Mega Once

#84 Apocalypse

They have no time to gather their belongings. No time to pick up after themselves. They leave on foot and on motorcycle, like a string of worker ants fleeing through the forest down a small dirt path. A helicopter hovers in the air. Three hundred armed police officers raid the camp and blow up their motors – the motors they used to take gold from the earth. Mega Once – a camp in the Peruvian Amazon where hundreds of illegal gold miners once lived – is now empty. Skeletons of their homes remain, charred wood and deteriorating blue and black plastic tarps among the dead trees, heaps of garbage and gaping pits filled with murky brown water. Once tropical rainforest, now desert. The flowered sandal of a child sits on a cocktail table where men paid for sex. Remnants of a pair of cutoff jeans lie near the edge of the pit where gold was mined. A yellow stuffed animal lies face up in the sand. Cotton oozes from where its smile once was.