The tracks began to curve, and there was a cry in the curve of them, but it was not the sound of brakes. Steel bore down on steel and a call rang out across the arid basin. It was a signal to those who had been hiding. They knew it was time, that there would never be a better one.
Those who could, ran and caught up with the train. They climbed on top of the boxcars and stared. Insects hovered around the streetlamps. Teeming worlds went by.
Once, a comet moved across the face of the water. Ancient hunters followed lichen-browsing herds. A pulse began in the small of the back of a mother-to-be. An army came cloaked in a sirocco.
In the dark, the boxcars rocked like a ship. Those it carried were afraid of going forward. They could no longer stay where they had been.
Who they were before no longer mattered. They knew that, if they perished, no one would come to collect their bones.
The darkness changed. The travelers kept moving. A passing, AM corrido or the plash of tires in a puddle overhead was like a nova via radio telescope. Their eyes had faith in the light but adjusted to the dark.
A tunnel was thick with sludge and stenches that those crawling through it could not have imagined before. They tried to hold their breath. They vomited and wiped their mouths.
All that mattered was the light ahead. All that mattered was that they kept moving forward.
They must live long enough to forget this.
Teodoro Bonilla Nuñoz was gathering money from his guitar case when he noticed something rectangular about the size of a small coin. It cast a green, lapidary shadow. It looked like an emerald.
He had walked with his mother to work that day. Bogotá could be dangerous, but the Emerald District was safer than other parts of the city. The emerald dealers conducted most of their business outside. When examining stones, they trusted only sunlight and their small platoon of bodyguards. Arepas vendors