01 Feb I’m The Night Watchman at a Landfill
On the surface, the idea of having a security guard for thousands of tons of trash, is ridiculous, right? I wasn’t sure why they’d require a watchman at such a god-forsaken place but I needed a job and it paid well. There were several reasons for the high wages. First of all, the stench is both constant and overwhelming. Anyone who’s ever been to a dump, knows that hideous smell. You honestly worry that the pervasive stink will follow you home after you leave. It absolutely does. Luckily I have a poor sense of smell and don’t mind showering twice a day. Even then, I have to wear nose plugs while on duty. The other reasons were never disclosed to me but believe me, they became readily apparent later.
On my first day, I was shown ‘the ropes’ by the daytime security guy. He showed me where everything was in the office, and explained what my required duties were on the grounds. As darkness approached, he seemed quite anxious to leave. I assumed that was because it’s a friggin’ garbage dump. No mystery to that but later, I realized there was more to it. Considerably more. I had nightly paperwork to fill out and was supposed to make two full walking rounds around the premises during my shift. Dereck, (the day shift guy) seemed visibly nervous when he walked out. He hesitated for a brief moment and told me to call ‘if I had any trouble’.
I didn’t get a chance to inquire what sort of ‘trouble’ I might have. It’s not like it’s a bank for heaven’s sake. It’s a stinking landfill and the facility is closed to the public at night. There aren’t any municipal deliveries. I heard Dereck’s tires squeal in the gravel parking lot when he left. All of a sudden it was just me and countless acres of rotting garbage when the sun went down. What issues could there be? Scavengers? There are plenty of people who bring in two bags of household trash and leave here with a carload of found ‘treasure’. Those people are gross but they seemed harmless enough.
Every landfill has scavengers who dig through mounds of refuse but that would normally occur during the day when the gates are wide open. I went back inside to escape the brunt of the stench. The entire waste management property has a ten foot tall razor-wire fence surrounding it like a prison compound. It was hard to imagine anyone scaling it at night to sift through piles of discarded debris but Dereck clearly knew something I didn’t. Even more bizarre was that I was required to possess a firearm license! Just the thought of possibly having to prove my marksmanship against crazy rednecks and salvage hounds made me very uneasy. Why would the property owners care if some ghoul came to ‘dumpster dive’? It didn’t make sense.
I rationalized that it was possibly due to an accident liability issue. Their insurance policy had to cover daytime incidents of people getting hurt during official landfill hours but at night (when the gates were closed), it was a lawsuit waiting to happen. Still, why would I need a license for concealed carry? Was I supposed to fire a warning shot at anyone trying to break in? I would’ve expected them to explain their concerns and security policies better. Obviously Dereck wasn’t one to go into great details as he tore out of the parking lot. I figured I’d just try to keep a cool head and deal with any terse situation that came up with common sense.
On my first circuit walking around the compound that night, I noticed something very odd. The barbs at the top of the fence were all pointing inward. If the point was to keep people out, that was going to be much less effective. Fortunately the smell lessened a bit after the sun went down and it cooled off but trust me, it still wasn’t like walking through a rose garden. I heard shifting and various creaks within the nearby piles of trash. Obviously there are thousands of mice and rats living in the festering filth but the noises I heard sounded like much larger animals.
I knew snakes and scavenger birds would be drawn to the place as a rodent or insect hunting ground but I assumed most of that occurred in better light. The sounds of garbage shifting and piles falling over was unsettling. A few times I directed my flashlight beam in the general direction and it would stop, at least momentarily. I saw plenty of angry red eyes in the debris, but I wasn’t about to interrupt their nightly routine or confront them. This was their home. Live and let live.
Back at the office, I sat down and recorded the time of my rounds. Even with the AC running, I could still hear the piles of trash falling over in the distance. Obviously it was a bustling metropolis for the night creatures that lived there. Neither Dereck nor the man who hired me warned me about any of that. I shrugged to myself. It wasn’t a big deal. I knew that any place that malodorous would attract a plethora of unwelcome inhabitants.
Despite my thin reassurances, the sounds started to worry me as they grew more frequent. Some seemed incredibly close to the building too. I gazed out the window at enormous hills of squalor and rot. A single security light shined over the first few hundred yards. I caught the gleam of a tin can rolling down a mound of debris. The reason for its movement wasn’t obvious at first but I assumed rats or other animals were bustling around under the surface. Just as I was about to look away in diminished interest, the objects at the top of the pile began to shimmy and shake. I pulled up a chair to witness what I assumed was either a gopher or Norway rat. Instead, a human hand breached the surface and shot skyward.
I couldn’t even blink at first. Not only did the hand and arm wrangle free of the tangled debris, but so did the owner’s horribly mangled head. If that wasn’t shocking enough, seeing the rest of the body took the cake. My jaw dropped in disbelief. The person was clearly deceased. He had to be. Even from that distance I could see several bullet wounds visible. I was witnessing a reanimated corpse rise from the dead. Obviously the garbage dump was not sacred ground and the corpse was very restless. Like a light bulb going off, I finally understood why I was required to carry a gun, and why Dereck was so anxious to leave.
All of a sudden, another corpse started wiggling free of the trash. The first one was almost out of his makeshift burial plot and seemed intent on heading for the fence. In all, I counted at least 5 well dressed bodies in the debris. They all looked ‘newly dead’. Someone was using the landfill to get rid of people they didn’t like. I didn’t know for sure, but the Italian ‘waste management family’ who owned the property seemed like they might know who these undead corpses were and how they came to be there. Even I wasn’t dumb enough to ask any of them about it. Instead, I grabbed my pistol and an extra clip. I needed to finish what hadn’t been handled properly before. It was the sensitive, undisclosed part of the job.
The next morning Dereck arrived and came into the office to replace me. He had a very relieved look on his face when he saw that things apparently went ok for me during my first night shift. I told him I had to shoot five ‘rats’. He nodded at the subtle code. Then I told him where they were buried. We both knew that if we didn’t want to find ourselves under tons of debris, we needed to maintain the facade and do our jobs quietly. Some days I have to shoot at least a dozen ‘rats’. Other days are slow and there are only a couple but I’ve come to accept that my job with the landfill organization is a permanent one.