Writers (in order): Nina Li, Alyssa Tang, Lindsey Segi, Marlowe E, Janus Tsen, Greta Bollyky, Mahathi, Binny Park, Antonio C, Alisa, Hannah Miradi, Lucy Zhao, Emma Kochenderfer, V, Irene Tsen*, Melon, Jeb Chrisman. Editor: Ms. Wilson.
*Wrote more than once.
There is an empty shampoo bottle lying in the road. Well, more accurately, that’s me. I’m the pitiful, filthy piece of trash that nobody has bothered picking up. It’s a chilly Monday morning, and the street is filled with a bustling crowd. A cold gust of wind sends me flying down the street, almost right into the path of an unsuspecting civilian. I curse loudly at no one in particular, not expecting a response. My fellow trash friends and I hurl insults at passersby often enough to learn that humans can’t understand us, but we can understand them just fine.
I scan my new surroundings to make myself comfortable for the next few minutes but a loud footstep startles me. I turn to my left to see a wide-eyed girl—no older than 12—kneeling down. She carefully examines me and whispers, “Hey, Mr. Shampoo! You said a baaaad word.”
In my shock, I tip over and rock back and forth on the gritty asphalt a couple times. A Dasani bottle beside me lets out a low noise in disbelief. This doesn’t go unnoticed by the astute human, who sticks a finger out to prod him to the gutter. It giggles as he clatters noisily to the ground and struggles to regain his balance. In support of my trash friend, I let another swear rattle out from the very insides of my hollow plastic trachea. The human frowns, stretching a sticky hand outwards, “Stop! I said that’s bad!”
To really seal in the message, she flicks the fraying corner of my label, which has long lost all its adhesive power. “Hey, can you feel that? Are you trapped inside the bottle? Or are you the bottle?” She giggles, like it would be such a ridiculous thing. To be a shampoo bottle.
But that got me thinking. How did I get there? I couldn’t remember anything before I was kicked to the curb with my fellow trash brethren. Perhaps I… belonged to someone once.
The loud pop of a paper bag, like when you fill it up with air and stomp on it, drags me from my thoughts. The child jumps again, and from beneath its feet, I hear the muffled cries of the poor bag. It laughs maniacally.
All of we scraps look away from the screaming paper bag. We wish there was something we could do, but to the humans, we are merely playthings at best. Another yelp from the bag brings me back to my senses, and the girl reveals my label which she has completely pulled off of my hard shell with a giant smile. I am left with a rather unpleasant residue that dirt is already adhering to. I would shout at her, but another strong gust of wind picks me up and sends me flying. I land right next to a limp paper bag who groans from rips in his chest, breathing unsteadily. I immediately notice myself lifting up again, but this time not by the wind. I feel sweaty fingers grasp me as I am brought face to face with a tall, menacing boy. I hear a quick pitter patter of footsteps behind me. “That is MY bottle,” shouts the girl.
With a sneer, the boy rears his arm back. “Then go get it,” he says, and catapults me, faster than anything I’ve experienced before. My guts of mucky shampoo swirl around and around, before I collide with the force of a thousand suns into a nearby pole. I fall to the ground, half dead, with my innards leaking out.
An indignant cry from the girl startles me back to my senses. Her sneakers slap on the pavement as she runs towards me, gently picks me up and cradles me in her arms. “Are you okay?” she asks. Just like she had told me not too, I let out a very flavorful stream of curse words. But this time, she doesn’t object. Instead, she turns to face the boy.
She looks him up and down and smirks at him, “I knew it. I’ve known all along that you’re just jealous that my hair smells good. If you wanted your hair to smell good — you could’ve just asked.” She steps closer to him, emptying the last few bits of me into her hands. The boy slowly starts to step back. “Come here, let me give you a nice hair treatment,” she says as she charges at him.
At this point, the boy knows what is coming, but all he can do is helplessly stare at the little girl charging towards him. “GET A WHIFF OF THIS,” she screams in rage as she locks her fingers into his hair. The boy’s face suddenly changes: a wave of panic rushes over him and all the color empties from his once rosy cheeks. This momentary silence prompts the girl to pull at whatever she can get her hands on, followed by the boy screaming in agony as suds of shampoo stream into his eyes. I watch my friend fight for me while laying on the ground—smirking in satisfaction—but, alas, my thoughts are interrupted with the fact that I don’t have much time left on Earth without any shampoo left in me.
After a while, it seems as if the brawl was over. Although I’m not completely able to see, I can tell that my ally is standing beside me. Kneeling down, she grabs me carefully so that none of my life-preserving liquid spills out. The girl tries and tries to wrap me up with the knocked-out boy’s brown wool scarf, but it is to no avail.
The world starts to go blurry. The girl’s face begins to morph into some sort of fuzzy blob. Suddenly, she gets up and runs away, yelling, “I’ll be back! Just wait for me!” I don’t know if I can wait. The world feels colder now. Am I going to die? Will the girl be back in time?
“I’M BACK! I got something to help you!” The girl yells. Sheesh, she is loud. She is holding a white plastic bag with the words “thank you” written in big red letters. She reaches her hand in and pulls out a bottle. “It can’t be… ,” I mutter, quietly enough for her not to hear. She has just bought another bottle of shampoo from the drugstore.
Of course, the absolute absurdity of the entire situation leads me down a rabbit hole of complicated thoughts—thoughts I can’t quite fit into definable words. What am I? What gives me this unnatural sentience? Who gives me this voice, who gives me these thoughts? How long have I been able to taste the moisture in the wind, how long have I heard the infinite sound of the horizon? Have I always observed the world without eyes? I can't seem to remember yesterday, I can't remember tomorrow. Now all this comes to me in an instant as the pudgy girl continues to trudge towards me. In her hands she either holds a plastic shell filled with chemical soap or another godless entity like me. If it is sentient and she plans on filling me with its “life-preserving liquid,” then will I continue to be myself? Will I adapt the thoughts and feelings of whatever is in it? This logic is further than my existence, as I am a shampoo bottle.
She opens the plastic bottle and proceeds to take off my cap. The edges of the bottle line up with mine as the new shampoo gushes out. At first, a wave of relief washes over me and the girl’s face slowly changes back into a recognizable figure rather than a fuzzy blob. She continues to replace the lost liquid with a giddy expression. Suddenly, a burning sensation washes over me as I let out an agonizing scream. The world goes dark.
I wake up—I have no idea when, but something feels so very, very, off. I am filled with confusion as the memories of what had happened resurface, and suddenly just like my vision things start to become clear. A thought comes to my mind, and it is as if everything and all of my questions in my entire existence suddenly falls into place like the final puzzle piece.