I picked you up from a gutter in radioactive Russia. Somehow, you had fallen out of the body-bag you were carried in, and I nearly kicked you further into the muck. I heard your pleas though, begging for my hands to pick you up. They ate a hole in the fabric and sent you rolling before my feet. In normal circumstances, that would never happen, but there is nothing normal about a world covered in grief.
You were a real piece of work. It's got to be expected after all, in these parts, but you were still fascinating all the same. For instance, you were covered in that signature brown dirt. Most of the time, it was brushed neatly before you were zipped up. But you'd been out too long in the open and it showed. Reptilian shoots punched through your skin and waved like a many-armed grotesque plant. They looked like bleached coral that decided to grow out of your flesh rather than in the nutrient-rich sea. As I ran my fingers over your suppurating sores, I wondered why I picked up the sort of filth like you. After all, we preferred you were forgotten while we led lives without the taint of nuclear destruction.
But we can't live ignorant lives forever.
It was your drought-ridden body that finally compelled me to shove you under a tap and splash water all over you. Unfeeling, I watched as your brown blood formed in my hands, slipping in between the cracks in my skin and hardening like the dirt you were buried in. I've spent too long in this place to know what it was like to taste your kind's suffering and to constantly recoil without anything changing. When I'd finished bathing you, I placed you in a soft bag and brought you back to the lab, safe from the radiation that was killing you.
I came to one conclusion: even plants like you suffer from "Chernobyl".
Back in the lab, I relaxed, even though my skin was burning where the cloth didn't quite reach. You quivered as I placed a hand in the bag and rolled you under the microscope. Under the lens, you seemed fine enough, just another mutant on the streets wearing the badge of the deformed. I knew that wasn't true. You were crying emotions: sorrow, suffering, anguish. They were woven into the fabric of your skin, glowing like the radioactivity that was tearing you apart. Blamelessly, you smiled at the lens glaring down at you, trying to make little fuss of your injuries.
I forced a smile on you with a well-placed slice. I had to.
Otherwise I would be crying forever at your injustice.
"I'm sorry," I whispered. "You didn't deserve that."
You said nothing. And that was the terrible tragedy of it all.
You will never say anything, because the world has forgotten you.
I didn't want to do the next step, but I forced myself to. Slowly, I picked up a surgical tool and hovered it over you. It didn't seem that threatening; it was only made of plastic, and the only metal came from a thin blade at the top. But I could feel your terror at it. I could feel you tighten up and wrap that jacket of shame tighter around you, even though it was made of the sickness you wanted to cast off. If your newfound mouth could move, I could imagine it scream, "No, no, no!"
"I'm sorry," I said again, and sliced downwards.
You screamed as the first scrapings of skin fell away into oblivion.
I shut out your screams and kept peeling, even though it was killing me. The mutant growths on your skin went first, shredded as though they were put through a blender. Your cries of relief were short-lived as I tore again at your skin. Suddenly, secrets you tried your best to hide from me were spilling out before my eyes. And they weren't even secrets. They were just more stories of sickness and pain and anger. Staring at your yellow diseased flesh, I wanted to throw you out of the window and never walk out of the door again. Only duty kept me going, one slice, two slice, three slice...
Sometimes, on the smooth stretch of yellow, I would see black spots where you've been beaten by sticks and stones. They remind me of domestic abuse back at home, in a country where men don't usually beat wives. I know these beatings are worse, because they were dealt in the name of discrimination. You were to the outsiders nothing but inferior, second-class citizens, stupid enough to hang around a time bomb, sucking on the land's resources like a mother's teat and living an archaic life. Their attitude to you was summed up in just two sentences.
You're different. You deserve to be dead.
The more I peeled you, the more I saw the bruises. And the more I saw the bruises, the more I wanted to kill them.
I can't though.
The courts will never understand my motive.
You don't stick up for potatoes.
So I kept peeling, until you were smooth all over, yellow and dull under the flourescent lamps. You've stopped crying, and so have I. I dipped you in the pot, watching the water swirl around your naked body. Something lurched in my stomach.
No. I can't put you through more hell.
I took you out of the pot, but I knew it wouldn't make much of a difference. In the end, humans needed food, and my fridge had been empty for days.
In the end, humans like us set out to devour the world that they live on.
Starting with potatoes.