I awoke with a start. I was no longer floating. As I sat up I noticed that we had landed in front of a settlement.
Various porters were conveying our gear to what I assumed was the village square. There had already appeared a neat little stash of our alien looking wares beneath a grey canvas.
They must have decided to let me sleep. I suppose I was grateful for this. Every so often a deep fatigue would settle over me. The warm sticky air, the feeling of being swallowed in some great green blanket, it was a feeling of depth, of heaviness, and it drug me down.
I wasn’t the only one. Which is I suppose why they’d decided to extend a courteousy they no doubt wished to have reciprocated.
The ground that greeted my boots was muddy, it sank, but not overmuch. I mused on the now familiar sight of Indians – Kuikoros milling about in various states of undress and ornament as they had done for time immemorial.
It was odd to imagine that Fawcett had seen a nearly identical sight nearly a century prior. It was one of those things that made you feel part of a vast eternal sea. The sea of time, ever undulating, yet remaining one.
I was suddenly struck with panic. What if this deep fatigue was the result of some infection? I hastily inspected any readily bare portions of flesh for ticks, or bites of any sort. True, we had been thoroughly inoculated but didn’t put my mind any more at ease.
We were in an ocean of trees, and neither boats, nor helicopters seemed sufficient insurance.
“You look like hell.” Lucas said.
“Yea…I’m not sure about this.”
“Me either…but…since we’re here you should probably follow Lobo’s advice and refrain from drinking. I’m sure it’s not helping matters.”
“Alcohol cleans the blood Schmidt. This place is crawling with parasites.”
“Trying to keep your precious American fluids clean?”
A kid ran up to us and just stood there staring out of rich dark eyes. He muttered something and ran off before we could respond. We ignored it.
The village wasn’t entirely unfamiliar with outsiders but its remoteness meant that the appearance of brancos was rare enough to make us a novelty.
“So, really…. what’s up? I mean I’ve never known you to be pensive.”
“I just feel really tired. Like something is sucking the life right out of me.”
“Dude, it’s called a hangover.”
I was getting annoyed. I really hadn’t been drinking that much.
“It could be any number of things. When I got excited for this I didn’t consider the fact that I might die shitting myself or muttering in the grips of yellow fever. I don’t want a weak statistical death.”
Lucas laughed. “I see that you still have your Viking complex.”
“Absolutely, I watched that man die slow, wither up like a shit stained raisin…no way man…”
No sooner had I entered into this reverie then the kid returned holding some sort of earthen bowl.
He extend it up to me and muttered something.
“Yo,” I said lapsing into American pseudo-urbanism, “I ain’t about to start this party with poisoning.”
“Don’t be rude.” Lucas said motioning for Cook to join us.
The squat bespectacled pit bull sauntered over.
“Tell us what he wants.” Lucas said.
Cook engaged in some native banter and then pointed off to a nearby hut at the front of which sat an old man before a small fire. The man regarded us calmly.
“They say you have a demon.”
Lucas laughed again. “I think they’re a bit mixed up. We’re NATO boys…we are demons.”
Cook didn’t seem amused. “Look, things here work a little differently, there’s stuff in the air, I know it sounds insane, but I’d listen to them, especially if you don’t feel right…you certainly don’t look right…”
I threw up my hands.
“You should drink it.” Lucas said.
“Dude…hell no…I have no idea what that is…”
“Please, Mr. Baird drink it…I assure you that it will not harm you…we do not want to alienate these folks…please take the gift…”
“What the hell is in it…”
“I wasn’t really able to gather but I’m pretty sure it’s nothing more exotic than some Guarana blend. It’s not so much the actual chemistry…it’s the spirit they infuse into it…”
I was getting tired of this woo. And I felt like shit…so fuck it….
I drank it up. It was bitter but the bitterness soon resolved into a sort of pleasant plantiness that tickled my tongue.
“Did you like it?” Lucas asked.
The kid smiled and scampered off.
“If you don’t feel better in a couple of hours I’ll give you three of my Cubans.”
“It’s a deal.”
I have to eat crow again and make excuses for falling short of my posting goals. The good news is I have four days in which to research and write the rest of this chapter. Thanks for your patience and stay tuned.
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