Of Charles Dickens and Trash Bags

Apparently, I fear plastic bags more than murder itself.

Last night I dreamed that I, along with two other university buddies, committed a murder. The three of us were older now, no longer kids, each of us entering middle age with fully adult lives, each of us on our own forking paths of life. They resembled no one I know in real life, and even I did not really resemble myself. Crap, I might have even been straight in the dream, but I can’t recall very well. Yet somehow, a drunken evening and a foolish prank in a seedy corner of the city caused us to suffocate a transient stranger at a bar. It reeks of Hitchcock’s “Rope,” I know, but bear with me. It wasn’t quite like that.

You see, the details of the dream were all wrong. The swampy mansions of this place were more New Orleans and less Dickensian London. There’s no wide stretches of marshes cutting through the streets of London. I know that, and you know that. The Irish newsagent, wearing modern 21st century clothes at the corner belonged in present Dublin and not here. They sold butane lighters, as well as Snickers candy bars. The streets were filled with carriages drawn by horses, as well as the first few models of Ford motor cars. I might have even spotted a cell phone out of the corner of my eye. And yet, I knew we were in Dickens’ era, because the serial versions of his novels, like “Oliver Twist,”  were widely available in the street and in the newspapers. We were in the 19th century, yet there were objects, people, and language out of time, Haunting my college friends and their poor choices in the back of a urine-stained bar.

Objects out of time were haunting me.

After we committed the murder, my two college buddies and I escaped with the body into a rougher part of town, dodging curious glances, and we hid in buildings, sought shelter in gas-lit alleys. We eventually ducked into buildings that oddly resembled a Chicago Greystone (again, completely out of place in the world of Dickens). My two friends did not fare well. You see, at some point, the police caught up with them, and they were arrested.  I escaped with the body, which I stuffed into a black plastic bag. I knew that I had the upper hand, because a burlap or linen sack would smell, would stain, would lead the authorities to find me. But a plastic bag, well, we all know nothing quite escapes the man-made membrane of a plastic bag. I was the cleverest murderer.

The dream, terrifying in its intensity and its visceral images, struck me to my core. Could I really commit murder, but yet also plan to avoid the law and justice for such a crime? Apparently I could. Yet, my concerns in the dream were overshadowed by a bigger fear: That last statement by the police inspector, with his oiled curly moustache and wooden baton, chilled me to the bone. Right near the ending of the dream, he examined the car trunk where the body was hidden, but he did not ask me to open the black bag. He turned to me and said, “These black plastic bags are amazing, aren’t they? They are going to completely change our world.”

They have.

I awoke in a a terror, much before my alarm clock. I was terrified of the notion of the black bag, not as a tree-loving envrionmentalist, but much more. The trash bag somehow represented somethign large, and sinister. The black bag terrified me, both as a fiction, and as a reality.

My attempt will be to capture this type of dread, in fiction, and I plan to bring it here, to GreenPunk.net.

What is strange about the cop’s last statement, is that the fear of the implications of murder in the dream were minimal over the notion that the black plastic might live on through centuries, outliving generations of humans, while a body might take only a few months or years, to truly decompose.

How is it possible that writing, in particular fiction, doesn’t always survive the test of time? Many authors fade into obscurity, while a handful — and I mean just a handful — are still read centuries later? This type of longevity belongs to Charles Dickens. And yet, his writing is not plastic. His writing does not cause damage to natural resources, and does not leach chemicals into the soil or our bodies of water. We need to think about plastic and its impact.

Now matter how much controversy there may be over the biodegradability of plastics, we do know it’s a material that is here to stay. Would I turn last night’s dream into a piece of fiction? Perhaps. If the fictional Cesar of the dream did indeed get away with the murder, I’d follow the garbage bag containing the mutilated body through the centuries, to see if indede

Well, let’s make a choice, here and now. I will indeed turn last night’s nightmare into a short story, which I plan to feature here, on GreenPunk.net. How I use its elements is of course, up to me, but I do know that the disquieting dread I feel about the resiliency of plastic bags and their resistance to biodegrading will play some part in it. It will be a short story, and I will aim for about 2,000 words in length. Look for it here.

Plastic scares me folks. I want to put that fear on the page, somehow.