the unscathed Amazon rain forest, a storm inundates a wooden shack just off a sodden mud road.
The rain is deafeningly loud. It splatters against the roof, sluggishly rises to collect in hollows in the walls.
It has been raining for days, no sign of stopping. A girl and her brother are playing cards on a rickety card table when it starts getting dark outside. The little fire they built earlier has gone cold and the family moves closer around its warmth, their faces bloated like newly arrived balloons with water that looks silver in the matchlight. The lights switch off and the family members begin to drift off, clutching their bags and packs with one hand, while the other is occupied with a card…
This is a story about a brother and sister. The brother is ill, not too different from the rest of his family, but he has a rare illness that leaves him with a sickly pale complexion. His illness already appears in his eyes- small black beads that waver back and forth in the iris, barely moving from place to place. And yet, to the girl who has never seen his true self before, there must surely be something more frightening than eyes.
Once night falls, they go out. The brother is not too sick to move, but he is very tired and needs to rest for a while until the strength returns to his body. So the sister carries him on her back and they head towards the rain forest.
The siblings are not alone in this adventure though; their parents are along for the ride too. They are the ones who urge the children on, asking that they find something in the forest to save their lives. The girl is very young, but she has already gathered that there is no help to be found anywhere else. Her parents are too weak to continue on this journey with them, and if they do not go now, when it is still warm outside, they will surely die in the cold rain.
So she runs with her brother wrapped tightly against her back; he winces in pain occasionally when his head knocks against her spine. The girl is very lucky, for this far into the rain forest, she can walk rather than run. The ground is still soft and damp from the previous night’s rain and the cold mud underfoot makes them slip and fall. She remembers her parents telling her that they were lucky to find this spot near one of the many rivers.
The sound of the waters is deafening, deep and wide as it crashes against banks thick with trees and thick undergrowth. It seems like the river is trying to fight its way through the forest already; soon it will give up and continue on its journey.
It is very dark in the forest. The girl, who has no problems with sight, can barely see her feet when she looks down, but she knows that the dim grey light that seeps into everything means that it’s still daylight outside.
She keeps running until she reaches a small shack by the riverbank, bordered on either side by mud walls. The girl sits her brother down on a bed of dead grass and rushes over to the door, pulling it open. She has been here before, but this time she is not coming before to play with other kids her age. Now she comes here for something far more important.
She runs back to her brother and picks him up off the bed of dead grass, carrying him carefully towards the river.
The water is deeper than she remembers, almost like a swimming pool. She climbs down to its deeper end and drops her brother carefully in the water. He cries out as he plunges further under, but she is able to hold his head above water and tries to cheer him up with a few reassuring words.
She stays there in the deepest part of the river, watching her brother float in the water. His illness is already leaving him; she can see it in his eyes, which are now bright and full again. He is still very pale though, but he smiles at his sister. She returns his smile, but when she looks away to keep an eye out for their parents, she notices something moving in the water close to her right leg.
it’s a black snake- not just any snake though. It has a pale and sickly complexion, and its eyes- which are so dark they appear to be completely black- shine in the dim light.
The girl stares at it in fear and awe, not knowing what to do. It glides closer to her leg and wraps itself round her ankle. She doesn’t feel any pain. At this moment she remembers that yesterday she found a small black feather with grey flecks at the tip on the riverbank where the family usually sits when they come here to bathe.