After crushing the large cockroach underfoot, he stepped outside his shack to take a gander at the evening light, radiance he could not get inside his smoky, dingy dwelling and looked out across the valley. It was a crowded slum, he reflected. This was obvious, but he was being objective. The women with the vegetables and the fish had already set up their rickety stalls along the perpetually muddy paths that ran within the slum like so many clogged arteries, carrying in them the diseased humanity that lived here. The stench from the trenches made him spit. He remembered the roach, crawling as it was around his kitchen, its feelers waving to and fro, probably sensing where the next hard-earned morsel would be. He hated roaches, disgusting, disease-ridden creatures of darkness they were.
The influx of residents on their way home from work was at its peak now. The man looked at them; tired souls, emptied of their energy by miserly factory owners in Industrial Area, walking blank and in autopilot. They looked like zombies. He said hello to the ones he knew, and they muttered the greeting back, making it sound like an insult. The fortunate ones stopped to buy vegetables for the evening, a bunch of kale here, three tomatoes there. Someone was arguing loudly about the price of fish somewhere. Lucky sod.
As he stood there, on what he considered his porch, he thought of the valley as an organism, alive and conscious of its role in the universe. An enormous cockroach, feeding off the kitchen of lost humanity, always hungry and avaricious, never getting to or realising its fill. Whether it was the destroyer or maker of men, he didn’t know or ponder. He knew that if one lost respect for the valley, it would destroy them. And there would be more people waiting for their turn at the challenge.
He stood there for a while longer as the sun dropped lower and lower in the sky, silhouetting the myriad TV antennas that poked up from the myriad tin and carton shacks and a sudden chilling thought occurred to him:
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