Lost in the Heap

Posted: August 3, 2010 by leftsock in fiction

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It was hot and sweaty in The Lap, and Left was beginning to feel sick. He stood stock still, leaning against the velvet-covered wall, watching his wife snuggle up to some stranger on the opposite side of the dance floor.

Two months apart. That’s all it had taken for his wife to find someone new. Or was she still his wife? All of a sudden the semantics seemed more important than anything else — he struggled with the word in a vain attempt to find an alternative. Ex-wife was misleading: their society didn’t allow divorces, only separations. Estranged wife? She certainly seemed like a stranger to him now.

Left was so concerned with watching her twine around his replacement that he forgot to keep an eye on his surroundings. He jumped when a heavy hand fell on his shoulder. He turned around, heart sinking, to find a bouncer sizing him up.

“You got an invite?”

It was clear he didn’t belong–if his lack of a partner didn’t give it away, than his weather-worn clothes did. Left had a sudden flash of inspiration. “The Twins invited me. They said they’d help me….”

The bouncer shook his head. “Ain’t got no makeovers scheduled tonight.” He tightened his grip. “I think you better come with me. We’ve a place for people like you.” He could only be referring to the Heap, a prison for the dredges of society. Inside the Heap, anarchy reigned–the inmates were piled together in a heap, fighting for survival. And it was rumoured that once you were lost in the heap, you never got out.

Left pulled against the bouncer’s grip, desperate to make him understand. “Look, sir, I just came here to see my wife. I didn’t mean any harm. I just wanted to be reunited with her, but then….”

“But then?” The bouncer looked over in the direction Left pointed, at Right, who was still dancing with that other man. “Ah.” He chewed his lip thoughtfully, then relented. “Look, you step outside now quietly, sonny. I didn’t see you. Okay?”

“Okay! Thank you, sir. Thank you!”

“Just go.”

Left was one step away from the door when They came. The Sweepers. The top two government agents that showed no pity nor mercy. They ran through the bar, scanning the crowd, and quickly clocked onto him. Left watched them approach, glued to the spot in terror. The two were almost identical in appearance, nimble and long-limbed, wearing all beige with white-tipped shoes.

They didn’t ask any questions nor give him the time to explain. The fact that he was standing alone without a partner was enough to warrant his arrest. They picked him right up, stern-faced, grips unforgivably tight, and escorted him out of The Lap. He thought they’d just throw him outside but they kept a tight hold of him and continued dragging him down the road. All Left could hear was his own panicked gasps; the Sweepers did not speak.

”Please,” he finally managed to say, looking from one to the other. “Please.” He wasn’t quite sure what he was asking for. He thought of his wife, snuggled up to a stranger, and wondered whether he was better off being locked up where he wouldn’t have to see her anymore, where he wouldn’t have to pretend to function without her.

The Sweepers ignored him. They marched him down the road with single-minded determination, their steps hurried and purposeful. They knew exactly where they were taking him, Left realized. They had made this trip many times before. And there could only be one place with which these enforcers were so familiar: the Heap. By the time Left realized the implications of where they were taking him, they had already arrived. He tried to run, scream, do something — anything at all — but his body remained limp and unresponsive, as if it were no longer in his control.

They opened the door. It was a short drop down to the prison; they pushed him through and watched him fall without once altering their expression. Left landed in the middle of a crowd, felt the press of bodies on either side and panicked. He pushed his way through to a corner and pressed his back against the wall, looking around with dawning horror. The Sweepers had re-locked the exit and disappeared; there was no way out.

Right beside him was a tramp, his clothes threadbare, his mouth gaping loosely with old age. The tramp was picking half-heartedly at his own clothes, pulling out small clumps of dust and fluff. Left couldn’t see the point, really — he was covered with such a thick layer of dust it would never come off. It looked like the tramp had been sitting in the same place for years. For years. Left felt his throat tighten and he swallowed heavily.

The tramp looked up then and flicked a ball of dust his way. ”Welcome to the Heap,” the tramp said, and Left turned away from him, curled up into a ball, and cried.

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