Two tourists stood mesmerised in awe of the famous Brazilian statue, Cristo Redentor. They had reached the top of Corcovado Mountain, well known for its welcoming monument and the view which spread breathtakingly before them. Directly in front of the couple lay the skyscrapers and mansions which lined the coast of Rio de Janeiro. The city ended on the left with a large highway, visible even from the mountain’s lookout. The road formed a very definite line between wealthy and poor. Two completely different and incompatible ways of life, were worlds apart with only metres between them. Those who relied on their hired help, were barely a stone’s throw away from the dreaded, infamous and only newly developed favelas. The favelas staggered up the mountain side, the hundreds of brick structures, balancing precariously, were held up merely by their sheer proximity to one another. These were the homes of the poor and as the couple stood proudly in their matching dusty blue jogging suits, they knew little of the horrors which took place below them, in the very shadow of Cristo Redentor.
The truck driver switched off the headlights and turned down the radio. He strained to see, but did not want to risk alerting the Favelados of his presence. He would never admit it, but he hated driving near the favelas. The slums were governed by a law far more powerful than the police. The driver thought he saw a blur of movement against the dark so he flicked on the interior light.
He was surrounded by a Rat Pack. Within seconds his tyres were slashed and bullets rained on the truck. He reached for his shotgun, under the passenger’s seat and as he sat back up, holding it defensively, the gun fire ceased.
‘Take what you want’ he shouted. He could just make out one of the many being jostled forward.
Marco ran to the paneless window of his two story favela. He leant far out, as though not aware of the rain which poured in almost horizontally. The rain spat on his face and he felt free, unleashed and not bound to anything or anyone. He looked down at his mother, who frantically pulled washing from a clothesline, a thin rope strung from a power line pole to a staircase railing. She was almost as wet as the clothes she struggled to carry, and she continued to call to her eleven year old son. Marco turned and bounced down the several stairs which would lead him to ground level. The rain had already begun to leak through the corrugated iron roof, and his bare feet splashed through the brown water. Once outside he took the clothes from his mother, and together they hurried inside. But Marco’s mother soon ushered him out, telling him to run to the tourists and help them find cover. Soon he had disappeared down a steep incline.
Marco didn’t mind the rain. Rio was always hot in the summer, and the only distraction from the heat was the torrential downpour. He watched as steam rose from the uneven pavement, its scorching surface barely quenched by the hundreds of raindrops. Marco stood still in the middle of the path and watched the ten or so tourists huddle together. They had taken refuge under the painters’ shelters and now there was nothing for him to do. The artists had ceased painting and were attempting to sell their artwork, their arms gesturing wildly, body language being the only common method of communication in the Rocinha favelas. Since Brazil beat Italy in the world cup, only two years earlier, tourists had been pouring into the country – and the Favelados didn’t mind. Marco watched as two young girls ran past hand in hand. In their free hands, one held a wallet, and the other a passport. They scampered up the muddy slope to the favelas and Marco knew they must be a part of one of Rocinha’s gangs, or Rat Packs as the police called them. Marco fixed his gaze back on the tourists, wondering which of them had been robbed. He noticed a woman in a light blue tracksuit patting her pockets while her husband watched on concerned. Then without warning, the slums erupted in a cacophony of sounds; screams and shouts penetrated the throb of the rain. An eerie silence fell over the tourists, some anxiously peered around them, while others whispered enquiries to their companions. Marco looked up at some of the favelas which were perched on the hill, his eyes wide with fear. He knew what was coming and thought desperately of his mother. Then several square houses, at the top of the slope, began to slide. Bricks, concrete and timber tumbled down, an avalanche that crushed all other slums in its path. The rain had come, and within minutes took hundreds of lives with it.
Two sixteen year olds whispered intently, their eyes never leaving Marco, who stood facing them obediently.
‘He’s eleven, but acts even younger. He worked the tourists.’ muttered one
‘We can try him.’ suggested the other
‘I don’t know…’
The boys approached Marco, and continued to discuss him as though he were invisible. His ears stung with each insulting word they spoke and his eyes burned from the smoke of the cigarettes which dangled from their fingers. They fashioned their stances on the recent Godfather movie which neither had actually seen. The poses were lost on Marco, whose thoughts were only occasionally distracted from the loss of his mother. He pictured the favelas collapsing like a house of cards and shuddered. Marco’s thoughts were interrupted, as the taller of the two, leant down so they were eye to eye.
‘Did you hear me?’ He spoke to Marco as though he was deaf. Marco shook his head no.
‘I said you can join us, depending on how you go tomorrow night’
Marco held the machine gun from his body, it shaking between his small hands. His inexperience made some of the older and more relaxed gang members smirk. Hands shoved his back, forcing him and the weapon he found so disgusting forward. After a pause which felt a lifetime, other fingers folded over his and the trigger. They forced him to squeeze, and he reluctantly did. His eyes closed, he could hear the splinter of glass, the yell of the truck driver and then quiet. Eventually the silence was broken by the cheer of the Rat Pack, they swelled around Marco, enveloping him without acknowledging him. They swarmed the back of the truck, oblivious to the atrocity they had only moments earlier witnessed. The machine gun fell from Marcos’ trembling fingers and he finally opened his eyes. He knew from this moment forward he would never be free again, shackled to him forever was the weight of regret. His eyes were heavenward and he could just make out the silhouette of Cristo Redentor. The favelas were governed by a law far more powerful then even He.