“Should I throw this away?” Bobby said, holding an indistinguishable piece of trash in his hands.
“Yes, dude! What did I tell you? Everything is garbage. It all goes into the cube.” Terry was the older guy who drew the short straw and had to teach the new guy.
“Okay…” Bobby sighed and chucked it inside the cube. It was funny how you could see the inside of the cube, yet when you threw something in there it vanished at the threshold of the cube’s sides. You could see a white light intersecting the garbage and after that it was poof, air.
Terry chucked another piece without looking, a complete expert garbage man.
Bobby picked up another piece of garbage. It was curved, like something from a fuselage. Full of electronics and pipes, it was engineered to fit that particular piece of that particular plane model and nothing else. No repurposing, no refurbishing possible, simply planned obsolescence and then it became garbage.
Terry pointed at him with a rusty pipe. “Are you even gonna chuck that in?”
Bobby shook his head. “R-Right! Sorry.” He chucked it in the cube.
Terry stared at him sideways for a moment, then chucked the rusty pipe. They were both wearing heavy-duty gloves, of course, and overalls that didn’t let them her slashed by sharp edges and whatnot.
Bobby picked up a glass thing, it was round. It had electronics on it, a printed board. He could barely remember something about it, but for the life of him, he couldn’t recollect what it was. “Hey, Terry, wasn’t this like a gadget that everyone had back home about a decade ago?”
“What about it?” Terry chucked another piece of garbage, then another.
“Well, it’s weird, isn’t it? People were lining up to buy these, it was the ‘it’ thing to have, wasn’t it? What does it even do?”
Terry shrugged. “I dunno man. Something clever, I’m sure. It connected to something else, and then to something else that nobody needed but was dying to get anyway, and then the company bricked the entire line ‘cause it wanted to sell us the shiny new products.”
Bobby held the glass ball in one hand, playing with it on his fingers. “So you agree with me. This is a waste.”
“Of course it is, you bloody newbie!” Terry said, arms wide. He made a turn to show their surroundings. “We’re standing upon literal mountains of garbage!”
“Shouldn’t this bother us?” Bobby said, chucking the crystal ball into the cube.
“Bother us how? Help me out with this.” Terry held the end of a big smart-table.
Bobby held the other end, and they pendulumed it once, twice, then chucked it into the cube. “The waste, man! Wasn’t this like an issue decades ago? How we should recycle things, instead of tossing out perfectly good electronics for the shiny new things?”
Teddy chuckled and wiped his forehead. “Oh, man. Newbies… Gotta love them.” He sat down on boxy piece of garbage that could support his weight. It was probably something like a robotic smartfridge that came up to you and brought you beer or something. “Look, yes, in theory, you are right. The world doesn’t have infinite resources, right?”
“That’s exactly my point!” Bobby exclaimed.
“I know, I know… Know what the answer to that is?”
“Who fucking cares?” Teddy blurted out, then laughed.
Bobby didn’t find it so funny, but he frowned and didn’t say anything back. He wasn’t tired and he diverted his annoyance at chucking more garbage into the cube.
“There are clever people than you and I that have considered this problem. And they thing we’re fine! Sure, it was kind of a problem with the mountains of trash in the early years, but now, after the garbage cube, it all goes away.”
“Yeah, but, goes away where?” Bobby complained. “That’s what I don’t get, and they won’t tell me.” He chucked a smaller piece. “Where.” Another. “Does.” And another. “The Garbage.” One last chuck. “Go?”
“Into the cube, man!” Teddy said, pointing at the damn thing glowing, looming over them.
“But where does it lead?” Bobby screamed back at his supervisor.
Teddy held his tongue and waited.
Bobby panted. “I’m sorry I yelled. Really. But it’s so frustrating, Teddy!”
Teddy stood up and jabbed a finger at Bobby’s chest. “You know what? No, it ain’t. You’re the one making a big deal out of it. All I know, is that I ain’t got the brains to do math and heuristics and genofixing and all that crap the clever boys and girls can do nowadays. All I can do, is chuck their garbage away into that cube. And thank fucking God those people are so goddamn wasteful, so ignorant of the trail of garbage they leave behind, so blinded by their shiny new cars and their shiny new gadgets that they create a job which I can actually do.”
Teddy kept jabbing him. “And if you think you’re too good for doing this job, get the fuck out of my sight.”
“Teddy, that’s not what I meant!” Bobby chuckled. “I’m not clever either. This is the only thing I can do, I know that, and I’m not pretending I’m better than anyone. You misunderstood my words. I just can’t understand where the garbage cube goes. That’s all. I just hoped you might have the answer, being next to it all these years.”
Teddy turned away and lifted another piece of garbage. That one was burnt, probably in some housefire. “I don’t know where it goes. I honestly don’t.” Then he chucked it away.
Bobby breathed in. The aroma wasn’t good, this was a landfill after all, and he scrunched up his nose.
“You get used to the smell, trust me. Two weeks in and you won’t even know it’s there,” Terry said, picking up on his discomfort.
“God, I hope I’ll remember to bathe.”
Terry laughed. “Yeah, that’s an issue alright. You’ll either have to find some woman that really, truly loves you, or one with no nose. I’d bet my chances on the latter.” He chucked some smartcables inside the cube in big handfuls. Those had processing capabilities, able to dig through and alter data as they transmitted them, just like the neurons in our brains.
Bobby picked up a few handfuls and chucked them in, reluctantly. These weren’t garbage. He knew of people who could put these high-tech gizmos to work. They were made redundant because the new software didn’t support them, not because there was something wrong with them. He chucked the handful he was holding on his left hand, then hesitated on the right one. He took a good look at it. This was a shame. And it was illegal for garbage men to take things back, Terry had been clear on company policy since this morning. You take nothing back, unless it got stuck in your boot or something, and even then you had to file a report.
Bobby looked at his supervisor. He couldn’t really blame the man for not being curious. He was a family-man, had two kids to support, had no specialisation nor education to speak of. He had learnt from early on to show up on time, keep his head down, do the job without questions, get paid a pittance. That was it. There was no place for curiosity in his life, and there wasn’t on any of the other corporate drones’ lives either.
“I’m sorry,” Bobby said, and took a step closer to the cube.
It took him a while to realise what was happening. “What are you doing, newbie? Don’t be an idiot, come on,” Terry said, raising a hand.
“I have to do this. The corps can’t keep getting away with this.”
“Oh, God, you’re one of those…” Terry said. He didn’t come any closer.
“Yes. If I make it, we’ll finally know where these lead.” Bobby looked up at the side of the cube. This was something completely unnatural. This was something that shouldn’t exist. There were many theories, some plausible, some outlandish. It was either a gate to another dimension, a hole in time, a compressor field, a tesseract, meaning a cube from the fourth dimension, and some other crazier things.
One thing was certain: People couldn’t keep chucking things inside it and forget about them.
He took a step. He was almost touching the side of it now.
“Son, don’t do this. Step back. I won’t even mention it again, we’ll just go and get a beer or something, forget this ever happened.” Teddy was talking the way you talk to someone who’s on the ledge, about to jump off a bridge.
“I have to know,” Bobby said, tears in his eyes.
“No, it ain’t worth it, trust me.”
“Trust you?” Bobby chuckled. “You’ve been working beside this cube for forty years, and never even questioned it all!”
“Okay, I’m dumb. You aren’t. Whatever. Step back and tell me over a beer back at the pub.”
Bobby took a step forward, put his palm on the cube’s shiny surface, and saw the white light intersecting his flesh.
Then he was chucked away.