The doorbell rang, but I did not want to answer the door. The roaring noise in the background, and now the grave stench, had all but confirmed my suspicions. If so, there was no other choice but to open the door.
I was greeted by the sight of a Collector, with his fluorescent green skin. The Collector easily towered over me with his great height and girth. In the background was another Collector, comfortably recessed in the skull of a massive Ravenous Eater.
What did he want?
The Collector pointed back towards the Ravenous Eater, before extending his hands to reveal his open palms. "Nothing", he gestured.
"Did you forget? It’s a Tuesday." the Collector said.
Small quivers ran through my body; indeed, someone in the house had forgotten this important fact.
The Collectors came every Tuesday at the same time, with a regularity not unlike clockwork. I could always tell when they would arrive by the deep rumbling noise generated from the bowels of their six-legged machines— the Ravenous Eaters, those all-consuming beasts. Of course, that was only the name I called the machines by; nobody actually knew its true name. Nobody knew much about the Collectors either.
What we knew was the single rule: Tuesday is Tribute Day. Each Tuesday, the Collectors paraded around the town in their fearsome Ravenous Eaters in a sort of militaristic ritual. Each week, the oppressed citizens would do nothing but meekly present their tribute to their overlords. So fearful were they of the Collectors that they would leave their gifts out by the streets, unattended, while they sought refuge in safety of their homes. Nobody ever stood up to stop the Collectors, or to present resistance. It almost seemed as if everyone was resigned to their fate.
I suppose the only glimmer of hope I saw in our future was that everyone only offered the most useless of tributes, things they didn't want or need. I suppose it was a small "Take that!" to the Collectors. In truth though, the Collectors didn't care. Be it biomass or scrap metal, they accepted everything. After all, it was only food for their Ravenous Eaters. I had always suspected the Collectors performed their weekly ritual only as a show of force and dominance; they profited more directly from their other taxes they collected from the people.
What happens to people who didn't pay tribute? I don't know, but nobody makes such a foolish decision. Everyone regrets it almost immediately after; I have seen people frantically chasing after the Collectors with their bags of tribute, begging the Collectors to accept it and spare them.
That alone is warning enough of the power of the Collectors.
"Tuesday! Collection day," bellowed the Collector.
The Collector looked as if he was going to tear me to bits. With his size, he probably could. I had to give him something as tribute. But where was it? Where was the tribute? It wasn't at its usual place.
I had to call my most important ally for help.
"Mom, where's the trash for the garbageman?"