Glass Bottles

Image credits to H-SWilliams

I know my type of world is different from what was half a century ago. Funny thing is, I did not know what the world was like back then, but I know it was not what it is now.

My world is a world where everyone is overshadowed by melancholy, where happiness are frowned upon. People are livid all the time.

The lack of water beget artificial water compound sold in bags. The lack of food beget man-made meat grown in labs and packaged into plastic containers.

Plastic - everyone's favourite. Plastic handbags, plastic groceries bag, plastic apparel, plastic furniture.

You see, the soil we have on Earth is long dead. All biodegradable items are deemed impractical as it spoils easily and there are nowhere to dispose it.

I move around the streets as quietly as I can while carrying a bag of miniature glass bottles.

"Look down and walk on. No looking at anyone!". A flash of memory of my educator shot across my mind. We were taught that there are no such things as speaking or chatting with one another. I agreed though. Why should we, anyway? Mother said it is tiring to exhaust our energy to entertain people. I never understood this until now - that I just started to work.

Ah, my first job at the age of 25 - finally. Delivering glass bottles to one of the run-down estates in the city. It is fun to see how these people - the saddest of the saddest huddled together.

"Worthless beings, they are!", Father would shout in anguish from time to time when we touched on the topic of the scums of the city.

"Honey, shut it! Wasting your breath with your pointless curses at those space-wasters!"

I developed a habit to always keep my head down whenever Mother shrieked. She does not like too much noise braising in our house. No one speaks as much as five sentences per day - that is her limit. It is fine by me. I learnt that people tend to get used to things if it was constantly imposed on them.

As I trot down the steps to the slums, the kids, at Mdm Graoh house, ran off. They are taught to shun themselves away from outsiders. Good for me too, I suppose. Never will I want to associate myself with them. They are different. They smile and play in the dirt.

I hope Shawn Cheong's campaign will work this time. His campaign for our country is to further segregate the norms and the "weirdos" - the scums, I'd say. Once in a while, the educational ministry would march into this slum to teach the weird kids that they are not allowed to make too much noise or handle any sort of "toys", they'd call it.

There are regular practice sessions for the kids to get used to not looking at one another for too long.

"EYES DOWN!" I once noticed an educator screaming his head off across the muddy field. These educators are the privileged ones. They are given the rights to be able to speak more than the commoners.

Stretching my arms up, I knock onto the thin crumbled wooden door. At Mdm Graoh's, I have to wait for a little while for her to get to the door. Mdm Graoh is different. Even though she is one of the oldest people I have ever known, she shares stories from the past. The past I will never get to know. Mdm Graoh's stories are illegal of course. She could get killed for sharing her stories with me. It is our little secret.

Strange. Voices. Adult voices. She have visitors.

No visitors to any houses are allowed without permit - that is the law. I dare not step in.

I decided to wait a little more.

The sound of footsteps heading towards Mdm Graoh's door. A young man stepped out, followed by an older man. Suits. Both of them are dressed in suits. My mind ran.

There are supposedly a few families whom are allowed to wear prim and proper attire.

Excitement is springing through my heart. These families do not appear much anywhere in the city and they tend to keep to themselves. They are the absolute elites. I have never seen a real-life person in suits before. We just see these people through the board panels in class when our educator was teaching the country's law and order.

I must sneak a peek at them. I cannot keep my head down. No way - not this time. It is going to be my once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! I like this feeling - the feeling of my heart punching against my rib cage. This feeling is odd. It seems like a decade that I experienced this emotion. I have to mask my excitement.

Putting a straight face and mustering as much courage I can find, I look up at the younger man. His eyes are brown, so brown that it resembles the dull sunset. His nose is sharp - oh not too bad. His lips slowly curled up. My world stopped.

This cannot be happening.

My eyes drag up again into his. His looks soften. He is... smiling.

What is he doing?

It is against the law. I am fighting so hard not to react further. This is not normal.

I want to smile back, it is insane!

-----

A huge hand blocked my view. My head jerked aside and my jaws hurt. "Girl, next time, it will not be a slap, it will be something worse."

My head was spinning. Carelessly, I turned to look at the older man, to implore for mercy. My mistake - I should not have done that. I was breaking the code.

My glass bottles clanged onto the ground, shattered. My job, I just wanted to do my job. I do not want any trouble. Mother will be torn apart. I kicked, I struggled. I wanted them to put me down. I screamed.

The older man lugged me across his back and walked away from Mdm Graoh's door. I peered in and saw her looking at me, smiling. There were people placing her onto a thin metal frame with her beloved blanket. They were taking her away.

Where are they taking her to?

"PLEASE, PUT ME DOWN!"

A Grain of Sand