Thursday, March 7, 2013

Soda Can: A Morality Play by Sarah Shaw

The man wearing the green shirt tilts back his head and drains the can of Mr. Bubbly Syrup, savoring the last bit of sugary liquid before tossing the purple can on the sidewalk and continuing his walk home. The can lies on the concrete near a recycling bin.
    Mr. Bubbly Syrup, known as Mr. BS to those who enjoy it, is the leading soft drink in America. Its high caffeine-to-sugar ratio earned Mr. BS instant success and popularity when it hit the market in the 1970s. The formula is a well-guarded secret. Armed mercenaries patrol the entry to the vault where the recipe is kept. No one has ever broken in.
    Now, a solitary and empty can lies on the sidewalk. It vaguely senses that it does not belong here, but since it is not entirely sentient, it hasn't a clue what to do about its condition. Mr. BS doesn't notice the color of the sky changing slowly from blue to a deep orange hue. Nor does it feel the droplets of sizzling rain that hit its aluminum body. The bright flash of light that encompasses infinity is also lost on the can. Mr. BS does, however, sense the mechanical arms and legs that grow quickly from its sides and bottom. Like a newborn calf, Mr. BS slowly rises and takes its first wobbly steps.
    The sky is blue again, with few clouds, but Mr. BS sees only green with the metallic eyes it has grown. Driven by what can only be called instinct (or an otherworldly GPS), the aluminum can follows the path of the man wearing the green shirt who had discarded Mr. BS on the sidewalk.
    Green Shirt isn't difficult to find. He's at the front door of a white house with a tiny, trimmed lawn which is a clone of every other house on the block. Before the man can pull his keys from his pants pocket, Mr. BS launches onto the back of his head and chomps through his skull with its newly acquired set of razor-like, metal teeth. The second bite takes the brain. Green shirt is dead before he has a chance to bleed. Mr. BS opens and shuts its mouth rhythmically, pulling in the remainder of the deceased litterbug bite by bite, along with the bottom step of the porch. Since it does not have taste buds and only vaguely notices a change in the resistance and sound reverberations of this new material being crushed between its teeth, the soda can continues to consume the porch, front door, walls, and roof.
    Now, passersby notice Mr. BS as its feast of flesh and building materials causes its aluminum body to stretch upward and outwards, metallic pops and crinkles sounding throughout the suburb. The can now stands at five-and-a-half feet, give or take a smidge. The passersby really can't ignore the sudden absence of the house on lot #3, either. Since human brains aren't prepared to process what these particular humans have just witnessed, they simply stare dumbly at the man-sized, purple soda can as its mouth wrenches open to the size of its body and begins to vacuum up the sidewalk, inhaling concrete and several neighbors. Soon, the entire street is cycloning through the air and into Mr. BS's giant maw. The can has another growth spurt and shoots up to 15 feet tall.
    It leaves the nothing that it has created and arrives at a small commercial district, greeted by screams and screeching tires. Mr. BS takes hold of a white Ford Focus and swallows it whole and then flings an Acura into a convenience store. Mr. BS grows larger with every car, bus bench and person that it devours. The sidewalks that it slurps up add feet to its height and girth and soon a 20-story aluminum behemoth stands amidst nothing. It starts to walk, each step shaking the Earth.
    Mr. BS destroys building after building, city after city and continent after continent until there is nothing. Nothing but the sea and the sand. Still driven, Mr. BS points its mouth downward and begins to suck, drawing into its body the planet itself.


Sarah Shaw lives in the middle of Alaska where she thinks up stuff and writes it down.

Copyright 2013 Sarah Shaw

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