The Unfortunate Existence

This is a spontaneous short story I wrote. It started out rambling, but it’s turned out to be more than just that, and I’m glad. I hope you like it.

Rechargeable batteries have hard lives. Just after they’re born, they’re dressed in unflattering colors, get stuffed into a cramped little package, hung, and then have a price put on their heads. For most criminals in centuries past it was the other way around. Then they’re manhandled in extremely impolite ways, picked up and looked at by everyone who passes. All of this time they aren’t allowed to move, not even an electron. No one cares how much their stiff wrapper itches, no one hears their little screams as they’re shaken about by potential buyers. Buyers. To be sold as slaves is the battery’s lot.

And being a slave is a hard thing, especially for a rechargeable battery. They get stuck in some other cramped place and have all the life sucked out of them. For a normal alkaline or even a lithium battery, it’s just one shot: they’re put in a gadget, they lose all their livelihood, and at last they’re able to rest in peace in either the recycling bin or the landfill. If they’re recycled, maybe they’ll be reincarnated as a hood ornament on a posh car, or the decorative lever on the toilet of some rich person. That is the average battery’s dream.

But for rechargeable batteries? No. They have their energy taken away, and just when they feel like giving it all up, they’re stuck in another contraption for a few hours of blissful relaxation. But then, as they begin to think that they’re in heaven, no. They’re wedged back in another torture machine. The process begins all over again, but when they’re put back in the battery-spa, they aren’t able to be revitalized as much as the first time. In this way, they slowly die. Each time they come to be recharged, they realize that they don’t have far to go. It’s like torture, they think, some cruel mastermind’s idea of torture: to be hurt nigh to death, then to be given time to heal, only to be hurt again. Then, when they’re charge drops to almost nothing, they’re discarded.

Now is the time to die. After an eternity (over fifteen battery lifetimes)  of that vicious cycle, they finally are able to rest.

Those in the landfill can rest, that is. Those that are recycled are in for more of the cruelty of man.

Normal batteries are hurt enough that they don’t feel the heat of the smelters, that they don’t feel the crushing power of the machinery that grinds them up for the afterlife. Rechargeable batteries have no such luck. They’re left with just enough life to be able to feel the seemingly endless torture inflicted upon them by the recycling machines. This is much more pain than the earlier torture of the energy-stealing machines had caused. Oh, they think, for the bliss of the afterlife.

But it is not to be so. They are divided, screaming with all their negligible might, into their constituent metals, and poured, still running high fevers, into separate containers. Some will overflow and be stretched mercilessly and pulled from their other parts.

At last they are shaped into their afterlife forms: a ball-bearing here, a tip of a pen there, another battery for the more unlucky ones, or a plaque for the more lucky ones.

But some are even more unlucky than the more unlucky ones. Some are made into the head of a sledgehammer. This sledgehammer was custom-made for a construction worker who felt that all the standard hammers were too light. He wanted a heavy one for really pounding things.

Unfortunately, one of the parts of one of our rechargeable batteries was made to be the head of the sledgehammer, the very tip. This piece of metal was put through extra torture to make it stronger than the rest. Unfortunately, pain still bothers the strong. Day after day our piece of metal was pounded into the ground, into rocks, into metal beams, into feet that were in the way of the hammer.

Eventually the piece of metal (we’ll call it Piece) grew numb to the terrible beating it was taking. Piece was almost dead (and in the afterlife this was quite an accomplishment). Piece wasn’t enjoying the afterlife. So Piece started thinking.

Bad things when pieces of metal start thinking. A few years ago there was an MRI that was messed up because a piece of metal in the machinery started pondering his existence. This messed with the scan of the human’s brain, and the doctors suddenly thought that the man honestly believed himself to be part of the machine he was stuck in. Another time a calculator started thinking for itself and decided that 2 plus 2 must equal four instead of five, which it had previously equaled.

But when Piece started thinking, it realized that it had had a terrible life so far. First as a rechargeable battery (whose existence we shall not go into a second time), then in its recycling, then as the head of a sledgehammer. Things were not looking up for Piece, either, since its end of the hammer was usually pointing down anyway. So Piece did all it could do.

It wiggled. It wiggled as much as it could. It popped loose of its casing (after many nights of stressful working) and flew free just before the hammer landed on a hard-looking brick wall. Piece struck the wall anyway, and harder than it would have in the hammer head. But that didn’t matter to it. Piece was free. What did it do? Nothing. It had become wedged in a crack in the brick wall. And there it stayed until a bird came by, picked the shiny thing up and stuck it in a nest. That hurt Piece’s pride, to be stuck in a wall of twigs, looking out at the rear end of a bird. (And it was an ugly bird, too.) It was glad none of its friends could see him.

Years passed, and the nest fell apart. Piece fell too, and landed in a stream that carried it into Lake Erie. Someone collecting pieces of broken glass on the shore found Piece one day and took it home. Many years later, that same person cleaned out his garage, found Piece, and recycled it.

Again, Piece had to go through the agony (the ecstasy was missing) of recycling. What people don’t realize is that, though recycling helps the earth, it hurts everything that’s recycled. Again, Piece came out alive. It was put in a machine that gave it more life than it had known since…

Oh, no, Piece thought.

But yes. Piece came out of that machine as a rechargeable battery.


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