Amazon Adventure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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