Sunday, April 22, 2012

When the Bottle is Lost

*This story was dictated to me by a cognizant fish bowl, who claimed to have the prophetic powers to see events in the future...but only in the realm of glass objects. Or perhaps I was hallucinating again. Either way, this story was awarded Honorable Mention in the now extinct Writer's Journal magazine's Write to Win Contest back in October 2010...*

Crushing the can militia was the mission of the bottle brigade, who stood with their necks straight and tall in the dawning sun, shining a myriad of iridescent colors. It has been known, however, that bottles can be very easily deceived in their rigid pride, and the cans had learned to exploit the bottles’ transparent weaknesses.

It was difficult to say what it was that had begun the wars between the Bottalion and the Can Destined. They had been bitter enemies for as long as the Land of Full had existed (which, according to the writing on the wall at the edge of the world, the country’s title literally translated into Landfill, but given that their world was already full to capacity, the name became Land-Full, and then the more elegant Land of Full). While the most obvious reason would seem to be material—the Bottalion believed that glass was far superior to metal, and the Can Destined argued that their cylindrical beauty was perfection—their clash of faith was more plausible for such deep-rooted hatred. The bottles were adamant that they were the first children of the gods, as they had unearthed the remains of century-old clergies who bore the mantels of the almighty Pepsi, the glorious Coca-Cola, and all-wise Budweiser, among many other undeniable deities. The Can Destined countered that they clearly were the chosen ones, as their ancestors were born with the marking of the gods directly onto their skins, not the flimsy little cravats that the bottle worshippers wore.
In the beginning, battles were relatively fruitless; all that either side could do was roll downhill and, with luck more than accuracy, collide into each other. Over time, both societies learned to strategize. The Bottalion occupied the land by the leaking drainage pipes, where a swamp of viscous puddles made the perfect defense against the Can Destined and their potent fear of the Rust—although, had the cans realized that most of them were coated against corrosion, they might have not fretted so much, but enough rumors had been spread about the plague that it gave them grounds to fear. The cans, meanwhile, took to the highest precipices amassed from the shells of wheel-footed giants, where gravity would be one of their best weapons against the breakable bottles.
Over time, the tension on both sides led to ridiculous rules. The bottles, deeming that wearing a metal cap was now a declaration of Can Alliance, banned the wearing of any cap, with the exception of a cork. The cans had ordered that all tops and lids should be popped if they had not already, and anyone who resisted was obviously hiding something and should be suspected of espionage. Plastic caps or lids were out of the question, since for both the Bottalion and the Can Destined, plastic was the ultimate heresy—even to speak of it would surely bring the fall of everything good and glass, or everything untainted and tin.
Now the greatest of all battles was approaching, and the trigger to this impending obliteration had been, in fact, an attempt to bring an end to the wars once and for all.

It was all because of an ink bottle named Blot, who for many years had avoided the wars since he was one of the last bottles to still have usable ink, which he cherished more than anything and didn’t want to risk spilling in senseless violence. When a new edict stated that all bottles, regardless of design or purpose, must defeat one of those savage cans in battle, Blot’s only choice was desertion. In the outskirts of the Bottle region, he was found by an aluminum can with duct tape wrapped around its body, to cover the crest of his faction. Blot, being deathly afraid of cans, stood paralyzed.
“Don’t be afraid,” the can said calmly. “I am the leader of a resistance group that promotes peace, comprised of both bottles and cans alike. We will give you shelter and safety, if you will join our cause.”
Blot joined the resistance group, the Container Coalition. The Coalition leader, known simply as RC, devised a theory about Blot’s ink.
“I have seen paper with inked words,” RC said, “scribed by a long-lost race whose intent was to make their thoughts accepted by the masses. Ink must be tangible thought. If you could just put one drop of your ink into the leaders of both the Can Destined and the Bottalion, then they will think like you do. They would no longer be hollow, but have a drop of true thought inside of them. If they can learn to think, then they can learn how to solve their problems without war. This will be for the good of all our fellow can…and bottle, of course.”
So a plan was set. RC knew how he could get Blot in to see a family of can dignitaries who could help them. There was also a bottle in the Container Coalition, named Liter, who claimed he could get them to see the royal family of the Bottalion.
The Land of Full was eerily quiet as Blot, RC and Liter scuttled their way over the landscape of refuse during the midnight hours. They were well into Can Territory, and they hid as flanks of tin patrols rolled by.
“We’re not too far now,” RC whispered to Blot and Liter. “I’ll go on ahead to make sure our rendezvous hasn’t been compromised.”
But RC had not rolled more than ten feet, when a pile of garbage suddenly toppled over. A bowling ball from atop the pile landed smack on RC with a sickening crunch. The can was squashed flat, the most horrible demise for a can.
Blot, horrified, dashed over to the bowling ball and threw himself against it to get it off his friend. The noise of the ball’s landing had attracted a can patrol group, who immediately approached and rolled the ball away.
“I recognize this can,” one of the patrol said. “He is of the Royal Crown family! The prince has been killed by a glassassin!”
Blot rolled away as fast as he could as the can patrol pursued him. He did not know where he could go or what to do. Then he caught sight of Liter, who beckoned him to follow. They hid from the patrol behind a crate, until the cans gave up the search and went back to base to report.
Blot was inconsolable. “Poor RC…it was as if that ball that fell on him was…was set there!”
“Like a trap,” Liter agreed.
“Someone knew we were coming…but how did our plan leak out? Someone in the Coalition must have betrayed us!”
“Undoubtedly,” Liter replied.
Blot was silent. The two bottles just stood there for a moment. Blot scooted a few inches away. “You…you set this up…”
Liter did not say anything. He hobbled closer to the ink bottle.
Blot backed away a bit more, but then realized the crate was situated next to the ledge of a ravine that went a long way down. “Why? How could you?”
“My people have infiltrated both your Bottalion and the Can Destined to ensure their continued hostility, and it was my job to monitor the Coalition. They aren’t much of a threat. You, however, present a possibility of ruining our future. But now, with the cans thinking a bottle has killed their prince, they all will wipe out one another in vengeance, and we can rise to power.”
Blot lunged at the taller bottle, hoping his density would put a crack in Liter that would stun him long enough for escape. But Blot bounced right off, and all Liter had was a dent.
Then the dent popped out, leaving no mark.
Blot trembled. “You’re…you’re plastic!”
“Yes,” Liter said. “You’ve probably never understood why you were taught to never speak of us. We Plastic neither crack nor dent. We don’t rust, and we don’t break. We are better than glass or tin, and your leaders know this. Yet, if we attacked the bottles and cans directly, you two might combine forces against us, and you would outnumber us. It is easier for you two to destroy one another, and then we will initiate a more peaceful, better controlled regime.”
Blot thought fast. “Wait! I could use my ink to sway both sides to welcome the Plastic. There doesn’t have to be war, and all three containers can accept one another!”
“I’m afraid I can’t risk that. You may sway the Bottalion and the Can Destined to join forces against us. I’m sorry.”
With a nudge, Liter sent Blot toppling over the ledge, spinning top over bottom downwards before shattering onto the jagged rocks below.

A few weeks later, the Plastic Parliament issued an edict that all pens, ink cartridges, ink pads, or anything that carried the dangerous mind-rotting disease called Ink should be reported, and immediately destroyed.

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