Today as I look back at the last one year, I can't believe how drastically my life has changed. My life has gone from New York yuppie to a villager in the middle of the Amazonian rainforest. I cannot say that I am either happier or sadder with the current situation I find myself in, things are just different. The difference in my life situation is something that I have learnt to live with, it is something that I cannot escape, at least not at the moment. However even if I have a choice, I don't know if I will. This doubt persists not because I prefer this life, rather because I know that the life I will return to will not be the life that I'd left behind. Although I am not alone in this precarious situation, my situation has definitely been much more trying than that of the others who have had shared this life changing experience with me. I'll start at the very beginning, when the first events that led to my current situation happened. My name is Alexander Ashley and I used to work on a late night television show. The show I was working with wasn't very popular, we were a local show that was broadcast only in the tri- state area. If you're from the area, you might have heard of it, "Tonight's Light with Tommy Razor." My job there was as a assistant copy writer. I got to work on a lot of the content that Tommy, the host, would present. This show, unlike many other late night shows, was light on Hollywood gossip and focussed more on political and sporting content. This was really rewarding for me, it allowed me to apply things that I learnt at graduate school to my work. I went to school at Princeton, and got my undergraduate degree in literature, with a minor in political science. I then went to Yale for Graduate school to further pursue political science. After I graduated, I started applying for jobs and at first I really wanted to get into Government but most of the places I applied, and they never gave me a reason for the decision. Eventually at my wits end I decided to apply to any job that came my way and that is how I ended up at "Tonight's Light." I guess after having worked there for a couple of months I began to appreciate the kind of work that the copy writers put in, especially our head writer Emily Hewitt. She is definitely one of the most brilliant people I've seen. Not only was she an expert in all things related to World politics, but she had a knack for presenting this immense body of knowledge that she possessed in a way that kept viewers involved all the way through the show and also poked some humour at our leaders at the same time. Although Emily was a brilliant copy writer, the show would have never survived without the excellent presentation of Tommy. Tommy was from Queens and you could tell that from a mile away if you just heard him speak. He played on his background a lot during the show and given the limited broadcast of the show it helped the show quite a lot. The team at work apart from these two stalwarts consisted of me, 3 other assistant copy writers, 4 administrative assistants, and a huge studio crew that did all the important work with regards to cameras, lights, direction and so much more. In my daily routine I rarely had to interact with the studio crew, me and the other copy writers mostly worked in the design room. We all worked together on the content that was drawn out by Emily in the beginning of the day. Since we had a show every weekday except Friday, everyday the design room would be buzzing from the moment we reached work till we left. Since the show was generally recorded at 9 PM, we would get to work around 8AM, after a hour long meeting in the morning to chalk out the headlines that we would be focussing on and some basic details we would go into our personal spaces and come up with our individual ideas over the next hour or so. We would then meet in the design room around 10:30AM and give each other our ideas and would then read through each others ideas over the next hour and try to expand on them. Then we would break for lunch around 11:45 AM or noon and then reconvene at 1PM. From that point on it would be non stop writing and editing and at this point Tommy would join us as he began preparing for his presentation. It was intellectually engaging and was surely one of the best things that could happen to me. I really felt satisfied at work and I was in a great place in my life at that time. In my personal life, I wasn't in a relationship but there was a girl I was meeting every weekend, we would go for coffee or lunch on Saturday and then to the movies sometimes. We were both pretty frank about our thoughts on our relationship. She is a devout Christian and there was to be no sex before marriage and that worked fine for me as I am pretty religious myself and I had no problem taking things slow. Another thing that helped us click was that she was also extremely well informed on world affairs and we could chat at length about things that stimulated us both intellectually. I've never kissed her, but we've held hands several times. I felt that she was perfect for me, and though I couldn't read her mind, I could see that she liked me too. I remember that there was this one time when we were at a Starbucks and for a long time neither of spoke a word, we were both doing our thing and it felt so normal, it seemed like there was no awkwardness, no thinking twice about breaking the silence, and I guess that is when I first felt that he was the one. Her name is Elizabeth Brown, she is about a year younger than me. I guess physically she is pretty, a regular girl next door, nothing special, but it was not her physical beauty that kept me interested in her. She was a beautiful person, and genuinely had a heart of gold. I think the cliché is true about how the right person make you a better person. Her kindness and niceness rubbed off on me a lot, and people at work often commented how my demeanour had changed significantly from the time I had joined, and I guess I liked that. Although I've described my life in quite some detail, I've not really described myself much. I'm white and about 5'10" tall. I guess you could call me lean, though I never really worked out much, I guess I ate conservatively that my weight tended to stay off my bones, that and all the running around I had to do to get to work, changing 3 trains and walking about 10 blocks to get to my office. I don't think I'm handsome, I would probably classify myself as average. Elizabeth, like I said is pretty, she is about 5'8" has mixed heritage, her mother was black and her dad was Irish-Mexican. Her skin is brown, I guess she has that Jessica Alba skin tone, so she is often confused for a white girl. She is also a little lean, but I think she weighs a little more than me, she never told me but I could see from her frown when I once mentioned my weight that we are in the same region. However regardless of our appearances, I would say that even though we had not committed to each other, more because of my apprehensions with commitment, we were very serious about each other. My parents had lived in New York all their lives, however they had moved to Miami after my dad retired. I spoke to them every weekend and I could see that they were enjoying themselves there. My father was a journalist and I guess I caught my own writing bug from him, my mother was a home maker, but was very well educated. She had graduated Magna Cum Laude from Rutgers with a double major in history and literature. However after marrying my father, she made a personal choice to not work and be a stay at home mother. Despite her choice I could see that she was as much a feminist as anyone I've met and to me she exemplified the strong intelligent woman who made a choice about her life that she really wanted. I saw a lot of my mother in Elizabeth, and that attracted me to her even more. Now having described everything about the status of my life a year back, let me now begin describing the series of events that eventually led me to my current situation. My work, even though extremely engaging and rewarding, drained me intellectually by the time the season ended and I was really looking forward to the end of the season. Our seasons generally ran February to June and August to December. I must say that my weariness was really telling and Elizabeth mentioned this many times, so we were both really glad that the season was finally ending. Additionally the fact that it was an election year made things even more hectic. It was the last week before we broke for a month and one day as we were all working on our copy, our studio chief walked into the design room. It was odd to see him there, he was generally on the set prepping for the evening. He walked up to Emily and started talking. It looked like an engaging conversation, the rest of us were curious and were trying hard to listen, but couldn't. He left soon and suddenly the girls started gossiping about what might be happening. Susan looked really scared, she was certain that one of us was going to be fired, Reny was trying to calm her down telling her that she shouldn't be worried since we were already overloaded and firing one of us would be disastrous for the show. Theresa wasn't paying much attention, she was a little behind on her work but also got into the conversation, speculating that the studio was getting sold to someone. I really didn't know what to think, it was an odd event but nothing so dramatic to start thinking of such worst case scenarios. Eventually everyone got back to work and soon forgot about it. The next day in the morning meeting after we had finished discussion about headlines, Emily brought up the conversation. She told us that the Studio Chief, Clint, had told her that since this season had been exceptional the management had decided to reward the creative team with a week long trip to South America. We all looked at her in disbelief, we couldn't believe that this was happening. It turns out that Emily, Tommy, Susan, Reny, Theresa and Myself were going on the trip, with all of us allowed to bring a companion. The whole day all of were talking about it and Emily had to break up our gossip sessions to make sure work got done. The show went fine that night, and I immediately called Elizabeth to tell her. When she picked up the phone, she seemed like she was busy, so I asked her to meet me for lunch the next day. The next day at lunch I met her at a salad place that had amazing soup as well. I told her everything, the trip was the last week of January and we were going to start with 2 days in Rio, and visit some of the other Brazilian cities over the next 4 days and go to Buenos Aires for a day before coming back. It might not have been the kind of trip where you get to spend a week in each city and take in the life of the city and experience the culture and tradition of the country, I don't think anyone minded it. As luck would have it, she hadn't taken a day off for over a year and was about hit her vacation cap so it was a go from her. We discussed it a little more and we decided that we could put in a little money from our side and stay for an additional week. It was going to be amazing. The next day I told everyone about our plan and they all seemed to like it as well and decided that they would probably do the same thing as well. The next few weeks went by very quickly, the show wrapped up by the end of that week, then all of us began preparing for the trip, getting VISAs and plans worked out. Since all of us had been working together so much, we were really able to get everything sorted out pretty quickly. Emily was coming with her husband Greg, Tommy was bringing his wife Lucy, Susan's boyfriend Jim was joining us, Reny was coming with her boyfriend Buddy and Theresa was coming with her fiancé Thomas. Our plan after the first week was to spend a couple more days in Rio and then spend a couple of extra days in Manaus, followed by a two day trip in Colombia and finally a day in Venezuela. We were leaving from JFK on the 20th of January, all of us reached there with an hour to spare. Everyone was dressed comfortably since it was going to be a long flight and we were all in economy, which was the best that the show would sponsor. I slept for most of the flight and spent some time talking to Elizabeth (have I mentioned she doesn't like her name shortened?) We finally landed after a 11 hour flight and all of us were a little weary, we went right to the hotel and went off to sleep. The next day when we got up, we all met in the lobby and were greeted there by our escort Ricardo. He was going to be with us throughout the trip. We started with the regular touristy things such as visiting the statue of the Christ Redeemer, visiting the Maracana soccer stadium and a visit to the Pao de Acucar. The next day we went to the National History museum which had a lot of lovely artefacts from the colonial period with a lot of historical passages and guided tours. Elizabeth was truly enjoying this, she was like a little kid running from one exhibit to another, I was also enjoying it, first because of the fact that the museum was truly interesting, but also because I was enjoying seeing Elizabeth in this Avatar. We then went to Ipanema beach and spent the evening there, had some fancy Brazilian dinner and then went back to the Hotel, to prepare for the trip to Manaus the next day. We had to get up early to not waste the day, we reached Manaus at 10AM, and immediately went for a boat ride at the Archipelago of Anavilhanas. It was one of the most beautiful experiences I've ever had. Both Elizabeth and I enjoyed it thoroughly, we wanted to go a second time, but the others wanted to move on, so we decided to leave from there then We were getting ready to go to visit the Teatro Amazonas, but someone suggested keeping that for the next week and to go on a day trek. After all Manaus is so well known for its treks, we all agreed and went along with it. Reny immediately whipped out her smart phone and started looking up treks, Elizabeth and myself were lost in conversation as we decided what part of the trip so far we liked the best. Soon after we learnt that we were going to a nearby jungle and there was going to be a boat ride there as well, on the river Juma. This was going to be the first proper trekking experience for me, Elizabeth had gone on a few treks before this and was also in good shape in general, so she was delighted with this. I, well not so much. When we got to the trail head, we were amazed by the Amazonian jungle, the trees and the plants were like nothing I had seen before. I'm not much of a Botany buff, but I could see that this place had several species of plants that I had never seen before. We started walking and had a guide who told us a lot of stories about how dangerous some of these parts are. In fact there had been some accidents involving experienced trekkers as well a few months earlier. We had decided to stick to the easy trail, given that I and some of the girls weren't too keen on too much strenuous activity. We had walked about a mile into the jungle at that point and all of us were really enjoying ourselves, making jokes about each other and pacing slowly along. We then came to a part which seemed a little difficult, it was a thin ledge that we had to cross, and then from the other side we would circle around and go back. The guide instructed us to hold hands in a chain as we crossed the ledge, and to move very carefully so as to not slip. We inched one by one onto the ledge and kept moving along, it was about 50 feet long, and Greg was leading the pack, Elizabeth was just in front of me and after me it was just the guide. Soon we were about half way through, when suddenly we heard a cracking sound, before we realized what had happened, the ledge started crumbling and starting with Lucy who was in the centre with Tommy, we all started slipping, and then before we could gather our senses, we found ourselves about 200 feet below the pathway which was to lead us out. Fortunately no one was hurt badly, Theresa and Emily had some deep bruises, but somehow everyone else managed to only get a few light bruises here and there. The guide told us then that we had fallen into the toughest trail in the region, and the only way out was a 10 mile hike that went deep into the jungle. He warned us that it would be a very technical hike and the laggers, I feel he was looking at me when said that, would have to pull up their socks. We started following the guide as he seemed to be the only one who knew where we were, our phones didn't have any signal there and we were really not sure where the hell we were. As we followed him, the trek was really difficult, I was about to pass out just 2 miles in, but then Elizabeth kept supporting me going forward. I wasn't the only one suffering, Lucy and Theresa were much worse, but Reny seemed to be just fine as did Elizabeth. Susan and Emily were probably a little better than me, but not much. Greg and Tommy were just fine, as if nothing had happened. Buddy was a little winded, but he looked fine too. Thomas and Jim were a little worse off, not as bad as me, but I could see that they were not in good shape either. We eventually came to a steep gradient at the top of which was a small landing, the guide told us that the trek from there on would be a little easier and would be mostly downhill. We climbed up slowly, but surely and eventually made it up. As we were standing there, suddenly everything went black. The next thing I remember is that I was waking up to Elizabeth shouting my name, as I stood up dazed, I realized that everyone was there, except the guide. Everyone seemed to be in a lot of pain, and struggling to stand. From the foliage around us it was clear that we were in some very different part of the jungle than the one we had come from. No one had any idea what had happened. Greg said after analysing the surroundings that it seems were brought here in some kind of vehicle and just dumped in the middle of the forest. We then realized that none of us had our phones or our wallets. We checked and our backpacks had also been pilfered, the clothes were still there, but money and watches and cameras, these were all gone. It was the guide, but what we couldn't understand was how he managed to black us all out and at the same time, since no one remembers seeing anyone else faint. Looking at Elizabeth, I saw a small blue dot on her neck, and then noticed that everyone else had it too, I touched my neck and there was a prick in the same spot. Tommy noticed this too and suddenly someone saw a broken wooden dart on the ground under some foliage. The tip looked very sharp, and had some kind of vicious liquid on it. The guide must have had some help and used these darts to knock us out. We didn't know how to verify our theory, but then without thinking Reny pricked herself with it, and immediately fainted. While she lay fainted, we were all very tired and hungry, and thirsty too. Not knowing what to do, we decided to split up to search around the spot where our guide had left us, hoping that there would be something to help us make it through the day. Susan stayed with Reny. Me, Elizabeth, Tommy and Lucy were in one group and the others were in another group. We decided to walk towards the south, while the others walked north. We were to meet back in a half hour, we were able to tell time on a couple of gym timers that had not been stolen by the people who left us here. About 10 minutes into our walk we heard some sort of rumbling, we were immediately afraid that it might be some wild animal. We tried to climb up a tree nearby, with some effort Elizabeth and Lucy climbed one tree while I and Tommy climbed another. From the tree we saw a small animal that I had never seen before pass by, and we could see that its feet were wet, that meant there must be water nearby somewhere. We waited for it to go, but soon there was a lot more noise, it seems this was the time all the animals came to drink water or something like that. After about half an hour things quietened down and we rushed in the direction the animal came from, and as expected there was a small lake there. We then drank as much as we could and then filled a couple of bottles that we were carrying and rushed back to the others, they had not found any water, but had found some berries to eat. No one wanted to be the first one to try the berries, so we decided to just hold onto them for the time being. Jim and Buddy went to the lake with Tommy and carried several bottles and came back with a surprise. They brought back some sort of wooden bucket full of water, it seems they found it lying near the lake. Everyone having satiated their thirst, was now starting to get extremely hungry. We resigned to having to spend the night there, and also to not getting any food. We absolutely had to light a fire to keep the animals away, so we started gathering some wood, not knowing if we would be able to light it up or not. Jim had been a boy scout so he was experienced in these things, he managed to get a fire up pretty soon. That night all of us went to sleep hungry. We took turns sleeping just in case there was some emergency. In the morning, all of us were weary an weak. We absolutely needed to find some food. We decided to split up into 2 groups of 6, one group was to stay at the camp we'd built and the other would go out looking for food. They split the group so that the fit folks went in search of food and the not so fit folks stayed behind. Greg, Jim, Buddy, Tommy, Elizabeth and Thomas went, me, Emily, Lucy, Susan, Reny and Theresa stayed back. They were to come back in about an hour, we timed it on our gym timers. After about 50 minutes they were back and this time it was good news, they had a lot of fruits with them and some kind of vegetable. We started eating it and I don't know if it was because I was so tired and hungry or if the fruits were really that good, but I loved every single fruit I ate. Not knowing what to do and how to get out of there, we decided to rest there for a day or two, since this part of the jungle seemed safe. We ate the fruits and drank the water from the well for the next 3 days, we were sleeping on make shift beds made with leaves and grass. No one knew what the right thing to do was. We decided that everyday for the next two weeks, team A, the group of fit people, would go out in search in one direction for 3 hours, and they would pick up fruits on their way back. Team B, those of us who were less fit, would stay put and work on improving the beds and trying to build some sort of shelter. Some days people would swap out from one group to the other depending on their mood and need. For instance once Jim stayed in team B since his expertise was required in building a small mud fire stove. Team A was not having any luck, we had been stuck there for nearly 2 weeks and we didn't see any chance of escaping. We had some basic supplies in our backpacks that we were using like some small knifes a few scissors, a couple of Swiss army knives and few other knick knacks that were truly life savers. By the time the third week began, we had managed to sync our timings with the animals at the lake so that we never bothered them. Also we were extremely fortunate that all the animals in the vicinity were herbivores. After a couple of days into the third week, our lack of nutrition was beginning to show, we had to get something other than fruits to eat. That's when Buddy suggested killing some animal, it would last us at least a week if not more.So we laid a trap, to catch the last animal that left from the stream, most of these animals were ones we hadn't seen before. We caught a small furry animal that no one had seen before, but no one was feeling like killing it. Eventually we decided not to kill it, it was pretty cute and we managed to win it over with the fruits. We named it Bobo. However our inability to kill the animal only compounded our problem with our diet, for the next whole week Team A kept trying to find new sources of food, but to no avail. Then one day Reny brought up the berries we had found on the first day. No one wanted to try it, and our discussion was at an impasse, when one of the berries fell from her and Bobo ate it up. Nothing happened, if anything he seemed a lot of energetic after eating it. After a lot of thinking, Tommy decided that he would take on for the team and decided to eat a berry. As soon as he had swallowed it, he seemed like he was completely refreshed. He said this was the best thing he had eaten in his life, all of us ate one each of this, and truly it was the most delicious thing I had ever eaten in my life. That berry, just one of it, satisfied me completely, I felt like I didn't need anything else, it was truly wonderful. Each of us had just one that day, our work rate improved immensely, team A scouted further out than ever before that day, team B managed to make two beds that day and things were looking up, there was no telling what more we could do with these magic berries. That day team A made sure to get many more of these berries, we stocked it up in on of the buckets we had carved out from a tree stump. Over the next few weeks, we made some significant progress, the most important of which was a stone axe that we had fashioned, each of us took turns grinding two stones to make a sharp edge, and several days later we had something that actually fell trees, not big ones anyway, but it was good enough for us. With the berries to re-energize us no problem seemed too big. After about another month, we were still not able to find a way out, it was our primary goal, to survive till we were able to find some way to get to modern civilization, but every day we were facing failure after failure. We were too afraid to leave the spot where we were, since we knew that there were some carnivorous animals in some parts of the jungle and we wanted to stay as far away from them as possible. That is when I came up with an idea, we would try to setup a second base, we knew that there was a river about 15 miles south of where we were, we decided to stake out there for a night to see what kind of animals frequented the river, after a couple of days we didn't see any dangerous animals there, so we decided to setup camp about 2 miles from the river and try again. This time however we decided to start clearing up the trees, the plan was to create a fenced large open area and to try to create smoke signals so that if someone saw it they might think that there was a forest fire or something and try to come there and help rescue us. In the next 2 weeks, we were able to fell around 50 trees and with our tools we were able to fashion some rudimentary fences. The fences were pretty strong, although they didn't look like them. The shape were all wrong, but we had long and thick wooden planks and we stuck them deep into the soil. We built a kind of door into this enclosure, and decided that our best bet would be to repeat this procedure in a few more places. However scouting for new spots turned out to be difficult, we had been lucky the first time, but over the next 3 weeks we found only one more spot which seemed safe. So now we had 3 enclosures from which we were sending out smoke signals, but over the next few weeks we didn't have any luck. We had now split ourselves into 3 teams, one each at each of the enclosures. Team A was me, Elizabeth, Emily and Greg, Team B was Lucy, Tommy, Jim and Susan and Team C was Thomas, Theresa, Buddy and Reny. To maintain contact, all teams would meet at the first enclosure we had built near the river every day in the evening and sleep there. In the morning we would then go back to our respective enclosures and work on the smoke signals and building new tools and implement. We were now making a paste out of the berries and mixing it with the fruits and eating it, it tasted even better than the berries, and was just as potent. We had tools like spade, axes, rudimentary saws, several kinds of knives, hammers and several other things. One of the important things we had was a sun dial at each of the enclosures, we had managed synchronize the gym timer with the sun dials, this helped immensely as we had only two gym timers. Also along with working on tools two from each team would go out of the enclosure to collect berries and fruits and also to search for exits. The latter task was really not working out for us. The one day a few weeks later we all reached the first enclosure in the evening, however team C didn't show, we waited for an hour and no one came, we decided that we had to go search for them. We had a fixed route we took from each enclosure to the other, we decided to stick that route to avoid missing them, we also left a note carved into the ground to let them know that we went searching for them. After about half the distance to their enclosure was covered, we heard some whimpering sounds, we looked in the bushes around there and we saw Theresa and Reny lying there, crying in pain. Reny had a deep gash on her thigh and Theresa had deep bruises on her legs and arms. We began picking them up, and asked them where Thomas and Buddy were. Reny couldn't talk, Theresa was able to speak up, she told us that they were getting ready to leave for the night when suddenly their enclosure was surrounded by about a dozen tribal men and they attacked the enclosure. They beat all of them pretty badly and then took Buddy and Thomas hostage. They spoke in some indigenous language which neither of them understood, and their leader spoke on in an enraged tone and seemed to point at the women over and over as they addressed the men. They threw the women out of the enclosure, and after a few minutes left the enclosure towards the north, the women tried to run to us but were badly injured and passed out where we found them. We all hurried back to the first enclosure to get to safety and to decide what to do next. At the enclosure all of us were distraught, not knowing what to do and the fear of this tribe scared us even more. Theresa and Reny were crying inconsolably and all the others were really sad too. The last 3 months had brought all of closer, like one big family, I myself was on the verge of tears. As some of us regained some composure, we started planning what to do next, we had to go after Buddy and Thomas, but we didn't know where to look. We decided that if we were to be caught, we might as well go as a group, at least we would know where they took them. We started towards the third enclosure, where the attack had taken place, we hid in the bushes around it and scanned the area for any threats, eventually we went in to see what had happened, everything that we had built there had either been destroyed or stolen. We tried searching for tracks, but these were people of the jungle, they had covered their tracks really well. However we kept looking, eventually in the east end of the camp someone noticed the gym timer that buddy used to carry. We decided to search further in that direction, and we saw a few hundred feet further there was one of the knives that we had built, we felt certain that the guys had tried to help us find them, Hansel and Gretel style. We kept going in that direction, after a couple of miles someone noticed another small knife, we were on the right track. We kept going, all the time keeping our eyes peeled for any sort of trouble. After about another 10 miles we came up to a river possible the same river that our first enclosure was close to, here we were not sure if we had gone off the path that the tribal men had taken, we decided to drink some water and rest for a bit. Just as we were about to step forward towards the river, we all froze. In front of us was a creature that looked like a lion, only more massive and with a much more regal air about it. It hadn't seen us yet, its eyes were focussed in another direction, but we could see that it had sensed our scent, every few seconds it would blink in our direction, we couldn't see what it was looking at, but it seemed to be some kind of man. Greg climbed up a tree and he then saw that it was a tribal man with a spear in his hand that this animal had focussed its complete attention on. We all receded into the bushes, not wanting to be caught in the cross fire. Suddenly without warning, they both charged at each other, the man lunged forward, spear in hand, and just missed stabbing the animal. The animal at the same time swiped its paws as its retracted claws protracted out and then in a haze of violence, the man lay dead in a pool of his own blood. After a brief pause, the animal turned to us, it slowly walked up to us, all of us frozen stiff, would have died of fear right there if it had made any sudden movements. Somehow it didn't, when it reached us, it purred like a house cat, and immediately Bobo jumped out from Emily's hands and ran to the animal. They cuddled like mother and child, and then ran off without warning. We were relieved to not have to face them. One of us immediately ran towards the dead body, I think it was Jim. He picked up the man's spear and saw what else he was carrying, he had what looked like one of the pocket knives that we had brought with us from New York, it must have been Thomas'. At least there was still some clue that we were on the right track, but we felt much more lost than we ever did, but at least we were better equipped than we had been when we were abandoned in the jungle by our guide. We all ate some berries to get some energy and then kept moving ahead, we crossed the river on what looked like a boat used by the tribesman. It was a small boat, so it took 4 trips for all of us to get across, fortunately the current was very weak so we didn't have any problem getting across. The area across the river was vastly different from the one where we had come from, this place looked almost manicured, like someone was taking care of all the trees and the bushes and the grass, everything was shaped cleanly, almost like a garden, the only thing that prevented it from being one was the fact that there were so many large trees and bushes. As we slowly moved across this new part of the jungle, we increasingly became aware of some noises in the distance, slowly we crept forward and when we were about 300 feet away, we decided to climb the trees to get a better view of what was happening. All of us then climbed up some of the trees and began observing the village we had stumbled upon. We saw several small boys playing, it looked like they were playing soccer, but the ball looked like it was made of wood or something else brown, like dried stalks from a banana tree. It was a small village, you could probably walk across it in 5 minutes, we saw several men there, engaged in different activities like winnowing wheat, sharpening spears, tending to some fields. Women were conspicuous by their absence, we didn't see a single woman there. They might have been inside the huts. The men were all bare chested with a sort of sarong covering their waist and legs. After watching for a while, we didn't see either Buddy or Thomas, Greg and Jim decided to try to sneak in to see if they were inside any of the huts. We weren't sure about this, it seemed like an extremely dangerous thing to try, but we didn't have a choice. We decided that it would be best to wait for nightfall and then sneak into the village in the cover of darkness. We decided to back off a little from the village to avoid getting caught, we broke into two groups to reduce the risk of everyone getting caught. Greg, Jim, Elizabeth, Susan and Emily were in one group, I, Reny, Lucy, Tommy and Theresa were in the other group. We both found a safe area with a lot of bushes for cover and then waited for the night. As the sun began setting, all of us ate a berry each to give us strength. As the twilight rays filtered through the jungle, I felt like I was in a trance, soon the sun had gone down beyond the horizon and we decided to start moving in. We met the other group near where we had earlier in the day observed the village, then Greg and Jim started moving towards the village, at that point Tommy ran after them saying that he would go with them, it would help scan the village faster. As they slowly stepped out from the forest line, they took measured steps staying in the shadows the whole time. Our eyes could still follow them in the darkness though. Soon they were close to closest hut and there was no one around. Just as Jim stepped out of the shadow, suddenly all three fell down on the ground, we had no idea what had happened, we wanted to go after them when suddenly we saw two tribesmen step out from seemingly no where, they had some kind of darts in their hands, it must have been the same poisoned darts that had been used on us by the guide. We didn't know what to do now, when suddenly one of the men suddenly looked in our direction, we had been spotted, he started running towards us, we, not knowing any better started running towards the river. We kept running for nearly an hour and all of us were nearly dying from exhaustion. The tribesmen trailing us must have given up the chase some distance back, we hadn't heard them in a while now. We slowed down to rest, when suddenly Reny noticed a light in the distance, we were wary of going close, we decided to camp there for the moment, as we started to lie down, we could make out the sobs of Susan, Emily and Lucy. The rest of us tried to comfort them, but this was too much for everyone, first Buddy and Thomas, now Jim, Greg and Tommy. We felt doomed and if there ever was a lack of hope amongst us, it was now. We were all sobbing quietly and in tears the night passed and dawn approached us. We decided to try to scout the area where the light from the previous evening had come, we still had enough berries to last a couple of weeks, so at least physically we were doing fine. Emotionally all of us were a wreck, we had lost 5 members of our family in just the last 2 days, and we didn't know how much longer the rest of us would last. As we slowly walked up in the direction of the light from the previous night, we saw another village in the distance, however as soon as I laid eyes on the village, everything went black. As I came to, I found my hands and legs were tied, and I was blind folded, I heard someone speak in a loud commanding voice, I couldn't understand the language, but it was a woman and from the voice seemed fairly young. I shouted out, "Who are you? Where am I? What have you done with my family?" Suddenly I heard Elizabeth's voice. She shouted out, "Honey, we are all here and fine, please don't talk." I kept my calm, I had no idea what was going on. The woman continued in her language, and then suddenly another woman started speaking, in English. I could only make out a couple of words, she was speaking in a very low voice but I could make out that it was English. The only complete sentence I could here was, "That is the only choice." I then heard a door open and then close, Elizabeth came up to me and removed my blindfold. I saw that all the girls were there. It was a small hut, there was a large muscular woman at the door, perhaps some kind of guard. The women were all dressed up like the tribeswomen, however I had been stripped naked. No one said anything, everyone just had a hopeless depressed look on their faces, suddenly Elizabeth started crying and ran out the door. Reny went after her, to try to console her. I couldn't stay calm any more, I shouted out, "Someone please tell me what is going on!" Hearing this the large woman came at me and slapped me hard and mumbled something in her language. The others immediately came to my aid, and hugged me dearly. Emily then started talking, "Alex, the part of the jungle we are in has been inhabited by these tribes for the last 5000 years. The tribes used to be a peace loving community for a large part of their existence, however in the last 4 centuries with the European colonialists consistently trying to take over the lands of the locals, they have had to take up arms. They protect their land as they would their lives, and this has been the most tumultuous time in the history of this tribe and all the others. One of the biggest things that happened was that one part of the tribe believed in using the European technology to fight the colonialists and the other part refused, this created a permanent split in the tribes and even now after all the danger from Colonialists is gone, the tribes are at war with each other. The split that had happened, ironically separated all the women from the men. The women were the ones who wanted to use technology against the evils of the Colonialists, while the men wanted to stick to their proven methods. The biggest fallout of this split had been that the tribe was dying, with no copulation between male and female, no children were born for nearly ten years. The tribe leaders recognized this problem and a day of reproduction was instituted, where regardless of tribe the males and females would copulate, the male offspring would go to the male tribe and the females would go to the female tribe. There were 4 days of reproduction in a year and only 10% of each tribe were allowed to participate in a year. The Amazonians being extremely fertile and virile, would have a child for each of the participants. This tradition had helped all the tribes, however in the last two decade a new Queen of the female tribe had abandoned this tradition because the male tribes took advantage of the reduced number of female warriors due to the pregnancies and attacked the female tribes at their weakest hours. This had left both the tribes with a declining population and now the tribes were abducting tourists and through mind control and persuasion forcing them to join their tribe. That is what had happened when the tribesmen had abducted Buddy and Thomas, as well as when they took Greg, Jim and Tommy. Similarly Elizabeth, Reny, Theresa, Susan and I are being enlisted into the female tribe, and soon our training will begin to provide us an occupation and a position in the society. We don't have any power against these women, they are physically superior and somehow are also intellectually very sharp, so far I have not been able to oppose any of their suggestions. We have no choice but to join their tribe." Then Emily lost her composure and started crying. I tried to console her, but my words didn't do anything. She continued through her sobs, "You however being male however, for them you are the enemy and tomorrow morning in the village grounds, you will be hanged." Emily started wailing uncontrollably as Theresa came and hugged me, also sobbing. I couldn't believe the things she had said, my mind was in a haze and I just felt numb.Elizabeth and Reny came back to the hut, Elizabeth was still crying, she came to me and kissed me on the lips. She hugged me and didn't let go for ten minutes, all the while crying. Then Reny came up to us and spoke to me, "Alex, there is a still a way to save you, but for you it might be just as bad as death." I didn't understand what she meant, I asked her to explain, saying that anything should be better than death. She said that the only way she would expect loyalty from me and would therefore forgive me, is if I willingly became a woman and joined the tribe. At first I didn't understand her, I mean, how can I become a woman? If it was modern civilization, I can still understand, there are operations to do this kind of stuff, but here in the middle of the Amazon, how can they do that. Without another thought, I said, "I agree!" I thought, they perhaps would only want my willingness, since the process was impossible for them. Elizabeth looked at my face and started weeping again.She hugged me tight, not letting go. Soon, after about fifteen minutes a tribeswoman walked into the hut, she had another woman with her who didn't look like a tribeswoman, but was attired like one. The first woman started speaking, I came to know that she was the Queen of the tribe, and the other woman was a translator. The Queen said that since I had agreed to become a woman, my feminization ceremony would be held the next day, instead of my hanging. Till I became a woman, I would be tied up in the hut as I was an enemy captive. The other women stayed by my side all that day and through the night, Elizabeth kept professing her love for me regardless of gender and said that we would be lovers now and for ever, no matter what. I kissed her and hugged her several times and we both cried in each others arms. I fell asleep then and was kicked awake at dawn by the large woman who guarded the door. In chains I was dragged to the central courtyard of the village, there I saw a woman who was differently attired than the rest of the women. I was taken in front of her, She spoke in English, "Alexander Ashley, I am the oracle of the Ashanika people. Do you willingly accept to join our sisterhood, if you do, I will today castrate you and give you the robes that bind you to the sisterhood. You will be eat a nika berry everyday for the next two months, which will gradually transform you into one of our sisters. If you fail to eat the berries on any one day, you will be hanged the next day. The berries will be administered to you by sister Elizabeth under the supervision of sister Tuia. Tell me Alexander Ashley, do you agree?" I was shocked, she was going to castrate me and using her berries really turn me into a woman! I turned and looked at Elizabeth who was standing in the crowd, she looked at me with anticipation, I could see sadness in her eyes, but I could also see hope, for the first time in several days I saw that look of hope in her eyes, I could not see her shattered. I closed my eyes, said a prayer and then looked at the oracle and said, "Yes I agree."
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