Phillip's Plain
rating: +14+x

#002044358

Item acquired from a collection of junk, following the household liquidation of Anna Mason's flat.

Description: A tape cassette from the time of the Practical Retro Revival period.

Status: Available for sale [AUD $5]

Offered by: Account deleted

Notes: None

Current Tenders: 0


Contents of the Recording:

[Recording Starts]

There's nothing here but scraps and clunkers…

[Pause]

There's nothing here bu… There's nothing here but scraps aaand…

[Pause]

There's… Ah, shit! Why is this so difficult? They always tell the stories at the campfire with this heavy tone in their voice!

[Pause]

Ugh… Alright, uh… Sorry, in case the wind and timber are in the recording. We've got quite a storm coming. Old Dingo had that stern, know-it-all look on his face again when he closed the meeting, so I guess it's gonna be rather intense. I can already see the dark clouds through my window… It covers the whole horizon… Not that it bothers me! Our stack is quite stable and I like the sound of rain… Are there storms like this in the cities? Is it like this in your city? You said our landscape looks like it's from this ancient horror artist Simon Stålenhag, so I guess not.

By the way, you promised to show me pictures of his work next time you visit. Promises are tales about the future, so I'm counting on you to keep yours.

Where was I? Oh, yes…

So, I just figured I'd make good on my promise and send you a recording… I usually dun do this kinda stuff, so I hope it'll be useful for ya. I have no idea how you academics and urbanites do things - ya always talked so high and mighty when you were here. I didn't even know half of the words, heh. Research, Plain-Dialects, Soshiology and Dis… Disserta… Never mind.

Okay, so I have this template from you here and I thought I'd just go through it. That'll do, right?

[Clearing throat] There is actually a mistake here. I dunno know if I mentioned it - I thought it was obvious - but we dun all call ourselves "Scrappers." Some still use the old term "Deconstructeur," but many others work with the name of their settlement these days. If there's one that everyone can agree on, it's probably "Grounders." Not sure where that came from, it's just what it is.

So, I've lived here in Phillip's Plain for my whole life… Describe the location too… Oh, that's between the remains of Lake Phillipson and Lake Wirrida in South Australia…. Or around it. Depends on your perspective, it's a pretty vast area in the outback, but I'm sure you remember that. I mean, ya were here.

I was raised by Old Dingo because my family died from toxic air when I was two. He taught me everything he knew and I've helped him run the settlement ever since when he was elected as leader. I had my Fit-in last month, so I'll become a full worker soon and then I'll carry on as a tracker! That's what we call the folks out there who hunt for new, valuable parts before the grinders come in and process the big loads. High Tower isn't the only settlement in the grist. I dunno know if you've visited others, like Crimson Edge or Adlers Creek, but there are many. We dun have contact with all of them; the plain is just too big - you know - and the scrap mountains are too large… And with some, you dun want to have any contact. There are strange folks out there…

Old Dingo once told me that Phillip's Plain is the biggest heap of scrap Titans in the world. Now, I wouldn't know - I dun even know what Australia actually looks like - but the thought makes me proud. I mean, of course, there are others but… this is certainly one of the oldest. Even I know how Australia used to boost its economy with the import of scrap, to get money in while climate change hit. I guess my ancestors were just the only ones not complaining 'bout it.

Oh, I should record that too - I've told you many times, but we Grounders are proud of our work! I often feel that the urbanites look down on us and think we live like animals here. That's at least what this one tie-wearing asshole from corporate at the shipping yard said last year. He thought we didn't hear him, so I broke his nose.

It is hard work, of course, and our barrack towers may not be spiffy like that opera thing in Sydney, but still. At least I can fix a laptop, even if I've never seen one before, unlike you. Man, that was really funny!

But yeah… We live in the grist, we die in the grist. Many never see the outside world, but we dun need to. If you think about it, the outside world comes to us. We get all the Titans, after all. I mean, someone has to take care of all that.

Old Dingo always puts it so well: On one Titan comes twice the amount of scrap. Equipment eventually breaks down, transporters have to be replaced… the whole infrastructure around a titan, that all comes to us too. We disassemble them, scrap the parts that are no longer usable, and sell the rest back to the outside world. You were surprised that the settlements also work together, but for us, it's pretty normal. We're pretty good here with metal and dismantling, but Crimson Edge is better with biological parts. When the relations are good, we help each other out.

Ya know, we often marry into other settlements. Helps with keeping things stable.

What else? It says you want more on our daily life.

Ya see, life here's pretty straightforward. Unless it's a holiday or there's a storm, we get up early in the morning, usually 'round sunrise when it ain't too hot yet. The trackers head out first, just like discussed in the meeting the night before, and shortly after, the grinder columns set off. Only the guards and families stay behind while we're out there.

Otherwise, we spend a lot of time tinkering. The afternoon is tinkering time. We gotta keep our barracks in shape, and the grinders too, so they can march to work the next morning, those big rusty cans. Sometimes, I scavenge parts and piece them together. If yer lucky, you find something really special, like an old bio-conduit - or even a sky gem. You remember them, right? The blue orb? I showed you the one I got from the brainstem of that Sweeper. Pretty damn rare.

I remember ya showed me pictures of the rest of the world. I was impressed by those forests and mountains of stone, but honestly, even if I could patch up one of those fancy new flight Titans, I wouldn't wanna leave here. All I know is these mountains of scrap and the Titans. I remember you couldn't make out much in the big parts, but for us, they're landmarks. The weeping face is as special as the poison lake or the brown block. We use them for directions and tell stories about 'em. Ya ain't do that with trees that all look the same. There are just so many ways you can turn a circuit into something useful again. When I see a tree, I can't think of any new form I could give it, like I can with metal and a buzzer.

Is that poetic? I dunno, but you said I sometimes sound poetic. The others just wave it off when I talk like that, telling me to stop acting like an urbanite.

Just wait a second, I'll be right back.

[Pause.]

Okay, sorry. I just made sure the door's properly shut real quick. The storm's coming, and the others dun need to hear what I'm telling you. Container walls are thin, ya know?

So, ya paper also says I should talk 'bout folklore and stuff. When you were here, nobody really talked much 'bout it, it says. I was thinking of skipping that part, but… well, you've always been so kind to me, Anna. So… Yeah…

[Pause]

Stories are important to us, but we dun share them with outsiders. Through stories, you can see where someone's coming from 'cause they vary a bit in every corner of the grist. And when ya know the right version of a story, you know ya can trust someone. It's also about identity for us, because - in the end - we're all just some humans in the grist. Stories remind us of how our stacks were built and why they exist.

High Tower also has a tale.

The tale goes that our ancestors arrived here when this was still the borderland to the Outback. They wanted to dismantle a Titan that was so big they had to build a tower. And then they stayed here and lived on.

Of course, everyone knows the story of the Grounders, back when we were called Deconstructeurs. We've always been simple folks, coming from all over to wherever there was work. The Titans changed the world quite a few centuries ago, but with every change, there are also losers, like when a season brings fewer Titans or a settlement can't find anything valuable nearby anymore. Our ancestors were those losers. But someone had to take care of the leftovers of those changes. And that was us. People usually dun care about us and we dun care about them. That's why we were so surprised someone wants to 'research' us.

Ya know, today's Titans are actually smaller. Practical. But we still got the experimental ones and the real giants. There are tales about the 'Old Titans', which were behemoths in their own right like you can't imagine them today. Some even pray to these Titans and some very few settlements claim they build their barracks on their remains. I think a dread-folk offered human sacrifices to Bôr, the High one, the largest of them all. When you run into these people they sometimes curse you and pray to Bôr in a frenzy, ask him to reach down from the heavens and crush you then and there.

Dread-folks and drug-folks often come at you with all sorts of nonsense and babble about having visions, or that machines want to eat them. Well, I dun believe stuff like that. When I look out the window, I just see the remains of Smily Face and Mammoth in the grist. And other shapes… Sometimes, I imagine seeing their faces and their heads grimacing - Some say the spirit of a Titan reflects on the way its face is frozen after shutting down. Some a friendly, others are… not.

Anyway… so… We also use stories as warnings. That's how we tell each other which areas to avoid. There are toxic ponds and settlements with uncanny folks, and places where no worker would willingly go, because…

[Pause]

I won't talk about these things in my home. That means bad luck.

I'll explain it differently.

During the night, we do not work. It's too dangerous, and ya can easily injure yourself in the dim light and catch Curath's curse. But even so, between the settlements in the west, it's also agreed upon to be quiet at night and not go out - so we can listen better in case something approaches. 'Cause at night ya sometimes hear sounds that ain't come from humans or animals. It's often just the sound of metal settling, even in the old scrap heaps. But sometimes, it also sounds… sounds wrong. Metal doesn't scrape so loud against metal unless it's deliberately moved, and scrapped Titans dun usually make clicking noises. They're supposed to be kaputt.

Sometimes you even see things.

Many swear they've seen light in the dead eyes of old mega-Titans at least once in their lives. Or - do you know that feeling when a storm is coming? The charge in the air? We have that too sometimes, only without any storm, near the Titans. When we feel our hair suddenly stand on end, we just leave the area.

Sometimes, ya could swear that parts move on their own, just outside the lantern's glow. We… dun go to work the next morning if that happens.

I… well, I saw a Gawker once.

It was about two years ago in the grist, north of here, during my usual search. I followed the Little Winding Paths until I reached Gereon's Grin, and that's where I found the circle. Normally, all you see of Gawkers is their circles. When you venture far into the uninhabited parts of the grist, you sometimes come across circles made of small metal parts in clearings and stakes driven into the ground. We dun exactly know why they do it, even though sometimes there's something valuable among them.

But… I swear on my tools that I also saw the Gawker! I had heard about what they looked like from legends, though at first, I thought it was a person. It had orange cloth wrapped around it like they often wear in Crimson's Edge, and I think I recognized a traditional pattern too?
But then I also saw the metallic leg. I stopped, wondering why someone would wear such a strange prosthesis, especially out there in the wilderness. And then did I catch a glimpse of the metallic skull peeping out from under the straw hat, just for a moment… the rusty parts and wires… It was about to leave the spot, and it didn't see me.

I ran home, faster than ever before. I didn't want to end up as part of the circle like trespassers sometimes do.

Some say that Gawkers originate from the scrapped core stem-brains of Titans, especially those used in combat spectacles. These Titans are miserable - we often agree that their auras are sad, even across settlements. The scrap heap is their hell after going through battle after battle. So, the biomechanical stem brain 'flees' and tries to gather parts to construct a human-like form around itself, hoping to be treated better. Some of the old folks, like Old Dingo, say that the circles are offerings to us humans, so we can find useful things and leave them in peace.

[Pause.]

Sorry, uh… this might've sounded a bit spookier than it should've. We got some beautiful stories too. We often say that Titans talk to you when you enter their insides and listen to the sounds they make. Really good Trackers can find valuable parts by listening to the Titan for a while, how the metal settles or the bio-conduits boil in the sun.

I guess you see now why we dun really talk about these things much. Ya never know what you might attract by mentioning its name… Well, I mentioned yours too, so maybe you'll come 'round again? Heh…

Yeah… I'll hand this cassette over to Martha when she heads out to the edge of the grist. There should be a postal service at the corporate stations. I really hope this helps you and your work…

[Pause.]

Ehm…

[Pause.]

…Goodbye, Anna.

[Recording Ends]

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