Cidinha da Silva Thriller

"We want peace and justice": Protest against the killing of student Gabriel Pereira Alves on 9 August 2019 on the way to school in Rio de Janeiro by a stray bullet in a gun battle between police and criminals
"We want peace and justice": Protest against the killing of student Gabriel Pereira Alves on 9 August 2019 on the way to school in Rio de Janeiro by a stray bullet in a gun battle between police and criminals | Photo (detail): Leo Correa © picture alliance / AP Photo

By Cidinha da Silva

Play the short story as audio:                                                                   read by Sabrina Khalil
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After sprinting the first two hundred meters like a speedster, Onirê found a lady and asked for help. She took one look at his bloodied shirt, hugged her purse and quickened her pace. Could it be that nobody had heard the shots, the screaming? Red light, cars stopped. Drivers watched him and diverted their gaze, the shock, the doom, the indifference in their eyes. Women closed their windows, as their children in the backseat asked what was that man covered in blood. One mother told her child to be quiet, or else Onirê would attack him. A young white man, whose backcountry music was blaring, rolled down his window. Onirê rushed over to the car, started telling what had happened. Then the light turned green. The driver honked and yelled, as he peeled out: “You’re watchin’ too many video games, kid!”

He wanted to cry, to give up. The fear of a police officer cornering him and not believing his story made him sick to his stomach, his mouth dry. Water. He wanted water. No ID, no money, all bloody. He was wearing his public school uniform, true, but what about that boy the police shot in the favela in Rio who, just before he died, asked his mom: Why did the policeman shoot at me, mom? Didn’t he see I was wearing my school uniform? In any event, Onirê needed help. He was afraid he would not survive on his own. Scorn was painful in his wound, in his bones, but he had to insist. Find help.

He walked over to a taxi driver who paid attention to him as he picked his teeth; he heard his story and, trying to conceal his disbelief, said: I’m really sorry, but my car’s a rental. I can’t get the seat dirty. Good luck, man. He asked another man, a woman, a girl for help. Everybody was afraid. Nobody wanted to get involved. The tormenting thought of running into a police car or a police officer made him more anxious. He had no more blood to lose.

A succession of figures, drained of their blood, clouded his memory. Now his shoulder was throbbing and burning; it was the only thing keeping him alert. So he decided to run for his life again. He remembered there was a hospital nearby, but he wasn’t sure which way to go. He asked a teenager for directions; he looked like his youngest brother. Luckily, the boy knew. Even really scared, afraid that whoever was after Onirê would come back and get him too, Barazinho used the mantra for survival his parents taught him at home – we take care of our own – and explained how to get to the hospital.

Onirê gathered all his strength and will to live, and he ran. He ran as if it were his final sprint in a marathon. When he was one block away from the hospital, he almost collapsed and begged a popcorn vendor: I am not a criminal. Help me, sir, please. Bewildered, the man got up, didn’t even bother shutting off his gas cooker. He scooped up the boy – who could have been his grandson – and immediately his white apron was red.

The popcorn pan overflowed and the old man’s white blooms coated the ground. “What did they do to you, son?” –  “There’s a shooter at the public school. I study there. Two raided the middle school with machine guns and hatchets. They locked the gate, fired shots in every direction and threw the hatchets at the people who were trying to escape.” – “And that’s what’s in your shoulder, son?” – “Yes, sir. I asked several people for help, but nobody wanted to help me.”

The popcorn vendor did not hold back his tears, but stayed strong holding the young warrior up as they headed to the hospital reception desk. Once there, he filled out the form, assuring them that he knew Onirê. Because of the friendship he enjoyed with the nursing staff, he managed to get him seen quickly. He held the boy in the stretcher by the hand until his mother arrived. Just imagine: a big boy like that, sixteen years old, strong as a bull, ran 5K with a hatchet buried in his collarbone.

He knew by overhearing the attendants’ comments that, three weeks before that, a black boy – brawny, who looked like Onirê – , was admitted to the hospital, with a cold. Since it was an ordinary case of the cold, his mother left him there in the triage unit and went to sort out some unemployment woes. When she returned, she was greeted by her son’s body. No explanation. He died. A family member, while changing the dead boy’s clothes, noticed that the meat on his ribs was flaccid, as if it had been swallowed by the gaps between his ribs. He also saw that his chest, stomach and two spots in his ribs had been cut and stitched with a double seam. They opened him up to take a look. There was tow fiber where his heart should have been. A huge hollow in the ribs. The popcorn vendor would not allow Onirê’s story to have the same ending.