Art by Melissa Mead
J is for Junk
by Tim Pratt, Jenn Reese, Heather Shaw, Greg van Eekhout
We arrived in calm seas off the North Pacific Gyre shortly after dawn. I confess, when I saw that everything we knew about this place appeared to be wrong, my strongest emotion was delight.
We had come in our chartered ship, O'Brien, to study the Pacific Trash Vortex, a great soup of partially broken down plastics--bottle caps, trash bags, cigarette lighters--believed to span an area the size of Texas.
Instead, we found an island.
Our crew consisted of me, my three research associates, a man named John Black who was filming our expedition for Discovery Networks with camera and sound men, and the beautiful Jessica Bridges, a former journalist who was Black's on-camera talent. All of us were silent as O'Brien glided into a towering cove constructed of yellowed plastic water bottles.
We landed and marched up a beach made of white smartphone cases, plastic cracking beneath our boots. I picked up a case and held it under my magnifier. I recognized the model. I'd discarded mine last year for a newer one.
In the center of the island rose a black mountain. Through my binoculars, I saw that it was composed of large, black, rectangular sheets: Flat-screen televisions. The same material formed a wall that separated the milk-bottle forest from the beach.
"What is this place?" breathed Jessica Bridges.
"Ask that again," said Black. "But this time on camera."
He filmed all that day and all that night. I did science. We slept only a few hours. In the morning, Jessica was missing. We had some adventures finding her that involved giant lizards and an indigenous people who were as frightened of us as we were by them.
Eventually we found Jessica with her wrists bound to two PVC pipes erected as posts. She was being offered to the island's god, a fifty-foot tall anthropomorphic abomination with plastic sheets for eyes that crinkled when it blinked, and muscles made of plastic barrels bound by nylon cords, and bristling fur of plastic twist ties, all filled out with plastic bottles and plastic consumer electronic parts.
It roared, and not even Jessica's piercing scream could match my own.