“The Discovery” by Hallie Marker

The following is a short story titled “The Discovery” by sophomore Hallie Marker.

The thick, prodigious jungle didn’t seem to get any less confusing as Sophie trudged through its heavy undergrowth. Her camera lolled beside her, hitting her hip every time she took a step. Sophie Reynolds was a nature photographer on a pedantic mission to capture creatures of the Amazonian region. She had begged her employer not to go on the mission, for she had a cogent fear of getting lost in the wilderness…which was happening to her right now. Even though she was internally losing her mind, she fought hard to keep her composure for the sake of her colleague, Gwendolyn. Gwen had been suffering from lung cancer, as she was an avid smoker.

The journey was made that much more difficult because Gwen needed to take a breath every hundred feet or so. Sophie, of course, was understanding of her condition and did the best she could to cater to her needs and wants. After all, if her boss hadn’t assigned this mission- neither of them would be here. Staggering for breath, Gwen plodded after her co-worker. Each step was just a reminder that they were pretty much stranded in the middle of the jungle somewhere in eastern Brazil. Thoughts shrouded both of their tired minds as they lazily crept through the foliage, until they heard footsteps off in the distance that were much larger than their own. Since the journey’s conception, Sophie has been wary of what creatures might come. So when they heard those footsteps, Sophie’s stomach dropped to the floor.

Between two ferns, they could just make out the dappled coat of a jaguar. The hair on the back of their necks stood up. Their knees began trembling and at that very moment they were struggling to hold their breaths. That, of course, caused Gwen’s eyes to tear up. She had to let out a cough. Try as she might, she had to let go. So a cough sent them both to shock as they watched the massive feline glare from between the fern tendrils. A robust roar sent the plants blowing in different directions as the jaguar lurched at the travelers.

Screeching like mice, the pair darted away. Too afraid to separate from one another. Lunging over tree stumps and ravines, the two explorers knew that they couldn’t keep it up much longer. They knew that the gargantuan feline was snapping its jaws at their heels. Quickly, Sophie grabbed onto a tree limb. Yanking Gwen after her with all her strength. They scrambled on top like monkeys, as the jaguar skidded to a halt. Tasting the air, the cat could tell that the two women lingered nearby. The jaguar yawned and realized he wouldn’t be getting such a substantial meal today. Without glancing up, the magnificent feline slithered away.

A massive sigh of relief filled the atmosphere as the two girls hung onto the tree for dear life. They let go and fell to the ground. Dead leaves swirling in their wake. Just when they thought everything was over, more footsteps crunched all around them. More creatures this time. “Oh come on. We’ve almost died, probably about to face death again, and I haven’t even gotten a single picture.” She murmured in dismay.

Suddenly, a very tan man capered out of the undergrowth. In an unfamiliar language, he yelled. Holding up a spear to threaten the women. After him, about 10 other men leaped out behind him. All painted in tribal symbols, with the same wild eyes and personally fashioned spears. The women threw their arms up as a universal sign of surrender, yet the men still picked them up and dragged them away. By the time they reached their camp, the sun was setting beyond the jungle. The sky was painted brilliant shades of rose and cadmium. They were thrown on a hard dirt floor and facing a tribe of over 100 individuals. The chief took Gwen into a hut with steam twirling from its roof. Sophie begged one of the Warriors to tell her what was to happen, he gave her a gentle smile. Strange.

These once feral men were holding spears at their throats 30 minutes ago were showing her kindness. As requested, the Warriors eventually carried Sophie to the hut. Gwen lay comfortably in a cot. Sound asleep. A man draped in opulent attire was mixing some sort of concoction. Sophie fixed her eyes on him and asked,”What is happening to her?”

The man only dipped his head and said,”Saved.” Puzzled, Sophie crouched next to Gwen, staring deep at her skin which looked unusually youthful. After being exposed to a whole new way of life in this tribe, Sophie decided to settle down to sleep. By the time morning came, Gwen was already up. Strange, once again. She was happily bounding around, tending to the village people and helping where she could.

One thing that really muddled Sophie, was that Gwen had longer and thicker black hair. She had slim to no hair yesterday. Gwen was running to and fro, as if she was never infected with the terrible plague known as cancer. The man draped in lavish clothing returned to the hut with an armful of tiny blue flowers. He mashed them up and urged Gwen to drink the essence of them again. She drank it quick, and bounced away.

That’s when it hit her, these people in this village have utilized this plant to conjure a cure for cancer. She had to get it back to the states, she thought. So she spent the day bargaining with the chief, and the pair stayed the night again. The next morning, they said their thank you’s and goodbyes to the tribe and parted their own way. Somehow, some way, she HAD to get back to the states. As she toted the miracle that thousands of people need.

To think, this lowly woman from New York City came here to capture the essence of nature. Although she stumbled upon something much more powerful, the cure for cancer. She was going to be a marvel, an idol.

She was going to save the world…but just as she got ahead of herself, she realized that she didn’t take any pictures.

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