After 6 months living in the cold, lifeless town of Invercargill situated at the bottom of New Zealand's South Island, a spontaneous trip to the tropical shores of Brazil with my sister seemed like a marvelous idea. She had won a holiday with her company and invited me along, much to my fiance's dismay. I didn't pay much heed to his protests, the Copacabana was calling.
It was a 10 hour flight across the Pacific and then another 4 hours stopover at Santiago airport in Chile before I happily boarded the plane bound for Sao Paolo. I looked out the plane window down the flat, windswept runaway disappearing in the distance, then up at the imposing Andes Mountains rising so high they actually cut way past the clouds. A dark feeling of foreboding encompassed me and I regretted leaving my fiancé behind.
It was wonderful reuniting with my sister at Sao Paolo airport, having flown in from Auckland and her from Johannesburg. We hadn't seen each other in months and had recently lost our dad 2 weeks prior, so we hugged and kissed then chatted non-stop until we reached our high-rise holiday apartment. Our first 5 days passed smoothly, enjoying each others company in the hustle and bustle of the big city and shopping for cheap clothes to our hearts' content.
Our next stop on the itinerary was a detour of my making at an old town called Paraty founded in 1667 on the former Portuguese gold trail. It was a beautiful, historic village with cobbled streets and horse-drawn carts. A land lost in time. Having insisted that we spend the night there, as I had booked a scuba diving excursion online for the following day, I regretted it as soon as we arrived.
Old, quaint and full of tourists, the town centre sounded of wine glasses chinking and laughter. We walked through the narrow streets, bathed in the humidity of the night air and showed off our newly purchased holiday dresses to the passing tourists.
We approached the town square where the main church stood and we rested on a bench to watch the passing trade. Although it was crowded and warm, I felt so cold and vulnerable there. Strangely, we both felt a presence and it seemed to follow us as we ambled around the church. Later that night as we settled into our small, dingy hotel room I got that same feeling and it lingered between my sister and I as we were getting ready for bed.
Early the next morning I headed off on the catamaran whilst my sister passed the morning sightseeing in the town. She was up early too, not happy to sleep in alone. Some tourists from the hotel and myself met up with the crew of the catamaran and we all quickly made friends as we prepared our diving gear for the excursion. As the boat pulled away from the jetty and weaved its way out to open waters, I gazed towards the coast at the black carrion birds lined up along the shoreline, feasting on carcasses of dead fish; the birds seemingly avoided by the locals like the plague. Mist shrouded the forest whilst the early light filtered through the dense vegetation, teeming with mosquitoes. Sunny Brazil had a darker side...
Happy to leave Paraty in our wake we then drove to Rio and spent a whirlwind day of sightseeing on all the touristy haunts such as strolling the Copacabana, drinking coconut juice on Ipanema beach and taking a cable car up to the Christ the Redeemer statue before departing for our final destination of Petropolis, the Imperial city.
My sister, a travel agent, had booked us into one of the resorts owned by her agency. A 5-star brand new hotel set in thick forest overlooking a main road in an upmarket German suburb, we were relieved to find our apartment spacious and luxurious. It was also only a short bus ride away from the grand imperial palace where the first emperor of Brazil lived.
After dinner we went up to our flat, unpacked and settled down in the double bed under the air conditioning to watch a movie. We reflected on the past few days and my sister fell asleep while I continued watching television. Every so often I would get distracted by movement in my peripheral vision of my left eye. Rubbing my eyes and blinking a couple times I assumed that perhaps it was just a twitch from my tiredness. I gazed over my sister sleeping deeply beside me.
I continued watching the comedy until I noted some more movement, this time through the open bedroom door leading into the lounge, hovering above our luggage scattered on the floor. I looked there curiously but didn't see anything else and didn't think anything of it. "I must be tired," I thought. Not long after I saw a flash dart from the lounge to beside my sleeping sister and when I viewed it directly, saw something that resembled a translucent broken outline in the shape of a person standing next to her. It was gone before my mind even fully registered what it had just seen. Not particularly scared I quietly removed myself from the bed so as not to wake my sister, gathered up some pillows and a blanket, closed the bedroom door and continued to watch the movie in the lounge undisturbed, where I eventually fell asleep.
The next morning while enjoying a coffee and breakfast at a local Bavarian bakery, I relayed to my sister the events of the night before. Her expression became grim but she didn't seem surprised. She confided that one of her ex-husbands, while they were married, as well as her current boyfriend had both complained of seeing something in her bedroom at night. Sometimes her boyfriend would become so unsettled that he would have to sleep in the lounge.
During these episodes she would dream of an old woman looking at her and laughing, even saying that she could never leave her. She felt that it was an demon that she had 'picked up' from one of the flats that she rented years ago. Over the years she had told me about these nightmares but that's all I thought they were until what I saw with my own eyes that night.
Could my sister really have an attachment that followed her on holiday to the other side of the world and back on an aeroplane? Or, perhaps, it was the spirit of our recently departed father checking up on his daughters one last time? She has since had the pastor from her church bless her which apparently helped for a few months but it whatever it is, it has returned...