It started just after she bought the new storage boxes for her bedroom. A shiny bit of clear plastic-like material was lying on the floor. It must have come off the boxes, Helen thought, as she picked up the bit and threw it away. She hadn’t noticed where the boxes were made. In some low-cost factory somewhere, she guessed.
Helen found another bit a few days later, glittering on the living room carpet. She didn’t remember taking the boxes through the living room. Maybe the bit had been caught up in her clothes. She put the bit in the garbage bin.
That week she went to work as usual – sitting through meetings, preparing financial reports that were out-of-date by the end of the day, avoiding her gossiping colleagues. On the bus home, she bent over her iPhone, reading the day’s messages.
She was in a shopping aisle when she saw the third bit. More of the clear, silvery plastic. She put the instant meal in her shopping basket and stepped carefully around the bit. Someone else would pick it up, she figured. Strange how much it looked just like the bits in her apartment.
On Saturday, her friend Kate came by, with her daughter Lily. Kate had to go into the office urgently and she couldn’t find a babysitter. Helen didn’t know a lot about kids, but she was always happy to hang out with Lily. Lily was about four, independent and a cool little kid.
Lily played make-believe for a while, and then Helen took her to the park. It was a beautiful summer day, all crisp and colourful. They sat on a bench by the duck pond.
On the bench was another shiny bit.
Helen and Lily stared at it for a full minute.
“What is it?” Helen asked, even though she was the grown-up.
“It’s a bit of the world,” Lily said.
“It’s falling apart,” Lily squinted into the sky.
Helen picked up the fragile material and traced over it with her finger. The world really was falling apart.
“So what are you going to do about it?” Lily said, with a child’s blazing sincerity.