White-knuckled, Sera held her seat tightly in a kung-fu grip with an expression of sheer terror on her face.
“Come on, Sera! We’ll be fine!” Milo chided. “What’s the problem? You were okay the whole trip ’til now!”
“Couldn’t…we…just…stay…over…land?” she forced through clenched teeth.
The diminutive, single engine aircraft had flown over the dry ground all the way through California, Mexico, and most of Central America. That way we could land and refuel whenever necessary. After reaching Costa Rica, we had diverged from the land and soared over part of the Pacific Ocean. Phil had said that it would be a straight shot from there to our final destination: a small airport in Brazil near the rainforest. This was not to Sera’s preference, and she was in a panic the entire leg that extended over the sea.
“Sorry, kid!” The pilot shouted, turning around in his seat. “It really ain’t any different than goin’ over land, if ya think about it. Try to enjoy the ride!”
Sera clamped her eyes tightly shut.
“Just shut up and fly.”
It took us a few more hours to finish the flight. Phil was a very competent pilot, and did an excellent job of safely and efficiently taking us to our destination. Milo didn’t tell Sera that we were no longer over the ocean until there was an expanse of rainforest beneath us.
“Hey, Sera. You can open your eyes now.”
She slowly cracked her eyes to make sure it wasn’t a trap, then they flew open in wonder.
“Whoa…” She excitedly marveled.
The girl blinked rapidly as the flood of light overwhelmed her unaccustomed sight, but she couldn’t bring herself to look away.
“It’s so awesome! And so…green”
I gazed out the portal into the blue sky and down at the verdant forest. Everything was gorgeous, but most importantly, alive. The entire jungle was a living, breathing entity, filled with plants, animals and humans all living together. However, I knew fully well that it was not all blissful paradise. There was strife, and killing, and destruction that took place everywhere on this fallen planet. There was no such thing as a perfect peace. From this height, though, it was easy to forget about all of that. Nature looked so tranquil and simple, and I wished that we’d never have to land.
Despite that, I knew we had no choice. We couldn’t pretend that all was well just because the problems were far below. The world was depending on us to fulfill the prophecy. Only we could bring about the peace that it spoke of, whatever that was.
“Say, are there any in-flight snacks provided?” Obviously Sera was feeling better.
“Yes ma’am!” The pilot laughed. “Here ya go!”
He tossed a familiar-looking bag back to her, which she grabbed out of the air frantically.
“No it couldn’t be…GOLDFISH!!!”
The girl desperately unfolded the top of the bag, shoved her hand inside, and began scarfing them like a famished wolf. Neither Milo nor I dared ask for any, for fear that she might turn her appetite to us.
Suddenly, she stopped in mid-chomp, her eyes widened like twin full moons. With her mouth still full, she looked down at the label on the bag.
Sera looked horrified at what she had just eaten.
“GOLDFISH flavor?!? With real goldfish?!”
She began sputtering and spitting, sending orange half-chewed particles across the aircraft.
“WHY DO YOU HAVE THOSE?!” She demanded.
Phil laughed with gusto and slapped his knee.
“Shoot! It gets better every time! Them there crackers were a test product from the late 90s. I found a bag, and I’ve been givin’ ’em to whoever asked for the past three years! Wonder why the bag was already open? Ah ha ha ha!!”
Sera glared darkly at the man, crushing the bag of Goldfish Goldfish in her death grip. Then, it burst into flames in her hand.
“Holy crap! It was just a joke! Those were collector’s items!” The pilot wailed.
“Got any more food?” She demanded.
“Uh, no. What do I look like? The Sheik of Saudi Arabia? I can’t afford to be feeding everybody!”
Sera tossed the ashes of the goldfish on the floor, and sat back in her seat sulkily. Coming so close to getting sustenance had made her even hungrier, and put her in a bad mood. Around a minute passed in tense silence as the girl sullenly sat with her arms crossed. When the quiet became too uncomfortable to bear any longer, Milo cleared his throat and said:
“The snack that smiles back.”
Sera glanced at him out of the corner of her eye, and her lips began to tilt slightly upward. Finally, she couldn’t hold it back any longer, and broke into a wild smile.
“Seriously, though!” She exclaimed, laughing. “They tasted like pond scum mixed with a can of tuna! What the heck was that!?”
“I dunno.” Milo replied. “Probably ranks right down there with Diet Mountain Dew flavored potato chips.”
“Hey, those actually aren’t that bad!” Phil called back from the front.
“What?! It’s frickin’ weird!” Sera criticized.
“Yeah, maybe, but I like ’em!”
“Where did they get that idea?” Milo wondered.
“Well, maybe they were like:”
Sera intentionally changed her voice to a stereotypically deep stupid tone as she mimed pouring something into a bowl.
“Wow! Having a bowl of chips and pouring Mountain Dew on it is so awesome! Everybody should try it! Hey! Let’s make it into a flavor!”
We all burst out laughing. It was good when Milo and Sera were on the same side. They sure got along better now than they used to. A few minutes later, the plane began to descend.
“Alright, y’all! The landing’s right up ahead!” Phil called back to us. “Buckle yourselves in!”
It was then that I spotted a small city near an edge of the rainforest. That must have been where we were headed, and we’d walk to the Amazon River from there. It should take about three to four hours to hike to the river from our landing spot. It was already getting dark however, and marching out into the jungle at night didn’t sound like my idea of a good time.
Shortly thereafter, the small plane’s landing gear touched the hard pavement with a squeal. As we slowed down while crossing the runway, the pilot raised his voice comically.
“Thank you for choosing budget airlines, home of the Goldfish Flavored Goldfish! I’d tell you to remove your luggage from the overhead compartments, but we don’t have none, and you don’t have any luggage anyway. Watch your step as you exit the plane, and please fly with us again!”
After slowing to a stop near the hangar, the three of us climbed out of the aircraft.
“Alright then.” Milo began. “Let’s get a move on.”
“Um, are you sure?” I asked. “It’s already starting to get dark. Do we really want to be running around in the Amazon Rainforest in the middle of the night?”
“I don’t know what kind of time schedule the Book of Prophecy’s on. What if we miss what it wanted us to find, because we waited?”
“Milo…You’re right. We can’t afford to miss it. But I believe that it’ll work out. Did we plan to arrive at the Skypyramid when there was a party to use as a diversion?”
“And did we climb in that cart because we knew it would take us to the exact floor with the page from the book?”
“Um…I might be wrong. But I feel like our steps are being guided. I’m gonna have faith.”
“What do you mean by ‘faith’?” Milo seemed half frustrated, half puzzled.
“Well, um…faith is when you believe something, even when you aren’t guaranteed the result. They say faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.”
“And what do you have faith in?”
I gulped. I hadn’t meant for this to be so complicated. Choosing my words carefully, I tried to explain.
“Um…I have faith that the prophecy will turn out alright, just as long as we try our best. And I have faith that God will make everything work.”
He gave me a blank look.
“Well, I guess I can’t argue with that.”
I couldn’t stand the way he was looking at me, so I had to turn my eyes down.
“Sorry. I just…”
At that point, Phil walked around the plane toward us.
“Hey, y’all can’t really go any further tonight, so do ya want to stay with me? This airport gives the pilots a small room if they have to stay the night, and I’m sure there’s room for all of us!”
Milo didn’t look pleased, but I was relieved to see Sera agree to the idea.
“OK! We’ll get a start first thing in the morning! Um…I don’t suppose they supply us with any food, do they?”
The pilot laughed.
“Well, I dunno, but we can find out!”
He walked on ahead of us toward the nearby hangar. There was a small building attached to it, where the office for the airport, as well as the complementary sleeping quarters, were located. We entered the dingy structure, where the dim lights barely fought off the darkness. Phil attempted to converse with a man sitting behind the desk, but they couldn’t speak the same language. Eventually he managed to get the point across that we wanted to sleep in a room, and wanted something to eat.
The man behind the desk pointed to a short hallway which led to the rooms, and then tossed Phil a white bag of something. He smiled, and lobbed it over to Sera.
She caught the small package, then looked up at him with revulsion.
“Don’t worry!” He laughed. “They’re cheddar.”
Sera threw the crackers back at him, and turned to Milo.
“How much money did the Persichs give us?” She asked.
He reached into his pocket, and removed a wad of money.
“Um…let’s see, about two thousand…”
“What?! We have two thousand dollars, and we’re sleeping in a rat hole and living off of Goldfish?!”
“We need to conserve this…” Milo reminded her.
“We can conserve most of it. What’s the point of having it if we’re not gonna use it?”
She grabbed him by the arm and started walking out of the office.
“Come on. Let’s just see if we can get a decent meal. Coming, Hal?”
Milo allowed himself to be yanked out the door, so I figured I’d best go with them. I turned my head as I left the office to see Phil opening the bag of Goldfish and shaking his head.
It wasn’t far to enter the civilized part of the city, and we began looking around for some place to eat. Milo was having severe doubts about the plan.
“Sera, do you know where we’re going?”
“Do you think they’ll even take American money?”
“Everybody takes American money! Come on!”
“How are we even going to ask for food? Can you speak Spanish?”
“Actually,” I added. “We’re in Brazil, so they speak Portuguese.”
“OK then,” Milo accepted. “Can you speak Portuguese?”
“Look, just leave this to me, OK?” Sera was a bit irritated. “I’m sure I can get across the simple point that I’m hungry and want to buy some food.”
Just then, she spotted a man with a ridiculous walrus-style mustache. The girl snatched some money off of Milo, and hurried up to him. We could only watch from a distance as she attempted to communicate with him.
She was pointing to her open mouth while silently forming the word ‘hungry’ with her lips. Then she held up money with her other hand. The man got a big happy grin on his face, then put his arm around her shoulder and guided her away. She turned her head and gave us an “I told you so” look as her new “friend” led her off of the main street and down a dark alley.
I was immediately worried.
“Um, should we do something?”
“Nah.” Milo shook his head. “She’ll be fine.”
Just then, bright orange lights flashed from within the alley, followed by a loud:
A number of shady-looking Brazilian guys came running out of the alley with their clothing on fire and clutching injured body parts. Shortly afterward, Sera emerged, not looking pleased.
“I think what we had was a failure to communicate.” She stated. “They were most certainly not going to give me any food.”
Milo and I attempted not to give her any flak.
“So, should we head back to the airport room?”
Phil was propped up on the bed and munching on the Goldfish when we entered the room.
“Well, how’d it go?” He asked sarcastically.
Sera marched over to him, snatched the bag out of his hand, and started poutingly eating them.
“We’re heading for the river first thing in the morning.”