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Bleeding Jungle

"Ollin!"

     A sudden burst of sound and movement rocked the rainforest as three hundred of Atl's fellow tribespeople sprang out from their hiding places, hollering and chanting to scare away any dangerous animals. They started making their way towards the clearing in an impressive procession, surrounded by a mass of panicking wildlife scattering noisily away. At the front of the long line was a tall, imposing man, with wizened dark skin. His height was boosted to an unfeasible level by his expansive, flat elongated forehead. It looked almost as if he had a fez tucked underneath his scalp. He wore many necklaces made of seeds, stones and teeth over a fine, diaphanous net covering most of his otherwise naked body. He walked up to Atl.

     "Ollin," repeated Atl respectfully, bowing his head slightly to the leader.

     Ollin's withered face broke into a smile. "Atl. You have done well. This is a fine site, and tonight you and I shall celebrate with a puma's skin sheltering our heads and its flesh in our bellies." The leader turned to address the approaching crowd: "Let the two thousand nine-hundred and ninety-eighth Movement proceed!"

     Ollin then proceeded to direct a hive of activity, assigning each person that arrived at the clearing a different job. "Atl, scout the area. Coatl, Quiahuitl, gather firewood. Tecpatl, skin the puma. Acatl, Mazatl, unload the ark of skins. Malinalli, begin building the hospital. Calli, search for herbs and honey."

     The end result was like a meticulously directed opera; or like a giant play with each actor busily following through a finely rehearsed part, working towards a grand and harmonious whole. A crude building was erected between three large trees, with skins for a roof, and boulders and logs acting as furniture inside. It was designated as the hospital. A pharmacy and a maternity unit soon appeared by it, followed by a temple, some stores and residences, and other scattered structures until the forest turned into a village, and the village grew into a town. A large fire was being constructed in the centre of it all.

<  2  >

     It seemed that everybody was doing something. Wood was being carved, fruit and water were being collected, baskets were being woven, skins were being stitched together to make sleeping bags that would protect the tribespeople from snakes and insects during the night. Soon hunters started returning, laden with freshly killed game ranging from monkeys to wild pigs, from tapirs to armadillos. And everyone was chatting or laughing or singing to each other. The virgin wilderness was turned upside-down until it seemed as though it had never been lonely.

     Just as the buzz of noise and activity seemed to reach a crescendo, an inhuman scream erupted from the edge of the dwelling, near the stream. The entire tribe froze, falling deathly silent in an instant, for the scream was one of unadulterated fear. And the scream was Ollin's. All eyes turned to behold their beloved leader. Ollin was on his knees, frantically burrowing into the layers of dead leaves and twigs on the ground, his extensive brow deeply furrowed. All eyes filled with a sudden dark foreboding at the sight of their revered leader in such a desperate panic. Something felt very, very wrong.

     For a moment time froze as all onlookers held every muscle taut in anxious anticipation. Then, as if the huge build up of tense energy was concentrated on him alone, Ollin leapt up to full standing height, emitting another agonising howl. He held the object he had dislodged from the ground high above his protracted head.

     As each person saw the small black box that Ollin held, they fell to their knees with shock and fear. Ollin watched as his proud tribe prostrated themselves before him, weeping and shaking. He firmed his jaw and pressed the box against his chest. He allowed only a single tear to escape from his hard eyes.

*

"I wish to be initiated," ventured Atl proudly. "I want to become a man."

     "Then I am sorry for you," asserted Ollin without moving, "because it is impossible."

     "Why should it be impossible, father, when I have proved my worth and finally come of age? What more must I do?"

<  3  >

     "We must accept our fate, embogi." Ollin stood up to tower above the boy. "We must submit to the prophecy."

     "Let us go on," insisted Atl forcefully, "and let the prophecy fulfil itself! I deserve to become a man!"

     "Impudence!" Ollin growled. "The prophecy cannot be ignored. It is our heritage. It is our time. Its story has sustained us for more generations than memory serves. It is inevitable. It is said that the first tribe was created with the earth, and was ended by the standing lizards who's heads reached above the green. The second tribe was destroyed by a wind that picked up trees. The third tribe was burned in a fire that dried all the rain. Then the water avenged and drowned the fourth tribe. We are the fifth; the last; the ultimate. The world will end with us. Nature will come full circle. And it is said that our apocalypse will be contained in a simple, mysterious black box. A paradox. Something so small, yet with the power and the destiny to turn Mother Earth against us. It will signal that she has finished creating, and she will begin her destructive balance. This box is no longer a mystery. I honourably hold it in my humble hand. The prophecy is absolute truth; it cannot be ignored. Therefore we must prepare to die. These things are bigger than your manhood, na´ve little Atl."

     Atl's proud stance briefly wavered as Ollin's diatribe ended. Slightly fazed, Atl quickly glanced over his shoulder. His eyes met with Calli's. She gave him a sombre nod of encouragement. He resisted a smile and faced Ollin with doubled intent.

     "I hold our heritage dear to my heart, as any tribesman does," began Atl. "Our tradition is what sustains us, it has allowed me to live and it is my life. That is exactly why I want to continue it, to show my faith -- especially in this time of doom."

     "The prophecy is our tradition. It is our heritage. It is our life. It is our death." Ollin turned his head and stared menacingly at Calli and her obvious pregnancy. She bravely met his gaze, despite the bulb of fear growing in her throat. Ollin turned his stolid gaze back upon Atl. "We shall not go on. The prophecy cannot be ignored."

<  4  >

     "Let the prophecy fulfil itself. Meanwhile, we must go on! I don't want to die like this!"

     "If you are afraid of death, you are certainly not worthy of becoming a man."

     Atl was stuck for words. He blushed and hung his head. Calli walked up and put her arm around him, gently pulling him away from Ollin's imposing figure. Ollin's massive flat head gave a stern nod, and he sat down again. He hardly noticed or cared when Atl broke away from Calli's tender embrace and ran off into the treacherous forest.

*

Ollin held the black box high above his tall head, so it nearly scraped the ceiling of the structure that had been designated as the temple. Nearly 600 eyes watched intently as he chanted and danced around the rock altar in the centre of the open temple. His words were chilling. He spoke of history, prophecy and doom. He sang of final sacrifice. His dance consisted of more and more violent spasms until he could not form his words clearly anymore. Suddenly, he collapsed to his knees. His vicious chant was replaced by the angry call of a thousand birds.

     With his head down, he held up the black box again. He silently placed it on the altar. His tribespeople stared, sitting quietly in a large circle surrounding the unglamorous temple. Ollin raised his head and displayed a bestial expression, picking up a spear that had been lying by the altar. The crowd around him shifted uncomfortably.

     Ollin sprang to his feet, roaring at the top of his powerful lungs, and brought the heavy spear down on the head of an elderly tribesman. He swiped it back up, cracking a young woman on the chin. Ollin continued relentlessly, swinging and hitting and sometimes killing until he had no energy left. Groans of pain and sobbing filled the air. When his frenzy finally abated, Ollin surveyed his handiwork and regained his breath. His eyes rested on a pregnant young girl. Calli's eyes filled with tears of sorrow, but she did not resist when Ollin grabbed her and manhandled her onto the altar.

<  5  >

     Ollin raised the spear above Calli's helpless, supine, naked body and yelled: "Who better to be our final sacrifice than my own, unborn child? We shall save him the shame of being born into a time in which he cannot inherit his rightful title as my successor. We shall save him the shame of not binding his soft head to show that he would be your Eruaregi. He will not be born into a time without a future." With that he brought the spear down into Calli's womb and wrenched it out sideways, gouging out a mess of blood and an unidentifiable mass of infant flesh. Calli did not scream or protest until she lost consciousness.

*

Atl cautiously followed the dreaded noise of machinery. He had wandered far from the settlement, but he was not lost. He often came here when he was unhappy or disgraced, to watch the white men work. He stalked up to the edge of the forest, where an infinite clearing began, and climbed a tree. His eyes immediately rested on the purposeful activity in the distance, which was producing that unnatural noise. He watched in awe as huge machines cleared vast swathes of trees, their metal surfaces glinting in the sun. He knew the white men would soon want to cut down the tree he sat upon now; then every tree behind it. He imagined them building enormous temples and hospitals that reached up to the sky with all that wood. Structures large enough to house every white man alive.

     Atl wondered if they would ever stop. Would they keep going until there was no room left for his tribe to move and stay hidden? He watched them consume the forest until he became hungry, then he prepared to descend from the tree and return to the settlement. But as soon as his bare feet landed softly on the ground, he froze. His ears had picked up a sound synonymous with danger. Worse than a battle cry; worse even than a jaguar's growl. He heard the voice of a white man. Two. Atl knew the white men must not see him, because if they did he could never return home. They would follow him and his entire tribe would be raped and killed or taken away to live as a slaves. As silently as a ghost, he moved to conceal himself, as if he were a part of the jungle itself.

<  6  >

     Why would a white man enter the forest? They are afraid of the forest, thought Atl, for they are too loud and slow to hunt. They have their thunder, which can kill from a great distance, but anybody knows that a white man cannot live for long in the forest. Atl watched tensely from his hiding place as the two white men slowly walked straight past him and out into the infinite clearing. They dropped a bundle of sticks they had been carrying and prepared a fire. Atl dared not move. He stood perfectly still, listening to their unintelligible conversation.

     After while, they got up and walked back into the forest, leaving behind their fire and the large bags that they had been carrying on their backs. Atl stealthily ventured to the very edge of the infinite clearing and reached out his hand to grab one of the bags. He dragged it into the forest, where he felt more comfortable, and searched through it for some food. He took out a plastic bag containing a few dozen papaya fruits. The bag was boldly labelled with two strange symbols: 'TB'. Atl had never seen fruits like these. He took one out and tasted it. Satisfied, he slung it over his shoulder and ran back towards the settlement.

*

"Calli has survived," Ozomatli explained to Atl, "but her resistance was much weakened. She's been feverish, and she hasn't stopped coughing since she woke up. I'm afraid it's the new plague. I've put her with the others. Almost half of us now."

     "I must see her," grunted Atl, clenching his teeth.

     "No, you must not," scolded Ozomatli. "Otherwise you too will fall victim to the new plague, and we will burn your body along with everyone else's who cannot follow us for the next Movement. Our tribe is already rapidly diminishing. We do not need petulant embogi committing suicide."

     "Fine, monkey!" raged Atl. "I hope you choke on my ashes." Atl hastily marched through the camp and walked downwind, looking out for the inevitable circle of vultures, until he heard the cries of the sick. He found Calli immediately and crouched by her side. She lay flat on the ground, mumbling incoherently, her eyes closed. Atl touched the jagged scab on her stomach and she jerked upwards, slapping his arm away.

<  7  >

     "He killed his baby," said Calli, staring at thin air. Her eyes turned towards Atl. "And stopped me from having yours." Atl stroked her hair and comforted her. She gasped, as if in realisation. "Are you ill as well?"

     "No. I have come --"

     "Then leave, waimi!" interrupted Calli. "If you stay, the new plague will spread! If -- I have nothing..." Her voice petered out, replaced by a feverish moan. Atl caressed her and leant down to put his forehead against hers. She felt very warm.

     He clenched his teeth again, and rolled her onto her side. She coughed with abandon. "I will take you away from this stink and sickness," Atl resolved. He half lifted her, half dragged her away from the pile of overheated, dying people. He lay her down within view of the settlement, but he dared not bring her in. He built a small fire at her feet to scare away the vultures and snakes, then he ran to the makeshift pharmacy. He traded most of his newly acquired green fruits for a sample of every medicine available. Quinine and abuta to combat the disease of the mosquito, mutamba to fight the illness passed on by sexual intercourse, jerubeba to soothe bites and inflammations, and a host of other remedies.

     He collected some water, and killed one of the vultures that were guarding the sick tribespeople. He set it all next to Calli's weak form, and patiently began to try and build up her strength.

*

"The new plague is ruthless," lamented Ollin. "There are less than forty of us left with their health. I am falling ill as well. We hardly have enough people to carry out another Movement. So we shall stay. The prophecy is being fulfilled. We must accept our fate and die honourably."

     "There is no honour in dying from a fever," retorted Atl. "There is no honour in giving up hope. Throughout your long, great, treasured ancestry the leader of this tribe has guided his subjects to a new place of safety after every full moon. The moon is already waning. Are you going to let this disease prevent you from upholding our tradition -- our religion? It is the disease that's discouraging you after all, for the black box has done no harm. It did not cause the plague, and nobody ever said its discovery meant that we had to submit to the plague. The box will complete the prophecy of its own accord. We must not just sit here and die; we must go out fighting in the true spirit of our tribe. We must make our ancestors proud. We can --"

<  8  >

     "Enough!" bellowed Ollin. He bowed his stretched head pensively. He exuded such an intense air of authority that Atl felt he couldn't breathe without permission. Ollin seemed to consider something for a long period of time before he raised his head again. He took a deep breath.

     "My son, I am not convinced that there is any hope at all. Our bodies cannot handle this white man's plague. And even if their sickness does not wipe us out, they will soon take the rainforest away from us. We cannot live unless we are lost in its shelter. Every other tribe that we used to share the forest with is long gone, made extinct by the invasion of the white men so many seasons ago; and our tribe was falling in number even before this plague began to obliterate us. There is nothing we can do. Almost nothing. There is just one possibility. Atl, only you have resisted the disease so far. You have been in direct contact with it almost constantly for some time, and yet it has not infected you. I must live to produce a formal heir if we are to go on. So I put the tribe in your hands. If you can discover what it is that allows you to repel the disease, and use it to cure me, then we will move. Show me that there is hope, and we will fight."

     Atl was taken aback. The challenge was delivered as an order, but it sounded like a plea. And what a challenge it was. Success meant a new breath of life for the tribe, a new hope. The price for failure was heavy: the death of their entire race. The end of the world. Atl did not reply. He left with uncertain determination.

*

"Smoke!" yelled Charlie, gesticulating. "It's coming from inside the forest! Come and see! It really is!"

     Rob put down his papaya sandwich and walked out into the large clearing, where rainforest had once stood. He glanced over his shoulder a couple of times before he reached his partner, his face exhibiting a growing childlike excitement. "There's only one thing that makes big fires that deep in the rainforest. We've got 'em! The Lost Tribe is about to be found."

<  9  >

     Charlie pulled out a radio from his back pocket. "Team 1, repeat team 1."

     "This is team 1, we read you," reported the radio.

     "This is team 5. We're at base Echo, and we've seen something interesting. Is the thermal imager available?"

     "The helicopter is ours, we'll get it ready now."

     "You'll know what to look for when you get here!"

     Three hours later, Charlie and Rob were further into the rainforest than they had ever been before. The distant sound of helicopter blades sent their adrenaline rushing immediately. Charlie checked around quickly for snakes and leant against a tree, pulling his radio out.

     "Team 1, let's get this over with. This jungle makes me nervous."

     The radio remained silent for a full minute before coming to life with a burst of static and the regular whipping of helicopter blades. "This is team 1. All ground teams meet at 114563, 630125. Repeat, GPS co-ordinates 114563, 630125. The fire is there. We'll go ahead and search for the savages. They can't have got far. Team 2, do you copy? Team 3, do you copy? Team 4..."

     "Team 1, this is team 5. We are almost on top of it. We can smell the smoke." Charlie waited for confirmation that his message had been received, then he replaced his radio and lifted his machete.

     "We go south-south-west," directed Rob, reading his portable GPS monitor. Both of them enthusiastically hacked away at the undergrowth, more to frighten off any dangerous animals than to clear a path. Soon they could smell not only the smoke, but also another, unfamiliar smell. As they neared their target it became unpleasant. Only when the stench was almost unbearable, and the fire was visible through the foliage, did they recognise the stink as being burning, rotting flesh.

     Handkerchiefs covering their noses and mouths, they stared in awe at the pile of over two hundred people being reduced to charred bones. Charlie wretched and vomited.

<  10  >

     When they managed to pull themselves together and report what they saw, they ventured into the small clearing to look for evidence of the Lost Tribe's presence. There was almost nothing left to show that the savages had been there. Charlie had seen abandoned temporary settlements before, but he noted that this time there wasn't even a single building frame left standing, probably because they had needed all the wood they could get for the huge fire. And this time the tribe had left only recently. A pile of herbs that had been dropped on the ground was still there, untouched by wind or wild animals. The small lake at the edge of the clearing still had on it some foam from the tribe's makeshift soap, made from shavings of the 'timbo' creeper.

     Rob and Charlie recorded everything they found, and it wasn't long until all of their colleagues joined them. Together, they argued and debated over why the Lost Tribe had burned so many of its number. Was it a ritual sacrifice of uncommonly dramatic proportions? Were the bodies those of some mysterious group of enemies, defeated in battle? Was this the result of a grand mutiny against the tribe's chief? None of the collection of scientists, doctors and explorers could agree.

     Just as the debate seemed to be getting more heated, they were interrupted by a burst of loud screeching that drowned out all of their voices. Charlie was the first to realise its origin. "Turn off all your radios! It's feedback. I'll use mine." Everyone followed the instruction, then Charlie earnestly pulled his own radio out and put his mouth to it with growing anticipation.

     "Team 1, we did not receive your last message. Please repeat. We are receiving you now."

     Charlie waited with bated breath. Just as he was about to repeat his message, the radio crackled noisily into life. "This is team 1. We have found an unusual heat signature about 21.4 kilometres, 136.1 degrees from your current position; repeat, 21.4 K's south-east of you now. We suspect we're looking at about 50 or 60 people moving directly away from your location. Correction, I think they may've just stopped. I might've scared 'em with the chopper. Repeat, 50 or 60 people. Do you copy?"

<  11  >

     Charlie was lost for words. He had been staking out this damn forest for more than three months, waiting for this moment. No, he had been waiting for this moment longer than that. This was the pinnacle of his career. This was his dream. This is what would put his name in the history books, as the last great explorer. He would forever be known as the finder of the notorious Lost Tribe. He would study them to discover how they outlived every other tribe by so many decades, and he would ensure that their ancient culture was properly preserved so that their savage lifestyle could be examined and appreciated by the masses like never before. They would be a living piece of prehistory and a spectacle for the modern world. A dream come true.

     "Repeat; do you copy?" crackled the radio.

     Charlie broke away from his thoughts and spoke zealously into his radio. "We copy, thank you team 1. That's about a two-day trip for us. Track them until they settle; we'll be right on their tails."

*

"We have no green fruit left," confided Ollin, "we have nothing left to keep this plague at bay. Our proud tribe is doomed. But we shall go on until the end. My son, you will take Calli, who's life you saved along with many others, to be your wife. Atl, you may die a man."

     Atl's face briefly betrayed a mixture of pride and trepidation, quickly replaced by a solid determination. "Thank you Ollin. Thank you father. I will prepare at once." He picked up his quiver of spears and disappeared into the depths of the jungle.

     Atl's return was accompanied by a raucous chant: "Embogi-ai! Betagi-ai! Kybai! Imbi mubu, jaycha bowo, cho re buta provi bu! -- No longer a little boy! No longer a youth! A man! I have proved my worth, and I am of the age to have my lip pierced and my back tattooed!" He repeated the chant over and over again, so that everybody slowly gathered around to watch him prepare for his initiation. Calli stood proudly at the front of the growing mass of onlookers. Atl flayed the coati that he had just brought back from the forest, and cooked its skin and some fat over the central fire. His singing finally ceased when he started eating it, and Ollin stepped forward from the crowd as if this were a signal.

<  12  >

     Ollin laid down a dried skin full of tools and began chanting that soon Atl would be accepted by all as an adult. A man. The entire tribe joined in harmony. As soon as Atl had filled his stomach to satisfaction, Ollin grabbed a handful of uncooked coati fat and smeared it over his son's bottom lip and chin. He rubbed it in vigorously for several minutes to soften the skin for piercing.

     Ollin wiped Atl's chin clean and stretched out his bottom lip. He stared at his son and, without flinching, brought a well-sharpened monkey thighbone up through his lip. Atl stared back, without even blinking, for it was honourable not to show any distress. Ollin reached down and exchanged the sharp thighbone for a much blunter one, which he forced into the new hole and secured with akimbo string. There was not much blood, and Atl seemed to show no pain or emotion.

     The volume of the audience's chant increased as Atl lay face down upon a tree trunk which had been cut so that it fell against the branches of another tree and remained in a tilted position. It was time for the tattooing. Atl hugged the tree to stretch the skin on his back. The sun was at its zenith, and he could feel its rays warm his prone, naked body.

     Ollin ceremoniously picked up a sharp piece of rock from his pile of tools. He raised it high above his elongated head, then pressed it down onto Atl's exposed back. Pushing with all of his might, his teeth clenched and his eyes wild, Ollin carved out a valley of flesh. When the wound reached from Atl's shoulder to his buttocks, Ollin rubbed charcoal powder into it to help soak up the blood, and to give the tattoo its colour. Atl did not make a sound, for it was honourable not to show distress while he was still conscious, though his eyes were tightly closed and his teeth were strongly clenched. Ollin picked up the stone again, ready to score his son's back with another vicious groove. "Kybuchu Atl, jeproro rapa michi kybai! Kybuchu Atl, jeproro rapa michi kybai!"

<  13  >

     A deafening thunder-like crack tore through the air, stunning everybody to silence. Ollin dropped the stone and collapsed to the ground, his massive forehead riven. His tribespeople looked at his bleeding corpse in complete disbelief. Atl, unaware that his father had been killed, turned his head and immediately recognised the white man standing there holding the thunder weapon as one of the people from whom he had stolen the green fruits. The green fruits that had healed the new plague and given his tribe hope in their time of doom. Maybe they could help...

     "Kill him!" roared Calli. A cacophonous battle cry erupted as every tribesman charged towards the solitary white man, who looked deeply regretful. Atl desperately tried to protest over the sudden clamour, until he saw his dead father slumped ungracefully on the floor. A large group of other white men appeared from the sanctuary of the jungle to defend their companion. Several more shots of thunder rang out, and several more tribespeople were executed before the remainder surrendered.

*

Atl inspected the black box, which he had salvaged from his father's body. He turned it over and over again in his hands, studying its unnaturally smooth black surfaces by the light of the setting sun. The white men surrounded the new settlement with their thunder weapons constantly at the ready, but they appeared to be encouraging the tribespeople to continue with their daily activities as if nothing had happened. The proper ceremony to see away the dead had been permitted, and there had been no further violence. In the corner of his eye, Atl could see his father's killer and the other white man from the edge of the infinite clearing still arguing volubly in their strange, babbling language.

     As twilight enveloped the rainforest, most of the white men walked away to go to sleep. A small number were instructed to remain and keep watch. The tribespeople retreated to their huts, sombrely looking forward to nightmares that were merely imaginary rather than devastatingly real. Atl stayed awake, guarding the fire at the centre of the camp. One of the white men put down his thunder weapon and walked towards the fire. Atl did not move or blink an eye to acknowledge the approach of his father's killer.

<  14  >

     Atl looked condescendingly at the white man as he started gesticulating in an attempt to communicate. The white man pointed his finger at his own chest, which was a well-known gesture in Atl's tribe meaning 'killed'. As the white man stabbed his torso, he repeated, "Char-lie, Char-lie." He then pointed at Atl's chest. Atl turned away indignantly. He crossed his arms, wincing slightly at the pain from his back, and closed his eyes to demonstrate that he was ignoring the white man.

     The white man gave up in frustration and thought to himself for a while. Suddenly, his face stretched with surprise. He hesitated for a moment, then grabbed the black box from Atl's right hand. He held his palms up to show that he meant no harm and that he would give it back, but Atl chose to continue ignoring him. He ran off with the black box, then returned several minutes later wearing an eager expression.

     Atl watched as the white man somehow cracked open the black box and inserted two small metallic cylinders, then closed it up again and handed it back to him. Atl could not contain his intrigue as he watched one of the surfaces of the black box light up brilliantly in a rainbow of colour. He quickly realised that the colour was not random, but that it formed moving pictures. Like a mirror into fantasyland, the box displayed images of strange people in strange places. Atl stared at it in fascination, eventually sitting down to enjoy it more comfortably. After a while the white man, who seemed satisfied, lost interest and wandered away. But this magic box transfixed Atl with the images of the world that it flashed before his eyes. He watched it solemnly throughout the night.

*

At the coolest hour of the night, just minutes before dawn, Atl delivered his ultimatum. The rest of the tribe quickly stirred from their fitful slumber and listened intently.

     "Tribespeople! Listen! Awaken!" began Atl. "I have seen the truth! Listen to my revelation! Hear our story! The black box, the prophesied annihilator of our fifth and final world, merely symbolises our true destroyer. It has shown me that there is a world beyond our own, a world much greater than our humble existence -- and we are not a part of it. We do not belong anymore. The black box is a symbol for our lack of hope. The box itself will not cause the destruction of our race, but our downfall will be the absence of hope that it represents.

<  15  >

     "My father gave me a barren wife, a woman he himself spayed, to symbolise that our tribe has no future. Even as he claimed that he would go on fighting despite fate, he was resigned to his doom. I, however, do not surrender. I defy him in his death. And I defy the prophecy. I believe that there is hope. I believe that the world has room for us yet. This does not have to be the end!

     "I am not your leader. I am not my father. I am barely an adult. I merely wish to humbly continue our traditions until death stops me. I simply want to uphold our heritage, the religion that has been passed down to us by our ancestors since the beginning of our time. We cannot do so unless we are able to hope for a future. I hope. I hope to survive. I am not afraid of death. I am afraid of losing the opportunity to fulfil my duty to this great tribe. I want to have children, and teach them the ways of our proud tribe, so that I have repaid my debt to you and our ancestors. Is that an evil ambition? Does it go against our beliefs? May I try to continue and maintain our ancient culture? May I fight in the face of fate? Tribespeople, I want to go on! Will you follow me?"

     Every one of the tribespeople, without exception, kneeled down before Atl. Most of the white men were awake by now, and they were all watching with increasing anxiety. Atl puffed up his chest proudly and continued:

     "We will not submit to any destiny -- not without a fight. We will not wait for death. We will go on! Fellow tribespeople! We must lose ourselves in the forest so we can continue living in the way of our ancestors! Run! Kill the white men if you must! Run, and survive!"

     The exodus was instantaneous. The tribespeople cried out with a passion that the rainforest had never before witnessed, and they ran for the refuge of the jungle. The white men's protests were drowned out completely, and even their thunder could hardly be heard. The stampede raged onwards relentlessly, regardless of the blood being shed.

<  16  >

     Atl's voice could be heard above all others: "Let the three-thousandth Movement begin!"

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