by Jill Larsen
My best friend and I lived in one of the biggest apartment buildings in our town. He lived right next door to me, and we could tap messages to each other through the walls as we were going to sleep.
Our building sat next to a cliff, that rose high up into a mountain. We spent hours on that cliff, learning to climb, pretending we were mountain goats. Sometimes we actually made it to the top, too.
It was on one of those adventures that we discovered it. What is it? It was the most scariest, most frustrating, and when it was over, the most exciting adventure of our lives.
You see, as we were climbing the cliff, some of the rocks came loose. And as they did, we saw some water start to trickle through. We started playing with it, watching as the water trickled down. But then it dawned on us. This wasn’t good. We were going to flood out our apartment building. So we put rocks back into place to block the water and went happily on our way.
The next day when we returned, the water had made its way past our blockage, and was running down the rock. We knew we had to tell someone.
We ran home to our parents and told them. They laughed at our funny antics and said we had great imaginations. No matter how we insisted, they wouldn’t listen to us.
So we knew we had to let the apartment manager know. We played rock-paper-scissors to see who had to talk first to the manager. I lost.
He’s a pretty scary man in my opinion. He walks around telling everyone where and how they should go. We’d always been careful to avoid him. But we figured this was important enough to risk.
So, hands trembling and hearts pounding, we wrote out what we would say and how we would say it, practicing and practicing until we finally got enough nerve to walk to his great big door and knock on it. When he opened the door, I could only stare at him. He glared down at us like we were pesky little ants and I was sure he would squash us. My friend finally had to say something, ‘cause nothing would come out for me.
“Sir,” he croaked, his voice trembling, “we were playing on the cliff behind our apartment building, and we noticed some water starting to come out of it.”
He squinted his eyes at us, then looking around from side to side he bent down and whispered.
“Are you sure?”
I looked at him. He looked almost scared the way he kept looking around and whispering like that.
“Yes, sir,” my friend said.
“Don’t say a word to anybody else.” He said.
“How come?” I asked, finally finding my voice. He invited us in and closed the door behind him.
He turned down his blaring tv and pushed aside some newspapers from his couch as he invited us to sit down. He sat on a chair facing us.
“Years ago there was a mine here.” He said. “But one day as the miners were digging, they hit an underground spring and the mine flooded. So they got dynamite and blew up the mine, closing it all in.”
“So why did they build an apartment building here?” I asked.
“The people who built it didn’t know about any of this, or they probably would have chosen another spot.”
I could feel a quivering in my belly, that started to spread throughout my body until all of me started to quiver as fear set in.
“Will we be flooded?” I asked.
“I wouldn’t worry about that,” the manager said. “This apartment has been standing for forty-four years now with no problems. We don’t want to worry anybody. Don’t tell anybody about any of this, you’ll scare them.”
“But shouldn’t people know what’s going to happen?” my friend asked.
“Yeah.” I agreed with him.
“No they shouldn’t. If you tell people, they’ll get scared and move away. Then our apartment building would go bankrupt. We wouldn’t have any money. You wouldn’t want that, would you?”
I thought about it. I thought about all our friends and neighbors. I sure didn’t want them to move away, and I loved this place.
“Could anybody get hurt?” I asked.
“Well, potentially, yes. But if water ever burst through that rock, it wouldn’t be just our apartment that flooded, it would be our whole town. And it would happen all of the sudden, like a volcano.”
Now I was really shaking.
“We have to warn everybody!” my friend and I said at the same time.
He looked down at us. “You can’t evacuate a whole town. Besides, it might not happen for years to come yet. Would you move a whole town just because of one little trickle of water?”
“But shouldn’t you at least tell people so they can make their own decisions?” I asked.
“There’s no need to cause unnecessary fear,” he said. “Just keep an eye on it. If you notice it getting worse, come and let me know.”
He walked to the door and opened it, and we knew it was time to go. As we were walking away, he spoke in the most terrifying voice that gave me nightmares for days, “Remember, not a word to anyone.”
We just kept walking until we were out of sight and then we burst into a run like we were being chased by the demons of hell until we made it safely into my room and closed the door.
We sat on my bed, looking at each other, wide eyed and out of breath. I didn’t know what to say or think.
My friend spoke first. “What do we do now?” he asked.
“I don’t know. What do you think?” I could only shake my head.
“Why don’t we go look at it again?”
“Sure.” And off we went.
I don’t know what I was expecting. I think I thought we were going to die that day. But when we got there I was relieved to see it was exactly the same. Just a little moisture dripping down the side of the cliff. I think my friend felt the same cause he breathed out a breath and said, “Oh good.”
We went home in silence. I thought about the flood that was coming, and about all the people and places I loved. I thought about the manager and his threats to keep quiet. Could I really not say anything?
“Maybe we should tell our parents,” I finally said.
“I think you’re right,” my friend agreed.
But when we got home our parents still didn’t want to listen. They knew how terrified of the manager I was and didn’t believe that we ever went there and talked to him.
I had trouble sleeping that night, and when I finally did sleep I had nightmares.
I didn’t feel any better the next morning. In fact, I felt worse. I knew I couldn’t keep quiet. I just didn’t feel right.
When I met with my friend, he agreed.
“Let’s go to the mayor.” I said.
“Ok.” My friend said.
Our town wasn’t very big, so when we asked our parents if we could walk into town, they were fine with that.
We weren’t really sure where the mayor’s office was, so we stopped at the first store and asked. The lady there told us where to go.
When we arrived at the office, I looked around in awe at the high ceilings and the large windows. A lady I’d never seen before worked at the desk.
When she saw us, she took off her glasses and smiled. “Can I help you?” she asked.
“We would like to speak with the mayor,” my friend replied.
“He’s in a meeting right now. Can I ask why you want to see him?”
My friend and I looked at each other. I hadn’t considered that he might be busy. Now what?
Finally my friend said, “Can we see him when his meeting is over? We had something we wanted to tell him.”
The lady looked at some papers on her desk.
“He should be available for an appointment next Wednesday. He’s booked up until then.”
“Next Wednesday?” I groaned. “That’s still another week away. This is very important. Our town is in trouble and we need to talk to him.”
She leaned towards us. “Why is our town in trouble?”
And then we blurted out the whole story to her, taking turns and finishing each other’s sentences. When we were done, she leaned back in her chair. “Well,” she said, “You have a very good story there. But I really can’t fit you in any sooner then next Wednesday. Would you like me to make an appointment?”
I felt like crying. Didn’t she hear what we’d just told her? She didn’t seem like she believed us.
“Yes, we’ll make an appointment then,” my friend said.
She wrote down the time and date on a little card and handed it to us. We took it, thanked her, and trudged out the door.
I felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders.
The next week felt like an eternity as we waited for our appointment. We must have checked the cliff every hour, making sure it wasn’t leaking any more and everything was still intact. And we practiced what we would say over and over until our voices were hoarse.
But the next week finally came, and we put on our best clothes and went to the mayor’s office.
I’d never met the mayor in person, but of course I’d seen him before.
“How can I help you?” the mayor asked when we finally sat in two chairs facing him and his desk.
And then our whole story came out, and we said it just as we’d practiced it, finishing with a, “and so, Mayor, we are concerned for our town and know you can do something about it.”
The Mayor sat for a moment, drumming his fingers together as he sat there, then he smiled at us.
“I believe your apartment manager is right,” he said. “This news shouldn’t be told to anyone. That water is going to flood this whole town, but we don’t know when. We can’t evacuate a whole town based on the fact that something bad might happen. And we don’t want people scared. So it’s best if you don’t say any of this to anyone.”
I felt all my hopes go down the drain. I’d thought the Mayor would help us.
“But Mayor,” I asked, “aren’t you worried about getting flooded?”
“Oh I won’t get flooded, my house is high on the hill.”
“Well what about your family and friends?”
“All my best friends are safe on a hill. The only real people who have to worry about this potential danger are the ones in your apartment building. It’s not my job to take care of you.”
Never had I felt so alone or abandoned.
Then he leaned towards us and used the same terrifying kind of voice that our hotel manager had used and said, “Not a word. If you say any of this to anyone you could ruin our whole town. Understood?”
I just sat there with my friend and nodded, my heart pounding in my chest and my body shaking like before. If the Mayor said to be quiet, then he must be right. He’s the mayor, after all.
We left, and I felt worse then ever. I felt betrayed, actually. Like we’d gone for help and come up empty handed. We went the whole way home and didn’t say a word to each other. I was so lost in thought, I didn’t know what to say.
We didn’t even play that day. I didn’t want to. I only pecked at my supper, and went to bed early, only to stare up at my ceiling for most of the night. He was my mayor, and I didn’t want to ruin the whole town, but how could we not tell people?
A week went by, and my friend and I moped around. I tried to play, but the joy had gone out of it, knowing what I knew. How could I play and have fun when we were all going to get flooded and maybe even die?
My friend was the first one to say something, nine days later. “I can’t be quiet.”
“I know.” I said.
That’s all we needed to say, we both knew how each was feeling, and knew to be silent was just wrong.
“But what do we do?” I asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Maybe there’s a way to save the town.” I said.
“Like how?” he asked.
“Maybe we should tell other people. Don’t you think the people in our apartment building deserve to know they might die?”
“You’re right, but how do we do it?” my friend asked.
“Let’s start by telling our other friends.”
So we did. The first girl we told burst into tears. Then I thought maybe the Mayor and the manager really had been right. Look what we’d done just by telling one person.
But after she calmed down, we went on to tell twelve more of our friends.
All fifteen of us climbed up the cliff to see the water. It was coming out faster now, and my heart beat louder as the girl started to cry again.
“I say we all tell our parents,” one of the children said.
“Great idea.” I said. My parents weren’t listening, but maybe one of theirs would.
After that, things went crazy. People were running around in hallways and there was yelling and shouting. The manager was nowhere to be found. I found out later he had moved away.
People started moving out, leaving their possessions behind, fearing for their lives.
My parents still didn’t want to believe it, so we stayed. So did my best friend.
Then a construction worker that lived down the hall from us started talking.
He said we should make a hole on the other side of the mountain for the water to come out of so it would funnel out in a different direction and we would be saved.
It seemed like such a simple solution I wished I had thought of it.
And that’s what they did. When they funneled the hole and hit water, it came gushing out. I guess it was a good thing they did it when they did. People speculated that it could have blown anytime.
And my best friend and I became famous in our town. We even made it in the newspaper. When we told our story, people didn’t like the mayor anymore. He lost his job. But most of the people in our apartment building came back. We were glad to see them, it wasn’t the same without them. But our manager never came back. I was glad because a really nice elderly couple took his place and they gave us candies every time they saw us.
And life went back to normal, except now we have this great story, and I tell it every chance I get.
Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it. James 4:17