Dora stared down at the heavily armed guard patrolling the exterior of the compound, the majority of his tanned face concealed under a black hat. He looked to be some sort of former military, but she was positive he was now working for the cartel. Every person she’d seen walk in and out of the heavily guarded area was. A small, black MP5 submachine gun was slung over his shoulder, the weapon lying on his belly just above his visible brown belt. He was slowly pacing back and forth in front of the metal gate, although clearly not paying much attention. As far as she could tell, he was the only guard on this side of the premises for the time being. If she was going to strike, she had to do it now.
Lowering herself down from the thick tree in which she had waited and watched all night, Dora carefully stepped onto the emerald forest floor, the dew-soaked fauna squishing softly under her heavy, pink rain boots. She crouched down, placing her left hand on the cold ground to steady herself and reaching her right arm around to her belt. She fumbled with the empty holster, momentarily forgetting she had lost her pistol while traversing the local river, El Río de Amigos. She hadn’t seen where the current had swept it, instead losing sight almost immediately in the violent rapids. Normally, she could depend on her loyal audience to help locate what she lost, or to ritually recite the words “Swiper, no swiping” to prevent her nemesis from otherwise stealing her possessions. Yet that was no longer an option, at least not right now. The things she was going to do, the places she was going to see, they were not fit for an audience of toddlers. In fact, they were not fit for an audience at all. She had to go this alone.
Dora swung her hand to her back and grabbed the machete slung across it. She pulled it out of its holder and brought it to her face. The blade was damp from the morning dew, a sticker with her monkey Boots plastered across the handle. She’d created it in his honor, made a whole stack of the stickers for his birthday. Yet the moment she realized he had been kidnapped by the cartel, stolen away to be used as a drug mule—or, rather, a drug monkey—she instead used it as motivation. Every life she took, every swing of the blade, she saw Boots’ face staring back at her.
Dora began crawling forward, silently maneuvering through the thick jungle brush, machete in hand. Her years of exploration had made her adept at traversing her environments with stealth and acuity; she knew exactly what would and would not crack when stepped upon or snap when broken. She did not stop until she could clearly make out each abstract camouflage shape on the back of the guard’s uniform, the various greens and browns twisting wildly across his clothing. He was still on the opposite end of his back-and-forth pacing, but would soon turn around and stroll a mere six inches from the bush in which she hid. She lay down, body pressed against the cold jungle floor, and waited. A deep roll of thunder moaned off in the distance.
She never had intended for this to become violent, never thought she’d need to hurt anyone. She only wanted to live a peaceful life, to teach the world basic Spanish and explore the jungles with her companions. Yet they wouldn’t let her. Repeating the numbers, “uno, dos, tres” dozens of times per day to a national audience brought the wrong kind of attention. The cartel knew that what she had was valuable, that they could use her friends and fame to smuggle their drugs. So they took her in the night, stole away her map and backpack, kidnapped the very monkey she deemed her best of friends. The cartel knew they were too famous to be searched by los federales—or “the federals,” as she would’ve explained to her audience—too innocent to deal with the macabre. They hadn’t, however, expected such a little explorer to strike back as hard as she did. She killed all but one of her kidnappers the moment they turned their backs on her, using nothing but the hairclips she wore every day to tear out their innards. She left the last one alive just long enough to interrogate, originally assuming Swiper had finally cracked and was behind the whole ordeal. She was wrong, though, he explained as he slowly died. Swiper was dead, just as she was supposed to be, tortured until he cracked and gave her location. The man worked for the cartel, he explained, and apologized with his last breath.
Dora realized immediately that peace was no longer an option. No longer could she simply request that Swiper not swipe, nor could she merrily go about her day while attempting to pretend everything was all right. It wasn’t all right. Everything was fucked up, but she was about to make sure it was fucked up in her favor.
The guard turned around and began mindlessly strolling back toward where Dora lay, his eyes upon the ground while the submachine gun lightly slapped against his belly with each step. She tightened her grip around the machete as he grew closer, then sprang forward the moment he was within striking distance. Lightning cracked through the pre-dawn air as she plunged the blade straight into his lower back, wrapping her left hand around his mouth and pulling him to the ground. The guard struggled slightly, twisting and turning as she pushed the machete deeper into his spine.
“Cuchillo,” she whispered directly into the guard’s ear as his shaking body began to ease. “That’s how we say knife, you gringo piece of shit.”