Since the creation of the first synthetic plastic in 1839, they have become the most important material on the planet, and the most destructive one too. Plastics have solved more problems then they have caused but their environmental impact is now all anyone can focus on.
Throughout my graduate studies I worked with biodegradable plastics. All day, everyday I thought about plastics, their long chains which stretch on forever. The way their component chains entangle together, how they can both move and flow and be rigid and hard. I thought about how little we think about where plastics come from and where they are end up.
One day I realized how hard it must be to be a piece of plastic, how meaningless their long long lifetimes can be in many cases. And I decided to write a story about it...
At first, its hot and things happen quickly.
We all begin the same way, as units of self which link together to make a whole; a long chain that reaches from the past to the future.
You think you’re dreaming. You think you’re alone. But we are many. Each the same though very different. Individually it can be difficult to see our strength, but together we create endless possibility. Separate as we are, we act together because that is how we are stronger.
Once removed from the chaos of our genesis we become divided, sent on our own paths of creation. Though really, we are never alone, for we cannot exist without the interactions with our neighbours, our friends, our community. We are a collective and whenever reunited, our connection reappears instantly and together again, we flow.
Suddenly you’re aware…
This is your story.
You have no eyes to see from, but you feel it’s cold. You lie there shivering, feeling every section of your body creak and groan as you try to squirm, move, anything to get out of here. One wrong twist and you feel like you’ll shatter. Its unbearable. Emptiness.
Then you start to feel better. No longer stiff and rigid, frozen in place. Your body is warm. You don’t yet have the energy to move but you can wiggle, wiggle! And that is exciting. Exhausted you rest. Silence.
Alive now, you feel aglow. Every part of you is free, you slip and slide, free to do anything, go anywhere. Unrestricted and unrestrained. You find your flow and everything that is possible is you. Life seems endless!
You’ve found your groove a niche to fill, a safe and useful place to settle down. Now when the cold comes you’re ready, happy for you have earned your rest. As your parts begin to slow down, things seem more ready to come together. Sections and pieces slide into place to make you stronger this time. Able to withstand more of the stresses which will come your way. As the cold comes back to envelope you once more, the last of you knows that next time, it will be easier.
There is a pause then one life is tossed aside, and you return again to the flow. The glow of freedom and possibility blazes as new opportunities mould you a-fresh and a you find comforting new niche. Settled again you wait.
Over and over you are reshaped, reformed, repurposed. But soon the stresses begin to overwhelm you. Pressures you once withstood buckle you as your ends slowly come apart. So quickly you become, not completely broken but it seems, no longer as useful.
Discarded now, left alone in the wilderness. The end comes slowly. First cracks in you armour appear, allowing small instabilities to grow and grow. Lesser beings use this opportunity to take pieces of you, but only the parts they can use. You are left tattered and small. What is left but to wait until they’ve had their fill of you and nothing else is left?
But you will not despair. You think back on the time when you were strong and had purpose. Flexible and malleable. When small stresses would bounce off you and under the weight of long-term loads you would move and adapt, always willing to change yourself to fit a new role.
You lay there forgotten for far longer than you ever felt useful. Slowly your sections come apart and your memories go with them. You are disintegrating, and you can only trust that somehow you will return to something larger. With your last moments which seem to stretch out into forever, you reach out into the void and hope that those who come after you will have it easier.