Monday, January 26, 2009

A Trashy Tale

True story - Two people recently died in two separate incidents in England, when they were buried under the accumulations of rubbish with which they had filled their homes. One was trapped in the ton of trash that he had collected and formed into tunnels; the other, a compulsive shopper, was buried under piles of unopened merchandise so mountainous that it took two days to reach the body.

Pure fiction -
Gladys Entwhistle made her way carefully along the narrow serpentine path that snaked its way in tightly looped S shapes throughout all the rooms of her four bedroom house. She was careful not to bump or disturb the ceiling high stacks of paper that walled in the path on either side. The tops of the stacks had begun to lean inward toward each other, turning the path into a claustrophobic tunnel of rarified dusty newsprint-scented air. Gladys breathed audibly as she plodded slowly along. Left foot step with a wheezy inhalation; right foot step to an exhaled whistle.

She came to a fork in the path and turned to the left, down the arm of the labyrinth which she hoped would lead her to the fourth bedroom, and the location of her husband, George. She had last seen him two days ago, when he had disappeared down the tunnel with his daily collection of the dailies in his arms, in search of a niche in which to wedge them. Gladys had already trudged through what used to be kitchen, dining, den, parlour, two baths, three bedrooms, and all of the hallways that connected them, a long march of switchbacks and several missed and repeated turns that had taken her the better part of the day.

She had a feeling of trepidation as she approached her final turn. She had no way of knowing that it was her final turn until she rounded the corner and, with a gasp, came to a sudden stop. The massive stacks in front of her had finally leaned too far and had tumbled, toppled, collapsed and compressed into a solid and impenetrable wall of paper and she had reached the end of the line.

Gladys called softly, worried that if her voice was too loud it might cause further collapse, “George? Are you there, George?” The paper absorbed her question, with not even a faint echo in answer.

As she turned back into the maze, she wondered, ‘If someone screams in the stacks, and there’s no one to hear, does it make a sound?’

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