If you were to ask, Thalita Lyra would tell you that what she wanted in life more than anything was to bring people together. Whether it was her father selling out clubs for the latest forro band he'd signed, or her mother showing off Botafogo, Lapa, and Ipanema to groups of tourists from around the world, Thalita loved seeing people come together to share their passion and form meaningful connections.
As a teenager, Thalita found her community through kite-fighting. Her uncle Inacio taught Thalita and her younger brother, Renato, to settle their petty squabbles through making kites and flying them into each other until someone's string is cut and a winner is decided. Thalita and Renato would spend their summers at Inacio's beachfront kite shop, working in the mornings, and fighting kites in the afternoon. Their antics caught the attention of kids and adults alike, and it wasn't long before Thalita started teaching kite-fighting at the shop. Eager to connect with even more people, Thalita would film these fights and post them online. Free publicity, she told her uncle.
Little did Thalita know that her kite-fighting videos would be her ticket to stardom. Videos that featured her and her commentary would get more hits, with viewers commenting on Thalita's kite-fighting insights and her charm. The videos even caught the eye of a modelling agent. Before she knew it, Thalita was booking photoshoots for print ads and appearing in commercials. She loved the work and knew it wouldn't be long before she could transition to acting. Then she would be capital-F Famous, like the stars of the telenovelas she watched growing up. Her community would span all of Brazil, and maybe even beyond.
But it was not to be.
Little by little, modeling took Thalita further from the kite shop. First, she had to give up playing, to let the nicks on her hands heal. Then, she had to spend her days networking, schmoozing, and lining up gigs well in advance. By the time Thalita graduated high school, her agent was eager to get her even more work. Which meant even less time at the kite shop. All this hard work and dedication will be worth it, she told herself.
Years passed in a flurry. Thalita was burned out and sick of the awkward stares and lingering glances from strangers. Fame, it seemed, was not as glamourous as she thought it would be. Late nights talking with Renato helped her realize what it was she was missing: connection. Genuine connection with like-minded people. That is how her father and mother drew people to them. And kite-fighting was what connected Thalita with others.
Within a few short months, Thalita had quit modelling, used her money to open her own shop - with Inacio's blessing, of course - and brought Renato on as her business partner. Fun Kites Rio became the premiere destination for kite-fighting materials, and Thalita's fame helped attract even more people to the hobby.
It was a great start, but Thalita, as always, wanted to reach even more people.
Fun Kites Rio's first tournament was a success, drawing hundreds of participants to the outskirts of Rio to watch dozens upon dozens of kites danced in the sky. In between socializing with old and new friends, helping at the concession stands, and even playing a match or two, Thalita found a few moments to cry happy tears by herself.
She had done it. This was exactly the community she wanted to create.
By the time the sun set and the tournament came to a close, the field was covered in litter. Thalita and Renato stayed behind to clean up. The full moon was high in the sky when Renato noticed something: a strange drone floating over the field.
Thalita's mischievous childhood self came roaring back. Time for a challenge: a race to take down the drone. Renato couldn't help but accept.
In the end, Thalita's kite was the one to get caught in the drone's rotor blades. She cheered as Renato watched the thing sputter into the forest, leaving a trail of smoke in its wake.
Thalita didn't want to look for the fallen drone. She was happy to leave her kite behind. But Renato walked off to the trees on his own, and Thalita couldn't let her brother wander the dark forest by himself.
Deep in the woods, Renato found more than just the drone. Thalita heard a scream and watched as a man drenched in blood emerged from the forest. He grabbed her brother, desperate for help, but it was already too late. Thalita nearly screamed as the man split in two and a woman stepped forward, covered in high-tech hunting gear.
Why wasn't Renato moving
She grabbed her brother and ran. Another drone floated overhead, like the one she had downed with her kite. They were the hunter's eyes, and she had plucked one of them from the sky.
Renato was in shock, and Thalita saw that his arm had been cut deeply. When? It didn't matter. He was bleeding, and they needed to get to safety. That was when she saw the factory. A rotting brick building, collapsing under the weight of time.
Thalita led Renato into the factory and found a dark alcove to hide. The hunter followed, and she dragged some wooden beams across the entrance. The only way out, blocked off. Thalita knew time was running out. If the hunter didn't find them first, her drone would.
Thalita peeked from their alcove. The factory was changing, its dark and dingy walls dissolving to a bright and sunny landscape.
She found her resolve. A way out. A chance to survive. All she had to do was run.
Thalita put her arm around Renato and pulled him to his feet. She thought she heard Renato telling her to stop, but she ignored him. This was their chance. They ran along the beach, leaving the hunter behind, kicking up warm sand with each stride.
Thalita never stopped running, not even when the sand turned into swirling black fog.