The rain pours onto the hearts of men to erode its calcified exterior.
The rain pours down onto the Earth from the heavens with an unrelenting fervor. It oppresses the pavement, the dirt, and the cold, rusted machinery all around the landfill. The air is silent and the frigid winds are filled with the echoes of hopes given up on. Each breath I take in and out stings my lungs and stabs my chest. I stand in a line of zombies barely marching, all of which are walking sacs of bone and muscle that are covered with translucent, pruned skin. None of us adorn much clothes; the wetness makes it impossible. A man is collapsed next to me, never to wake again, covered in mud and trash. A frown is upon his sullen face, the spark in his eyes long gone, replaced with heavy, dark, sagging circles. His mouth sags into an intense pout as if it's too heavy for his frail body to lift up. He's deceased and will soon be consumed by the hunger of the landfill. I seriously make an effort to act surprised at the shock of his body but we're all dead here.
Those around me waddle forward as the rain pelts their hunched backs. Their spines poke and stab through six layers of their skin. Their elbows are round, protruded knobs and their fingers creak with each movement. We don't say a word to each other. I'm sure in a perfect world we'd love to reach out and share words with one another but it's simply too much energy. Not much to say anyhow; we ain't living in a perfect world. We're surrounded by rolling hills and mounds of garbage piled up higher than skyscrapers. An ocean of sludge infested water reaches over our ankles in which we slosh through. It's almost as if the landfill has a clogged drain due to slimy, knotted up hair. The water is filthy and its musty odor slowly poisons the lungs. Our job here is to collect all the rubbish and incinerate it. The smoke from that alone ravages one's eyes until they appear raw with a sickly redness.
Only I stand tall over my peers, but that's because I ain't human. My monstrous frame sounds like a blessing but I have the hardest job here. I sit in the belly of the beast; I run the landfill’s incinerator. Everyday I haul the trash they collect deep into the pits of the eternal fires. It never stops. My cracking skin always has a layer of smoke that never goes away. I've tried to wash it off but no matter how hard I try to scrub the dirt out, it finds a way to hide in the cracks. The burnt smell clings to the back of my palette and the urge to cough tickles my throat.
I haul and burn, in the orange, raging hot stomach, while everyone on the surface gathers the junk to be destroyed. They tell those that collect, “Collect it all, no matter how small!” Ain't really no other rules. Workers collect it, and I throw it all into the fires. I burn it for them. Totems as they're called, reach high into the sky and are adorned with metallic heads. Only eyes are on these chrome heads, and behind the eyes are cameras run by a power deemed higher than us. They watch our mundane existence and laugh. They watch us live and die for something we can't even see. See, cash is gone but money still rules. You can replace coins and paper with a new currency but the average man has still gotta make a living. These Totems track each worker based on performance: the longer hours you work, the less breaks you take, the higher you're paid.
“Next,” the monotone electronic voice says. The man in front of me shuffles out of the way and I stand in front of one of the Totem’s bases. A digital screen with yet another digital eye watches us. It scans my face and instantaneously my information appears on the glowing monitor through the rainy mist. As if it wasn't embarrassing enough to have your face plastered in ultra definition, the voice recites your information for everyone to hear. “Ingus McDowell, male, etc. Today's hours worked: 23. Payment: 70 Ralomi. Enjoy!” Instead of dollars, we're paid in the new currency of the world: Ralomi. Any physical money you would've had is useless, and we work and die for numbers we can't even hold onto. If you think 70 is low, it is, but it's on the high end of what's considered low. Most workers here never make more than 25-40 Ralomi a day; that's because they still have flickers of hope nestled deep behind their hearts and do other things but work. I don't. My heart is a calcified hunk of flesh, only powering the vessel that I inhabit. Hopeless is too kind of a word to describe me. Each day I wake up and it's the same story: my body groans and my stomach aches. Sure it grumbles intensely because of hunger occasionally, but the weight of the fact that I'm wasting my life mindlessly crushes my insides like piles of coal.
My day typically goes as follows: wake up, stare at the ceiling, work, sleep. I stand frozen looking at the humming screen. You know, I used to watch birds and wonder where they went as their wings soared them to new heights. These days I wonder how they find the strength to fly. In a world like this, work is all I really can do. It's not like I have time to do much else. My rent is 1500 Ralomi a month. Imagine making 70 for an actual day's worth of work. A sense of intense embarrassment and shame weighs down on my sore shoulders. A smiley face appears on the screen to taunt me and then it tells me to move. I scowl and sigh out, looking up at the abyss of the night sky. The rain empties itself from the void above and hits my face. This is it for me, and us. Wouldn't it be surprising if I told you we were all here by choice? The world is free but bills don't care about freedom.
I saunter over to the employee locker rooms. Their gray interior is cracked and chipped, revealing the dirty walls underneath the paint. Washed out blue lockers form haphazard rows. Fluorescent lights flicker from the ceiling in a stuttering motion like a dim flame, decorating the walls with flickering shadows. I collapse on the wooden bench in front of my locker. I like these moments where I'm alone. It's silent. No rain, no death, just me. I sometimes imagine that these moments are forever, as if I don't have to go back to the life I live. My feet throb in dull pulses, my muscles ache, and my ears screech. As I slowly dry off, I lift my attention from the pain and remember what I've been concealing from myself all day. I lift my clenched fist in front of my face to reveal what I've been carrying. It's an old movie called, “Till’ Death Do Us Part.” It was in one of the muddy piles next to the incinerator. I normally wouldn't have paid it any mind, in fact, it burns the inner recesses of my mind that I even have it. Ain't nothing stopping me from taking it either, I just feel wrong for having it. The only reason I picked it up is because it has a strange creature on the front that makes my heart feel funny. Under the title are two beings, one is a man, I know that for sure, but the other one is soft, and has features I've never seen on a male. What could it be? Is it a woman? No, it can't be.
I shift my weight and look on intensely. Suspense builds in my body and my eyes nearly begin to water from the excitement. For once my chest feels light. I can't explain it but whatever it is, is beautiful. It's like looking at the birds soar through the sky. What could this magical thing be that makes my heart dance? The creature's chest sits outwardly, alluring my eyes as it rests and protrudes inside its shirt. It wears its blonde hair long and down to its shoulders. Its eyes are a deep blue and its red lips call to me. What am I feeling? I quickly lift my locker’s lock and enter the combination. The opened door reveals my trenchcoat and fedora. I use the bottom of the coat to dry the movie's faded box off. I try to read the synopsis on the drenched cardboard. “After breaking up in highschool, Dianne Fox and David Reynolds reunite at their highschool reunion. After accidentally getting trapped in the gymnasium, they endeavor on a journey to roam the school and relive old memories. As their flame rekindles, they realize that they were foolish to stay apart all these years.” I flip the box over and stare at the unknown being once more. My god, it must be a woman! My stone of a heart palpitates and cracks for the first time in my life.
A lonely creature named Ingus lives in the heart of a flea-bitten city named Numena. He works as a "Trashman," where he incinerates garbage in a landfill. His life hardly knows meaning however, after bringing home a romantic movie on VHS, his life is changed forever. From then on he dedicates his life to finding love, and to finding out what it means to appreciate a woman, and everything about her femininity.
Ms.2000 works as something called a "Mate," under a man named The Lion, in the throws of an area of Numena called The Jungle. She lives each day trying to reclaim her femininity, but as time goes on, she realizes the version of herself that she wants to be might be impossible to attain. In a world of degeneracy and perversion, Ms.2000 wishes to embrace her womanhood and operate within femininity. However, as soon as she started working at the club Euphorika, she compromised that goal in exchange for a twisted version of her dreams.
With the help of the naive Ingus, and the jaded Ms.2000, love might find a way to flourish in both of their hearts.
This is a love letter to women, to their grace, and what it means to be human.