My Shiny Friend
‘You guys will stay till I come out right?' Instead of answering the two boys pushed me out of the hiding place behind the shrubbery and into open view under the shimmering moonlight. It was midnight and the junkyard was empty. Crows shrieked in the distance as they rummaged among the piles of mostly inedible junk searching for some morsels of food, hoping to strike lucky. The insects buzzed incessantly to hunt for food or to attract the opposite sex for reproduction during the night. I stood under the moon and casted my long shadows across mountains of broken TVs, obsolete cassette players, DVDs, washing machines and all kind of heavy junk. There was a shed next to the junkyard. I tiptoed to the back. Through the small plastic window near the door, there were piles of all kinds of electronic junk scavenged from the otherwise useless rubbish that were remotely valuable thus deemed worthy of keeping by Mr. Neal. They were haphazardly arranged on the rows of rusty shelves standing in three columns across the room and left little space for treading insides the shed. Mr. Neal was an eccentric rag-and-bone man. Besides poking his stick around the junkyard during the day, he also walked around the neighborhood asking door to door for second-hand electronic stuffs. People donated to him their broken, un-wanted and obsolete junk and he sold them for a small profit if he could. Each day the scraggy old man in lopsided straw hat trudged across street in his dirty white vest, baggy brown Bermudas with holes on them, and ancient slippers, his broken trolley clanked along with the bells that were tied to the handle, signaling his impending arrival for those who had junk to give away. Initially, the local boys liked to make fun of him. They danced mockingly behind him, imitating his gnarly walk, but the old man was oblivious to their existence, his face blank with no expression and did not react to the boys' deride. After a while the rowdy boys lost interest and found something else to meddle and someone else to disturb. Mr. Neal collected and chunked what was rubbish to people but treasure to him in this small workshop at the end of each day. But he wasn't very good at locking them up, probably senile and careless in his old age, or didn't think anyone would steal his useless junk. He put the key right under the carpet in front of the door. It was no different than leaving the door wide open. I longed to join those boys, be part of the gang. They talked tough with the biggest guys, hanged around the coolest place, and dated the prettiest girls. So what if they were mean to some reclusive hermit who liked to collect rubbish? I wanted to be part of the gang. So they gave me the test: to break into Mr. Neal’s workshop and if I could find something that would impress them, then I was in. I was relieved as this was mostly a simple task. It was much less daunting than to rob a wine store or a supermarket, wherever place that demanded tighter security, where I would land in deep trouble if I were to be caught. Still, I doubted the probability of finding anything of value that would impress the obdurate boys among those junks. They seemed to think so too and I had an uncomfortable assumption that this was just their practical joke on me to throw me off their back for good and I was simply a fool, a passing source for their amusement. They would have a good laugh among themselves when I showed them something stupid and then I would become their next target of deride. I hated to be casted as the next Mr. Neal. They could laugh at him but I was not a weirdo on par his level. I would not become the butt of their joke. I was determined to show them I was worthy to be one of them. To prepare for my stunt I had observed Mr. Neal’s daily routine for some time. He would dump all his precious cargo insides the workshop at the end of each day after his usual routine around the neighborhood, so called locked his door, and went down to the community centre where there was free food for the poor and homeless three times a week and during festive seasons. The workshop would be empty till early next morning when there would be ample sunlight for his frail eyesight to enter the shed and sort out his items to decide which to bring to sell to some recycling company. Johnny and Ben, the two boys who came along to act as my witnesses to ensure I did the deed, didn’t cheat or chicken out on them, were waiting for me behind the brushes. They wouldn’t leave till I came out and their presence inadvertently made me feel safe and made the task less taunting. I groped my hand under the carpet for the key. For a fleeting moment I was worried it was missing, but my hand closed on the rusty irregular shape and I muttered a quiet thank you. I slotted the key insides the keyhole. There was no one around, I should feel safe but like a criminal my feral eyes darted around furtively before I turned the key, and the lock clicked open. I turned to Johnny and Ben to give them a nod- yes I’m going in now- but in the darkness I couldn’t see if they had acknowledged me back. I went in, closed the door behind me and put the key in my trouser’s pocket. I switched on my pencil torch. The faint beam really didn’t give me much light, but a powerful torch might invoke unnecessary curiosity and provoked unwelcome investigation. There was a faint noxious stink of rusty metals and eroded plastic junk. There were two windows near the door that were almost sealed with plastic panels, which were so black with dirt and dust they were almost opaque. They left little space for breathing air and this was further blocked by the back of the wooden cupboards that was overcrowded with further junk. There was a small window at the end near the ceiling where a fan once was. Luckily it was the night so the air was cool otherwise the place would be suffocating hot like an oven during the day. The place was so overcrowded with stuff I couldn’t take a step without having something crack under my feet. Ten, fifteen minutes of probing and poking around and suddenly I heard a police siren in the distance that shattered the night’s silence like a chainsaw slicing through brittle wood. My heart dropped to my stomach and I instinctively looked around frantically for a hiding place before I realized I was already well-hidden insides the shed. Yeah, like the police would suspect anyone dumb enough to rob the metal junkyard. I’m safe, so stop jumping like a wild cat, I chided myself. There was the sound of pebbles palling against the aluminum wall. I went to look out from the little space left of the window near the door to see the fleeting shadows of the boys. Johnny and Ben had run out on me. They had scurried away in fright as soon as they heard the siren. I was alone. Those cowards. Angry, I decided to abandon the dare, which I decided was silly in the first place, and which would probably be annulled since I needed the boys to be my witnesses, and they had gone now. I reached insides my pocket for the key, and froze. I realized there was a hole in my pocket big enough for the key to have fallen through. It was lost somewhere among the piles of metal junk. The workshop was not big but still fishing for a key among this mess would be like finding a needle in the haystack, especially with my limited source of light. But there was no other way to get out. I had no other choice. Sheens of sweat broke across my forehead and dripped down below my chin as I got on all four with my pencil torch, scouring for the lost key. I heard a small swirling drone emitting from the corner below the small window that was near the ceiling and my heart beat wildly. In my desperation my senses turned especially keen thus sensitive to any small change amidst my surrounding. I was mentally ready as I instinctively anticipated any impending nasty surprise waiting for me around the corner. Still on all fours I crawled slowly to investigate the anomalous sound. As I turned around the corner of the metal stand I saw there was a faint green glowing light illuminated underneath some pieces that were once part of some broken hand phones and watches. I stared at it breathlessly and waited, for it to stop glowing or do anything weird. Nothing. I crawled cautiously towards it and poked a finger on the hand phone piece stacked on its top. The piece toppled over to reveal most part of the glowing sphere beneath. I glanced at the beautiful sphere, engrossed in the beauty of it. Mustering up my courage I touched it gingerly with a finger. There was a soft electric current that tingled my skin, made me shudder but otherwise not an unpleasant sensation. The droning sound continued to vibrate around its body as the sphere skidded almost shyly out of the pile like an awkward child taking his first steps. It was turning and swirling slowly around in all directions and I had the feeling it was discerning my presence, studying me. I was more intrigued than scared so I didn’t move, to demonstrate I was harmless. Green electric current sparked around it like magnetic waves as a small fragment of metal among the junk filtered out through thin air to attach itself onto it. Another piece went to cover part of the sphere, and the electric static grew stronger as larger pieces followed suit to attach to its body as well. I retreated to give it more space as I could see it was growing in size. Soon, the entire sphere disappeared underneath the pile of metals but I could still see the glow underneath as it was as glaring as ever. I stepped back as larger pieces flew, clanked and snapped like joints under it. There were computer CPU boards, reticulated green chips insides TVs, radios, cassette and CD players, phones, demolished parts of kitchen appliances, old utensils, etc. They were taking the form of… a central body; with cylinder-shaped columns on both sides like arms and two small spheres at the end each to indicate the arms and hands. Below the central body two more columns were built to form the legs, and the oblong shapes attached below each become the feet. I stepped back in awe and couldn’t blink my eyes as I didn’t want to miss a second of this incredible sight. It grew to a height below my shoulder but still a stupendous feat to see a small sphere expanded from no bigger than my hand to its present size in a matter of minutes. The sphere, which formed the head, had two plate-sized eyes formed from the audio speakers of some sound system. The rectangular shape below the eyes that built the mouth was once the CD and DVD case on a computer’s hard drive. I had to smile amusement at the sphere’s enigmatic choices of materials at attempting to construct its facial features. It took a step forward, and it fell on its knee. It took a second step; this time was better. Its awkward gait reminded me of Mr. Neal as he struggled to push the trolley stuffed with junk that would earn him little to provide his three daily meals. I felt a stab of guilt at being one of those boys who had mocked him before. I never meant to hurt anyone; I just wanted to be accepted as part of the cool gang. The sphere, now a small metal junk robot, touched my hand. I felt the familiar tingling electric sensation and somehow in my mind I knew it was its gesture of friendship towards me. It held my hand and I allowed its fingers to entwine mine. I followed it like a child would follow his mother as it led me towards the door. It inserted its finger into the keyhole, turned and clicked the lock open as the finger had obtained the exact same shape of the key. The gust of the night wind greeted me as it ruffled my hair and evaporate beads of my sweat. Still holding my hand, we traversed through the mazes of junk piles and out of the junkyard. We trudged up the hill as I followed its bizarre gait under the moon. Soon we reached the top and I was looking down at the city below me, with its hand still in mine. It looked up the sky and I followed its glance. There was a circular formed of a flying object but was too far above for me to see it clearly to be certain, nor had I the interest to discern it further, in my strangely enchanted state that I had never felt before. It beamed a circular ray of light that fell on the robot. Its feet lifted off the ground and it was flying towards the circular flying object. Its fingers broke away from mine and I realized with desperation it was flying away from me, leaving me, stranded on the ground. I gave a cry of protest as its hand left mine and I was grasping empty air. I jumped into the light, hoping it would beam me after the robot, my robot. I jumped and waved my arms high above the air but my feet were still touching the ground. Tears started to form around my eyes as a wave of neglect and lost overwhelmed me that left me feeling hopeless and vulnerable. I wanted so much to go after it, my robot, my sphere, my discovery, my friend. I felt my head spin and my eyes closing. Maybe I was in a dreamland. Is this all a dream? I wanted it to be real, but I was in a soporific state. Where is my robot? I was semi-conscious in whatever state I was in and I knew there was a robot because it had led me here but I couldn’t see it anywhere now. Was it real? It must be real. Then where is it now? It wasn’t there anymore and I couldn’t tell if there had been a robot at all in the first place. I wasn’t sure about what I saw and thought I had seen anymore. I felt something wet, precipitation on the grass, underneath my head and knew I was lying on the ground. I fell asleep.