Hello once again on this fine Saturday (or whatever date it is of the time of your reading) Today we have something alike a short story. It’s more like a “pilot” of a much longer narrative or novel that I have in mind, but due to complications has not progressed very far, or any, for that matter. Though,when I wrote this, it’s intention was to be a standalone. However, I imagined the world far too big, and I began creating complexities where commonality was intended. So, it spiraled out of control and I wanted to explore it and make it something akin to The Road. Though, I’m not saying that I had much inspiration from the McCarthy novel, the premise, does share similarities, though, Planet of Junk has yet to pick itself off its feet. So, for the time being, as Planet of Junk lingers in my pile of works, it’ll also linger here, as a cruel joke of sorts. Or perhaps, it might intrigue you more than I would think. Here you go, “Planet of Junk”.
For a second, I thought I saw a diamond, even among these piles of junk, I thought I saw a diamond. The world around me had ended. The only thing among the streets and buildings were piles and piles of junk. I walked miles and miles only to see an interminable array of junk lining every corner of my eyes. Gears, broken machinery, and the remnants of humanity has been strewn across the world to remind any who remain, the travesty of the human will. I know I am not the only person in the world, but as I walked across the streets filled with junk, I couldn’t help but wonder why anyone would want to live in such a world.
Today, I wandered across the streets with my backpack. Piles and piles of junk toppled one another, each reaching for the sky, almost as if they were fighting to see which of them could touch the clouds first. I looked up, and noticed that the piles of junk were not too tall, but rooted for them to reach the heavens. The sky above me was grey, with tinges of blue and tinges of white every so often, but for the most part, it was muddied junk. I wanted the junk to win, because I wanted the sky to be filled with their love of the world.
I often stopped among some piles of junk that seemed more valuable than others. There were no jobs in this world anymore, but I often thought myself to be something of an erudite when it came to junk collecting. I rummaged through the pile, making sure not to scrape my hands among any odds and ends and made sure not to allow any oil leaks to get on my clothes. These days, it’s hard to find clean clothes. Sometimes, people would often trade junk for clothes, but the clothes weren’t really that good either. Finding water to wash clothes was even harder since I needed water to drink first. I often read in books and from rumors that the world before had traded paper for commodities. I think I would want to live in that world.
Sometimes I wouldn’t find anything, and that was fine too. I knew that there were many more piles of junk in the world, and all I needed to do was to keep moving on. For today, I didn’t find anything, but I didn’t let that get to me. Being consternated was the last thing I needed. So as the night came, I smiled at the muddied sky, with my worn blanket over me, and my small fire at the end of the worn down building. I smiled and prayed, and then went to sleep. Today I couldn’t find anything, but I was happy to at least have somewhere to sleep.
Today, I woke up with my warm blanket over me, and my fire un stoked. My backpack was beside me, with everything I needed still present. I had a few bottles of fresh water, a can of beans, and some spare clothes. I packed my blanket inside. I didn’t like looking at my side pockets, because that was where I had my knife, my screw driver, and my wrench. If I had to use my side pocket, it was for one of two reasons. I needed to be resourceful, or I needed to kill someone. I often confused the two.
After packing everything up and making sure that my firewood was displaced, I moved on and continued to rummage through the piles of junk that lied among the streets. Sometimes I wouldn’t be able to see a single person for days. And then when I hit an outpost, a place where many people come together to settle down, I would see hundreds of others. I wasn’t hoping to find an outpost. I hated those places. They would look at you with hungry eyes, and just staying at any outpost for more than one day was insidious. The only good thing about an outpost is that they have good beds.
It was probably mid-afternoon when I spotted it. I was rummaging through a pile of junk when I saw something glint in the corner of my eyes. It was strange to see something shine in a pile of junk. There were two rampant ideas about shining objects. Either someone dropped something valuable, or someone had missed something valuable. The former was very unlikely since most people were frugal, and the idea of dropping something would make them insane. The latter was equally as unlikely, but probably the better of the two, since I didn’t want to be at the end of some contrived diatribe.
I moved towards the glint, and after moving some junk away from it, I noticed that it was the glint of a brand new walkie-talkie. I picked it up, and plastered some nearby dirt onto the surface, making sure to only wear out the shine rather than break the device. I turned the device on, by turning the dial on the front, and extended the antenna at the top. The incipient static soon subsided as a voice began chiming in. It was a female voice, one that was quite young, but not as young as a child. Children were usually not very social, and even if they were, they had ulterior motives. Though, one that left an obvious trap like this might not be trying to set me up for an imminent doom.
“Hello?” The voice from the walkie-talkie said.
“Hello,” I answered.
“Thank goodness someone found this. I was worried that I had dropped it somewhere– No wait, I did drop it, I mean, you found it. Uh–Oh! A meeting! We should meet! That walkie-talkie is important to me, and–Oh! I’m sorry, I should introduce myself first.” I heard her clear her throat, and then press up against her walkie-talkie, “I’m Winter. No last name. Nice to meet you!” From her voice and tone alone, I could tell that she was an energetic girl, perhaps even a bit gregarious. I reiterated what she said in my head, and considered my next course of action. Meeting this girl meant one of two things, much like most things in this world. I would either meet my untimely doom, or I would meet a new friend. The former very likely. Though despite this, I answered her anyway.
“Summer. No last name. I found your walkie-talkie in a pile of junk. Mixed in with the odds and ends this thing looked like a–” I stopped, and then answered her once I had the right word, “Diamond.”
“Your name’s Summer?” She seemed more surprised at my name than the fact that she had dropped her walkie-talkie and had a random stranger pick it up. I wondered if she was mercurial.
“That’s amazing!” She dragged on, “I’m Winter, the season where snow fell–Where snow used to fall. And you’re Summer! The season where the sun rose–Where the sun used to rise. We’re like… Complete opposites!” Now I was certain.
“You’re happy that you found your polar opposite?” I asked.
“Don’t you think it’s cool?” Despite only talking to her through a walkie-talkie, I imagined her voice to be something like a cool draft of air, the kind of air that made my spine tingle. It was the kind of air that made the low satisfying whistling sound through hollow machinery. I loved that sound.
“Well, if anything it’s certainly strange,” I answered.
“Both our parents named us after seasons, and both our parents–But, let’s talk about meeting up! That walkie-talkie is mine after all.” For some reason, I imagined her to be a perky kind of girl, doing everything with alacrity, and speaking more with her body than her mouth. I imagined her smile, and I imagined her pained face as she mentioned family. Those without were more common than those with. We call those privileged, nobles.
“Okay, where should we meet up?” I asked, knowing full well that I lost my map ages ago, and now I was more akin to a blind sheppard. Though, I’ve never seen a blind sheppard. Or a regular sheppard. And I wasn’t sure what I was shepparding either. However, I found it oddly fitting.
“Where are you right now?” She asked me. I honored her conviction, and looked around the piles of junk surrounding me, the worn down buildings that accompanied it, and the faded signs of landmark. In short, I was lost, though, as I stood here with her walkie-talkie in hand, I was in fact an eminent pathfinder. I always seemed to find outposts, and always seemed to find interesting places to gawk at. However, having a map was nice.
“In the middle of the wasteland,” I answered with smug.
“Wait, you mean, you’re at the center of the world!” She seemed pretty happy to hear that.
“No… That’s not what I meant.” I sighed, “Look, I’m–I’m lost.”
“You’re lost? So you’re not at the center of the world?” And now she was disappointed.
“No. I’m probably somewhere up north though.”
“North…” It took her some time to process the information, and I could imagine seeing her deep in thought. For some reason, I imagined her to have bright golden hair, vibrant red cheeks, and a relatively small frame. I imagined her unusually long golden hair flow in the squalid air, and I imagined her wince at the sharper winds that followed. In my mind, Winter seemed awfully warm, and me, Summer, I imagined myself as cold. I didn’t like showing it, but I had white hair, short white hair that barely hung over my eyes. I liked hiding it with my hood, because finding hats in this world was harder than finding water.
“Why don’t we meet halfway then?” she said, “At an outpost! I know someone–I think I knew someone there.”
“At an outpost? Halfway there?”
“Yeah! It’s called Gear. It’s a small little outpost, unlike the other one’s you usually find–But the people there can be pretty bad too– That’s not the point though. It’s a nice little place. It’s my favorite place.”
“Gear? Anyway you can tell me how to get there?” There was a pause. I could imagine her thinking again.
“You said you’re probably up north right?” She asked.
“Yeah. I only travel in one direction so I don’t confuse myself. I can’t ever stay sedentary, so I just chose a direction and kept moving.”
“And you don’t have a map?”
“I used to.”
“What happened to it?” Her curiosity was unplaced, yet for some reason, it compelled me to answer her curiosity, and so I cleared my throat, “I was travelling towards Fox’s Wrench. An outpost that another traveller marked on my map. That was when I got hit by a sandstorm.”
“A sandstorm!” Winter seemed to light up at the sound of it. Childishly at that. Though, I imagined her expression to be quite amusing.
“More like a junk storm. You know, I’m sure you’ve seen one. Giant waves of wind come crashing into the torn down buildings and piles of junk get picked up. Any foolish enough to still be outside either gets hit by flying debris, or gets picked up themselves.”
“You were still outside?” I laughed at the question as I remembered the event unfolding in my head.
“I was running as fast as I could to try and take shelter from one of the torn buildings. Except, I didn’t run fast enough.” I heard her gasp, and I could imagine her expression again. It was strange, how vividly her face popped into my mind, her features, everything. It was like imagining winter. I just knew how it looked like, without ever seeing it.
“Before I knew it, I was neck deep in the storm. My backpack flung off–I found it later– But my entire body was spinning in the air, it felt like I was flying, but my stomach couldn’t handle it, and I almost puked.”
“How did you get out?” Winter’s voice spiked, it was high, and it was abrasive. I smiled with swagger, and, just as if she was standing in front of me, I waved my arm as if indicating my next set of actions was something laudable.
“I was spinning and spinning, and–I got really lucky. The wind couldn’t actually hold me for long, and I got flung into a pile of plastic junk.” Without needing her verbal confirmation, I could tell that her face sank and that whatever impression she had, had faded into disappointment.
“That was it?” She said.
“That was it. I got lucky, too lucky for my own good.”
“But– But I’ve heard stories of people being flung hundreds of miles away, of people travelling thousands of kilometers before being dropped off, of an outpost being hit by flying debris across the world!” I wasn’t sure about the last one, but I have heard of the two other cases, and me surviving probably meant I had sold my soul to some greater being. If that truly was the case, I would probably want to buy that back as soon as possible.
“I’m here talking to you, aren’t I?” I said. I imagined her shrinking in her spot.
“I guess. So, what about your map then?”
“My map was in my back pocket. It got flown over when I was in the storm, but I never did manage to find it.” I still imagined her sinking demeanor, her face linked to the ground, her pouting expression, and her swinging arms as she tried to shake off all the excess excitement. I smiled at that image. We had more pressing matters to attend to, though, and so I steered us back into the right direction, “Anyway, about that outpost, Gear.”
“Oh! Right! Sorry. I tend to get off track– People tell me that. Like, they really tell me that.”
“No problem. Just, how do I even navigate without any bearings?”
“You have no sign posts, or any landmarks near you?” I looked around once more, and tried my best to scope out any noticeable features. The answer still came out as a definite no.
“Then, there is one way–” Her voice trailed off, I couldn’t tell whether she was pulling the walkie-talkie away from her mouth, or she just lowered her tone, “Follow my voice.” I was astounded at first, taken aback, and almost fell on my back.
“Pull the antenna up, and crank the dial full blast,” she told me, and so I did. Static roared into my ear, and probably anyone else’s in a small few meter radius around me. I quickly dialed back and then grunted into the receiver.
“You hear that?” She asked.
“The sound of death,” I answered back in small strides. She laughed, or rather, giggled at my predicament, which I imagine she did while covering her mouth with small fragile hands, pale as snow, if snow was pale.
“No. That’s a distance marker–Not really a marker, but more like an indicator. Just walk with it at full dial. The closer you are to my walkie-talkie, the quieter it gets.”
“And the louder it gets, the farther I am from you?”
“Yeah. So just do what you’ve always been doing, and keep walking. We’ll eventually find each other. I’ll make my way to Gear, and stay there, and wait for you. When you mean north, you mean– North, right?”
“Yeah. The north as in, the North Outpost. I guess, if it’s halfway there, it isn’t that bad. I’ll walk then, and I’ll check up on the static every so often.”
“Okay. I’ll be waiting, then, Summer.” I imagined her smiling and I imagined her putting her walkie-talkie down, wherever she may be. I sighed, and then gathered my things, looked at the pile of junk I was standing on, and promptly got off. I dialed up the walkie-talkie again, listened at the pernicious static, and then dialed back down. I ruffled my hidden white hair, and then moved my feet forward, towards north, where Winter waited.