What happens when the contents of a landfill starts to germinate and coalesce into a sentient entity that consumes everything animate and inanimate? In Joseph D’Lacey’s second horror novel, “Garbage Man“, the only person to notice at first is resident recluse of the adjacent town, Mason Brand. Brand spends his time soaking his bare toes on top of the noxious soil on a nightly basis in his quest to become one with mother earth. He is not entirely surprised when the first globs of goo stretched around smaller bits of detruis and garden implements appears at his back shed looking for nourishment.
D’Lacey introduces a wide swath of characters living in this unfortunate British landfill town: the cheating married couple, the stoner gamer geek, the respectable family man with a kiddie porn habit, the town religious zealot with a penchant for spying, the angry teen chomping at the bit to get out of this hick town. He weaves their stories back and forth between their dirty secrets and damaged relationships as this “shed-thing” proceeds to grow and be nurtured by Brand.
As the character’s lives begin to merge the shed-thing evolves, spawns, and starts to leak into the town to take small bites out of them. Mason keeps feeding it his own blood, then animals, and eventually (you know it), humans. And just as it’s not certain whether the people are changing for the better it’s not clear that this new voracious entity is entirely evil. Perhaps mankind in its blatant disregard (and pollution) of its surroundings deserves to be ripped apart and reconstituted into something new? And D’Lacey paints a vivid picture of what happens when trash “…becomes a moving tide of rubbish…” Like ground-cover zombies that are slow and ungainly (at first!) once they latch-on you’re up the creek in shit-smelling, sharp-edged-filled quicksand. (Note: To avoid a complete spoiler the character name is shortened to initials.)
“It sheared off D- S-‘s left hand with filth dripping bolt cutters which unfolded from its chest. It’s own fork hand had the boy’s throat so tight he was barely breathing;…But no grip was strong enough to stop the expression of shock and agony creasing the boy’s face as he felt his hand severed. The moment it separated, the shed-thing forced the bleeding stump into its own chest…While D- still breathed it opened him up from pubes to sternum. It began to select and remove his organs, holding them up for inspection in the angled bars of sunlight penetrating the shed before thrusting them through the many openings and unmade sections of its own body. When it began to clip through the ribs, Mason had to look away.” Garbage Man
The perfect cautionary tale for Earth Day!