Waste Disposal, a short story by troutweaver. Date added: 2012-02-18. Times viewed: 458.
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Earl P. Denver was a quiet man. Not given to extremes or flights of fancy, he lived in a quiet way with a quiet wife in a not too noisy suburb. His steady job filled his days whilst his house, garden and flat-screen fulfilled his needs weekends and evenings.
This was just such an evening. Wednesday. Every Wednesday, before the mid week game Earl would take out the trash. It was not an onerous chore and took only minutes. Out on to the front porch, down the steps, behind the old garage and in to the ‘Trash Trans’, close the door, flick the switch, gone. Ah the ‘Trash Trans’, a ubiquitous domestic apparatus. The fortunate by product of infamous technology.
When Puntt and Fletcher conducted their first matter transport experiments all appeared well. Particles had been shifted through space decades before, but Puntt and Fletcher built on this research taking it further. First, flies, ants, and finally rats had been placed in the cabinet, disintegrated in to waves, impulses and re-constituted at a remote location none the worst for the exercise. Pigs and even chimps followed with no mishaps until finally Puntt himself. Man could now travel instantaneously to anywhere that could be focused within the beam of the machine. Needless to say the world was their oyster and they went public. Within a few months the ‘Trans Port’ had brought science fiction travel to the world.
The units were not cheap but everyone had to have one. Anyone could travel anywhere in an instant, which brought its own problems, however, that’s another story.
The fall when it came was monumental and complete. A series of rather nasty accidents, deaths, enquiries, law suits and the ‘Trans Port’ lost public trust and was finished. In debt, Fletcher lost everything and had to take work where he could as a city department worker. Puntt set the focal length of his machine for the centre of the Sun and stepped in. These two facts remained totally unconnected in Fletcher’s mind for some time, preoccupied as he was with making enough money to live, pay off the lawyers and the damages. However, maybe it was the soulless nature of his job, shifting trash, or an unconscious desire to follow Puntt to the heart of the Sun that gave Fletcher his epiphany. Like all good epiphanies it was brilliant, obvious and simple. The ‘Trans Port’ was not trusted to move living things or anything anyone cared to have the same shape at the other end, but what about stuff you didn’t care about? What about trash!!! It took Fletcher years to get back all his data but finally, using Puntt’s old design and his coordinates the ‘Trash Trans’ was born, Fletcher started eco-friendly waste disposal in his back yard. Soon he was overwhelmed not to mention the health issues. Tentatively, he ventured back into the world of business. He was understandably wary, baring in mind the last time but the potential of the concept was staggering and the downsides easily surmountable. So, in a modest way to begin with he started manufacture of the ‘Trash Trans’.
“No risk to the environment.” His advertising trumpeted. “The Sun, the largest furnace known to man, burns all to atoms.” This really caught the imagination of the public. Homes used them, the government used them, hell even the military and the nuclear industry used them. It has to be said that occasionally by accident or design living things did find their way in to the ‘Trash Trans’. Rats inevitably, cats consequently, rabbits unfortunately, or Mafia / murder victims obviously.
So we return to Earl in his yard with his bag of trash the machine before him, square and standing a meter high, wide and deep. Unlatching the door, Earl swung the bag in, closed it, hit the ‘run’ button on the top panel and turned away. There had been a time, when it was new, that Earl and Eunice his wife would have stayed to watch the purple glow grow and gradually subside taking with it the trash, but time, and familiarity had dulled the novelty of the experience, the game and his beer were waiting.
The usual comforting ‘Ding’ which signalled a job well done was supplanted by the more ominous ‘beep, beep, beep’ of malfunction. Earl sighed. “Next door’s cat again.” He thought as he marched back to the unit ready to fling the door open and hopefully give the creature a good kick on its way out. A glow inside stopped his hand. The unit was still running. The bag was still there, he could see it through the glass, but the glow was different, tinged with red and the hum was of higher pitch.
Abruptly the thing stopped and Earl’s trash bag was squashed with a dull thud.
Earl began to back away, his chastisement of the miscreant moggy forgotten. The door flew open of its own. There, on top of the original trash bag was another strangely different bag. Indeed, it looked to be a collection of old junk. By the fading twilight and the inadequate illumination given by the outside lights, Earl could see a pair of gum boots wrapped with duct tape to a bag made of thick rubber. A faint “tink, tink” told him the machine had got quite hot, there were other noises, the crackle of the old trash bag as it settled and a rhythmic rasping sound. As he watched the gum boots moved, they swung forward and back forward and back, and again. Each time the new bag slipped forward and the boots got closer to the door sill. He looked around suspiciously. Maybe the kids across the street were up to their pranks again. A metallic clank snapped his attention back. Four snake-like, segmented tentacles with clamps on the ends, had whipped forward and latched on to the door frame. Earl recognised shower hoses, they were shower hoses!
The hoses strained and tensioned raising the rest of the new bag from the gloom at the back of the unit. Green light shone from an old port-hole cover bolted and taped into the rubbery material. A wheeze and a grunt came from….. A loud speaker ripped from some old sound equipment. Pulling, straining, wheezing and grunting the bag pulled itself upright, teetered on the edge of balance for a second and fell forward on to the path with what could only be described as a whimper.
The back of the bag was no less elaborate than the front. Two tubes exited and entered the top of what looked like a battered fire extinguisher. An old auto battery, strapped on snaked its wires into the whole.
Earl turned expecting to see a pile of ginning heads at the corner of the garage but no.
The words he had lined up to fire at them.
“Hey! Stupid kids, don’t you know these things are dangerous?” died on his lips as he realised the bag was too small to contain a masquerading kid. Way too small.
The, we will call it henceforth the ‘bag’ with all four tentacles flailing on the dirt, pushed itself up right. With much grunting and wheezing the thing finally reached equilibrium balancing precariously on the gum boots. Earl looked around again for, this time, the hidden TV cameras. Sure, this thing was mechanical and Earl’s reactions were going to be broadcast on that weekly TV show where they played pranks on folks.
However, the darkening night remained singularly devoid of grinning TV show hosts turning up with a microphone when the prank was rumbled.
The suit wheezed again and then made…”Greetings Earthling!” in a dreadful monotone. Earl could not contain himself any longer. His youth had been miss-spent at the movies and in front of the TV, not to mention trashy comics. He had seen this sort of “B movie Sci Fi” thing purveyed in various media. “Gee! Now I know this is a hoax. This only happens on old TV shows”
Shuffling its boots and flailing to catch its balance the suit replied.
“That is merely the standard salutation we have gathered from the materials with which you have bombarded us.” The suit wheezed.
Earl said. “I aint bombarded no one with nothing”. Eunice, Earl’s quite wife, came clattering down the stairs.
“Earl. The game has started already. Is there a problem?” The suit turned its port-hole a little towards her raised a clamp and said. “Ah, the female of the species. Greetings” Eunice screamed, not loudly, and fainted.
“I don’t know what’s going on here but it’s gone beyond a joke.” Earl was, as has been said a quiet man, but he was getting angry now. The suit raised all four tentacles and the wheezing increased. “I come in peace. We merely want to negotiate our surrender so you will stop attacking us.”
Earl still could not believe what he was hearing.
“Look, ok, ok, ok “. He called turning round to the general neighbourhood, “you got me, you got me”.
In the relative silence that greeted this out burst a lone dog some distance away barked.
Apart from that there was just the constant wheezing from the ‘bag’.
“Please.” The un-natural voice went on. “There is not much time. Your assaults have proved very, very effective. My planet is poisoned my people dying. What is it you require from us?”
It has been said that Earl was, at best un-complicated at worst un-imaginative. His mind set served him well driving as he did, construction equipment day in day out and the company had long since settled to his tenure in that position. He was not, however, a dunce and, though his thought processes might be slow, ‘he could see through a brick wall in time’ as the saying goes. As the ‘bag’ had been out lining its problem Earl had been taking stock of its construction and the likelihood that it could have been made and operated remotely. The mechanical cast of his mind had been brought to bear on this and he came to the conclusion, strange that it was, that “This little guy could just be telling the truth”.
“Ok”. Earl began. “You say that we are attacking your world.”
“That is correct”.
“All manner of things. Some are very dangerous to us indeed. Poisons, devices which kill thousands at a time, and then things which puzzle us greatly. Information, vegetation and mechanical items. They appear in the skies above out world and fall. There is a great mountain of items, lakes of poisonous fluid, clouds of corrosive gasses. Indeed it is from the non hazardous items that we have been able to build one of your transfer weapons and learn enough about your civilisation to send me as embassy to negotiate. Some of us were for building more of the transfer weapons to send back your hazardous material but we are a peaceful race and a desire to negotiate prevailed. I have to say that should I not be successful then the war mongers of my planet may get the upper hand. Should that happen then we will build more of these devices and it will be war between us” All the while the ‘bag’ was wheezing and waving its tentacles around.
Earl knew he was out of his depth here but slowly the ideas began to form. Everyone knew the story of the ‘Trash Trans’. How it had come out of the disastrous people transport. How one of the inventor guys had set one to the heart of the Sun and used it to commit suicide. Had the coordinates used in the “Trash Trans” ever been checked?
He looked up with a new sense of urgency.
“Just you wait there little buddy” Stepping over the, still recumbent, figure of his wife he ran into the house. He grabbed his ‘Me Phone’ and his ‘Satnav’ from the hall table. Back out in the yard he approached the ‘bag’ gingerly holding the ‘Satnav’ at arms length. “Here take this. You need to see the President in the White House in Wash-ing-ton. The numbers will be on there. Get it back to me when you can they’re expensive and one more thing, just for the record.” Earl held up the ‘Me Phone’ and hit the image capture.
The ‘bag’ performed an awkward shuffling turn, with much flailing and tried to climb back into the machine but it could not raise the gum boot high enough.
“Well,” Earl said. “Looks like I’m gonna save the world”. Striding forward he lifted his trash bag out and put the alien visitor into the ‘Trash Trans’. From behind the glass door Earl caught a final glimpse of the creature, a right tentacle raised in farewell as the unit cycled, glowed and was empty.
The Yard seemed strangely empty. Earl couldn’t bring himself to put the trash bag through not now that he had some idea where it was going. “Besides.” He thought. “It’ll hit the little guy.” He put it in the back of the old garage. Eunice came round and he helped her up the stairs and into the house. She reckoned she had stumbled off the bottom step, hit her head and had a weird dream.
Life almost settled back to normal for Earl. He wouldn’t use the ‘Trash Trans’ himself and tried to make sure Eunice didn’t. If he started talking about what had happened while she was out cold Eunice would change the subject loudly or have a migraine and go to bed. He pulled the image out of his ‘Me Phone’ but he had to admit it did look like a junk model some kids had made. Not even the National Enquirer was interested.
Every now and then he would wonder what had happened to his visitor from another world. Slowly he got to thinking that he’d been had some way and that a garage full of trash bags would start to attract the attention of the local wildlife let alone the neighbours.
So one Saturday morning he was standing in the place wondering what to do with six months of trash when he heard firstly the whisper of carpet slippers in the doorway and then the sound of Eunice filling her considerable lungs to shout his full name. Why did they do that? “Earl Phillip Denver!....” but that’s as far as she got. The light from the open door behind her was suddenly obscured by a figure. He wasn’t so much silhouetted in the door way as more like blocking the hole. Black suit, white shirt, black tie, yes and shades. “I bet he has a black sedan out side.” Earl thought. The voice was deep and out of town.
“Mrs Denver, would you come with me please? My colleague will speak to your husband”. The tone certainly did not even entertain the possibility of disinclination.
They were taken into the house by these guys who looked almost alike. Side by side Earl and Eunice sat on the sofa while the first agent paced the floor in front of them the other holding station by the door. Earl was tempted to demand and explanation but he held his tongue. Finally the pacing guy sat on the edge of the coffee table which creaked a little. He was a big guy.
“Mr Denver.” The agent began. “We are from the I.R.S.” Eunice could not stifle an involuntary squeak that escaped just before she put her hands over her mouth. Get tangled up with the revenue service and they would hound you forever but Earl wasn’t all that convinced and said nothing. The agent continued. “It appears that your tax codes have been in error. In error for some time and that there will be a re-adjustment in your favour.” Eunice hadn’t noticed the ‘in your favour’ bit and this time she swayed and moaned. Earl thought she was going to faint so loudly he said. “Gee and you come all the way out here just to tell us? That’s swell.” Eunice calmed herself a little. The agent showed them an official-looking document and he lost count of the zeros on the end of the number. “There is obviously interest in there and compensation for the error.” The agent continued.
Eunice had now realised that they were very rich and began offering coffee and cookies and dinner even. The agents made their excuses and began to leave. Earl was waiting for something else and as they neared the door it came.
The agent, the quiet one turned and asked in an almost too jolly way “Say, are you that guy who sent that funny picture to the Enquirer?” Bingo!
“Kids, just messing around. I thought it was funny.” Earl knew now this was a dance around the subject. So the little guy go through! God knows the rocket the C.I.A. got when he turned up in the ‘Oval Office’. The agent held him in the reflection of those shades for just a little bit longer than was comfortable and then laughed. “Yeah. Kids eh?”
Earl walked with the two guys back to, yes a black sedan, the agent turned. Earl couldn’t be certain, but he was sure the guy was staring at the “Trash Trans” The guy got in and closed the door. Earl couldn’t resist asking as the window came down.
“Hey, I bet all that back tax you still got one of those machines over in Nevada somewhere huh? On the old setting too.” the reply was what he had expected. The agent turned the shades toward him.
“Mr Denver, you have the freedom as an American to think that, but I could not comment upon it. Do also remember tax codes can go up as well as down.” The agent turned his head, the window went up and the car slid silently away.
The next day an engineer from ‘Trash Trans’ arrived to ‘recalibrate and overhaul’ their unit completely free of charge. When the guy had gone Earl opened the garage door, rubbed his hands together and said. “Honey, let’s take out the trash!”
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