Taka was a child of the Dump.
He combed its flanks for sustenance: scraps of food, the occasional bounty of a cracked phone or water stained book. Things he could sell in Kinshasa.
He understood the way the giant mounds of refuse shifted. The internal currents that changed the composition of its surface. He burrowed deep into the fetid muck at night, for protection and warmth.
He couldn’t remember a life before this. When he dreamed of his mother her face was an undulating plane of plastic bottles and broken glass. When she held him close her decaying chest was warm and yielding, and scavenger birds crawled amongst her hair.
He knew some of the others didn’t belong to the Dump.
Like Michael, who had cut the ball of his thumb on a jagged tin. A small cut, it hadn’t bled much. But his hand had swollen like a monstrous fruit before he succumbed to the shaking fever.
They had dragged his body to the edge of the Dump and shrouded it in plastic bags. No words were said. Everyone was glad he’d finally stopped screaming.
But Taka felt welcome here.
He was digging on the north side when he found the radio.
He lay on his side, trawling the rubbish beneath him, watching the sun set over the distant shacks that marked the border with the slums. He felt something solid and sleek with the tip of a finger. He pushed both arms deep into the filth. His fingers explored the radio’s shape, gradually loosening the Dump’s sucking grip as he brought it to the surface.
He examined the radio. He knew what it was although he could not remember ever touching one before. It looked old fashioned, embossed letters, a large silver dial; both receive and transmit.
Definitely worth something.
Taka glanced around, worried that someone might have seen his bounty. He cradled it under an arm, walking hunched over on three limbs to keep it from sight.
He backed deep into his burrow and began to clean the radio with the ragged edge of his shirt. He idly flicked the On switch, surprised to hear static.
Keeping the volume barely audible he began to scan the different channels.
At first he thought the radio was broken. He heard only fragments: seconds of an advert, the last note of a song, a single word from a talk show host. Mere flashes of meaning that dissolved back into the humming static.
Taka closed his eyes and pressed his ear against the speaker. He focussed on turning the dial slowly, hoping to capture a single frequency.
He listened for a very long time.
In the growing dark, surrounded by the dank warmth of decomposition, he floated. Flitting between toothpaste ads & pop-hook filled declarations of love.
Somewhere close to dreaming he began to hear a voice.
A single minded voice, built of broken fragments, but speaking to him. Clearly, and with purpose.
He blinked. Shook his head and leaned in again.
The voice was stronger, gaining legibility. Pleading, cajoling. It wanted something from him.
It sounded old. It sounded hungry.
Hunger. Need. These were things that Taka understood.
The radio appeared to float in an infinite darkness, its dials glowing a soft green. He held down the button marked Push to Talk.
“Tell me what you want me to do,” he said.
He pulled the radio towards him and curled his body around it. He covered them both in a threadbare shawl. He whispered to it over and over in the dark.
“Tell me what you need. Tell me what you want.”
He woke up clear headed. He lovingly wrapped the radio in the shawl and buried it deep in the burrow.
He worried that people would know, that the difference would be visible on his face. He soon realised they couldn’t tell. No one else had been chosen.
He started with the denizens of the Dump. Michael’s brother and sister. Crazy Sarah. The old couple that huddled on the west face. The ones whose names he had never learned. They trusted him, this thin child with a reputation for lucky finds. He lured them with promises of tiny treasures.
It was difficult at first. He was unsure how to fit the pieces together. He didn’t always have the tools he needed. He cursed that he wasn’t stronger.
During the day he let the Dump lead him to coils of wire. To pliers. To shards of metal. He used all the local dogs in his construction. Their combined pitiful bodies barely making half a hand. He had to travel further and further to find parts.
Children and old women were the easiest to bring home.
He spent his nights listening to her voice. He was alone now on the Dump, he played the radio at full volume, working in front of a rank fire.
He knew the second she was complete, felt it in the exultant current shifting deep beneath his feet. He pushed the radio against her chest, securing it with twine and flaps of skin.
The muscles in her makeshift body began to twitch. Her movements were clumsy as she tried to balance her enormous bulk over flesh and metal legs. She stumbled and fell, her stolen mouths simultaneously growling in anger. The Dump rose to embrace her. Warm rotten garbage oozed around her, supporting her first lop-sided steps.
Small pieces of flesh sloughed off her as she began to move.
She was far from perfect.
But she had a grinning mouth filled with thigh bone teeth and her eyes had hundreds of pupils to catch every scrap of light.
She had been hungry. But now she could eat.
Taka took her hand and nuzzled into the soft fur, one of the protruding paws lightly brushing his face.
“Mother,” he said.
Entry for NYCMidnight Flash Fiction 2014 competition
Prompt: Genre – horror, location – a garbage dump, object – a two-way radio