broke the silence.

“I don’t got a horse, and clearly you’re capable, ay? You were just bragging about being resilient so put your money where your mouth is.”

Tch, not too kind of you. What if I fall in the ravine?”

“You’ll be fine, only people that fall down there are drunkards. Just take the least rickety looking bridge, simple enough.”

Edith looked ahead, spotting the vague shape of a bridge, a dot against a never-ending chasm. She always forgot how long the ravine stretched for, it was hard to tell from back in town. Her family had always warned her about getting too close to it, she’d always thought them paranoid, but the closer she got the more its jagged edges seemed violent, and the more threatening it became. However, she tried to shake away her fear and keep pushing. This clearing of the mind allowed her thoughts to come through more clearly, and one shined especially bright.

“Goldbank is safe, what’s really got you so bugged about that place?”

There came some incoherent mumbling in response, but Edith could make out one word: Sirens.

“Sirens? Really?” A laugh forced itself out of Edith, she couldn’t help it.

“Those are just stories sailors tell to excuse being bad at controlling their ships and crew! They ain’t real. ‘Sides, they only show up during storms, no other time.” She stifled another laugh; she couldn’t imagine someone like her friend being scared of a fable. Although, they’d always been superstitious now that Edith thought about it.

“You don’t know that! You’ve lived inland your entire life.”

“And yet I seem to have more sense than you. Next, you’re gonna tell me that there really is a giant rattlesnake living at the bottom of the ravine.”

Silence followed and she could only assume Cassandra was seething in embarrassment. She could envision them going beet red and waving their hands around dismissively. She couldn’t help but grin, first at that imagery, and then at the idea about seeing her friend again in person.

“Is there a sandstorm there? I can hear the wind.” Cassandra changed the topic.

“Ay, not yet, but it’s looking to be one. I’m moving about as fast as I can. I’m starting to get low visibility.” Sand blew past Edith’s eyes, lowering the distance she could see by a frustrating amount. What once had been a vast landscape and approaching ravine had now blended in with the whites and yellows of the ground below her. She began to move even faster, trying to push against the roaring winds. 

“Try to–” Her friend’s voice cut out, the signal getting interrupted. She gave the bracelet a swift flick, attempting to fix it through brute force. Nothing happened, however, and she was left with incoherent cuts of words and phrases.

“Cassandra?” She attempted to speak out, not able to do much else.

Against the howling of the wind and her friend’s distorted voice all the sound around her began to blur together into static. Yet, something broke through, a voice. 

“What are you doing out here?” A feminine voice called out to Edith, confusing her more than anything. They didn’t even need to shout; their voice rang clear as day in Edith’s ears. It was as if they were right next to her. Yet, when Annie looked around herself, she couldn’t see any resemblance of a person. 

“You shouldn’t be out here!” Edith called out to the voice, discerning the direction as coming from ahead.

“You’re the one in danger, crossing towns in this weather isn’t safe.” The voice replied, unchanging.

“I’ll be fine! Where I’m trying to go ain’t too far, I’ll be out of the storm soon.” She was lying through her teeth, but a part of her urged honesty. 

“Let me help, I can take you where you need to go.” The unmistakable sound of a horse whinny followed, it was a sign of transportation, a safer way to get to Devil’s Reach like the voice was promising. Edith began taking paces towards the speaker, her attention now held captive.

“I’m assuming you’re gonna want some sort of payment, which I can assure you I don’t have much of.” Her eyes nervously darted to her legs, but they blended in with the sand blowing about.

“No need, I’m not losing anything except time, which I certainly have plenty of.” A response that should’ve seemed strange to her no longer seemed unexpected; it was a perfectly normal response in her mind. It was as if Edith had forgotten how rare it was for help to be so easy.

“Why are you out here?” Edith questioned further, not looking down as she took steps closer to the voice.

“To help. I’m offering an easier voyage, simple as that.”

“But nothing ever is.” She spoke quieter this time, but not entirely to herself. She stepped closer.

The sound of Edith’s speaker crackled with life, Cassandra’s voice just barely cutting through. Yet, their calls to Edith didn’t seem to reach her ears. She was transfixed by this voice and no other sound mattered to her. Edith stepped closer.

“Riding out into a sandstorm for what? There ain’t no way you’re just out here to look for wayward folk.” Another step.

“And what if I am?”

“Then I’ll be damned.” Another.

“I’d leave the questions to the ride to Devil’s Reach.”

Her mind suddenly became clear, the words acting like the sudden screech of a stopping train. She hadn’t said anything about Devil’s Reach— had she? Doubt shrouded her mind as she stepped closer and closer, never stopping the movement of her legs. Every thought she tried to cling onto slipped away, all of it circled back to the voice, enticing her to move closer

“How did you—“Right as the words leave Edith’s mouth she takes another step but— there’s no longer ground. There was nowhere to step. She couldn’t stop herself and she began to fall. The sand around her parted for just a moment, allowing her to see the gaping chasm beneath her and the unmistakable grin of a siren on the other side of the ravine.


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