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As the faucet drips...
Author's note: This story is different for me to write because I'm writing this as I go. I'm writing from the character's perspective, as she is recounting events. This makes writing this story solo enjoyable. I hope you enjoy it too!
If I had to describe my home country, I would say that it's peaceful, laid back, and stress free.
Brazil is anything but. Brazil is wild. It's like a jungle in the city. You have to survive some kinda way.
Hi, my name is Remy. I'm seventeen years old. A girl. And I run. Not literally run, 'cause I hate running. But, like run as in running from things. All the time. Nowadays at least. Uh, yeah. Along the way, I meet people, I do things, I see things, and this is my story.
I don't know if I was born in Guyana or Venezuela. Most likely, Brazil because I remember the favelas pretty well. I do know it was in South America, somewhere though. My earliest memory was my mother. There was this misty, spicy smell, and so I got up. Our bed touched the floor, and what I stepped on was cold and rough, like concrete. I remember just, walking on the tips of my toes to the back door and her whispering, something like, 'You better walk on your tippies or your daddy's gonna get you if he hears you.' She was sitting on the couch, drenched in perspiration. His head on her lap; his breathing shallow, desperate. He was dying.
I don't remember much of my father other than that. He was just sick, stubborn, and angry all the time. Cooped up in the living room on that couch, always complaining about something. Until one day, he wasn't there.
"Mama," I looked up at my mother one morning washing the dishes, "Where's Daddy?"
She looked ahead, through the window in front of the sink, her eyebrows furrowed, "You won't be seeing your father anymore. He's gone."
I remember being really happy, "Mama, that's good! No more spankings! No more yelling! No more sneaking! No more crying!" I jumped up and ran outside. I played all day. For the next three days.
I remember my mom crying A LOT during those days. I didn't pay any mind to that. I was too busy, like, celebrating with episodes of Fishtronaut and endless bowls of Froot Loops, I guess. Then suddenly she just started being super nice to me. She gave me seconds, let me stay up all night, eat candy until I was sick, bought me tons of action figures and toys, she even let me doodle on our walls. This went on for months.
It was heaven for a four year old.
And then one night, I was sleeping on the bed, and I felt a tug on my shoulder. Not a forceful, aggressive tug. Just a light little pinch. My eyes opened, and I sat up to my mother's hand held out for me to grab. I asked her, you know, what was going on, but she just shushed me and told me to get up.
"Put your shirt on, get your shoes."
It was dark, we had no lights. It was difficult for me to find my stuff. I guess I was too slow.
So she slapped me.
I felt that burn. I can still feel it if I think about long enough. It had been the first time my mother ever laid hands on me. Surprisingly though, I didn't cry. I hit her back. Next thing I knew I was on the floor, wrestling with this woman who always told me to show no fear, and to fight back when a fight comes to you.
I was confused. It was brutal. I don't ever remember crying so hard.
My nose bled.
She pulled me to my feet and ordered me to the front door. I had a limp in my strut. At the door, a man dressed in all black took my wrist. And at that moment, for some reason at the age of four, I knew was going into trouble because he grabbed my wrist. Not my hand. I was still crying as I tried to wiggle out from his firm grip. But it only got tighter.
The man handed my mother some money and she smiled; the first smile I saw in a long time. It was genuine.
"Thank you." she said, and shut the door.
That was the last time I heard my mother. The man yanked me all the way down the steps through the favela, in the dark. I tripped several times, the thunder filling the thin air until I was lead to a car. I didn't even know what a 'car' was. I was forced into the backseat. I wasn't alone. There were five other kids squished back there with me. They seemed as unhappy as I was.
"Buckle up," he said starting the car, "it's going to be a long ride."
As we drove away, I glanced back one last time, and saw my mother staring out a window, at me, her eyes glistening, worried even.
With six toddlers squished in the backseat of a small car for 30 minutes, it was getting extremely hot, and my muscles began to cramp up. I wasn't the only one crying. It was getting loud, and it began to pour outside.
"Would you all shut the HELL up!!!" the driver was fuming. Probably couldn't see, and frustrated trying to drive on an unpaved road.
We all immediately stopped crying, except for this one other girl that was there.
" Quero voltar! Quero voltar! Quero voltar!" she screamed. She started throwing a fit. Flinging her arms in the air, kicking her legs against the driver's seat, until the driver just abruptly stopped the car in the middle of the street.
He got out, slammed the car door shut, and looked to see if there was anyone else on the street. There was no one. In fact, it felt like the place we were in was a ghost town. Even the buildings seemed dead.
He opened the back seat door and violently pulled that girl out. He dragged her into a building with no doors with her squealing and yelling. We didn't see anything. But what we heard, left our eyes to wonder if she was dead because in one second she was screeching and resisting, and the next, all we heard was silence.
The man came back to the car dripping wet. All he said was, "If you don't want to end up like her, I suggest you shut up," and we drove away in silence for the next 2 or 3 hours.
I had never been outside of our favela, so to see all of these people in the streets. To see other favelas. To see the poverty for the first time was eye opening for me. My eyes were glued to the window. Like, I knew it was bad at our place, but not that bad in other places. Other places just seemed way worse. Sometimes we stopped at checkpoints and the man was forced to pay, um, money to proceed. I was pretty scared.
You know, I was only four, so I didn't know what was going on. At some point, I even spotted a dead body on the street. The rain trickled down on the body, mixing with the blood as the police tried to investigate. We had wait for them to move out of the way before we could proceed to where ever we were supposed to be.
I didn't realize I fell asleep until I opened my eyes. It was daylight and we pulled up to this beautiful, white mansion on a hill. It was isolated from the rest of the world it seemed. I remember thinking, wow you can see the mountains of favelas from here. The other kids were pretty amazed too. We were awed.
The man in the black suit came to force us out of the car. He led us to the mansion and rang the doorbell. Peering down at us with a wide smile he said, "Welcome to the hell house children."
All I remember from that day and on was just pure torture. It was horrible. I don't really want to go into it but I'll just tell you the basics.
When we arrived, we weren't the only kids. There was other kids too. Maybe, like, 30 or so. Some old, some young. And they were working and very thin. Ribs could be seen from a mile away. We were assigned different tasks. Mine was pulling weeds from all over the mansion and I had to, um, help cook dinner for the adults with one of the older girls. Just the two of us for 7 people.
And this was just the first day. A lady, her name was Senhorita Juarez, and she didn't like the soup we made, so she poured all the soup in the big pot on the older girl. It was steaming hot. And her face, her arms, legs was just red all over.
They only fed us once a day. And either it would be scraps of leftovers, or dog food.
We would get beaten with this wooden pallet if we didn't clean something thoroughly, if we talked back, if we were smiling or talking, or when they just felt like it.
And at night...man, it was really hard. I was forced into a room with three men or they would come and raid our rooms. I don't recall exactly what would happen but, I know I was drugged and I'd be up the next morning sore, just, everywhere. Fortunately for me since I was so young and wasn't developed yet, I was abused much less. I guess most of the street men only liked girls who went through puberty, because those girls would get abused every single night, while me I would just get abused, like, once every two weeks due to some guy wanting me.
This went on for months. Later I learned, when we girls get rapped by these street men, we are making money for the head of household which was a guy named Julio. He was this huge drug lord.
And the guys that were being held like us girls, were forced to sell drugs in the street everyday. If you tried to resist or run away, you were tortured and then killed in front of everyone in the mansion. We were forced to watch the killings.
A lot of kids died, but every time someone died, a new cycle of children would come in the house. A lot of times I wished I could warn before they got to the house, you know?
We were slaves basically.
It wasn't always bad. I met other kids.
Jenna was two years older than me I think. She was the first. And during the 30 minute break we had every five hours, we would talk about normal kid stuff. Like playing with dolls, and talking about our favorite TV shows. Whenever we'd get the chance, we would talk to each other.
We also slept in the same room with a group of girls at night, so it was convenient.
Okay, so the men would come in our rooms sometimes unannounced and we would hold hands while one of us was being abused. We formed like this sisterly kind of bond, I guess. And then, a year later, she just wasn't in the same room with me one morning. I asked around, but nobody heard from her. A couple days later, there was another killing ceremony and um, she was one of the victims.
It was like this ALL the time for two years. I would make a friend, they would try to escape, and then I would see them killed. So eventually, I just stopped forming bonds with people because I didn't want to deal with the emotional turmoil afterwards.
I'd just do my tasks, get abused, and sleep. I wasn't depressed or anything. I just thought that this was it. This was how it was going to be always. But the more time I spent there, the more restless I became.
I wondered all the time, why, you know? Like, why do they do this? Why me? Why don't they get caught? I was angry and I wasn't the only one.
I met Joseph one day picking coffee cherries.
"I used to pick cherries at my grandpa's house for punishment. He owned basically 20 acres full of coffee trees. Can you believe that? 20 acres!"
He kept talking.
"We would dry the cherries out once they were picked. But sometimes, my brother Ramiro eats the cherries! Like, who eats the cherries? Personally, I think they're pretty gross. They taste a too fresh...too new, you know what I mean? Like green bananas! Bleh! I wait until they are basically black, then I eat them because that is when they are at their sweetest." He kissed his finger tips.
And talking, and talking for an hour non-stop. I really didn't want to talk to him. But I don't think he took the hint because every time I inched away from him, or turned my head, or tried to look menacing, he kept speaking to me as if I were responding. I never responded until I saw one of the adults coming.
"Shush!" I whispered, "Sergio is coming."
Sergio was a cross between a shark and a rhino. He was extra muscular, loud, and his teeth could saw through wood if he tried. I knew if he caught Joseph, he would get that pallet, and Joseph would be dead.
Sergio glared at us. He hollered to all the pickers in Portuguese, "You kids better have 10 pounds picked by nine tonight, or you all are not going to live through what I have prepared for you!"
When he was out of sight, Joseph turned to me, "We have got to get out of here."
During break, Joseph introduced me to his friends. Or tried to. I knew Joseph was going to be one of those 'victims' so I ignored him and sat alone instead.
"Suit yourself." He shrugged.
I couldn't help but overhear their conversation about a casa do inferno.
Joseph, of course, kept ranting about all the things he had been through.
"I only been here five days, and I already sold 9 packs! I refuse, they beat me! You see this bruise right here? Mona did that. You this slit right here?" he gestured below his chin, "Senhorita Kim did that. You see this right here?" He wiggled his thumb back and forth, "I am pretty sure my thumb is broken. Fabio bent it all the way back because I didn't 'address him correctly'. I am only seven years old, I shouldn't be going through this! I should be helping my mom take care of my little brothers!"
"Hey, you don't have it so bad. I was forced to take my clothes off and get my pictures taken, " one of them said.
"Five men jumped me the first night I got here," another added. His face was all swollen. I couldn't look at him straight. "I was in a coma for six days, and once I was better, they forced me out here."
Joseph threw his arms in the air, "This is what I'm talking about! We need to get the HELL out a here!"
Another kid my age, his name was Adrianno. He started to sob. "I just want to go home. I want Bucky back and I want avó to make me brigadeiro again."
The boys began to embrace him as his shoulders wept with him.
Joseph noticed me staring intently. "Hey! You wanna join our group or what?"
I don't remember walking over to them. I also don't remember talking to them. All I know now is that sitting with them that day literally changed my life.
We hitched a plan.
Now that I think about it, it's kind of funny. Like, I only see this in movies where the little kids are like really articulate and they are outsmarting the dumbfarts. Like, um, that movie, what's it called, Home Alone?
We waited three long weeks before our plan started. Then, it was game on.
Joseph was the leader, he told everyone what to do and when to do it. Adrianno was the brain and he gave Joseph advice on what we should do and shouldn't do. David was the engineer, also the oldest at 9 years old. Set up traps and getaways around the mansion. He also designed homemade weapons just in case. I showed everyone how to use the weapons. And Amerigo (the one with the swollen face) did the scope, he looks over everyone. To make sure our plan is working, he is on the look out for any mishaps we may have. He is also the last to leave.
That night, after the street men left, and everyone was done moaning, I couldn't sleep. I wasn't supposed to. I waited for the signal in the girl's room, my eyes fixated on the window.
"Knock, Knock." on the window. It was Joseph.
I got up. I saw a couple of girls squint their eyes as I tip toed over them. The windows where boarded up, so I had to use a weapon that was constructed to cup around the bolts, grip, and pull them out with ease.
It wasn't easy. I kept trying, but all I was producing was noise. "Can I help?" a voice behind me whispered.
"Uh, sure," I said, "Just try to pull these bolts out." She looked younger then I was. Maybe about four or five. Her curly head below me bounced as she pulled, her face turning red.
"We need to try something else." she said searching around the dark room filled with abused girls. She went back to her mat, and under it she revealed a hammer. Where'd she get a hammer from? She could barely manage to pick it up. I helped her. "Thanks,"she said. With one precise jerk on the hammer, the first bolt came out. Wow!
Before we knew it, all the bolts were out, and the crescent moon exposed itself, illuminating the dark room. A rush of cool air flew inside."That's beautiful," I said. "Thanks for helping me. I should have known a hammer would work." I put both legs out onto the balcony, glanced below, and saw the latter I was supposed to climb down. I took a deep breath, "Well, this is it."
"Wait!" she grabbed my arm, dropping the hammer, starring up at me, "Can I come? Please?" her eyes were desperate.
I thought for a second. "Okay, but you need to be quiet. You know what happens if we get caught." She hugged me. I was startled because I hadn't got a hug since Jenna. I shook my head clear, "Let's go."
I motioned for the girl to go first. I thought she'd be terrified, though she climbed down two stories, no sweat, just concentration. Now, I was terrified. I contemplated, but then remembered why I was doing this. Down I went, slowly, one bar at a time.
Once at the bottom, there was a hole in the ground near the bushes on the right that we dug weeks earlier. A security guard stood to the left of us around the corner. I turned to see the girl quiet. "Follow me." Nervous, I prayed it was wide enough for us to maneuver through. I tipped my way to the hole, but the girl behind me stepped on a tree branch halfway, alerting the guard.
He turned, "Ei você! Pare de uma vez!" Stop at once!
The girl jumped, stunned.
The guard lurched forward, but embarked our boobie trap. He tripped on the line, which caused big blocks of ice to fall on his head. The girl took the opportunity to run.
She ran as fast as she could. "Run!" I yelled, "Run!”
I ducked in the hole, and she ducked in behind me. It was cramped and dark, but I was crawling aggressively so the guard wouldn't have a clue where we went.
It was a long crawl, but we made it to the kitchen which was separated from the rest of the mansion. We crawled out from the ground and opened the kitchen door from the outside. The whole group was there. All the lights were off. It might as well have been a surprise party.
David, towering over us, exclaimed, ”Where have you been? We've been waiting for you for twenty minutes!"
"Yeah! We were about leave but--" Amerigo says, but is cut off by Joseph.
"Remy," he moves forward gazing at the girl, and then angry at me, "who is this?”
"My name is Luz and I'm three," she held up three fingers.
Joseph glared back at me, "Why'd you bring HER here!" he slammed his hands on the counter in frustration, "Now we have an extra person un-counted for!”
"No, Joseph it should be okay. We can take one more person." Adrianno suggested.
Joseph twisted to Adrianno's direction and threw his arms in the air, "WHAT DO YOU MEAN WE CAN TAKE ONE MORE PERSON??? WE ONLY HAVE FOUR GOD DAMMED SEATS!!! WE ALREADY HAVE TO SHARE!!!”
"Shush, Joseph," I said coaxing him, "We need to be quiet."
He shoved my hands away from his shoulders, "She needs to go back," he said, "I don't care what you do. She needs to stay here."
"But she'll die, here." David insisted.
"No," Amerigo said, "Joseph is right. Besides, it's not like she has a life anyway."
Luz tugged at my shorts persistently, "Somebody's coming. Somebody's coming."
"You guys!" I whispered yelled, "hide in the cabinets, someone's coming."
We all scurried somewhere. Luz and I hid in the pantry. We were scared straight when we heard footsteps coming down the hallway into the kitchen.
"You know I'm telling you," it was the guard speaking in Portuguese, "Something is wrong."
"Look, if we find something, we'll get 'em." And it was his partner, Gina.
"Era uma menina, com cabelos encaracolados -" he begged. It was a little girl with curly hair.
Luz sunk deeper behind me, gripping my shorts tightly.
"Wait, be quiet." Gina stopped in the middle of the kitchen. "You hear that?” She walked slowly, listening intently.
"That breathing...I hear hard breathing." She started abruptly opening cabinets.
At that moment, I closed my eyes. I knew it was over. Then we heard,
A cabinet open, "Hey look at what we have here!" Gina exclaimed, "Now, I see who you were talking about! Except this one's a boy not a girl. Need to get your eyes checked Bryan."
We heard some hard breathing. Like, whoever she found was about to pass out.
Then we heard Bryan smile.
Next, lots of screaming and crying, "Please! Let me go! I promise I won't try again! I promise! I don't-"he caught his breath, "I don't want to die!"
I looked down at Luz. Luz looked up at me. I gulped.
"It's okay sweetheart. There's new regulation Julio wants. You won't feel a thing. But for now, you will." Gina told him.
Bryan started to beat him. We heard the blows. The screaming. The laughing. But I'll never forget the crunch. Amerigo was getting quiet.
We felt a door open across the kitchen. "Leave him alone." It was David. He sounded like he had been crying.
I heard Gina turn, "Oh. My favorite kid. Your father isn't going to be too happy about this." she sneezed. Bryan said bless you. "Thank you, Bryan. I mean," she continued, "Julio has a bad temper."
"But your my mother!” I heard David shout, "You shouldn't be doing this!"
Wow, David is Julio's son? Gina allows for him to be in place like his?
"David, We already discussed this. You know why I do this. I'm sorry, rules are rules. We have to do it to you too."
Bryan stopped beating Amerigo when he was quiet, then we heard him beating David. David tried fighting back, but Bryan held him down. And I listened when Gina shouted, "Maybe this will shut you up!” his throat was slit. Blood hit the pantry door.
Luz was crying silent tears. So was I. This was personal.
"Alright, Bryan take them to the dark room. I'll call up some slaves to clean this up." Gina said out of breath, "Now I have to be the one to break the news to Julio. He's going to make me have another kid." she laughed.
"That should be fun," Bryan was apparently picking up the bodies, "Do you have your house bunny suit?"
"Oh shut up! I don't need one. He likes me better nude." We heard Gina walk back upstairs. Bryan left the kitchen through the back door. We waited until it shut behind him. A couple seconds later, we stepped out.
The scene was horrifying if you can imagine. I can still smell David's pool of blood filling a room. I cupped my hand over my mouth. Luz was sobbing nonstop. Adrianno threw up in the sink. We all cried except for Joseph. He was silent.
You have to remember we were all under the age of 8. We shouldn't - no one should be in a situation like that.
"We need to move on, and grieve later." he said headed into the boiler room where our escape was. As much as I didn't want to just leave like that, I knew he was right. So I followed. Adrianno an Luz were behind me. I held her hand.
In the boiler room, there was a ladder leading to the roof. We all climbed silently. Once we were at the top, a man awaited us. He had a helicopter. Well, he wasn't really a man. He was actually a teenager. And he was asleep.
Joseph shook him, "Wake up, Ramiro. Ramiro! Wake up!” he said louder.
"Oh, hey, little man," Ramiro sat up awake. He looked like an older version of Joseph. The glasses, the light brown skin, the long wavy hair, skinny build. "You all don't look as happy as I thought." he rubbed his eyes awake, "Where's the other two? I even brought Daisy here," he rubbed the helicopter's side, "instead to make room for extra people just in case."
"They're gone, Ramiro." Joseph stared at his feet, " They're gone...Look, can we just go?”
"Of course. Jump in."
The helicopter was old and ragedy. I intially thought it wouldn't fly at all. Inside was roomy and smelled of weed. Once we got off the roof, it was loud, and I felt nauseous. I held Luz's hand until she fell asleep. Adrianno, across from me, continued crying quietly.
Joseph was as still as a stone. He sighed. Then dramatically buried his face in his hands. He was bawling now. The sobs covered the whole helicopter. Ramiro quickly glanced behind him at Joseph.
"Was it that bad?" he turned back to flying, "If anybody hurt you, I'll get them. No doubt. Just tell me who," he started to fade as he spoke, "No doubt."
Adrianno moved next to Joseph. Joseph was unconsolable, and laid his head on Adrianno's shoulder.
I stared outside and observed the ground below as the sun came up for another day.