The tiles on the floor were cracked. He stepped over the worst to the sink, leaky taps matched his steps. He took a glass from the drainer and filled it. A magpie squawked, staring at him through the window. 

‘Yeah, hello.’

He put the glass back on the drainer and turned to the fridge. An apple was in the crisper, bright green, surrounded by limp celery and soft potatoes. He went to the cupboard and fetched a plate, got a knife from the drawer. 

He washed the apple in the sink, watching the magpie outside. It cocked its head a couple of times. 

Grabbing the plate he cut his finger. Where did that chip come from? The magpie squawked again as he sucked the blood away. 

The apple was not crunchy or juicy. A piece fell onto the floor. This floor is like crazed pottery. The plate was cracked in two. The other pieces of apple had turned grey.

Wash that off.

The magpie warbled as he finished off the apple. His foot slid along the edge of a broken tile and bled. Bloody typical! He dropped a paper towel onto the floor and stood on it. 

Something flashed by the window and he looked out. The magpie was gone. The knife was rusty and the peelings in the sink were dry. A film of dust lay over the sink. More cleaning. 

He wrapped the broken plate in paper towel and noticed his finger. That healed quick. The bloody paper towel fell off his foot. He picked it up and put it and the plate in the bin.

No clank of broken crockery came back. No rustle of plastic.


He peered into the bin. 

The rim was there, beneath the plastic bag. The sides of the bin were there. He kicked the bin, it moved. He took the clock from the shelf and threw it in.

Broken, anyway. 

No sound.

‘Cut my bloody finger again!’


He let a drop form and held it over the bin. It grew at the end of his finger. Dust and small cuts covered the skin. I should shower. The drop grew. Should be more careful. It fell.

The rim rose up, surrounding, walls rising.


He fell into the darkness. Light receded behind him, a circle in the distance, shrinking. 

Wind buffeted his ears. Tears streamed from his eyes. Arms and legs cartwheeling. 

A smell, pungent, old, resentful, curled into his nose and mouth.

His head was hit. His hand scraped on something. Something broke against his leg. He crashed into a pile of leaves, or paper, or plastic wrappers. A pinprick of light far above.


He felt around for a handhold. A hard, cold, metal edge. He climbed onto it. A flat surface, curved edges, and long arms pinned to it. Smelled like plastic. 

How’m I gonna get outta here?

He made out points around the metal surface. They glowed in the dark enough to show a ring. 

A clock? 

That clock?

He reached over the top edge.

Ringer gone. Same clock.

I fell in.

A noise, rustling, came from the pile of rubbish.

All those paper towels.

It crunched closer. Breaking crockery.

Don’t tell me, a bloody roach!

He crawled to the back of the clock. The insect drew closer. The battery cover was gone and he climbed inside. The scrabbling grew louder and the thing bumped the clock.

Long antennas appeared. Evil hooked legs caught the edge of the case. 


‘Found ‘im!’

The ugly face came into sight. It stank. Rotten. A spiked leg hooked his T-shirt and pulled him out.

‘Man, come on. We’ll get ya out.’ 

The voice… That face! 

He was pulled out of the compartment and dragged through the rubbish.

‘Lemme alone!’

Another roach helped lift him up and out. They put him on the ground.

‘Come on, mate. Ya safe now.’

‘Here. Drink this.’

Water dripped into his mouth. Bright light.

‘Yeah, that’s it mate. Ya fine now.’

Cool water ran down his throat. He coughed, dragged his foot across the ground, felt a hand on his face. 

A warm hand.

‘You back with us now?’


‘On the mend, ay?’

‘Ya got some scrapes and bruises, but you’ll be right as rain in a couple a days.’

He grabbed an arm. Dusty. Rough. Overalls. 

‘Jim…? Craig?’

‘Yeah, that’s us. You fell in the bin but you’re OK now.’

‘Recycling depots aren’t for kids!’ Craig helped him sit up with a grin.

‘You can stand?’ Jim patted his shoulder.

‘Reckon you need a beer,’ Craig said.

‘Reckon I need a shower.’

A magpie warbled.