NOTE: This story and the characters in it are fictional. As are their thoughts, and their findings. HOWEVER, the threats to indigenous land by the Brazilian government are very much real. As is the suffering of the Awá people and the suffering of other indigenous peoples of the Amazon at the hands of illegal loggers.
Night had fallen on the Amazon Rainforest.
In a small clearing two days away from the nearest city, a seventeen-year old boy lay awake, staring up at the starry sky above. The other inhabitants of the clearing - sixty of them, the last of their once-thriving community - were all asleep.
That was what the boy had been waiting for.
The boy's name was Ubirajara - in his language, it meant lord of the spear. He had earned that name - he was the best and only warrior left in his tribe. Which was why he could not sleep now. He had to take action.
The boy remembered vividly the events of the last day. He had overheard the council of his elders speak...he had been horrified by their words. The news they bore should have been expected - yet it had still taken him by surprise. He remembered what his father had told him, once he had found him eavesdropping in the bushes. Jara, the old man had said. Do not take rash action. Rash action begets consequences. Jara had wanted to scream back.
And inaction brings the deaths of all of us!
Now under the cover of darkness, the boy named Jara stood up and slunk through the shadows...making his way through the dusk. His tribe was asleep, yet the forest was still wide awake. The great river still gurgled as its waters crashed along its bank; the wind whistled as it brought a chill to the cool night air. The scurrying of small animals like the kinkajou brought an unlikely smile to the boy's face...but the prowling of larger animals, such as the black caiman and the ever-present jaguar, caused him to grip the javelin in his hand tighter. Still, Jara walked on, picking up his pace to quickly travel the six-kilometer distance, stopping only once he heard voices in the man-made clearing.
There they were.
Jara's well-trained eyes spotted the figures in the darkness - burly men wearing camouflage outfits, clutching AR-15s in their arms.
"Tudo isso precisa ser limpo pela manhã.", one man spoke, giving commands to the others in rough Portuguese. Jara spoke little of their language - his tribe still preserved their culture over that of the invaders - but he nevertheless understood what they were saying. They want the whole area cleared by morning.
They have been taking our land for centuries, Jara knew.
Jara's tribe was the last of what remained of the Awá people - a people of the Amazon Rainforest. Since the 19th century, European settlers had encroached on and destroyed Awá land. In the 21st century, things were no better. Illegal loggers - companies that violated laws in protection of biodiversity and indigenous rights - had taken more and more land over the years. Those who tried to stop them faced violence. Jara's blood boiled as he remembered the stories...the loggers had killed Awá people as young as eight.
Jara moved quickly through the darkness, circling in on the loggers. His lack of a plan now came to him...what could he do against men armed like soldiers? He wanted badly to kill them...to make them pay after all the suffering they had caused him...but somehow he held back. The fear and pain of taking a human life stopped him. Jara looked at the figures - the loggers were silent now. As long as he remained hidden, he had time to think. Time to decide what action to take.
Yet, just as Jara had began to process his situation, he felt the click of an automatic weapon as a rifle's searchlight illuminated his back.
"Mãos no ar.", spoke a pale, rugged man with a V-shaped scar on his face, as he cradled the rifle in his arms. Put your hands in the air.
Victor Madureira was a logger by name...but an assassin by nature. It was what his company hired him to do. Protect their secrets. Take out those who opposed them.
"Largue sua arma.", Madureira commanded, and the boy in front of him fearfully placed the spear he held on the ground. Drop your weapon.
Madureira felt a tingling in his body as he cocked his weapon...a tingling he always felt before taking a life. It was that sadism...along with his undying loyalty...that had made him such a valuable asset to his employers. His willingness to go any lengths to get what was asked of him was what had allowed him to be tasked with guard of his company's greatest weakness. Secrets that could destroy them if they were ever leaked...
"You'll go to hell for this.", the boy before Madureira spoke in broken Portuguese, his voice shaking with anger.
"You sound like someone I killed once.", Madureira sneered. "You look like her too...but you should know that I had her fed to crocodiles..."
"You're a monster.", the boy spat. "All of you are. You take our land, you kill our people. All for your money."
"Money makes the world go round, my child.", Madureira drawled. He was growing tired of this conversation...there was an air to this boy that he did not like...
"You'll pay sooner than you think.", the boy insisted. "Look."
Behind him, where the boy pointed, the bushes rustled with movement; Madureira turned quickly to the source, pulling his gun away from the child. A pig-like mammal emerged from the greenery, and Madureira cursed. A tapir.
Madureira quickly turned back to his captive, but it was too late. The boy had already lunged for his spear, and the weapon slashed across Madureira's shins. The assassin crumpled to his knees, and the boy sprinted away, disappearing into the bushes. Despite the fiery pain in his leg, Madureira excitement rushing through him. He had not chased a victim that had fought back in a long time.
This would be fun.
Jara sprinted through the bushes, followed after only a few seconds by a beam of concentrated light and a series of indiscriminate gunshots. The scarred logger could fire his gun as many times as he wanted - after all, no one was nearly close enough to hear him. Bullets cut through the trees and bushes around him as Jara ran, but he pumped his legs as fast as he could to stay under cover from the fire. Jara knew where he was going - he knew this jungle far better than any logger. Weaving through the trees, careful to avoid the roots and vines on the ground, Jara could run faster than his pursuer could - giving him time to gain the element of surprise.
Reaching a tree with low-hanging branches, Jara quickly climbed, pulling himself up to the canopy. The gunshots grew nearer, and the searchlight beam came into view. Jara waited, watching as the assassin stepped directly under him - then, he leapt into action.
Springing from his branch, Jara landed onto the scarred logger from above knocking him to the ground. The rifle flew out of the man's hands, and Jara landed a blow to the logger's jaw. Standing up quickly, he positioned his spear over the assassin's face, daring the man to move. Part of him wanted to kill the logger where he lay...but first, there was something he needed to know. Something the man had said...
"The woman you mentioned.", Jara snarled, the anger and anticipation in his voice almost drowned out by a sudden rushing of water. They were near a cliff...where the Amazon River took a twenty-foot drop as a waterfall. "The one that you fed to the crocodiles. What was her name?"
The assassin's mouth twisted into a malicious grin. "So you do know her...I knew you looked familiar..."
"Tell me.", Jara growled, much louder now. "Who was she?"
"You know her, then....how heroic you are, avenging a death-"
"WHO WAS SHE?", Jara roared.
"The chief of the Awá tribe.", the assassin breathed.
And suddenly, rage filled Jara unlike any other. He was an eight-year-old boy once again...his mother leaving to negotiate with the loggers who were invading their hime. She had never returned...and only her jewelry had been found, washed up by the side of the river. His mother...the chief of the Awá tribe. His mother...murdered by the monster who lay inches from his spear's tip.
Letting out a yell, Jara plunged his javelin down, but missed. In his moment of rage, he had let the assassin had gained the upper hand. Jara felt himself forced backward by powerful arms as the man stood up...his grip on his spear loosened, and his weapon clattered to the ground. The logger grabbed him now, lifting him into the air and carrying him towards the cliff's edge. The assassin stopped near the waterfall, hoisting the struggling Jara onto his hulking shoulders.
"Like mother, like son, I suppose...", the logger drawled, as Jara glimpsed the river at the bottom of the waterfall. Greenish-black scales moved through the water...crocodiles...
Victor Madureira laughed as he stood at the edge of the cliff, holding the struggling Awá boy in his arms, preparing to heave him into the frothing waters. Like all his victims, the boy's efforts at fighting had been futile. The tribes of the Amazon had been fighting his company for years...yet each time, they failed. Each time, he only took more of their land...each time, he only watched as his company's profits grew...
Madureira whipped around to see an Awá man standing only feet away from him, a pistol in his hand. The boy on his shoulders yelled back.
At the boy's sudden increase of struggle, Madureira felt his top-heavy body tilt backwards. He stumbled to remain on his feet, but he was slipping. The Awá man dropped his pistol and ran forwards, his hands outstretched - but he was too far away. The boy still on his back, Madureira reeled over the cliff's edge, letting out a guttural yell as he fell towards the waterfall...
Jara felt the cool water wash over him...he was plunged into darkness, but surfaced to take a breath...he could feel the logger somewhere beside him, but he did not care...he was more concerned with what was in front of him...
Jara barely heard his father's yells as he reached the waterfall's edge...the current carried him towards the twenty foot drop...his muscles too tired to resist...
Madureira screamed as the huge force of the water brought him crashing to the ground...but as the current sweeping him grew slower, he breathed a sigh of relief. He had survived the waterfall.
A flicker of green suddenly appeared in the water around him, and Madureira froze. No. He could not face such a terrible fate. But icy-cold terror flooded the assassin as he saw it...a pair of green eyes atop a V-shaped snout...
Madureira had never believed in karma as long as he had lived. Now, it seemed, he was reaping the seeds he had sewn.
He was dry now...there was ground under his feet...but his father's yells still seemed a world away to Jara. Every muscle in his body ached...he was not sure whether the world was coming back to him or slipping away...
At the very least, Jara now knew where he was. The current had swept him onto the river's bank. His swirling vision located a silver disc on the rocks...it had come from the logger, no doubt. Jara pocketed it.
But as he did so, he could feel the swirling colors around him beginning to dim. His people believed in the afterlife...so as Jara lay on the rocks, he prayed. He prayed that he would see his mother again...
Five days later, a man named Charles Gillman - a Reuters reporter - stood in the Amazon, two days away from the nearest city. One thought filled his mind.
This was one heck of a story.
He had gone to the Awá settlement for a follow-up story after a 2019 interview of the tribe's members and activists. What he had found - news of a conflict with an illegal logging company - a company that seemed to hire literal assassins.
Gillman had spoke with a seventeen-year-old named Ubirajara, better known to his community as just Jara. The boy had told him that a logger-slash-mercenary had attacked him...had caused him to plummet down a twenty-foot waterfall. The fall had nearly cost Jara his life - but that was not all. Jara had recovered a flash drive from the assassin. Gillman had looked at its contents...and the results had astonished him.
Records of bribery, illegal logging on indigenous land, and even funds to pay for killings of tribal activists and leaders, had been listed in rows and rows of data tables. All of it could be tied to the logging company the assassin had been part of - as well as several other complicit organizations. It was enough to take the company down for good.
As he had sat down with the Awá members, Gillman had been inspired. They had gone through so much. Yet when they spoke, it was with pride. With resilience. With joy, that one of their children had protected their land. It had made him realize something.
There would always be trouble. Always be danger and oppression to fight against.
There would also always be warriors who fought that fight.