Legacy: the plastic avalanche

Someone hands me soup. Even in the darkness I can see the plastic shiny on the surface of it. I sip it anyway. This place is going to kill me. The belly will get me the way it gets all of them. I have to leave…read more 

I am standing here on the shore, looking out over the ocean. I don’t know why this is taking me so long. I am here. I need to be there. The timing is right. I have stayed because she has needed it. I have done nothing. I used to sit with the old woman for the day but she is gone.

She works the plastic mountain, looking for useful rubbish. Rubbish that can be sold to travellers. Boats have been coming in, people are crossing, further east than I want to go but crossing nonetheless. Now is when the winter of working the mountain pays off. Only it doesn’t because money is useless and the boats don’t ever bring food. I think mostly it is just something to do. A way of feeling useful, of having an occupation. Maybe its hope. Maybe that is all it is.

I look out across the sea- why the reluctance to take to the water? This is Europe, was Europe, was home, isn’t home. It’s all so very complicated. Maybe when I touch that continent, I will be on the same continent as her. Surely I will know that as soon as I land. I will sense it someone deep inside of me. That is all useless superstition. I don’t think I sense anything anymore. It is all rational thought. I would not recognise her, she would not know me. It has simply been too long.

I hear a rumble in the distance. I think nothing of it. Then someone. Someone I don’t know comes rushing up and calls me. Not my name, just ‘hey, you have to come.’ To the mountain. There has been an avalanche. The piles of plastic are notoriously unstable. She is there buried underneath it. Apparently. They think. It could be her. It could be someone else. They have sent for me as I am the only relative she has. I am not a relative. No one needs to know. They know I am a passer-by. Just one who stayed, one who went and came back and then did it again. They must know the chance of a passer-by being a relative is slim.

I run towards it. Following them More slowly than I should. I am thinking. This might not be good, not just for her. Is that mean? Selfish? How do you think I got this far?  I lose sight of the person in front of me. I am half way there before I turn back. I must focus. I run to the shack where we live. I look around me, there is nothing of use for me, except the shovel. I pick up my pack, grab my sleeping bag, the shovel and head for the plastic mountain. I am packed, I am always packed.

When I get there, I keep hold of my bag but leave the sleeping bag. I have another somewhere if I need it. That is greedy. Two. When I know they are short of everything here.

People are digging with their hands but they are wasting their time. The plastic underneath this layer is all broken into tiny pieces. It’s like sand has slid down a mountain, anybody underneath will be drowned, suffocated, whatever you call it. I dig with the shovel but I know it is useless. There is screaming and wailing behind me, though not from within the pile. The pile of plastic fragments is colourful, beautiful, but silent.  I work hard. I move plastic aside. But it is pointless. They are gone. With every shovel I move out of the way another pile of plastic slides into its place. The whole thing is unstable and it towers above us. The scale of the thing. Where did it all come from? It came from us. I know it came from us. But this is only part of it. The oceans are still full of it. It litters the ground and still there are mountains of it here. How many mountains, I have never counted. They are here all in a row. They are like a wall between the coast and inland. There are roads between them but the stretch on in a line. Why? What was the point of piling it all here. It is a mining operation I guess. A huge pile of plastic rubbish to be sorted through for fragments that can be used or sold. For fragments of food that might be edible. With other debris amongst it, that is what makes it worth mining. It goes who knows how deep underground. There is no chance of getting anyone out really and it could collapse further and take us all at any moment.

 I work until it is dark. My shoulders ache. I am hungry.It’s really dark now. We are still digging. I am not working anywhere near as hard. I have achieved nothing for the effort. I have wasted energy. I should have just left straight away.

In the darkness I can hear soft whimpering, perhaps under there was someone’s husband or brother or wife or child under there. It’s nice that death still means something somewhere. I sneak off into the darkness. I leave them. I am leaving. I can see the fires of the settlement in the distance. I head towards it. I find the little shack. I don’t know why? That’s not rational. One last look around. They have been quick. All the food is gone. I feel I should wait. Someone will retrieve the body. But then what? They will want to keep it. It’s like I said before, best not to eat the meat from around here. Maybe tomorrow or the day after I will no longer be in Europe.

I had been inclined to leave the shovel but they have taken my food so I take it with me. It is petty I know. I have a long walk ahead in the darkness. I don’t really fancy it but I am out of choices. Someone will want the shack and I don’t want trouble. I make the tree line near dawn. The trees are relatively young and there isn’t much cover. There is plastic rubbish even here. They chopped the old trees down, of course they did. They are growing these ones for firewood but people get lazy and greedy and I would be astonished if they are here when I return. If I return. Maybe there is no return. I am close to where the boat is hidden and some of my belongings including the clock, the watch, whatever it was called. I don’t worry too much about being followed. The place was in chaos the night before and I am confident I can win a fight no matter how hungry.

I use the shovel to dig up my buried belongings. It is a handy thing to have. I drag out the boat from its hiding place. I feel the smoothness of its boards. I take a moment. I love that smoothness. I am a days walk from the coast. I eat whatever I can find. I will need supplies. I set myself two days to walk and gather food as I go. Again that is longer than I need. More delay. I want to leave the coastline, get in my boat and go away at some distant point. It must be away from the settlement and somewhere before the next one. I am going back, not home, just back. Home is out there somewhere. Home is dust. I walk and try not to think. I should have retrieved her body, she was kind to me. I should have left the shovel. I should think more clearly. I should have left days ago.  If I had left days ago I would not have these feelings

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