Wastewater – Geoff Wallace

“What’s Wastewater?” I asked. We were in the New Student Dome. Your hair was a rectilinear waterfall, drowning the crowd’s noise. I was an RA.

“Wastewater is a program,” you said, gesturing to a laptop with no screen. “It replaces your memories. But not all at once.”

You paused to look at the murals along the dome: rain and wings more dinosaur than bird.

“And some memories come back, only to be replaced again.”

I gave you a room key and you left, jet black hair frozen in place. I turned to the other new students—they were talking about RPGs and doing coke, but all the new coke did was make them instantly fatter. Their eyes glazed, they nearly forgot their new home was underwater, built among the wreckage of lost ships and older domes.

 

Walking helical ramps through the dorm hives, I found Snoop Dogg’s room. His smile was almost as warm as his red-yarn halter top. I looked over his poems—he was in love with the word fastidious. One poem was about sprinting.

“You were so fast!” I exclaimed. He smiled like a woman or a cat.

Later his friends came over and we watched videos of Snoop’s greatest knife fights.

“You were so fast!” I exclaimed. Snoop laughed. “Oh no,” I said, putting my hand over my face like a cartoon robot, “I’m repeating myself!” We laughed.

A friend handed me Snoop’s championship double butterfly knife. I opened the rusted blades and they snapped back over my finger. The room recoiled, the men bellowing.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’ve done this before. See?” I lifted the blades off my skin, revealing a white scar. I traced its path, but I couldn’t remember anything about the war.

 

On the street outside, I looked around—the dorms were all part of the dome’s hospital. Someone had rebuilt Machu Picchu a few blocks away, decay and all. As cars sped past, I realized I was pissing all over the sidewalk and walked back inside the dorms. The bathroom had too many toilets, its tiles a green as mute as libraries; the bathroom kept going, its corridors winding away.

It’s toilets everywhere, I thought, but they’re all so clean. I walked to the new urinals that were flatscreen TVs. How does this work? I wondered. Do I piss on it to turn it on?

Men did business or drugs a few stalls over. A man who was dead to me entered the bathroom and approached an exposed toilet. He knelt down, examining the porcelain. That guy, I thought. He’s totally…that guy. I ignored him, focusing on the TV and some show with comedians doing stand-up among tombs.

A black cat wandered past the stalls. I flushed and searched for the sinks. The man had built a pyramid mound of tissue paper around the toilet, leaving the bowl’s opening as the mound’s plateau. The cat monitored the trash, ensuring each person’s waste made it in before they left.

 

I went to my mom’s penthouse overlooking the city, the apartment building a giant white sword jammed into an old ship. People celebrated inside. “Your brother’s going to need a new job!” my mom cheered.

I sipped champagne as we gazed at the sea clouds below. “I thought they just hired him?”

Something sinuous beyond the glass caught my eye. As I turned toward it, I remembered what you’d told me: Wastewater is a program. It replaces your internal organs with chocolate and roses. Suddenly, a waterspout descended on the city, wrecking roofs and antique ships.

“This couldn’t happen in my home town,” I said, nonchalant. “Not in Everett. But wasn’t this Everett?”

“What do you mean?” my aunt asked, drunk.

My phone rang three times: a number from Everett. I didn’t answer it. The waterspout split apart and slipped out of the dome, moving deeper into the ocean. As the dome’s skin began to close over the wounds, I saw the ocean beyond—it was full of waterspouts. “This home isn’t home,” I said, feeling the champagne bubbles rise and dissipate beneath my chin. “But I think that I’m home.”

I finished my glass as I gazed up at the dome, the cracks smoothing into a new sky like a clean white scar.

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