The Eternal Life Of The Garbage Patch Kid
after the U.S. nuclear betrayal of the people of Rongelap Atoll

“U.S. government documents from the time show that officials weighed the potential hazards of radiation exposure against ‘the current low morale of the natives’ and a ‘risk of an onset of indolence.’ Ultimately they decided to go forward with the resettlement so researchers could study the effects of lingering radiation on human beings.” – Susanne Rust

After years of observation, her arms
were definitively glassy and sharp. 
The scientists peered through her 
transparent forearm and saw nothing
but the sandy floor beneath them.
They had dubbed her “Garbage Patch
Kid,” on account of the landfill
that had accumulated on her island—
dolls, televisions, shoes, and
an absolute abundance of plastic
bags. Tasked with searching for
any remaining residents of the
islands, a search party discovered
her on the shore, a bed of ragged
clothing and memory foam cardboard
beneath her. The girl vehemently 
expressed a desire for aid. For herself
or for her island—which she insisted 
was her home—was not clear, but
what was clear was that over time, her 
features began to change. Her hair
grew white as take-out bag strands 
sprouted from her head like synthetic
seeds. Her scars healed over not in 
hardened flesh but in aluminum bottle
caps. The soles of her feet began
to bleach and sponge into light
slabs of styrofoam. The girl soon
lost her ability to speak; her tongue
mutated to the calloused black rubber
of what the researchers assumed
was a flip-flop. “This is horrifying,”
one researcher said, averting his eyes.
“This is groundbreaking,” another
responded, “in this state, she won’t
die for hundreds of years—we’ll be
long gone, but she’ll still be kicking.”


Jaden Fong is a writer with a sweet tooth and a soft spot for the whimsical and the peculiar. A two-time nominee for the Aliki Perroti & Seth Frank Most Promising Young Poet Award, you can find his work on the Academy of American Poets website at, miniskirt magazine, and Hearth & Coffin, among other places. To see his work on tea-stained paper or to contact him, find him on Instagram at @jadenwriter.