Later, when it was too late, they began to see what was really going on. They heard the rumors about bribery in high places and anonymous death threats against potential whistle-blowers, they heard how the Consortium had influential contacts within the supposedly independent firms charged with the care and safety of the plant's workforce, but they hadn't known what to do about it. A few years after Morrison left school, the plant had finally been shut down, but its ruins were still standing out on the headland, all around the east side of the Innertown, acres and acres of dead real estate, running from the gutted administration buildings at the junction of East Road and Charity Street, through a series of vast, echoey kilns, warehouses, waste-processing units, and derelict production blocks, all the way to the loading docks on the shore, where great tankers rusted beside the slick, greasy waters of the firth. You could see evidence wherever you looked of the plant's effects on the land: avenues of dead trees, black and skeletal along the old rail tracks and access roads; great piles of sulfurous rocks where pools of effluent had been left to evaporate in the sun. A few keen fishermen found mutant sea creatures washed up on the shore, where those great boats had once been loaded with thousands and thousands of drums of who knew what, and some people claimed that they had seen bizarre animals out in the remaining tracts of woodland, not sick, or dying, but not right either, with their enlarged faces and swollen, twisted bodies.

The most convincing evidence that some evil was being perpetrated on the headland, however, was the fact that, for as long as the plant had existed, the people themselves had not been right. Suddenly, there were unexplained clusters of rare cancers. Children contracted terrible diseases, or they developed mysterious behavioral problems. There was more than the usual share of exotic or untreatable illnesses, a sudden and huge increase in depression, a blossoming of what, in the old days, would have been called madness. Morrison's own wife had got sick in the head and, even now, nobody was able to say what was wrong with her. She drank, was the cruelest explanation, but she had been a drinker in her younger days and she had been fit as a fiddle back then.


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