I had the pleasure of writing a short story for the book Life Plus 2 Meters Volume 2, edited by David Zetland. My short story was awarded the first price in the category authors from economically developed countries. You can buy the book in the US here or here in Europe. Or you can read my story below.
The boat drifted through the forest. Sol was paying almost no attention as she was busy reading her father’s notes. For anyone else, finding their way through the countless trees and small passageways would seem impossible, but not for her. She was born and raised on these lands and so, every branch, every stream, and every bird nest gave away her exact location.
Every morning she got on that boat and steered it through the currents. Her task was simple: to monitor and record data from each station. Sol had learned all this from her father. He was a great man, whose love for science was only surpassed by the love he had for his only daughter. Sol’s mom was also a scientist, but she died months after giving birth. Sol’s memories of her were only those of old photographs and repeated stories told by her father.
Sol’s parents met when they were young students, they shared the love of science and a great ideal: to minimise the impact of climate change on earth. They dedicated their lives to this. After the big floods they relocated to the Amazonas and committed their lives to record, analyse and understand.
“The lessons we will learn from the stations will be vital for future generations.” Sol could almost hear her father say. She was now following her parents’ legacy.
When her parents first arrived to the forest, they discovered an isolated tribe. Sol’s parents tried to make contact with the tribe, attempted to learn about their culture and hoped on establishing a trade agreement. Before the radio silence supplies were scarce, after, basically non-existent. However, despite their multiple attempts, trading with the tribe was nearly impossible. They blamed the white men for the floods. And they were right.
“You take and take, now earth dies” said the old man in broken Portuguese.
Sol’s parents paid no attention, convinced they were helping the earth. Soon after that, Sol’s mother gave birth to Sol. Together with Sol came her mom’s sickness. In a desperate attempt, her father took Sol’s mom to the tribe, the old man did all he could but it was not enough.
“The forest kill you and girl. Come, live with forest, with earth” said the old man pointing down.
“No” Sol’s father said. His task was too important.
“Break machines. Earth will heal.” said the man.
“They do no harm!” Sol’s father cried. Although he was not sure about it, the engineers had said that, apart from the chopped down trees, the stations had no impact on the environment.
“You have eyes, open! If eyes closed, forest will not be friend” the old man said in a last attempt.
Devastated Sol’s dad abandoned the tribe with Sol in his arms. He was even more focused now, he needed to do this for her. Sol’s father died seventeen years after that day. Sol never found her father’s body, only the boat, drifting along as earth did with it as it pleased. Two months went missing from the logs of that year, as Sol spent most of her time crying and searching. Alone, weak and without food, she saw the old man coming.
“Sorry. He said as he dropped a bag full with supplies.”
“Come with me. Live with forest.”
“No! This is important; we can save the earth with this information.”
“White man is problem.”
“You don’t understand, I want to help!”
“Your eyes are closed. Earth is dying” the old man said gravely, and sailed away.
She knew the old man was right. But she was doing all she could not to create more damage. But those stations, how could she be sure? They were installed years before Sol’s parents came to the forest. Sol never questioned how those gigantic measurement stations could get sufficient energy with those small solar panels. But she was doing the right thing, as her dad had told her. Science was right. This would help in finding a solution for climate change, and then everything would go back to normal.
Sol went back to her routine: every day checking the stations, collecting data. The months passed, seventeen since her dad disappeared. That day, as she had done every month, Sol was on her way to visit his grave. The boat was drifting as she swiftly steered it. The forest was silent. Too silent. Her head turned as she tried to listen, why were the birds not singing? Or the trees shaking as the wind passed? Nothing. Only the sound of the water as it pushed forward. It was as if some kind of spell had fallen over the forest. Suddenly, a snapping sound right ahead broke the silence. Her head rose, her eyes widened. It made no sound as it perforated her lung, but the pain was unbearable. She looked down, she could see more than half of it sticking out. She recognized the wood, babassu, as she used to play on that tree when she was younger. She caressed the feathers, urubu, and thought she could hear its calling from the distance. A second snap. This time the arrow hit her left shoulder. She screamed in pain, and yelled to the Forest:
“Please I am just trying to help!”
The Forest was silent.
“I am not like the white man. My faa-”
Arrow number three. She touched her mouth, and saw blood on her fingers. Her legs failed and she fell on her knees. Eyes filled with tears. No air in her lungs. She whispered:
Four. Five. Six.
The forest was silent. The boat drifted through the forest.