The tribes from the deep jungle were fleeing their ancient homes, heading for the mountains. “Why now?” I asked the old-timer. “The logging has stopped. We’ve promised to leave them alone.”
The man sucked on his teeth and rang sweat from the hem of his cotton shirt. “River’s dying,” he said. “No disguising it. Sickness is on it. They’re closer to it, sense it more than us.” He turned and stared into the distance.
“The pollution can’t be that bad,” I told up him. “Downstream, sure, but not here.”
The old-timer shook his head. “Not pollution. Deeper than that. It’s like the Earth’s blood has turned bad. Septic. Turning on itself.”
I stared at him for a moment, half expecting a cheeky smile or subdued chuckle, but they didn’t come. The man was serious. “There’s a rational explanation,” I told him, “has to be.” I walked away and heard him whistling to himself, a mournful tune that reminded me of graveyards.
Next day I visited the tribe we’ve been studying, but they had disappeared, and left nothing but footprints.