Mariko - san
A child was born on a rubbish tip. Its mother was the shell of an old broken fridge and her father was a rusty old pick up truck.
Her name was Mariko-san and she had thick black curly hair, golden-brown skin, eyes like glorious stars and a little mouth like a rose-bud.
When she smiled, which was most of the time, her face was a garden of beautiful flowers. When she cried, which was not very often, little silver tears fell from her eyes and watered the garden of her face. Soon her sorrow would pass and the garden of her smile would open all its petals even wider to the bright yellow son that danced and sparkled on the discarded television sets, the mangled wheels of ancient prams and bicycles, the mountains of cans and bottles and stinking, rotting garbage that was Mariko's home.
Mariko's playmates were other little children who also lived on the rubbish heap, but her best friend was an old black doll with only one leg and one eye missing and a hole in her skull. It wore a dirty old cotton dress with faded pink roses on it and pale green leaves. Most of its hair was missing. Mariko's dress was also cotton, just as dirty, but had yellow butterflies little green caterpillars. Mariko would talk to her little black doll for hours on end, tying bits of ragged ribbon to its straggling locks of hair and looking through the rubbish for scraps of cast off cloths and jewellery for it to wear.
One day she found a necklace of chipped green glass. It looked very pretty on the little black doll but eventually the string holding the bits of glass together broke, which made Mariko cry.
One day a big machine came to the rubbish tip and picked up Mariko's mother and father in its cruel metal claw - it carried them up in the air and dropped them onto a pile of other broken fridges, washing machines, micro-waves, cars, bits of machinery, iron fencing and sheets of twisted metal. Then another machine came and pressed all the pieces of rubbish including Mariko's mother and father into a small metal cube.
The noise of screeching metal was terrible and Mariko put her hands over the ears of her dollie so it would not have to listen
Many of the other children's parents were also crushed into small metal cubes and some of them started to cry. Mariko pulled them away from the terrible machines in case they came to crush them too.
Life was very difficult at times. The growing children had to fight the hungry rats and birds for scraps of food, and always they had to be careful of the cruel machines and their terrible claws.
New rubbish arrived everyday, and with it new children. Not all of them survived, some were cut by broken glass or cans and their wounds became infected. Some were buried beneath the land slips of rain soaked garbage and filth. Some of the very young were eaten alive by the rats.
Naturally the older ones tried to look after the new arrivals as much as possible, and of courser there was always new parents arriving on the big ugly dumpster trucks.
But eventually the cranes and crushing machines would come and they would be collected up and compressed into the tiny metal cubes and taken away again to be sold for money.
Mariko didn't have any money , but she knew it was essential for the people who lived in the city of steel and glass that shimmered in the distant heat-haze of the horizon.
The machines came from the city and one day Mariko knew she must travel there to fulfil her destiny. Of course, Mariko was only a child and knew nothing of "destiny" but she had the feeling in her bones and in her heart, as sure as the King Rat had feelings for the choicest cut of the rubbish and the tenderest piece of garbage.
Often at night, Mariko would lie on the rubbish tip and gaze up at the stars. They reminded her of the necklace she had once found for Dollie. On very clear night they stretched from horizon to horizon just like a vast glittering necklace but try as she might Mariko could not make out the face above the neck on which the necklace was hung.
"She must be black, just like my Dollie," thought Mariko.
Mariko wondered what would happen if the string on the necklace of stars were to break and they came tumbling down to earth.
Perhaps it would be like rain. The rain was very pretty but it was very dangerous. When the sky cried, the rubbish tips became a shifting unstable place of slime and mobile filth into which the careless child might easily sink and never be seen again.
Curiously, there never seemed to be many stars over the city: instead a cloud of orange haze settled over it at night, an orange haze full of strange glittering and winking lights that burned in the tall thin buildings that seemed to scrape the belly of the sky. Maybe that was why the sky was orange, maybe it is the blood of the sky where the buildings of steel and glass are cutting it, thought Mariko.
They were a bit like the millions of broken cans and bottles that littered the rubbish tip, thought Mariko, although she knew in reality that they were very tall and thousands of people lived in them. But because they were far away they looked quite small. Perhaps a broken coke bottle looked very big to an ant, she reflected.
When Mariko was twelve years old she finally left the rubbish tip and hitched a ride for the city of towers that sparkled in the sunlight, climbing surreptitiously onto the endless trucks that ferried fresh garbage to the tip and took back the compressed cubes of recycled metal.
Dollie had long since merged into the underlying layer of gelatinous black ooze upon which the entire mountain of the rubbish heap rested, but Mariko still remembered her with affection and sometimes she would dream of her.
The city was full of hectic noise and light. Cars and buses and trucks raced like giant rats through the endless corridors of interesting streets as hordes of well-fed but dull faced people scurried along the side-walks trying to avoid them.
At various intervals along the pavement there were metal poles with different coloured lights on them. When these lights showed red the cars and buses and trucks would stop for a short while and people would scurry nervously across the road whilst the impatient traffic snarled and growled at them.
At first Mariko found it very frightening but eventually she got used to it. Sometimes somebody would try to cross the road whilst the lights were showing green or amber and the cars would growl furiously and run after them. Mariko saw several people killed this way and wondered why they did it, it made her think of Dollie and her broken skull.
Sometimes a rogue vehicle would refuse to stop at a red light and leap at the people hurrying across. Occasionally one would go berserk and mount the pavement itself, crushing people just like the machines at the tip would crush the broken washing machines and fridges.
Mariko wondered what happened to the bodies of the people who were knocked over and broken by the cars like this, after the ambulances with the flashing lights and whooping screams came and took them away. Were they too compressed into tiny cubes and sold as scrap?
When Mariko was fourteen she fell in love with a strange boy with spiky hair and a surgically implanted Walk-man. He came from another big tip on the opposite side of the city. When he wasn't listening to his Walk-man he broke into cars and sold the things he found in order to buy heroin and crack. His arms and legs had lots of little scabs from the holes where he injected the heroin.
Sometimes when he was unable to get a fix he would beat Mariko, but Mariko would beat him back and then when they had nearly killed each other they would sit back panting and laughing.
Because she loved him and because he needed the money to pay the rent on the little room they rented, Mariko took to whoring. It was the only real work available and more kids were coming to the city from the tips, and all of them were looking for work. There weren't enough decent jobs to go around, especially for kids from the rubbish heaps, and anyway the money was lousy.
Mariko had a good body and some of the punters were not so bad. A few of them wanted sex without a condom but Mariko would have none of that, she wasn't dumb
The older men were the best. They were easily pleased and gave generous tips and presents, sometimes she even enjoyed it.
But of course the inevitable happened, as she knew one day it must. She had long since left the boy with the spiky hair and was working for herself. Sometimes she would shoot a line or two of coke or pop a few bubbles, but really she was not into Bourbon. At first it had made her happy but then it became necessary. It was a bummer and she knew it. She had somehow drifted into dependency and just couldn't find the energy or inspiration to lift herself out of the habit. She became less careful about her appearance and took to letting the occasional punter make her without a condom. It paid much better and at times she needed the extra money.
Mariko died of AIDS when she was nineteen. She didn't die in one of those fancy hospitals however. She took herself wearily back to the rubbish heap, where the little children scavenged for scraps, fighting off the birds and the rats and dogs with sticks and stones.
And it welcomed her.
She lay her aching body upon the soft stinking garbage and stared at the beautiful glittering necklace of the stars. During the day she slept.
She lay like that for several months.
Some of the children brought her food. Sometimes they forgot.
She was bitten several times by rats and the bites became infected and began to leak a horrible yellow pus, but Mariko didn't feel it very much.
Then one night the string that held the necklace came tumbling down and cut Mariko's bruised and fragile body into little tiny pieces.
Goodbye, Mariko - san......