Dull light from an unremarkable dusk breaks through the black storm clouds above, strolling through the front windows to throw a bruised, naked glow over his slumped frame. Sat lifeless at the kitchen table, he watches his crude, home-made water filter dribble every stagnant drop, his heart beating to the same brutal rhythm.
Pooling in the glass below, it lingers greedily, awaiting each drop. Watching the gauze gently ripple and warp as the water fingers its way through, his mouth grows dry with a mix of fear and desperate anticipation.
Body slack, he darts his eyes up and down the glass, inspecting the water for signs of plastic. Years ago, to spot it required a trained eye. But now, with a 99% contamination rate, it is rapidly becoming instinct.
Clean, but not totally, he decides. A broken filter is impossible to replace, and servicing does little but drag out the pain, scattering it over a few more anguishing months, or perhaps a year. Clasping the filter, he peels off the lid to examine today’s collection. One litre of water poured in ten hours ago – now what looks like two handfuls of plastic.
In the past there would be a teaspoon or two, nestled like a cluster of multicoloured eggs against the gauze. Now, the cluster has transformed to a spewing mass, its shiny skin festering in the dim light. The sludge weighs at the gauze, fraying it at the edges and gracing it a slow, toxic death.
A clap of thunder. He barely flinches. The sound of rain begins to rap against the window, fat and heavy with ancient plastic trapped forever in its endless cycle. Streaking through town, the rain drags slowly over its concrete, pooling at the end of the street in thick, oily puddles. Grimy and opaque, they swirl with a sinister, cosmic empty.
He looks to the windows, greasy legs of rain webbing over the glass like wet, polluted wildfire. Streaks begin to leak through the frame, oozing down the wood towards the damp and rotting floor. Uncaring, he returns to the filter, now glowing – ferocious – beckoning. He grazes his finger over the mound, soft and oily to the touch. Plunging it in, he then quickly removes it, watching the plastic trickle down his pale skin.
Raising the finger to his mouth, he hazards a taste, the plastic like uncooked fat in his mouth, melting delicately down his throat. Grasping the filter, he scoops frantically at the gauze, fingernails now a slimy kaleidoscope of forgotten colour. The gauze rips, so he tosses the filter aside, stuffing plastic into his mouth.
Creamy and gooey, he rolls it around his mouth, between his teeth, under his tongue, gracing each and every taste bud with delight. He swallows hard, and feels it flow down his throat and squeeze into his stomach with an aching rumble. Tears creeping from his eyes, he laughs, before licking his fingers clean – teeth stained a filthy white.
The Millennial Ecologist