By Rosalyn Stevenson
Stumbling in the petroleum drenched trash heap of the bog, she spots a moving thing. Quick as light she grabs it. The rodent is heavy, six, seven pounds. She breaks its neck with a quick twist, shoves it into the cross-body bag she wears over her shoulder and across her chest.
Pulling her feet through the sucking sludge of rotting garbage and oil-slicked debris,
she moves forward, picking up an object here, there, wiping them with a filthy rag tucked into her belt, then dropping them into the bag with the dead rodent.
A wild haired man, smeared with waste, jumps out from behind a tall pillar of junk. A huge grin reveals his rotting teeth. His long skinny arms grab at the bag over her shoulder.
She crouches then comes up with a hard kick to the bog hog’s testicles. As he falls, she reaches into her bag, pulls out a shard of glass and rams it into his neck, close behind his ear.
Her eyes do a quick 180- degree scan. Bog hogs. Ten or more of them, heads popping up from refuse-hidden shelters of boxes and boards, but only the one was close enough to threaten her and he is dead.
She runs. She can hear the sucking sounds of the other bog hogs feet at a distance in the garbage and rock oil gunk behind her. She doesn’t look back.
Running up broken stairs into a decaying building, Eshta is not quite out of breath. Her shoes make squishing sounds on the concrete and leave black petroleum prints. She partially unwinds an elaborate wire netting over the door of her squat, presses a hand made key into a makeshift lock and lets herself in through the netting.
Overhead in the squat is a cobbled skylight made of beer and wine bottles from the bog. Shafts of amber and green beams stream through it illuminating a bizarre assortment of objects. Under lights mounted on the walls, plant vines writhe in snake like animation across dozens of mismatched shelves each one holding green herbs and edible plants. Several tables hold myriad tools and objects of metal, glass, stone. A bed made of wood pallets layered with rags and old blankets is in one corner.
Bizarrely twisting sculptures, phantasms made of found metal from the bog, fill much of the space. Some have an ethereal look as light from the skylight glimmers through attached pieces of colored glass. Some are figures, nearly life size. In one corner is a tall, nearly human looking form with long fingers with knife sharp claws where fingernails should be. In the deep shadows, it is impossible to tell from what material it is made.
Upon other tables pressed against one wall, are hot plates, a toaster oven, crock-pot, cutting boards and tubs for washing the motley assortment of dishes and utensils that line shelves above. Against another wall at floor level is a row of small cages, each one holding one or two live rodents.
Eshta surveys her space quickly, lifts the heavy cross body bag over her head and drops it to the floor. She kicks off her slop covered boots, pulls off her plastic outer clothing and head cover, filthy from the bog oil and waste. Underneath she is wearing a softly colored tunic and loose fitting pants, patch-worked from bits of tattered found fabrics. Her dark hair is cut short, close to her scalp. She slips her feet into hand made shoes of braided fabric. Her nose wrinkles as she sniffs the air. “No bog hogs here.”
She allows herself a moment of pride as she gazes upon the room.
“Born a bog hog hag,” she says to the empty space. “But look at me now. I made all this. Never go back to the bog, never I will.”
She drags her bag to one of the tables, takes the rodent out, deftly skins it over a tub, guts it. “In an hour, that be dinner,” she says out loud, as she puts it into a pot with water from a dark brown jar and seasons it with fresh herbs from her shelves. She places the pot on top of a hot plate plugged into an electrical strip attached to a small generator. Two large murines running on a wheel inside a cage produce a constant voltage through wires and cables that run from the wheel to the generator.
Eshta turns and walks to the tall humanoid form standing in the corner. Tubes of translucent rubber run from the back of the head of the creature into glass vials clustered together on one of the worktables. Fluid and particulate from the tubes gathers in slow drips into the vials. Other tubes enter and leave the body of the creature, tangling in every direction, ending in more vials on the table.
“Mmm, my stemmies,” Eshta says to herself, checking the vials and the tubes. “There’s pushers in these, pushers I need. Some good does come from the bog. I got you from the bog, Daria.” She caresses the face of the creature, caresses it’s muricated flesh. The thing does not respond, cannot. It has been dead for some time, it’s cells kept moist and vital by tubes of fluids pumped slowly into organs and tissues by the same generator that provides all the electricity in the squat.
Eshta sucks stemmies and their fluids from one of the vials into a large syringe. She carries it into another corner of the room where a large tree stands under a pillar of light from the skylight. The tree has spongy pods of fluorescent lime green hanging from each of its branches. She injects the stemmies into several pods, gets more solution from the vials and continues until all the pods have been injected.
She selects one of the softer, riper pods and bites into it, consuming the whole thing.
“G-mod pods, good,” she says out loud. “G-mod pods are God. Buckin’ good,” she laughs.
She surveys herself in a long mirror. She grins at herself, licks her teeth with an elongated tongue. She stretches her fingers out, looks at them, admiring the sharp growing nubs at her fingertips. She laughs enjoying the tingling in her muscles from the nascent growth stimulated by the stemmie fluid.
A raucous bray of drunken laughter and the thunderous roar of gunning auto engines bangs through the walls of her squat. She turns off the cook pot and goes outside into the carbonyl speckled air and benzene-slicked streets to investigate.
Richies, dozens of them, passing bottles of imported Cognac from hand to hand, as they lean from Humvee windows yelling profanities and mocking the acid rain sores that splotch the faces of hoards of hollow eyed, women and men who crowd the sidewalks and huddle in door wells. Many who are too hungry and weak to stand for long sit hunched over, heads hanging to their chests. A stench of human sweat exudes from the hundreds of homeless and mingles with the gasoline sweet smell in the carbon dioxide tainted air.
At the front of the long cavalcade of Humvees, a richie wearing a crown of aluminum, cut from beer cans and painted gold, jumps from his vehicle, drags a homeless man from the shadows of a doorway, pushes him into the street.
Other richies spill from the protection of their air filtered Humvees and close in on the struggling man. They finger the acid rain sores on his face. Laughing and sneering, they force their fingers into his mouth, ears and anus.
“Look’it the wasted dirty thing. Wish you were rich like us, don’t cha? You scum, filthy bum, not fit for big buildings and fine things like us. No one will hire you, dirty street trash. No job, have to rob, steal or go hungry. Wish you were a richie, don’t cha? Look’it those sores. Filthy thing can’t afford air filters like us. Can’t afford sun shields, have to live on the asphalt. Hahahaha. Your fault, human trash, your fault you weren’t born into a good corporation family like us. Get off the streets, go live in the bog. Stop ruining our view.”
For a moment the terrified man gets a penile erection. The richies hold up middle fingers shrieking with laughter and dance lewdly around him. They tear the dirty rags from his scabies riddled body and use them to tie him naked to the front of the Humvee at the head of the cavalcade, binding him like a masthead to the vehicles hood.
A feeling of shock shoots through Eshta’s womb as she sees what’s happening.
She steps toward the tormented man and is swept down the street by a knot of richies wearing capes, gloves and tall hats made of black plastic trash bags over their designer clothes and jewelry.
Someone grabs her, one of the richies, and shoves her into the Humvee that has the homeless man on the hood. She pushes down the adrenalin rush that makes her want to lash out at the richies holding her down.
“No sparkles for ‘em yet,” she thinks, as she feels her muscles instinctively hardening.
“I could take ‘em all out, but not yet, not yet. Show ‘em somethin’ when them pushers kick in.”
The procession of Humvees stops in front of the downtown convention center. Richies pour from the vehicles and into the building, pushing Eshta and the naked homeless man along with them.
The starving homeless man manages to stuff his mouth with a handful of meat-like GMO hybrid of mashed aborted baby parts and stem cells from the food tables reserved for richies as he is shoved through the lobby.
On a brightly lit stage at one end of the convention center main room, a golden haired richie fem, is saying through a microphone: “Welcome to the Recycled Show! Today our models wear the latest in high fashion, made from rags right from the street, truly a recycling wonder. So let’s welcome our glamorous tramps, our glamps.”
Rock music booms and the stage fills with bone thin richie fem models strutting in designer versions of the street peoples rags.
“Glamps, Glamps,” the crowd of richies shouts and applauds.
“Poor is the new rich”, the hostess calls out through the microphone, over loud rock music. The crowd laughingly and mockingly picks up the chant: “Poor is the new Rich, Poor is the New Rich.”
A richie pushes the naked homeless man onto the stage. He cringes, looking around confusedly as the crowd laughs and shouts, “Dance, dance.” Seeing no way to escape, he begins to dance and pose spastically.
Some in the crowd mimic his grotesque movements in time to the rock music’s driving beat. Lights swirl upon the undulating crowd exposing feral faces distorted by mob-induced mania.
In the middle of the crowd, an intoxicated richie fem, wearing a long coat made of mouse skins, heads still attached, and with a turban made of a black trash bag, smears the bright red creamy center of a pie onto her lips and face. She yells out, “Cochineal insect pie, Cochineal insect pie”. Others in the crowd grab some of the sticky mess from her hands, smear their faces and take up the chant, prancing, goofing drunkenly.
While the attention of the richies is focused on the naked man on the stage, Eshta mangles her way through the maelstrom of the mob, heads to the exit. A flushed faced richie follows her, his mouth a circular open hole, the rims of his eyes sanguine.
She smells him. The odor of manufactured scent. She lets him follow her through the streets back to the dilapidated building she calls home, making certain to keep enough distance between them to let her into the squat before he gets to her door.
Inside her squat, she quickly draws up a syringe from one of the stemmie vials. She slams the green material directly into a vein in her arm.
Instantly, she is overcome by an intense intoxication. Her pupils go wide and dark. Her biceps and thighs tighten with hardening muscles. She feels nubs at the end of her fingertips growing hard and lengthening.
“Pushers kicking in,” she smiles to herself. She feels an electric tingling coursing through her blood. Her fingers lengthen, twitchy, itchy. The pain in her fingertips is considerable as spikey-hard claws push out from her flesh. She strangely enjoys the painful sensation.
She crouches in the shadows near the G-mod pod tree with the silence of a snake. Waiting for the richie, waiting, waiting, time sharpened and slowed for her.
“Conneck ‘im wid a blow, ravage, ravage, thrash ‘im,” she thinks to herself gleefully.
When the richie slams noisily through the door, she is ready for him.
Astounded then angry at seeing the beautiful interior of the large squat, the richie growls, “Think you can live like a richie, do you? Sludge is for bog hog hags,” he screams.
Eshta lunges from her hiding place. The richie has only a second to register what is happening before she is in front of him. She slashes him across his throat from ear to ear with the newly grown knife like claws at the end of her fingertips then drags him gurgling and bleeding across the room, pushes him through a trapdoor in the floor. “Compost,” she sneers.
She runs into the street. A hoard of men and women with sunken cheeks, torn, rotting rags about their heads and grey flesh, who have witnessed the spectacle of the earlier abuse of one of their own, come like black shadows from the door wells and sidewalks to follow her.
Together they press forward though many are limping, their bodies bent, their limbs boney, frail. Slowly, relentlessly they push their way into the crowd of richies within the convention center.
Through rotting teeth, upon the rank breath of unclean mouths, a chant begins and gets steadily louder and louder. “Poor is the new rich, poor is the new rich.”
Beneath this, a lower chant begins to rise.
“Eat the richies, eat the richies, eat the rich.”