by Niyaza Mammootty
Art by Michelle Lang
Issue: Aphelion (Spring 2016)
Chips of multicolored glass spill light onto the marble white sand, and she lets their reflections color her toes. The whispering breeze filters through her threadbare dress, as she watches the light spread through the rows of half-buried tires and padded furniture ringed about the pond. With fair hands, she smoothes down her dress and takes a seat on the warm sand. Careful not to unsettle the still surface with her presence, she leans over the water. Her reflection sits below. Thick blooms of algae give her faded top an emerald tinge and blend away the pale white of her face. Still, she knows that the reflection is hers.
They are all hers.
The plastic bags balanced on water are her clouds. The sodden sofa adorned with specks of turquoise and black serves as her fortress. The piles of newspaper, bleached white under the sun, comfort her head as she falls asleep to the persistent crying of cars clamoring behind her. She lives like this, and so a world decaying and crumbling is held together by two frail, muddy hands.
Then, they come.
With rough hands, they heave the moldy sofa out of the murky water and into a truck. The plastic bags are crushed along with the old newspapers and stuffed into large black bags. From their trucks, they drag out big, black machines lined with strong steel. From the back of each of these, the men uncoil feet of gleaming pipes and lower their gaping nozzles to the veiled sky of the pond. And at a whistleblow, all of them begin to groan, and with each metallic convulsion, a drop of dirty green disappears.
Thin trails of smoke mix with the pungent smell of burnt rubber and metal, as the machines rip off, inch by inch, the thick grime that obscures the surface.
From the back of their truck, they heave out a bright red sign that reads, “Illegal dumping is a crime.” With strong muddy hands, they hammer it into the white sand and then drive away.
After they leave, she appears. She glides across the dull sand and towards a broken doll, the only one the machines have spared. With fair hands, she gently picks up the doll and holds it close to her frail body. As the whispering breeze filters through her threadbare dress, she steps slowly towards the pond and fades into its crystal waters.