Andrew McSorely pushed his way past the fronds of the undergrowth, past plants even he didn't know the names of. Brushing clinging spiderwebs and sweat from his face he ploughed on. He had come too far and been through too much to stop now.
He had spent three years trying to find out what was behind the sudden growth of the Amazon rainforest, something which was inexplicable given the rate of deforestation. Logging companies had been turned back by seemingly rogue wildlife, amazingly fast growing trees and violent indigenous tribes. In those three years the trees had reclaimed an area the size of France, destroying villages, towns, factories. Anything that stood in its path. The rate of expansion was increasing daily.
He had narrowed his search down to a square mile of jungle. He had analysed the Amazon using satellite images, seismic graphs, infra red photos and plain old word of mouth and found that this was the only area to remain virtually unchanged for those three years. Something was happening here. This was the epicentre.
Forging forward, Andrew forced himself to forget the gruesome deaths his native guides had suffered. He forced himself to forget the wife who had left him and the bankruptcy waiting for him at home. He forced himself to put one foot in front of the other. Again. Again. Again.
Clambering over the gnarled foot of an ancient tree he sent various fist sized beetles skittering away. He froze as a jaguar stood over the recently dead corpse of a tapir, only moving quietly on when the jaguar tore into its prey.
Sliding through a curtain of green he backed away. His eyes didn't leave the big cat until Mother Nature hid them from each other.
As he turned he felt someone nearby, in the way you happen to look up when someone stares at you on the train.
A fat, bald and utterly black man sat on the stump of a naturally fallen tree. His arms were outstretched, palms appearing to push against an unseen wall. The man was straining, sweat streaming down his face, veins and tendons popping from his arms and shoulders. He was visibly shaking with the effort. All in all, Andrew thought, he was a very convincing mime.
"Hello?" Andrew stepped forward, trying to contain his shock. There were supposed to be no tribes living nearby and this man looked nothing like any of the tribesmen. His skin was like the darkness of space, seeming to consume the light around it. His pate was a patchwork of silver tattoos, each tracing their way from his head to his feet.
No, not to his feet. They ran over his bare soles, onto the stump and down to the ground. They ran off in every direction, dropping unseen into the earth at different distances. Like roots.
"Hello?" he tried saying it louder, more insistent.
The mans eyes shot open. It was like staring into the sun. Each a raging inferno of power.
Blinking away the effects of the sudden light Andrew spoke again.
"Are you hurt?" The man did seem in pain.
"Yes" the man rasped, his voice like an epoch ending. "Yes I am hurt. I have been hurt too long, too often."
The mans eyes slammed shut again and his shoulders heaved, pushing anew against his unseen obstacle.
"Can I help? Who are you? What are you doing?" His scientific mind was racing, overflowing with questions.
"Three questions cousin," the squat man said, "No, you cannot help unless you know of Antarctica. I am Amazon, and I am fighting. Fighting for survival and against tyranny."
Andrew's scientific mind failed him. Amazon? Fighting? Against whom?
Trying to keep the man (being?) talking, Andrew said "I know something of Antarctica. I am an environmental scientist."
"Have you met her?" The words sounded strained, as if they were an effort. Andrew could sense the urgency in them though.
"Her? No, no I've not. I didn't know there was a her to meet."
"She is forcing herself out onto the world. She is the most powerful and destructive of the four of us. She will kill us all cousin."
"What, why? How?" Andrew could feel his rational self losing ground to hysteria rapidly. This could't be real. He had been alone in the jungle for too long. He had eaten the wrong kind of berry, surely.
A wheezing laugh escaped Amazon, quickly stifled and brought under strict control.
"Why? Because she can. Because she envies us our lives of warmth and ease. She is spreading her influence. Her ice caps break away in ever larger chunks, forcing her freezing water upon us. She seeks to freeze the world cousin. To scour the warmth our mother left to us. I push the borders of my land outwards, to combat the death she deals. She will kill us cousin. You and I."
"Four. You said four of us. Can't the others help?" Andrew was feeling increasingly panicked.
"Can you find them for me cousin? I lost contact millennia ago. Do they still live? Find them cousin. Tell them I fight. Tell them to fight with me." This was a desperate plea. Amazons arms fell from their struggle and reached out to Andrew, imploring him to help.
"Yes of course. Who..what...where are they?"
"Three questions again cousin," Amazon replied, resuming his pushing, "three which can be answered in one, for it is the same answer. Sahara is my brother, Pacific my sister. She must fight harder than all."
This sent a jolt through Andrew. As he was preparing to enter the Amazon he had heard reports of the Sahara desert spreading at a similar pace to the jungle. He hadn't heard anything about the ocean, but water levels were always rising weren't they?
"I will try. But how do I find them? How long do you have?"
Amazon rolled his shoulders, forcing a creak like a bow preparing to break. He relaxed his arms once more and stepped from the stump. As he stepped towards Andrew the sliver roots pulsed with an energy almost palpable.
He laid a massive hand on Andrew's shoulder, burning eyes filling Andrew's vision and thoughts.
"They cannot move. They are as much a prisoner as I am, confined to the same size cell as I. They are where they have always been. You will find them. You must, otherwise Man will fall. Run, little cousin. Run, tell your people of me, tell your people to fear Antarctica.
Run, find my kin and tell them to fight."
Andrew turned and ran, paying no heed to where his feet fell. He ran.
Amazon smiled, then turned and climbed back onto the stump. Shaking the ache from his ages old bones, he resumed the battle.