Coming of Age Kids High School

The surge of icy water swept over her feet. Then rising above her knees, it pulled Elsie into the tumbling ocean surf, along with her puppy and her friend.

They surfaced in a cave of sloshing water.

Earlier, Elsie was walking on the beach she loved near the lighthouse. It was a mystical and magical place. The next moment the ocean flooded the sand and surrounded her with a rogue wave surge.

Elsie and her friend Bret saw the dark, furry head of her puppy, Teddybear, emerge.

A swell of water lifted them, then dropped, and they stood on a sandy bottom. Elsie saw they were in a towering cave. Sea lions barked from their perches.

The beach trek began that morning when the kids from the Mystic Lighthouse climbed over volcanic rocks surrounded by tidepools. They were looking at sea anemones, starfish, and bundles of kelp. Roaming away from the lighthouse station, they rounded the rocky outcroppings and explored what the low tide revealed.

"This is so different from the ranch in Texas and the place we lived in San Francisco," said Elsie.

"It's different to me too from where I lived near lakes in Minnesota," replied Bret.

Both of their families were now lighthouse keepers on the coast.

Clouds and mists floated across the ocean and got caught in the limbs of the trees.

"I wonder if I will ever know all the mysteries of this coast," said Bret.

"My father says Mystical Coast has many faces," replied Elsie. "And many surprises."

The March sky was quiet and grey. The ocean waves were smooth without whitecaps. But the rolling ocean swells were huge.

Elsie breathed in the scent of the salt air and the mountain forests. "I love the ocean," she thought. "Living next to the sea makes every day special."

“Be careful,” warned Elsie’s mother, Jeannie, when the kids headed to the beach, walking down the slope from their houses on the bluff.

“It’s the season for rogue waves. Don’t get caught. It might look calm but ocean surges can surprise you.”

They were wilderness kids of the year 1898 living on an isolated coast, used to roaming wild and free.

What could happen? We explore all the time,” thought Elsie.

“We know this coast and ocean like an old friend,” said Bret.

Later, splashing through the water in the cave, Elsie gasped for air. Bret pulled her over to the boulders on the side. They climbed up the slippery rock and Teddybear followed. Bret reached down, grabbing Teddybear’s collar, to pull him up.

They were shaking, with their teeth rattling, and their deep breathes echoing against the cave walls. Bret said, “We’re going to need a fire.”

Elsie’s face was colorless. But for a twelve-year-old little girl, she recovered her wits quickly. She looked around to analyze the situation.

Bret admired her, knowing she was 4 years younger than he was.

I’m still alive,” Elsie thought. She trembled violently from the cold March ocean water. Her limbs felt numb.

“Elsie,” Bret shouted, “Keep moving.”

In the darkness, they saw the shapes of sea lions sliding over the rocky islands protruding from the water in the cave. Their sea lion barks sounded rougher and more guttural than a dog barking.

Elsie’s shaking voice said, ”I’ve been in here before. There’s a way out through the ceiling farther inside the cave.”

She stumbled onto the boulders and began crawling. The movement stirred her circulation. Her arms and legs felt better.

“Follow me,” she called.

Bret scrambled after her.

“We need a fire. Dry moss. Kindling,” called Bret.

The shaking puppy, Teddybear, slipped and slid over the rocks, his nose bumping Elsie’s leg.

Getting caught in rocky crevices, banging their knees, fingers working hard to move, they felt the cold creeping further into their limbs while they went along a rising trail, deeper into the cave.

The light from the entrance grew dim. Under their feet, they encountered rocks worn smooth like river rocks from running water.

“I think this is the way. Come on.” Elsie’s voice sounded high and thin.

She felt her heart thumping hard. Teddybear panted next to her. Light filtering through from the cave entrance cast wavering shadows on the walls.

“Look, driftwood.” Bret’s voice echoed against the cave walls.

“I see moss, let's start a fire.” Bret hurried onward.

The roar of a wind squall with hurricane force struck the outside of the cave and howled like an animal. They knew the quiet sky was now a storm with winds battering the coast. 

Bret searched for moss and kindling dry enough to start a fire.

“Here, this might work.” Elsie handed him moss and broken wood bits.

Pulling his knife out, Bret grabbed a fist-sized rock.

Over and over, he struck the knife edge on the rock. Wet and shivering, they watched for sparks on the moss.

A tiny grey column rose from the moss. Bret breathed softly on it.

The column of smoke disappeared.

“Again…we’ll get it,” Bret said.

Bret hit the knife across the rock. A tiny spark fell.

Elsie and Bret held their breath.

Yes,” thought Elsie.

A brown crisping of the moss began to spread. Bret waited. Smoke rose like a thin snake.

Bret waited. It grew stronger. “Patience,” he thought.

The moss began to smolder. Bret blew lightly on it.

Small flames licked the air and then gathered strength. They reached higher and the air warmed.

Slowly, Eslie and Bret coaxed the flames into a campfire. The warmth made their chilled limbs hurt, and they moved back from the fire.

Adding small logs, and then a larger driftwood piece, soon they had a blaze.

The cave was brightly lit. Elsie and Bret felt their cold, stiff bodies become warm. They slumped against the cave walls, resting. Their wet clothes began to dry. Time passed while they recovered. They began to feel almost cozy.

How long have we been gone? Will anyone be looking for us?” Elsie’s thoughts raced.

Elsie tried to remember the time she was in the cave before.

Where was that opening in the ceiling where I crawled through and saw the lighthouse on the distant bluff?” Elsie tried to picture it.

“We need to use the driftwood as torches and keep going,” she told Bret. “There is another way out. I think we can find it.”

Elsie felt strength and determination rising inside. "She could do this. They would find the way out," she told herself. Elsie rose and began to move with purposeful steps.

Bret saw her eyes gaze steadily into the darker parts of the cave.

She’s incredible,” he thought. “Four years younger than I am, but look at her.”

Teddybear’s lab retriever fur had dried nicely in the heat from the fire. He leaned against Elsie softly, wrapping himself around her.

“Oh, you’re so warm now, Teddybear.” Esie lowered her head to cuddle against him. He gave her face the soft lick of a dog kiss. She heard her breathing coming slower and put her cheek against Teddybear’s furry neck. She always felt better near Teddybear. Together they could overcome anything.

“Let’s go,” she said. “Ready?”

“Here’s a torch,” Bret said handing her a long piece of driftwood with the lighted tip glowing while it burned slowly.

The torches lit the cave floor and provided some warmth. They stepped carefully and saw they were moving on an upward slope.

The cave zig-zagged back and forth, winding uphill underground. Their shadows stretched tall against the walls. They could wind blowing and whistling outside from hidden crevices.

“Look.” Elsie pointed to a small, distant spot of light. She felt her chest relax and breathed slowly in and out with relief.

They moved cautiously, but with urgency, reaching the light, and climbing over boulders to an opening in the cave ceiling.

Late afternoon was fading. Heavy clouds sat low to the earth. The wind was dying down. 

“See it.” Elsie pointed. 

High on the cliff above the ocean, sat the white tower of the lighthouse. Evening was falling and the beacon was lit. It swept across the ocean and rotated around, lighting the shores of the coast.

Elsie felt a sense of wonder. "I never get tired of seeing this," she said.

"The light of the beacon," began Bret, then he was overcome and at a loss for words.

They watched the light flashing across the sea and shores, feeling a mystical and magical sense of joy.

"Our light, leading us home," said Elsie. They saw activity around the lighthouse and the keeper's houses.

“They must be looking for us,” said Bret. Lights of kerosene lanterns were bobbing around on the distant bluff and trails, and some were heading down the path to the beach.

“Wave your torch,” said Elsie. They began to holler even though they were too far away to be heard.

The kerosene lanterns swung back and forth.

“They see us. They’re answering,” said Bret.

Elsie, Bret, and Teddybear slowly stepped along the dunes and then down to the beach, where they met the search party.

Later, wrapped in blankets, sipping fragrant hot tea made from kitchen garden herbs, they chewed fresh warm muffins and told their story. The group of family and friends gathered around the wood-burning Franklin stove sat quietly in the dancing firelight.

Teddybear rested his head on Elsie’s foot, stretched out on the warm floor.

Bret let Elsie relate the tale. He saw she seemed to have grown up that day from a young, unsure little girl into a more confident and mature lady.

"So we found our way out of the winding cave trails," she finished. "I was scared, but when we built the fire and lit the torches, I knew we would find our way."

Elsie paused and thought about what she just said.

"We knew we could do it." Her voice was soft but sure when she ended her story.

Outside the window, clouds scudded in front of a crescent moon and the ocean sang her songs to the rhythms of her waves.

Hundreds of feet below the Victorian lightkeeper's house, where Elsie and Bret gathered with their families, an ocean swell grew larger. It surged far up over the beach and into the rows of crops nestled against the hillside.

"The ocean has her own personality," said one of the lightkeepers who was a retired captain. "Sometimes she likes her peaceful seas, but don't turn your back. She also likes to gather her strength and hurl her waters across the shores."

Elsie and Bret looked at each other with knowing gazes.

"I love her, but she's a rogue on some days," said the retired captain.

Elsie thought, "I love her too, and now I understand her language better. She is still a beautiful ocean."

When she fell asleep later that night, Elsie dreamed of the ocean and felt a sense of wonder.

Snuggled under her blankets, she felt Teddybear cuddle up to her side and knew he had sneaked up the stairs.

Wrapping an arm around him, she felt her home at the lighthouse was still a mystical and magical place and she loved sharing it with her puppy.

March 29, 2024 00:33

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Kristina Lushey
13:26 Apr 04, 2024

I enjoyed the story Kristi. I am also an animal and dog lover, so I loved the story including 'Teddybear'.


Kristi Gott
15:05 Apr 04, 2024

Thank you for your comments, Kristina!


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JR Bray
20:28 Apr 03, 2024

Great story. Kept my interest and I could visualize every part.


Kristi Gott
21:34 Apr 03, 2024

Thank you so much for your encouraging comments. I am learning and trying new techniques each week.


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Thomas Iannucci
18:26 Apr 02, 2024

Really enjoyed this - having grown up by the sea myself, I can relate to the feeling of having to be cautious while also seeing her as an old friend. You captured that so well!


Kristi Gott
19:25 Apr 02, 2024

Thank you so very much, Thomas, for your comments! :-)


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17:01 Apr 01, 2024

An enchanting and vividly told adventure that captures the raw beauty and unpredictability of nature. The resilience and courage of Elsie and her companions shine through, making this a heartwarming tale of survival and discovery. The attention to detail and atmospheric descriptions transport the reader right into the heart of the mystical coast. Truly captivating!


Kristi Gott
18:10 Apr 01, 2024

Thank you very much, Alexandra, for your thoughtful and encouraging comments!


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Kathryn Kahn
16:40 Apr 01, 2024

You've created a very specific world here, and you really had me rooting for these characters. I wasn't sure which way the story went, and I'm so glad you ended it as you did. Good story!


Kristi Gott
18:11 Apr 01, 2024

Thank you, Kathryn, very much for your comments! They are much appreciated. :-)


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02:45 Apr 01, 2024

Lovely sea story. Visualized and described beautifully. Like a painting. Getting dry first is very important. Hypothermia is a real thing. Happy ending. Well done.


Kristi Gott
03:53 Apr 01, 2024

Thank you very much, Kaitlyn!


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Martin Ross
22:27 Mar 31, 2024

Lovely story, and a fantastic sense of place!


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J. I. MumfoRD
14:02 Mar 31, 2024

Good job, vivid storytelling. Excellent standard of writing kept me engaged throughout.


Kristi Gott
17:10 Mar 31, 2024

Thank you very much!


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Jorge Soto
00:06 Mar 31, 2024

love the salty seaside sensory this brings. I can tell you’ve tried to kindle fire before by the description, I felt the impatience of waiting for a spark to grow on dry brush haha. Lovely story


Kristi Gott
00:46 Mar 31, 2024

Thank you very much, Jorge, for your encouraging remarks!


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Harry Stuart
23:55 Mar 29, 2024

The ocean, the cave, the lighthouse - a special place to come of age. Entertaining story, Kristi!


Kristi Gott
00:28 Mar 30, 2024

Thank you very much, Harry! :-)


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Mary Bendickson
17:23 Mar 29, 2024

Scary adventure yet comforting in the ending. Check for a few minor mishaps. Sometimes think auto correct over corrects. Thanks for liking my story 'Living on Easy Street '.


Kristi Gott
19:50 Mar 29, 2024

Thank you, Mary, and I will proofread it and keep polishing it before the deadline today! :-)


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Darvico Ulmeli
15:12 Mar 29, 2024

As I was there with them. Exceptional writing.


Kristi Gott
16:07 Mar 29, 2024

Thank you so much for your encouraging comment, Darvico!


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Alexis Araneta
12:05 Mar 29, 2024

Kristi, you always bring us imaginative and touching stories. This is no exception. Lovely job !


Kristi Gott
14:08 Mar 29, 2024

Thank you very much, Stella!


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