The Glister: Chapter One
Mostly, however, the town goes about its business; though, these days, it would seem that its sole business is slow decay. Of course, Morrison's business is to walk his beat, make himself visible, try to suggest that law and order means something in the Innertown. This is his function, to be seen—but Morrison hates to be seen, he wants to be invisible, he wants, more than anything, to disappear, and on this warm Saturday afternoon in late July, he is out at his secret garden, weeding and clearing so the few flowers he planted in the spring might not be smothered by grass and nettles. To begin with, this makeshift shrine had been dedicated to Mark Wilkinson, the first boy to disappear—the one that Morrison had, in fact, found. Later, though, it became more generic, a memorial to all the lost boys, wherever they might be. Nobody else knows about this garden, and Morrison always feels nervous coming out here, afraid of being caught out, afraid someone will guess what all this means. The shrine is fairly well concealed, because the event it commemorates happened, as such things must, in this hidden place, or somewhere nearby at least. Once, he found the little garden kicked apart and trampled, the flowers uprooted, the glass and stones scattered far and wide, but he guessed right away that this was nothing more than the usual vandalism. Some kids from the Innertown had come across his handiwork and smashed it without even thinking, in the routine way that kids from the Innertown have in everything they do, but Morrison is fairly sure that they hadn't realized what the shrine meant, and he simply built it up again, plant by plant, pebble by pebble, till it was, if anything, better than before. Whenever he can, he comes out here to maintain it. When yet another boy vanishes into the night, he extends it a little, adding new plants, new heaps of sand-polished glass and stone.
He finds the best stones on Stargell's Point, his favorite place nowadays, because nobody else ever goes there. Even the kids avoid it. Everybody understands, by now, that the entire land under their feet is irredeemably soured, poisoned by years of runoff and soakaway from the plant, but in most areas nobody quite knows the extent of that souring—whereas Stargell's Point was always recognized as a black spot, even back in the good old days, when the people believed, through sheer force of will, that the chemical plant was essentially safe. They believed, of course, because they had to believe: the Innertown's economy depended almost entirely upon the chemical industry. More to the point, there were people in the Outertown, up in the big houses, who had an interest in ensuring that things ticked over without too much fuss. The Innertown folk, the ones who actually worked at the plant, had from the outset been made aware of the appropriate precautions to be taken while going about their duties, but they had always been told—by the Consortium, by the safety people, by all the powers that be—that the danger was minimal. They had wanted to believe they were safe because there was nowhere else for them to go, and they had wanted to trust the managers and politicians because there was nobody else for them to trust. Naturally, they worked hard on being convinced. In the early days, some of them even smuggled home bags of the stuff they were making out at the plant so they could spread it on their gardens. It was an act of faith, utterly perverse and so, they hoped, all the more powerful.