Tag Archives: sustainable

A Most Unfortunate View

2 Apr

Woods Lights.png

Alan had just moved into an eight story apartment in a new development on the outskirts of town. He was attracted to its proximity to the major highway on ramp that led him to his job, thirty miles away. It also had a lower price given its distance from downtown. What really closed the deal for Alan was the view.

From the laundry room window, he could see the skyline of downtown in the distance, off to the left. Situated right in front was a legally protected swath of woods. It measured around half of a mile in length and maybe a hundred yards in depth. A little stream ran through the middle so it was teeming with life. On the other side of the woods was a wall that delineated his middle class bubble from the outside world.

Immediately on the other side of the barrier was a trailer park, surrounded by a fence that time and a lack of funds had eroded. Beyond that was farmland as vast as the sea. Due to the highest trees in the wooded area, these features did not compose Alan’s view. These trees were seated on a slight incline that ran through the middle of the woods. This gave the impression they were a lot deeper than they were, as if they went on forever. Alan’s universe, from inside his apartment was the far off city and these immediate woods.

Alan smoked cigarettes in the laundry room. In the morning, the woods were green, lush and full of life. At night, they were black, eerie, yet still full of life. The distance from his 8th floor window gave him the bravery to stare at length into the woods for he knew that he wouldn’t even have the courage to stand at the edge by himself at night.

One night, while smoking, something in the blackness of the woods caught his eye. An isolated light would dance, momentarily, before going out only to reappear a few yards over in any direction. At first, Alan thought nothing of it but it had gone on long enough for Alan to chain smoke two cigarettes.

Alan called the guards at the gate. He fathomed there might be some kids playing with matches in the woods. The guards assured him they’d look into it and wished him a good night. His was pleased with his citizenry and decided to go to bed.

A half hour into slumber, the urge to urinate aroused him from bed. He decided he’d sneak another cigarette before going back to sleep. He saw a flashlight at the edge of the woods. It must be the guards, he thought. He saw the strange lights dance closer and closer to where the guards were. He almost called out to him but he remembered he was paying a premium to live far away from people who shout from windows.

The next morning, as Alan drove towards the gate, a group of police cars caught his attention. As he rolled by, he slowed to a stop and asked what was happening. He was told that one after another the guards went to investigate possible arson in the woods and all three failed to return. A chill rushed through Alan’s body. He didn’t even think to mention it was he who called it in.

At work, Alan could only think of the dancing lights. Wherever there was black, he saw them. Before turning on his computer, he saw them in the screen of his monitor. When going to the bathroom, he saw them in the moment of darkness before the automatic lights turned on. He went to smoke in the dark warehouse and he saw them at the other end. Those were moments of sheer terror before he found the light switch and made then go away.

Alan was jumpy all day. He decided he was not being productive so he shut down his computer and headed for home. He told his boss he was not feeling well and that he’d tie up some loose ends from his laptop. Given Alan was an excellent employee, his boss wished him well and told him he’d see him tomorrow.

When Alan pulled up to the gate, he pressed the remote opener but nothing happened. A guard came out from the booth and manually opened the gate. He was informed there had been no power since the morning. Having been on edge all day, this information made the hair on the back of his neck stand up.

Alan parked his car in his designated spot and walked towards his building. The street lights in the parking lot were off so it was exceptionally dark. There wasn’t an iota wind, yet the woods sounded as if they were being blown around by a storm. As he approached his building and the woods became visible, he was shocked that not a single leaf stirred.

Alan was forced to take the stairs. As the fire door slammed behind him, he found himself in complete blackness. He waved his arms around to activate the motion sensors of the emergency lights and nothing happened. Fear paralyzed Alan. He turned to open the fire door with the intention of running from the building. He pushed on the bar and nothing happened. He was trapped.

He ran to the first floor in the dark. He pushed on the door. Nothing. It, too, didn’t open. He looked down from where he came. Tears filled his eyes when he saw the dancing lights. He wiped the tears away and ran to the second floor. The door wouldn’t budge. Although he didn’t feel anything, it sounded as if there were a strong wind blowing in the staircase. He looked back, the lights were already halfway between him and the first floor. He cried out in horror. He ran up the stairs in the dark, tripping over his heavy, clumsy feet. The lights continued pursuing him.

He reckoned he was around his floor and with all the faith he could muster he pushed on the door. It opened. He was, in fact, on his floor. The last dwindling day light crept in through a window at the end of the hall. All of the doors to all of the apartments were wide open, including his own. The windows of all the apartments were open as well and curtains were being sucked out and blown around by a wind that could not be felt.

Alan ran into his apartment and slammed the door. He turned the deadbolt and ran to the laundry room. Wind was pounding on his door. Alan squatted down in the darkness and hugged his knees, sobbing uncontrollably. With a crash his door flew open. The dead bolt was ripped right out of the jam.

The lights were dancing in his doorway and in those of his neighbors. He couldn’t move. A thousand memories flooded him at once, yet instead of being overloaded by the passing images he was able to distinguish each one individually and give each one a little attention, all at the speed of light. He came to the disappointing conclusion that this was it. It was all for naught, his life, so he thought he’d take the matter into his own hands.

His whole life he did the right thing; studied, worked hard and deprived himself of many pleasures and it was going to end like this. The lights danced towards him and with a primal scream, he threw himself through the window.

He braced for impact but after a few moments, re realized he was not falling. He opened his eyes. He was suspended in the air. He looked towards the woods and they were alive with the dancing lights. There were hundreds, perhaps thousands of them, coming and going with unnatural spontaneity.

He felt himself being pulled towards the woods. He wept in defeat. As he was gently landed in the middle of the woods all went black. The dancing lights disappeared at once. The sound of wind immediately stopped. All the lights of the complex came back on. The three night guards from the night before emerged from the woods, naked and screaming. Alan was never seen again.

The Trash Collector

16 Dec

catador de lixo

 

Bernie struggled as he pushed his home made trash cart up a slight incline to get to a particularly enticing pile of rubble he saw while scouting the neighborhood the day before. He looked up and saw three vultures circling over an abandoned soccer field. He loved birds and felt a special kinship with vultures.

Bernie arrived at the recently demolished house. He wasted no time looking for the most valuable materials. He was lucky if there was any of the metal rebar left behind but the demolition crews usually kept that for themselves. If they were in a real hurry, though, they sometimes left behind even copper piping and wiring. This was a jackpot for Bernie. No chance this time. Bernie noticed that the pile had already been rummaged. Crack heads probably.

Though a lot of the best stuff had already been taken, Bernie still saw a lot of good stuff. As he mined the pile he found a little, locked metal box. He didn´t think anything of it and threw it into his cart.

Later that night after a hardy dinner of rice, beans and today, a little chicken, he told his wife Sandra of the day´s haul and they went outside to pick over it and see just what he had scored that day.

“What´s this?” his wife asked.

“Oh, that little box? I found it at that demo a few blocks up. I don´t think there is much weight there. Ain´t gonna be worth much” he said.

“Aren´t you curious about what´s inside?” she asked.

“No” he answered with a grunt as he threw some pieces over into another pile.

“You think you can get it open?” she asked.

“Yeah, probably” he answered.

“Then open it” she said.

“Not now. Ain´t gonna make us any money opening boxes. Let´s separate this stuff. Trucks coming tomorrow for a pick up. You know if we ain´t ready, he ain´t stopping” he said, now getting a little annoyed.

She set it aside. She went back to separating. When they were finally satisfied with the night´s separating they made their way to the house. Later that night, Bernie´s wife woke up. She had a strong feeling that she had to do something but couldn´t figure out what. She went to the kitchen for a glass of water. Then she remembered the box. She went out in her pajamas to retrieve it.

She realized that it would be more difficult to open than she thought, so she slipped it under the bed and forgot about it.

A few months past and financial difficulties starting to tear the small family apart. Even though they owned the tiny piece of land and the shack they lived in, they hadn´t been able to pay property taxes for a long time. The government was threatening to take their property away. To make matters worse, their land was on the projected path of a new highway so the government had extra interest in seizing the property.

Things got to the point where Bernie was ready to bolt. He had family in the North East and there was a government program that was giving free money away. This was very enticing. He would practically be given what he currently earned for his backbreaking toil and he would be close to old friends and relatives. Besides, his wife was really starting to get on him about their financial woes. He had nothing to lose. The government was going to take his house anyway. Might as well let them pay him to do nothing, he thought.

One night when Bernie was sure his wife was asleep he gathered a few meager belongings and went to the local bus terminal. He bought one, one way trip to Bahia, his home state.

Sandra woke up that morning and did not need to think too hard to figure out what had happened. Bernie was gone and so were his things. They really did not have much so it was all the more apparent. A single tear ran down her face when she said out loud, “Stop it! It´s over”

She now would have to work even harder without Bernie around. She bent down to get her shoes from under the bed. As she felt for her shoes her hand brushed upon the metal box that she had put there months ago. She decided that she would take it to the locksmith on her rounds looking for recyclables.

Sandra arrived at the locksmith “Pedro, can you open this for me?”

“How much you gonna pay me?” Pedro said with a playful smile. He always had a thing for Sandra.

“I´ll split with you whatever is in the box” she answered.

“How about you just have dinner with me, my treat” he played.

“Well, Pedro, as of today, I am a single woman. I just might take you up on that” she played back.

“Deal” Pedro said with a smile.

Pedro pulled out some rusty tools and went to work on the tiny lock. In no time it was open. “Ain´t nothing in here, Sandra. Just some papers”

Sandra looked in the box. He was right. Just some papers. But something gave Sandra a feeling that they weren´t just any papers. They looked official.

“Thanks Pedro” she said as she carefully put the box on the trash cart.

“How about our dinner?” Pedro said this time more shy than playful.

“I´ll come back and we can work out the details” she said.

Sandra thought of all the people she could show the papers to. Who did she know who would know what they were? Then she thought of Marcos. He was an attorney who always separated his recyclables from his trash just for her and Bernie. He was a nice person. He would help. His office was in his house so she knew he´d be there.

She rang the buzzer. “How can I help you?” a voice asked through the intercom.

“Is Marcos in?” Sandra asked.

“One moment” the voice said.

The door popped open. It was Marcos´s secretary. “Come in please. Marcos said he has a few moments to spare”

“Thank you” Sandra said.

With the box tucked under her arm, Sandra entered Marcos´s office.

“Hello, Sandra! How are you? Would you care for a coffee?” he asked.

“No thank you. How are you?” she asked back.

“I am spectacular as always, my dear. How can I help you today?” Marcos asked.

Sandra told her short story about the box and asked if he could give an opinion as to what the contents were. She handed over the box.

Marcos´s eyes opened very wide and for a moment Sandra thought they would fall out of his head.

“What is it Marcos?” she asked.

“These are gold certificates, Sandra. And many of them” he told her. Sandra had a confused look on her face so Marcos added “this is a lot of money here!”

Sandra went blank. She could only muster the question, “How much?”

“This first one is for 10,000 DOLLARS! United States dollars. And there are a stack of them!”

A small smile flashed across Sandra´s face. She pinched off a few of the certificates and handed them to Marcos. “You have always been kind to me. Take these” she said.

“No, you don´t….” Marcos started.

“I insist and if you don´t take them I will rip them up and throw them in your waste bin” she said with a smile.

“Well, if you insist” Marcos said, Sandra´s smile was so contagious he could not help but do so himself.

Sandra carefully put the box back onto the trash cart and started to make her way back home. She could not help but to think how her life was going to change. She thought of the freedom this money would afford her. Her mind flashed to Bernie but she quelled that in an instant. Good riddance. He showed his true character when he walked out that door.

She made one stop on her way home.

“Pedro” she called.

From the back of the cramped shack she heard “Yes dear? Come to accept my proposal?” he said jokingly.

“Yes. I have. And I´m paying”