Zatz

Mayana Zatz (b. 1947) is a geneticist and molecular biologist from Brazil. She is the founder of the Brazilian Association of Muscular Dystrophy, the first centre dedicated to tackling the disease in Latin America. The association offers medical assistance, therapy, and financial and emotional support to thousands of children and teenagers suffering from dystrophy every year.

She is a member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences and of the International Human Genome Project. Along with two female colleagues, she is one of the first scientists to find the genes responsible for a type of dystrophy that affects the arms and legs, and has therefore been able to assists more than 16,000 people suffering from the condition – the highest number of cases in the world.

Starter for Qada; "I Smell a Rat"

“20 beast,  20 aerial, 10 aquatic, a crate of plant and 2 golems, all live and detained behind bars. Small sized cells, for convenience. That’ll be 870 million pg.” The sly man bargained. Zatz looked up at his handler, hearing the voice bargain with yet another distributor.

“Golems?! We never ordered any golems! Get them off my ship right now! I am not going to endanger this cargo- those automations will wreck a hole in my ship. I demand compensation. Dock a zero off that price tag, and I might be willing to overlook this break in our agreement.” The other man looked furious that his supplier would make such a gregarious error.

“87million?! Are you trying to ruin my livelihood? Where else am I going to get rid of those automatins?”

“Certainly not to me.”

Zatz glanced around the port in interest, his eyes darting around to see scarred faces with tight lips. The ship at port was massive compared to how big Zatz was! Zatz wasn’t very big anyway. He hung his arm through the warm, metal bars to fiddle with the padlock, letting it turn back and forth between two fingers. His face itched with dried salt that he scratched at with the back of his thumb. Eyes still a bit puffy from this morning’s, he tried to hide them. Canary boys don’t cry. Looking back at the ship he spotted a chubby face peeking out from a porthole. The boy was surprised. How many kids are on boats anyways? He listened to his handler jabber on about sales and bickering with the other man for a suitable price. He may be young but he does know what pg is. It’s pretty and gold, and when there’s a lot of it there is delicious food for dinner. Lately, he’s learned that people get really mean for it. Mean enough that he can’t see papa again.

“What about that over there?” The buyer nodded his head in the child’s direction.

“Listen, If you take the order at 600 million, I’ll get rid of the golems and throw in that as a special bonus.”

 “The human slave? I’m sure Qada will be pleased and I won’t have to mention this… unfortunate incident.”

He doesn’t know how much pg tinkled between the two men’s hands but it reminded him of the same that happened this morning. Papa was crying too, even with full pockets.

The handler unlocked Zatz’s cage and carried the child across the gangway. Zatz was strong-armed below decks where the putrid stench of defecating animals hovered thickly. He coughed while being led to a new cell next to some beast creatures. He threw up, only adding more stink to the near-solid air. His cage was only big enough for him to sit up in and lean against the side. He couldn’t even turn around. Above him was a screeching flock of aerials in a similar cage, their bodies packed close together. One of them pissed through the bars, which sprayed at the new handler. Zatz thought he would cry again but he stopped himself. Canary boys didn’t cry. 

That night while Zatz leaned againt cold metal, dazed and tired but unable to sleep with the racket made by all the monsters, round ovals tinkered his padlock open. In the darkness, Zatz squinted at the hovering shapes until he could see them extend into pudgy fingers and hands. He shifted his weight forward to look closer. He was surprised when grasping hands only met empty air- the door was gone! His hand was suddenly taken by the floating one and he gasped.

“Shh! Shh they’ll hear us!” The hands pulled him out from his cramped position and helped him stand. “My name’s Datz, who’re you?” The voice whispered. The voice was surprisingly friendly.

“Shatcks- ak huck akck!” Zatz’s thought was so dry he coughed over his words. The Datz boy gave him a lukewarm sip of water from a leather pouch.

“Shatcks?”

“No, its Zatz. Why.. what do you want with me?”

“You wanna play with me?”

Zatz’s stomach rolled as the ship pitched against a wave. He would have thrown up but he hadn’t eaten since this morning and he was so hungry.

“Huh?”

“Games! Lets play games! I call being Adventurer, you can be my loyal companion. Together we travel the world! Oh, but remember- shh,” Datz’s voice was rising as he spoke but now he lowered it again, “we still have to be quiet.” Zatz wobbled on his short legs after Datz, who was leading him to a more open area in front of the aisles and aisles of crates.

“Come companion, lets explore.” Datz pretended to look out a spyglass. “Land ho! Come on Zatz.” Bones aching, he tiredly followed Datz. Datz raced in the other direction. “Quickly Zatz! The land is… it’s… umm, it’s… it’s running away we have to catch it!” Zatz tried to run after him but his leg gave way and he fell. He cried out a single sob before sucking it back in. “What’s wrong?” asked the boy, eyes wide with concern. “You don’t want to play with me?”

That wasn’t it, it was just “I hurt ev-ver-rywhere and I d-don’t kno-ow why.” He choked his sobs back, his chest shaking with repressed tears. Canary boys especially don’t cry in front of other boys. Datz frowned in concern but looked like he didn’t know what to do. he wavered above the other boy indecisively before wrapping his arms around the shuttering form. Zatz buried his head in Datz’s shoulder, his arms clinging to the well-fed body, a sharp contrast to Zatz’s own. 

“Do… do you want me to take you back to your cage?” No, yes maybe? Zatz didn’t know the answer. He didn’t have to, as the distinct sound of creaking planks under an adult’s footstep alerted them to approaching danger. “Quick! Go, go or they’ll see that you’re out!” The two did just that, getting back to Zatz’s empty enclosure. Zatz crawled in and Datz closed the cage door, rusty hinges squeaking. They flinched, but Datz clicked the padlock back together and raced into the darkness. Zatz was again alone, and scared, and hungry. The din of animals quieting was a relief as the night wore on, and he tried to relax.

The next morning the handler cane in and shoved a hunk of old bread through the bars and onto Zatz’s lap. The boy’s crusty, bloodshot eyes opened wearily. His throat was again dry as ever, and the monsters were making a racket again. Just over that he heard yelling above decks but couldn’t make out the words. The handler fed the other live cargo from whatever was in the burlap sack he carried. He didn’t seem to care if he threw the table scraps unevenly around the room. Some monsters would just have to bear it, just like he had to bear it. The hatch for above-decks opened as the handler left, bright rays lighting dust flecks in the stagnant air. Nothing would be happening for him today. It wasn’t his turn to get off. Lucky some couple hundred crates of bugs from many isles down were being offloaded to a buyer at whatever sleazy port they had stopped at. He wondered if he would see Datz again tonight. At least those annoying chirps would now go away. He dozed until a jolt told him they had set sail again; the rocking of the sea lulled him back to sleep.

To the slave’s surprise, he wouldn’t have to wait until dark to see the boy again. In scarcely a few hours later Datz scurried down the aisle of crates to where Zatz sat and shook him awake.

“Try this! It’s good I swear!” The pirate boy was holding a fistful of dried dates and figs. He jimmied the lock and pulled Zatz to his feet. “Here you go!” Zatz licked a fig cautiously, unused to the fruit’s taste. He gobbled them down one after the other- as fast as Datz could hand them to him. “I had some for morn'meal. Like it?” Zatz nodded eagerly now that some energy was returning. His young body shook off his earlier weariness when hearing the prospect of more food. “Listen, I’ll teach you a thing so that you can get out on your own and we can steal some more of these tonight. Don’t tell anyone though- I’m not really supposed to be down here.” Datz spent hours showing Zatz how to unlock cages, and Zatz practiced and practiced until he could do it as well.

“DATZ!!!” Datz froze, white faced in fear. “Where are you boy!?” The disembodies voice came from above the friends’ heads.

“I-it’s my crew. They’re looking for me. I have to go. See you later?”

“Datz!” The yell was coming closer. Zatz ran down the aisles until he reached his cage, locking himself inside. The Datz left. “Good-for-nothing boy. Scram like the lice-worm you are and fetch the sailors water like you’re supposed to be doing, not wandering off to pet hellhounds and the like.” Datz’s head was pat in rough affection as he passed the man, going to do as he was told.

Zatz locked and unlocked his door in boredom. There was really nothing else to do. He just sat there aimlessly, the lack of activity letting his mind race around thoughts that he really did not want to think. Papa is gone why is he gone… What did I do? Please take me back…nonono WHY I’M SO SORRY sadscaryhurtsnonono I wanna go home. He grit his teeth and breathed in and out slowly. He didn’t know how to count his fingers but he taped each one, pretending to do what Papa does when he’s angry, except Zatz isn’t angry. He doesn’t know what to feel anymore. Eyes dull, he unlocks it again and steps out of his cage. At least he doesn’t have to shat himself in the cage anymore. The reminder of that humiliation made him hang his head even lower. He felt like scum. I am scum. Papa.. must not.. even… love me.. if he let this happen. He wasn’t ready to believe that yet. He erased the thought as soon as it popped into his head. Papa loves me. However,the slave was less certain of that fact now then before.

It was dark again. Zatz was laying outside his cage in the aisle way, other cages crammed around his awkward position. He was expecting the Datz to show up already. The ex-Canary Boy rose to his feet, sneaking to the open area they played adventurer in. He could hardly believe that was only yesterday- time seemed to move so slowly. Finally his tummy told him he couldn’t wait anymore and he inched his way onto the top deck. He was used to the rolling of the sea and could walk fairly easily across the open planks. Datz was nowhere to be seen. Worried, Zatz wanted to look for him but decided he would just take the food back to him. It would be a surprise.

Zats ran to the aft port side stairs from his position near the hull. Datz told him those went below decks into a kitchen-like area. He crept down the stairs only to stare in horror at swinging hammocks filled with the sleeping bodies of crew members. Wrong staircase! Wide eyed he crept backwards eyes searching for movement from any of the sailors. Spotting a smaller form, the slave frowned. It was Datz. Datz lay snoring, his head resting on a burlap pillow, body curled up against the cold. He clutched a bundle of cloth as he slept. Zatz narrowed his eyes. Sleeping. He was sleeping. Does he really know how important this was? Zatz decided he would eat all the food he found. Obviously Datz was just fine, the crumbs from dinner still flecked on his cheeks. The slave went to the kitchens without anymore mistakes, finding plenty to dig his teeth into. He heard creaks and groans of the ship as she drifted in the night breeze, and every time he would jolt his head out of whatever he was stuffing himself with and frantically scan his surroundings. The fear of getting caught tightened his stomach and he eventually lost his appetite.

In the morning he found himself locked back in his cage but he couldn’t remember walking back. His belly ached and he felt really sick from last night. It was really cold now. Really cold. He woke up early from the intensity of his shivers. His eyes were sleepless and bloodshot like usual. The handler clomped down the steps like he did the day before and tossed bread again. 

“You’ll be off today boy. This is your stop.”

In this weather? The sight of more food in his hands made his tummy roll, but he managed to hold it in. He opted to save the rock-hard “bread” for later. He didn’t know how well his new handler would treat him. He couldn’t imagine what was in store for him. He guessed it might be something he wouldn’t like, considering the confines he was placed in during transit. He felt bruised all over and he was so done with this place.

Barley minutes after the handler had left, Datz appeared in front of the cage. “You wanna play adventurer?”

“You weren’t there.”

“Huh?”

You weren’t there! You slept through it like a… like a lazy pig!“ Datz looked downcast at this.

"I was tired.”

“Tired? You were tired?” Zatz glowered accusingly at the boy. Datz looked back up at him.

“You’re leaving today,” said Datz. “I’m never going to see you again.” Zatz opened his cage to stand next to the pirate boy. “Not ever…”

Zatz pulled the Datz into a hug. “I forgive you.”

“Gonna miss you.”

“I know.”

Datz was still holding the cloth he had slept with from last night. The slave could now see in the light that it was a wool blankie.

“I’ve never had a friend before,” Datz said.

“I had some,” replied Zatz. “My papa said they left somewhere.” “I think they died.”

“Oh…” Datz held out the blankie “My mommy gave this to me before she died.”

“She did?” Zatz felt the blankie as it was shoved into his arms. It was soft and warm. “Its soft.”

“I know, it’s great.” The two stared at each other for a minute. Then looked away. “I… want you to have it.”

“Thanks.” It smelled of sea salt and sweat. It was perfect.

“Wanna play adventurer?”

“Sure.”

Later that day, Zatz was offloaded from the ship, blanket tightly grasped in his arms. He awaited his new future in this cold, northern world.