The waterfall had always been a lonely place, as it was located deep within the jungle. No one would have ever reached it on purpose, instead stumbling into it by mistake. It was said that the waterfall and its lagoon had the capacity to change locations and appear wherever people needed them to be. Many explorers and escapees from a nearby prison wandered into the jungle and got lost for days. Many of them, to be honest most of them, where eaten up by the jungle, whether it was by the fiery creatures inhabiting it or by the secrets that lay beyond the trees and the mossy ground. There were no natives to the jungle that could tell anyone about what lived beyond the first few kilometres simply because no living being, at least of the human species, had ever been able to come back.
In satellites pictures, the jungle appeared to be dark green and even black in some parts. And it was all trees and trees, no sign of any waterfall or lagoon, which was only none to those few that had wandered into the jungle and survived. But as said before, these people never left the jungle. Instead, they remained in there, slowly transforming into wandering souls that helped protect the jungle and the secret within it. People that suffered this faith would not suffer or deny their destiny. Once they realized why they should give up their natural lives, they gave it all willingly. After all, those who survived were always the best humans, the examples of what was good and admirable about the human race.
Such a person was Captain Roma Tennant. When she entered the navy, so many years ago, her peers only saw her as one of the women of the ship. But they had no idea she was far stronger and more capable than any of the men that worked with her in any of the Navy’s vessels. She was always the most oriented and the fastest one, also having great skills for shooting. She was prized several times, always involved in missions of war but far from any real battle. When she was finally sent to it, she became easily traumatized. She saw the few friends she had made in the Navy died, blowing up next to her or simply falling to their knees, a bullet in their foreheads. Her mind, however, got to hold on.
The bit of sanity that remained in Roma was enough to destroy one of the enemies’ battle stations, thereby giving a perfect position for support troops to launch an attack that would make them win the fight. They did win, after many more casualties and Roma was able to survive, killing even more men and hiding in a sewage pipe. She was rescued by her country and brought back home but the truth was that Roma had been devastated by her, her mind almost broken by images of flying limbs and blood tainting every single drop of water. Her recovery took many months and her family thought they had lost her forever.
And, in a way, they did. When Roma was able to walk again and use her arms and speak, she told them that she couldn’t live in the city anymore, as the sounds there reminded her of the sounds of battle. Cars and cell phones and planes made her very uneasy, very nervous. So her solution was to go and live by the sea, buy a boat with the money they had paid her for her services in the military, and simply live a quiet life in the ocean. She had to win the respect of her fellow men, once again, by proving she could easily manage to control a fishing boat, a cargo ship and even a small ferry to transport people across a small stretch of water. She did exactly that at first and then travelled across the globe, working in jobs not very different, trying to bring peace to her mind and food to the table.
She went to every big port in the world but, as she had realized before, cities were not for her, not even their harbours and marinas. She would settle for smaller towns, where she could be around people that she could recognize every day. But that eventually gave her more problems as she was reminded of the many people she had lost in battle. After one of her episodes, she was institutionalized for several months. This time, she had no family nearby and no one apparently notified them of her state. She remained in her cell, receiving shock therapy, which they still thought would be of any good in the country where she was. Eventually, they let her go when they saw she was calmer, less violent.
Roma left that country fast and ended up in Indonesia, where she established herself as a fisherwoman. The locals there were not very happy to see her, a woman, trying to compete with all the men. She felt so harassed, that she decided to move upstream, through a large river that crossed a huge jungle. There she would finally be alone and she would be able to have a decent life for the remainder of her days, no matter how many they would be. She then noticed that explorers, scientists from all over who saw the jungle as an incredible source of discoveries, frequently visited the region. They said that a new animal was discovered every six hours and a new plant every eight hours.
It was hard to believe such tales but Roma decided it was business and she dedicated herself to tour the scientists up and down the river and even through some canals and streams she had discovered. All the foreigners that got on her boat always came back as she was more daring than most people of the region and they knew it was because she had seen more of the world than they had. For a couple of years, explorers became her friends and she would always be there to greet them and take them wherever they needed to do their research. She had fun doing it, as she felt at peace for once in her life and it felt good.
That changed the day she met Alexander Epps, an American scientist that had heard tales of the forbidden jungle and arrived in the region asking loudly for someone to take him there. Everyone said no, even Roma. She didn’t know all the tales, but she did know that the region of the jungle he was asking to go was very tricky in terms of navigability. She was skilled enough to go, she was sure, but it was difficult to live there and ignore the stories she had heard, about teams of twenty people that left for the jungle and never came back. Boats that appeared out of nowhere in the river and people recognized them as the ones that had transported lost souls to that dark patch of the forest. Roma was an adventurous woman, but she was no fool at all.
However, Epps was a scientist and his research had also dropped the name of Roma. How it was known she lived there now, was never truly explained. Nevertheless Epps came to talk to her and tried to convince her to take him to the forbidden jungle. He insisted for months and she always said no. But then, as intelligent and twisted as Epps had always being, he tricked Roma into watching some images and footage of the war she had been in. He bombarded her with information, facts and so on. Just as he predicted, she snapped. But before she could lose herself to her own mind, Epps convinced her that the only way to purge herself from everything was to make a good deed and that was to tale him to the jungle.
The next day, she took his team of ten men in her boat and carried them upstream. As expected, the jungle grew thicker, until it was impossible to keep advancing by boat. She told Epps it was her time to return but he threatened her with a gun and made her walk in front of him. None of that mattered anyways as in only one night; all the men of the expedition would be killed. Roma had not seen such carnage, not even in war. There were gigantic snakes breaking the bones of men, jaguars that destroyed a person in minutes and huge birds with beaks that could poke out eyes in the easiest way possible. The last one to die was Epps, who was impaled by a shadow Roma had seen before.
Alones and in the brink of insanity, Roma wandered through the jungle, trying to get out of there but knowing one of the beasts was probably waiting for her. She was getting impatient, asking for the jungle to eat her, to destroy her life once and for all. But then she heard the humming of the water and, some steps in front of her; there was a perfect lagoon and a great waterfall where she cleansed herself from everything. Even her memories seemed to leave her as she washed her body. And then, beyond the trees, she saw a light. At first she thought it was an animal but then she realized it had the shape of a human being. Whatever it was, it was asking her to come towards him.
Slowly, Roma did exactly that. The entity was one of the many souls that lived in the forest, one of the oldest apparently. It took Roma by the hand and took her to a trip where she left her body and transformed into a better version of herself. They wandered all around the jungle until the spirit took her deep within the trees, beyond the killer animals and the poisonous plants, beyond the waterfall and its soothing waters. There, in a space covered by plant life, there was a rock. It was the colour of blood and looked harmless. The spirit invited her to touch it and, when she did, she felt complete. And she understood why no one that wasn’t worthy could ever survive the forbidden jungle.