The boy who became God – O menino que se tornou Deus
Dionathon’s mãe, Divair, had seemed to age 20 years in the six weeks or so since her filho único – only son – had been struck by lightning and death had so unexpectedly and unequivocally tried to extinguish his life force. Her hair, previously with traces of white, was now more white than dark and her palpable pain had been etched onto her face; even her posture had sagged and dropped to that resembling a sixty year old. She had wept bitterly when she had first lain eyes on him at the beira do lago; the grapevine had alerted her to the plight of her son within minutes, and she had managed to arrive there at his side before the ambulance and had even managed to accompany Dionathon to the unidade de tratamento intensivo – intensive care unit – at the Pronto Socorro; he had looked so pale, so fragile, so lifeless, had suffered burns to a greater part of his body and the médicos on the scene had told her that it was unlikely that he would survive such massive trauma.
Even in the ambulance, against the strongest of objections of the médicos, she had forbidden them from doing anything at all to her filho, beyond administering oxygen. Maybe she was just being a typical mother, but she was convinced that she could offer a better option than the medical system could ever offer, even if she didn’t yet know what it was; she simply had no faith in the Sistema Único de Saúde – the Brazilian free medical system – and so many stories had reached her ears which only served to further reinforce this belief. The médicos battled furiously with her in the ambulance, desperate to apply their knowledge of modern medicine to their patient, but she staunchly and resolutely refused everything.
Once at the Pronto Socorro, Dr. Paulo Ferreiro Flores dos Santos was quickly on hand, barking orders and instructions about the treatment of the patient. Diva stood resolutely by her son’s side and refused point blank to allow any of the orders to be carried out. Dr. Ferreiro Flores dos Santos sighed loudly, his frustration evident.
“Senhora, eu entendo que você está transtornado, mas eu realmente tenho que insistir,” – Madam, I understand that you are distraught, but I really must insist – he informed her as patiently as he could.
“Sou diretor de cirurgia, você sabe,” – I am the head of surgery, you know. “Agora, por favor, afaste-se,” – Now, please, move aside.
Divair refused to be moved. “Eu não quero que tu faça qualquer coisa a ele sem a minha permissão, e eu insisto, como mãe dele,” – I don’t want you to do anything to him without my permission, and I insist, as his mother.
Dr. Paulo Ferreiro Flores dos Santos stared at her in disbelief; in all his forty years of medicine, not once had someone spoken to him in such a fashion, insulting him like that to his face; what was this poor common woman doing refusing his advice? What did she know? Had she studied at a world famous university, graduating with honours? Of course she damn well had not.
“Senhora, eu não tocaria no seu filho mesmo que você me pagasse um milhão de reais,” – Madam, I would not touch your son if you paid me a million reais, he replied angrily and stormed off, refusing anything further to do with the case.
Doctor Marko de Souza Hoffmeister, the assistant head of surgery assumed control and tried to pacify her, but his bedside manner was little better than his predecessor and he was dismissed in a similarly summary manner.
Finally, in frustration he pleaded: “A senhora, pelo menos nos permita examiná-lo, fazer alguns testes” – Madam, at least let us examine him, do some tests. Divair conceded to this, concluding that this could not hurt, but insisted that she accompany her son throughout.
“Isso é altamente inortodoxo …” – This is highly unorthodox… – he started to argue, but lacked the back bone to sustain his argument and, finally, allowed her wish, but insisted that the hospital rules were strictly adhered to; she had to scrub and dress in sterile garments etc. the same as the doctors. To this, she agreed, but only to this.
Once the battery of tests was complete, Doctor Hoffmeister took her aside and pleaded with her.
“Senhora, por favor, você viu o resultado dos testes, se nós não operarmos, seu filho vai morrer, isso é certo,” – Madam, please, you have seen the test results, if we do not operate, your son is going to die, that is certain.
Diva refused to accept his advice at this moment; instead, trying to placate him, she told him she would give her decision in the morning.
“Mas senhora, se nós não operarmos imediamente, seu filho vai morrer, isso é certo,” – But madam, if we do not operate immediately, your son is going to die, that is certain, he again reiterated.
Not only did Dionathon have extensive burns covering his entire body, it appeared that his internal organs had been par cooked as well. Doctor Hoffmeister warned that even if he did ever regain consciousness, he would be a vegetable; the heat from the lightning bolt had boiled his brain fluids and broiled his cerebellum.
“Na verdade, é inútil esperar qualquer coisa dele, simplesmente seria melhor planejar o funeral dele, se nós não lhe prestarmos atenção imediata,” – In truth, it is futile to hope for anything from him, it would simply be better to plan his funeral if we don’t give him immediate attention – he tried as a final gambit, but was nonetheless firmly convinced of the veracity of his words.
Unlike many of her peers, who lived their life in perpetual fear, implicitly trusting the authoritative voice of those claiming greater reason, Diva was different. She trusted in a higher faith than that, plus, after surviving the ditadura – dictatorship era, she had learned that the authorities had their own best interests at heart, not that of the people. She forbade Doctor Hoffmeister from doing anything, beyond keeping her filho alive until she had consulted her “group”. He was livid, fit to burst, but had no option other than to accede to her demands; he could not legally do anything without the parent’s formal consent.
Diva’s group, well, not technically her group, as she was not a member, but a few friends of hers were, was known as “As Bruxas da Mata” – The Witches of the Forest, and she had far more faith in them than she had in the médicos. In her opinion the doctors only prescribed the medicines that the pharmaceutical reps bribed them to. And as for the pharmaceutical industry itself well, they were only interested in patients using their products for as long as possible to maximise their profit potential. As for curing people, why would they want to do that when they could have lifelong customers? The bruxas on the other hand practiced and kept alive folkloric remedies that worked and had been handed down from the indigenous people for generation after generation until there were virtually no indigenous people left to hand them down to. Fortunately, there were sympathisers and these few retained the ancient wisdom and it was to these that Diva would turn.
The first thing Dona Neusa advised was not to let them put anything on the burns; instead, to plaster the affected area with honey. Divair was dubious, not about the efficacy of the treatment, she had no doubt about that, but about the hospital system allowing her to do this and her doubts were well founded.
Doctor Marko Souza Hoffmeister was adamant. No, no and on no account, would they allow the practice of witchcraft in a public hospital. Divair had no option other than to discharge her filho and care for him at home herself. The administration was aghast, informing her that it simply was not possible. Divair was steadfast and refused to budge from her position; she was a mother and would do the very best for her filho; it was her duty, her obligation as a mãe, no one else had that same responsibility and no one was going to take that right away from her.
After many hours of desperate phone calls back and forth between the hospital administration and their legal advisor, it was finally resolved that the pais had the final say in such matter and they were powerless to stop her.
Such an unprecedented action required many hours of patient waiting and an interminable parade of legal documents to be signed, predominantly absolving the hospital of any legal obligation for Dionathon, but finally the process was complete and Diva was free to take her son. The hospital staff was horrified to see their patient transferred from the sterile environment of their hospital to the filthy horse and carroça parked outside the front door of the hospital.
Under the watchful care of Dona Neusa and her faithful bruxas, Dionathon’s exterior had slowly and almost miraculously healed; where the burns were once so livid and ugly, pink, fresh, unscarred skin had taken their place. It was the interior that worried Diva the most; he had not opened his eyes or uttered a word in almost six agonisingly long weeks and she was well aware that his insides had suffered far worse damage than his exterior, but he was alive and still breathing and all the while he did that, hope burned strong in her breast.
What was that? Had she heard something? She was convinced she had heard something and her eyes shot to her son. His eyes were still as firmly shut as they had been, but there was something new.
“Mãe, vá pegar Veronika, agora!” – Mum, go get Veronika, now! Dionathon murmered in a low, shallow voice.
She had heard right! He was awake at last!!! Her prayers to all the saints had been at last answered.
“Meu filho, meu filho, eu soube que daria certo,” – My son, I knew you would be alright. “Eu rezei a noite e dia aos santos pra ti,”– I prayed night and day to the saints for you!
His eyes opened wide and she got the second shock of the moment; his once dark, almost black eyes were now a bright, vibrant green; they weren’t the eyes of the son she had known, but she didn’t care, she threw her arms around him, smothering him with kisses and hugs and gratitude that he was alive.
“Calma, calma, mãe; tem bastante tempo pra isso,” – Calm down, calm down, mum; we have plenty of time for this. “Mas, primeiro, eu tenho que falar com Veronika,” – But first, I have to talk with Veronika.
“É uma questão de vida ou de morte, entendeu?” – It’s a matter of life and death, understand?
His seriousness caught her aback and stopped her expressions of gratitude in their tracks; this was so unlike her Dionathon; he never back-chatted her, let alone gave her orders.
“Mas querido, Veronika, não tá aqui neste momento,” But, darling, Veronika’s not here at the moment, she replied soothingly, regaining her wits, trying to relax and calm him.
“Mãe, Veronika tá fora de casa agora,” – Mum, she’s outside the house now, – he explained calmly, in a way she was not accustomed to.
“Não, não,” she started to say, remembering that Veronika had told her that she wouldn’t be back until nightfall, but, thinking of what her son had been through, she thought better of it and stopped herself.
“Confie em mim mãe, ela tá lá; por favor, diga a ela para entrar e me ver, é super importante” – Trust me mother, she is there; please send her in to see me, it’s very important.
“Isso é por que eu escolhi me acordar neste momento,”– This is why I chose to wake at this moment.
Diva, not wishing to upset her son at this auspicious moment, decided to humour him and forced herself to leave his sickbed. She couldn’t believe her eyes when she spotted Veronika coming in the gate, but quickly collected her wits and called her over and ordered her to see her brother immediately.
“Mãe, por favor, nos deixe a sós por alguns minutos,” – Mother, please leave us alone for a few minutes, – he ordered tersely when they both entered his sick room.
She was shocked. How could her filho único talk to her this way after the way she had nursed him back from the dead? But the look in his eyes was enough to send her scurrying out of the room in compliance.
Seeing Dionathon awake, with his eyes open for the first time in nearly two months, Veronika rushed to his bed and threw her arms around him, burying him with her hugs and kisses and then she noticed his eyes.
“Irmão, o que aconteceu com os seus olhos?” Brother, what happened to your eyes, she asked incredulously.
A smile flickered over his lips and his now green eyes twinkled as he responded.
“Eu quis algo diferente, então eu decidi mudá-los verde, gosta deles?” – I wanted something different, so I decided to change them to green, you like them?
“Gosto, mas…” – I like them, but.., – she answered feeling flustered; this was not the answer she expected and she had no idea how to react to this.
“Não tem importância, irmã,” – It’s not important, sis, – he responded before adding with a note of urgency: “Mas o importante é que você diga para o Zecão e o Lucas virem me ver,” – But what is important is that you tell Zecão and Lucas to come and see me.
At the mention of those two names, Veronika visibly stiffened; what could Dionathon possibly want with these two? And why would they agree to come and see her brother? As if hearing her unspoken question he continued, his voice dark and deadly serious.
“É uma questão de vida ou de morte; deles, e eles virão,” – It’s a matter of life and death; theirs, and they will come.
He explained in great detail exactly why they would come and also where they could be found: Zecão was at the house of his namorada and was preparing for a shipment of pó – cocaine – which was due to arrive from Colombia via Paraguay later that day, and Lucas was finishing lunch at home with his mãe and would be leaving the vila as soon as he finished, so he counselled her to fetch Lucas first.
Veronika eyed her brother sceptically; he had no way of knowing any of this, but, humouring him all the same, she left her brother’s sick bed to carry out his wishes nonetheless, totally lacking confidence in her mission.
The moment Veronika left the room Diva pounced on her son again, wrapping her arms around his shrivelled, puny body.
“Mãe, mãe, calma, calma; tô melhor, o que pensa que eu estava fazendo durante as últimas seis semanas?”– Mum, mum, relax, relax; what do you think I have been doing for the last six weeks? He said soothingly, running his hand tenderly and affectionately through her near white hair.
“Hein? O que? A puzzled frown added further creases to furrowed forehead.
“Mãe, estava me curando,” – I have been curing myself, – he continued, trying to assuage her fears, “mas as poções das bruxas, também me ajudara imensamente,” – but the potions from the bruxas helped me immensely as well, – “ainda que tivessem gosto horrível,” – even though they tasted horrible, he added with a gleam in his green eyes and a cheeky smile on his face.
Diva was incredulous, how could he know about that? Then it dawned on her that it was obvious; he was her son after all; it was obvious that she would seek their aid.
As if reading her thoughts he added: “Mãe, posso lhe contar tudo o que aconteceu nas últimas seis semanas, desde o momento que você chegou na beira e voltou comigo na ambulância para o Pronto Socorro,” – I can tell you everything that has happened in the last six weeks, from the moment you arrived at the beira and went with me in the ambulance back to the Pronto Socorro, – he told her seriously.
A smile lit up his mischievous features when he noticed her reaction; he had never seen he slack jawed and lost for words before and he revelled in his triumph.
The vila was a war zone; a war zone with many fronts. It could be argued that the primary front was between the wretched residents and starvation and sickness and poverty itself, but the most deadly of all battlefronts was between the two quadrilhas – a bala nas costas – the bullet in the back – and os diabos vingativos – the vengeful devils, – who vied for control of the drugs which were the heartbeat of the economy of the vila, but they themselves faced an even more dangerous enemy than each other: the various police forces and Denarc, O Departamento Estadual de Investigações do Narcotráfico, whose combined might was waged against the vila with one united aim: the suppression of drugs and dissent and the oppression of those who opposed the tyrannical system of order which protected honest, wealthy, law abiding, docile citizens who accepted their lot in life and who did as they were told, at least within tolerable limits.
Lucas was the leader of the bala nas costas and had assumed command shortly after reaching his nineteenth birthday. The position had become vacant when O Gavião, – The Hawk – the former leader, had mysteriously passed away after his head had disintegrated under a hail of gunfire during a dawn raid by the brigada militar at the start of operação cidadão seguro – operation safe citizen. During this operation, twelve residents, equally split between the two quadrilhas of the vila had also mysteriously died; all riddled with an assortment of bullets fired from pistols to automatic weapons. The deaths were mysterious insofar as there was no official record of their deaths or even their bodies, which had been summarily removed upon their untimely demise; and there was nothing any of the relatives could do to find out anything about what had happened or even to inter their loved ones; they simply ceased to exist.
Lucas was 19 years old, a veteran of the internecine guerra das quadrilhas that had plagued the vila for as long as anyone could remember, and considered himself tough and ruthless – the gun was a powerful tool. The average life expectancy in either quadrilha was around 21, but the average life expectancy of the leader of the quadrilhas could be counted in months; they usually met their demise at the hands of either one of the police forces or the opposing quadrilha, but there was still no shortage of applicants for vacant positions, for the position commanded vast wealth and, above all, power.
Veronika made her way to the front door of the house of Lucas and his mãe and gave a sharp rap on the rotting wooden door. Immediately, the sound of a chair scraping across a bare floor and heavy footsteps treading the short distance to the door could be heard. Veronika was then confronted by Lucas’ mãe; she was almost as round as she was tall and resembled a multicoloured beach ball with a round face topped with tight grizzled hair. The bright look on her face dropped the instant she recognised Veronika and her guard immediately went up, instantly wary of this crack addicted puta.
“O que você quer?” – What do you want? She hissed sharply.
“Quero falar com Lucas,” – I want to talk with Lucas – she replied with dignity, straightening to her full height, towering over the suspicious old woman.
Looking Veronika up and down, her lips curling into a snarl of disdain, she turned and called for her last remaining son, sitting at the table finishing a plate of arroz e feijão.
“Tem uma puta aqui que quer falar contigo,” – There’s a whore here who wants to talk to you, – she sneered, not hiding her derision for the unwelcome visitor, closing the door in her face, but not completely, leaving it slightly ajar, and ambling back to her frugal meal.
Veronika was surprised to discover that Dionathon had been right about Lucas’ whereabouts and activity; how the hell had he known? He hadn’t left his bed since their mãe had brought him back from the hospital and surely no one would have passed that information on to him.
Lucas was obviously asserting his dominance as he left her waiting outside the door until he was ready to see her. She had no option but to wait and, as she waited, she eyed the exterior of the house without interest, appraising the shack. It was little different to most other homes in the vila; roughly built of unrendered bricks, topped by browning corrugated fibre boards, irregular pieces glued over it’s surface to patch the holes that had formed over the years. There was a large square patch where a window had once existed on the front wall of the house, now roughly bricked over, its edges sealed with mortar. There was obvious signs of the damaged caused by the cupim – termites – which infested the vila, and the rest of the country for that matter, ravenously eating their way through any untreated timber.
After what seemed ages, she heard the lazy sound of a chair sliding across the bare wooden floorboards inside, then foot steps padding around the house before finally approaching the door.
“O que?” – What? – He snarled at her, clearly trying to intimidate her, but she was beyond such childish games, beyond fear; she had seen far too much in short life!
“Meu irmão quer falar contigo,” – My brother wants to talk to you, – she stated flatly and without emotion, simply relaying her message.
“Ele ainda tá vivo?” – He’s still alive? He retorted, feigning surprise.
“Eu ouvi dizer que ele estava vegetando, consumindo recursos valiosos,” – I heard he was no more than a vegetable, consuming valuable resources, he sneered at her, but she refused to be baited.
“Ele se acordou esta tarde e pediu para falar contigo,” – He woke up this afternoon and asked to talk with you, she replied in a steady voice.
“Porque eu haveria de me preocupar com aquele bichinha?” – Why should I care about that little faggot? He asked pretending disinterest, but curious nonetheless; he had had nothing to do with him in the past.
“Ele me disse que lhe falasse que tem R$3.759 e 55 centavos escondidos dentro de uma lata atrás de um tijolo solto na churrasqueira,” He told me to tell you that you have R$3759 and 55 cents hidden inside a can behind a loose brick in the churrasqueira.
With this, Lucas’ mouth dropped open stupidly. “Como aquele enfezadinho poderia saber isso? – How could that little runt know that? He searched his mind for an explanation, but could find nothing to account for it except treachery; he had counted the cash right before lunch and that was the exact figure that the can contained.
“Aquele filho da puta vai morrer!” – That son of a bitch is gonna die. With that, Lucas stormed out of the house, slamming the door behind him with nary a word to his mãe, who had been listening behind the door, and charged off to see Dionathon, rage boiling in his blood.
Dionathon was a cunning graxaim – pampas fox; he knew that money was power and was one of the commodities most lacking in the vila; he had banked on this to lure Lucas to his side and he counted on the same ruse to work with Zecão as well.
When Lucas arrived at Dionathon’s home, he didn’t even bother knocking and nearly ripped the hinges off the door as he stormed into the small, simple abode. His gun was held directly in front of his face as his head swivelled round trying to locate Dionathon; it didn’t take too long; it was not a large house. He found him sitting up on his rough cot, a smile creasing his face, but looking, if possible, half as skinny as he remembered him.
“Guarde a arma, Lucas,você não vai usar,” – Put the gun away, Lucas; you’re not going to use it, – Dionathon told him with an air of authority.
“Deixe-me decidir por mim mesmo, bichona,” – Let me decide that for myself, faggot, – he snapped, scowling at him.
Dionathon proceeded to explain in minute detail, exactly why he had called him to his bedside and Lucas did indeed put his gun away.
As Lucas readied himself to leave, fear was inscribed on his features; his once dark complexion now pallid and ghost-like. He looked deep into Dionathon’s now green eyes and spoke from the bottom of his heart: “Meu irmão, eu não tenho como lhe agradecer; minha vida é sua,” – My brother, I cannot thank you enough; my life is yours!
He then wheeled on his heels and gratefully made his way out the door, stopping dead in his tracks as his boots hit the waterlogged, red clay street, for striding towards him, large as life, his face uglier and meaner than Lucas could ever remember, was his mortal inimigo, Zecão! Instinctively, his hand reached for his pistol and, quick as a flash, swung it forward, pointing it straight into Zecão’s face. Unfortunately for him, Zecão had already spotted him and his pistol was already in the same position.
The two enemies approached each other warily; circling like wolves, cautiously seeking a moment of weakness, then, Lucas broke the still and pregnant atmosphere.
“Agora não é hora, amigo, neste momento, a gente tem uma briga maior que isso em nossas mãos” – Now is not the time friend, we have a bigger fight than this on our hands at the moment, – he said, trying to ameliorate the situation.
“Não sei o que você tá falando, mas tenho um menino para silenciar,” – I don’t know what you are talking about, but I have a kid to silence, – he retorted, his lips twisting with hate.
Their physical positions had reversed 180 degrees, so that now Zecão was closer to Dionathon’s door and it became obvious that this was a stalemate, but neither side was prepared to give an inch as they retreated, slowly, cautiously, steadily from each other, both pacing backwards, stretching the distance between themselves.
Zecão’s back met the door and he blindly fumbled for the handle, not daring to take his eyes off Lucas for a solitary second. He backed his way vigilantly through the door, slamming it shut the moment he had crossed the threshold and heaved a big sigh before hunting his more immediate prey.
A small yet powerful voiced called out from a room.
“To aqui, entre,” – I’m in here, come in.
Zecão needed no further invitation and strode purposefully into the room, pistol at the ready; ready to assist this little mongrel in meeting his maker.
“Você tem cinco segundos, fala,” You have five seconds, talk. So Dionathon did.
The early morning air was cold, moist and dark as thirty five assorted vehicles, ranging from brigada militar squad cars to grey buses, all without number plates or means to positively identify them, purposefully headed for the vila in convoy. Each vehicle crammed full of heavily armed men, all wearing the uniform of the particular force to which they served. All in all there were over two hundred and fifty men.
This was the start of Operação Proteja o Povo, – Operation Protect the People, – the largest and most complex Police operation ever mounted in the state and its scope had ruffled more than a few feathers. This was the first operation ever to combine the forces of the Brigada Militar, Policia Federal, Policia civil and the Departamento Estadual de Investigações do Narcotráfico (Denarc) and it was this that ruffled the feathers, for each organisation wanted to, and believed that they should, head the operation, but after much gesticulating, posturing, arm waving and foot stamping it was finally agreed that tenente-coronel Menenes of BOE, Brigada de Operações Especiais, would head the operation.
The primary objective of Operação Proteja o Povo was to decapitate the quadrilhas of the most infamous vila in the city; to take out not only the leaders, but their tenentes – lieutenants – as well. They had been given explicit orders to queima os relatórios ¬– burn the reports, in other words, there were to be no files kept, no official records of the operation.
The convey circled the vila with all their lights doused, blockading every rua, every beco, every boca, sealing it tight, allowing no avenue of escape.
The men had been well drilled; they had studied aerial photographs and maps of the vila; their targets clearly identified; each man knew exactly what was expected of him and was confident that his objective would be achieved.
Surprise was the name of the game and silence was paramount. Fortunately, the rough avenues and streets of the vila were no more than soft, moist clay which aided in the suppression of noise, but everyone did whatever they could to keep the noise to the minimum, opening the doors of the vehicles as cautiously as possible and leaving them open. There was no need for words, hand signals were sufficient to direct the squads as they silently moved into position.
The still, quiet morning air was suddenly rent by the sound of shattering timber and gunfire as door after door was kicked in and the interior of each building sprayed with covering fire; the occupants within standing no chance.
Dionathon sat upright in his cot, tears falling from his wide eyes as he listened to the sounds of death and destruction filling the air. He had known exactly what the outcome of this would be, but nonetheless had felt duty bound to try and avoid it and he cursed the arrogance of human beings; at least it had not all been in vain!
As the sun rose in the murky sky, the air filled with the smoke of hundreds of rounds of ammunition, tenente-coronel Menenes cursed loudly; they had failed in their objective; over half of their targets had managed to escape, their houses mysteriously empty when the squads had entered. Now this was deeply worrying him; someone had tipped them off and that meant he had a traitor in the ranks, there was no other logical explanation, but who? This would be almost impossible to discover, but he fully intended to try. Someone was going to pay for this. But no matter, the missing ladrões and traficantes would be found. If they were in the vila they would soon be ferreted out, if not, well then they would have to return sooner or later and his men were going nowhere in a hurry; a barracks was to be erected and the men would stay there as long as was necessary, guarding every entrance, checking the I.D. cards of everyone trying to enter or leave the vila.
The police blockade lasted almost two months and caused a great deal of conflict between the residents of the vila and the brigada militar. The human rights of the residents disappeared with the invasion and encampment and they were searched and I.D’d both on their way in and out, disrupting their usual way of life. The brigada felt completely justified in their actions having been indoctrinated into a general consensus that the residents were all criminals and thus their lives were forfeit. As a result, forty two people had been shot dead for “resisting arrest” and a further 78 arrested for crimes ranging from not holding a valid identification to possession of maconha – marihuana, but there had been not one sighting of Lucas or his tenentes; they had mysteriously disappeared. The decades long war appeared to be over; the backs of the two quadrilhas had been broken, the polícia had won their war. For now at least!