Just down the road a ways the Chamber of Commerce of the Gateway to Death is having a bus tour. The attendees of this gala are sparse. The Gateway of Death's Mayor and Safety-Service Director were expecting a much larger turnout, but only three people showed up. It is a free tour, too, and the Gateway of Death will be having a little shindig immediately after this bus tour. The ruse and the prize: All-you-can eat hot dogs and all-you-can drink lemonade.
Yesterday, the Mayor was heard saying to a small-town newspaper reporter, "Those hot dogs, they really reel 'em in. At last week's ribbon-cutting for the chicken and pig slaughterhouse, we had a couple hundred come. They all came for the eats."
The Gateway to Death's former name was Piccadilly. The former name was flowery and beautiful. But the Gateway to Death's town leaders figured a more apropos appellation should at least be reflective of what their borough is all about - and they decided to give the place a far more menacing and deadly moniker. That's because the village is filled with every type of noxious industry on the planet.
A hazardous waste incinerator that burns nuclear waste at a rate of 24/7, 365 days a year is the keystone player in the local economy. It belches out half-baked, refried and re-dyed atomic pollution like the Grand Coulee Dam churns out water. Remnants of the half-live breakdowns of Technetium, Francium, Radon, Actinium, Neptunium, and Einsteinium fill the atmosphere. So if you visit The Gateway of Death, it's best to bring along a gas mask retrofitted to filter out atomic air pollution. The air you breathe smells and tastes like Mustard Gas with a sprinkling of cyanide and arsenic. Four smokestacks pointing up to a black hole sun tower in the air like skyscrapers. A more primitive people would see these gigantic spiraling monstrosities and most likely fall down on their knees in worship. Yah yah, Hey yah, Yah yah, Hey, Hey, hey ya hey ya, is what they'd most likely chant.
A landfill holding medical waste, including the corpses of dead rats and mice used in scientific experiments at hospitals and medical testing facilities from all over the world, is another key cog in the economic solvency of the little hamlet. Also deposited are the scatterings of monkey, rat, and mouse bowel movements. This fecal matter is collected from lab chimps, along with medical rats and mice on a worldwide level. Every primate and rodent that has suffered immensely through medical researching experiments and has taken a crap over the course of the last 15 years is very well represented here. Most of the experiments deal with testing for AIDS, HIV, various types of cancer, smallpox, Ebola, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (or Mad Cow Disease caught by human beings), and the bubonic plague. The foul-smelling material dumped is so noxious and hazardous that workers dress like astronauts just to be safe from being poisoned by this biological train-wreck of refuse. But the pay isn't bad. Workers start at $95 an hour and there is a $10 increase to any employee who lives and lasts more than three months. This landfill is humongous, the size of three contiguous 18-hole golf courses laid side to side.
There is also a lake of nuclear waste almost as large as the Honey Island Swamp in Louisiana. It glows in the dark and catches fire during the day, even in times of teeming sheets of rain. The deep, thick, soupy mess is colored a psychedelic mix of purple, green, orange, blue, purple and red. Fly ash from the lake floats in the air like swarms of mosquitos. Inhaling these poisonous flakes and particulates would be about as dangerous as drinking Drano. Some hooligan kids - drunk and up to no good during spring break a few years ago - decided to go skinny dipping in this neon-like swamp and the next day, all that was left were their skeletons. When the Gateway to Death Police Department found their remains, these victims stuck out from the swamp surface like insects caught in a fly tape.
On the bus, the tour guide - who is also the Gateway to Death's President of the Chamber of Commerce - stands in front, near the bus driver, as the vehicle lurches through the potholed streets of the Gateway to Death. He barks into a microphone, "We have the highest safety standards of any super-polluted city in the entire U-S-of-A. The Environmental Pollution Agency is here at least twice a year. We have a seven-star rating. That's the highest, by the way."
"We're now passing the nuclear fission factory," he snaps. "If you look close, you can see sparks and flames coming from the roof. This is visual proof that some part of the work process they're doing in there has gone terribly awry. Say a prayer or two to Jesus, The Blessed Mother, Santa Muerte, and Saint Michael the Archangel whenever you see such a sight, brothers and sisters. It's indicative that a human being has now turned into a corpse. Huh! At least now the company doesn't have to worry about that Obamacare thingamajig."
"Oh, I just saw a fire shoot up from the roof! Holy Mother Mary, have mercy on that worker's gawd-blasted soul!" a homeless man seated at the front of the bus yelps. - Truthfully, he isn't there as a cheerleader for economic progress and prosperity of the Gateway to Death. He came to the bus tour for the free hot dogs and lemonade. And also, to ride around on the bus and feel the breeze of the vehicle's air conditioning for a while. Because of the funky atmosphere outside, caused by the greenhouse effect that covers the entire area, it is 120 degrees outside and it is the middle of December.
"Now we're passing the dark dungeon. Nobody knows what takes place inside - it's classified information and is super-duper top secret," the tour guide says.
The dark dungeon is an amorphous mass, comprised of shiny onyx bricks. Although it's a gigantic structure, it is dwarfed by the other monolithic buildings that litter the landscape around The Gateway to Death. The scraggly, skinny, scabrous trees in front of the building are black and the grass growing around them is also black. There is a smoky haze surrounding the building akin to the haunting fog surrounding a dark castle in one of those old black and white horror movies that starred Bela Lugosi.
"Man, I'd like to get a good looksee around the inside of that dark dungeon. I'd call Anderson Cooper at CNN and report what I witnessed. Then I'd call Michael Moore and ask him if him and me could make a movie about that place," a homeless woman with no teeth who is drinking something hidden in a brown paper sack, babbles from a seat at the back of the bus.
The bus tour continues, traveling the serpentine streets of the Gateway to Death. Although the slowly moving, meandering tour's attendees are made up of a very small group, they are an animated and excited audience. "Oohs and Ahs," abound as the bus passes from one environmental and ecological nightmare to another. They all jump up from their seats when they think they see something spectacular and point out the bus windows with their index fingers.
Finally, the tour ends and the bus returns back to the Gateway to Death City Hall, a double-wide house trailer that sits on Market Street. On one side is a waste water treatment facility and on the other are several holding tanks stocking raw sewage. This is collected from the entire region's bulk of filthy human dung. The little city has acquired the nickname, "The Shithole of the Entire State".
The two homeless people get off, along with a retired economics professor who now writes on ecological issues for liberal, progressive, online magazines. The tour guide follows them as they exit and says in a sing-song voice, "You all enjoy those hot dogs and that lemonade now. Eat and drink all you want. Don't come back tomorrow, though, the hot dog and lemonade stand will be closed."