Emil took a step forward with the lone candle before him as his feet sunk into the mud and they vanished as though he had no feet at all. It had been so long since he had seen his parents but it was not as long as he had been without his favorite teddy bear. The plush animal had collected dust in his old childhood home and there was no force on earth that could bring him to go back to that crooked old house and revisit his former bedroom. He pulled his feet out of the mud with just enough force and took another step. The mosquitos attacked him with vigorous speed as if they had not fed on blood in ages. The welts were many and near between each other.
Emil thought on his life, on that teddy bear. He thought on all the memories of his mother and of his father cradling him and he enveloped in his comforter. The teddy bear was resting beside him then, when he was smaller it was the only thing that made him happy. That was before they had moved to the Amazon. Before his doctor parents decided to uproot them from their home in the city. That comfy apartment, that illusionary town house divided into a duplex. He had left his teddy bear behind sitting on a shelf.
The candle was waning away, the flame spiked and fluttered and acted as though it was about to fade away and then would emerge back into its yellow and red vibrancy. The faded gray greens of the leafs on the trees, and all the bugs were mute colored. Frogs croaked and night birds cooed, and in that midnight hour he was afraid. But Emil was determined to continue on.
When he had gotten word of his father's illness. The disease that had ultimately claimed him that he had contracted from one of the many people he couldn’t save. He wanted to go back to that spot. Where only his father cared to stay. An encampment out in the middle of the trees in a clearing. His second home. A crowded and loud makeshift village of white tents. Emil lifted another muddy boot out of the ground.
His mother was sitting by his father’s side when he died. That had only been a couple weeks before. Ever since then he had sat quietly and waited for his mother to come to, to waken from her mourning, her trance like state of grieving. Emil couldn't take it anymore. She needed to finish the work to snap out of it.
The camp came into view as Emil struggled to find his breath. The heat in the rainforest caused his clothes to stick. To cling to his flesh as though he were newly wet. The sweat, it stank, and he continued on. There was no fear of animals, and no need for Teddy bears. And they had never asked him if he wanted to take it with him. He had never realized that car ride would be the thing that divided him from his comforts.
Emil walked straight to his parents tent. Nothing out of place just an abandoned cot, and a trekking backpack sitting against one of the poles. Emil wrapped his fist around the handle of the backpack and took a seat on the cot, planting his feet deep in the dirt floor. He unzipped the pack.
Inside were small paint bottles. Zip loc baggies full of brushes. Emil pulled out the palette and saw the smudged mix of paints, the blotches of ugly colors, and their beautiful originals. He saw the flesh colors. He brought the palette to his nose and breathed in deeply, and he sighed. And then he cried. On the other side of the room was a portrait of Emil sitting atop his mother's lap that his father had painted. And in his tiny hands was that plush teddy bear. s the candle burned out he knew that it would never be that way again.