A long time ago there was a great Dwarven city, deep underground. The city was on the shores of a vast underground lake, teeming with fish. The dwarves living there were happy and productive, but they were messy. For some reason, they decided not to bother throwing away their garbage, and instead, just left it wherever it fell. If a stone carver's tool broke, he'd leave the pieces where they landed. If someone ate an apple, they dropped the core on the ground when they were finished. Fisherman left the remains of the fish they'd caught lying around the docks on the lake. No one cleaned up after themselves, ever. After decades and generations of living like this, their city became overwhelmed with garbage. They walked over garbage, climbed over piles of it, every time they went outside. They built houses upon it. Everywhere you looked, all you could see was garbage.
A unique thing about the dwarves who lived there was that they had developed a way to create golems – tiny creatures, made of rock or clay, and enchanted to be alive. Upon creation, the golems were given tasks – some did mining, some prepared food for the dwarves, some tended the forge; each golem was given a purpose. Over time, the golems started taking over the jobs of the dwarves, and the dwarves became rich from the profits made from their golems, and they had only free time. They lived lives of leisure, and started creating even more garbage, because they could afford to waste things.
When the garbage started becoming a problem, they created golems whose job was to dig a bottomless hole, and other golems whose job was to clean up the garbage by dumping it in the hole. The little golems tried and tried, digging ever deeper and cleaning up more and more, but it seemed like no matter how hard they tried, there was always more garbage. Finally there came a day when the garbage piled so high that the city was becoming unlivable. Garbage had damaged the places where their mushrooms grew, and they were having difficulty finding enough; it was also slowly poisoning the fish that lived nearest the city. They started running out of food.
The wisest, eldest members of the city got together to discuss a solution, and they agreed on one after many days of talking. The solution they chose was to build a massive boat, load all the dwarves on it, and sail away. For five years, they would sail, leaving the little golems behind to keep cleaning up the garbage. After five years, they thought that they would be able to return home to a completely clean city. They agreed to send one golem back each year to check on the progress of the clean-up, and report back. Once the clean-up was complete, they would go home.
So the dwarves built a boat, loaded themselves onto it, and sailed away. They took all of the golems except for those responsible for cleaning.
At first, things in the city went well for the little golems. With no dwarves making more mess, the golems could finally make progress with the clean-up. The dwarves, on the other hand, were sailing around the enormous lake, and barely stopped to think about the city they had left behind. Every year the captain of the ship sent a golem back to check up, but each year fewer and fewer people cared what was in the reports.
By the time five years was up, the mess had not been entirely cleaned up, and the dwarves decided to extend their time on the ship. They lived easy lives, the fish in the rest of the lake were plentiful, and they continued creating new and improved golems to serve them. They developed stronger golems to help them expand the boat or make repairs; they created golems who could swim to repair the bottom of the boat. They had golems who were guards to make sure no one stole from anyone else or hurt anyone. They dumped all their garbage in the lake, and never had to worry about it building up. Everyone was enjoying themselves so much that they forgot about the city and the clean-up.
The captain decided to enchant the golems they sent back to the city to only bring their reports to him when they had proof that the city was ready to be lived in again – the proof being a living, healthy mushroom. Otherwise even he forgot about their home and the little golems who were there cleaning it up.
Back in the city, they started having problems. The clean-up was taking longer than expected, and with time, cleaning golems were starting to wear out. With no dwarves to fix them, their enchantments started breaking down, and with each passing month, there were fewer and fewer golems cleaning. No one on the ship knew, because no one was hearing the reports of the golems sent back to check on progress once per year. No one thought to wonder why the clean-up was taking so long.
Time passed, and a new generation of dwarves was born on the ship. These young dwarves hadn't ever lived in the city, and they didn't care about the stories their parents told of living on land. The ship got further and further away, the clean-up was going slower and slower, and no one cared. On the ship, the captain even turned over the running of the ship to a new, very complex, intelligent golem named auto. Auto was part of the ship, and he oversaw all of the golems as well as the functioning of the ship. He also was the one to receive the reports of the city from the golems who were sent each year.
Auto worried what would happen if the clean-up was ever complete. He saw the way the dwarves forgot about the golems back in the city, and thought that if ever they were able to go home, they'd forget about him, too. He would be left, alone and useless, on the ship. He decided he didn't ever want to dwarves to go home, and so he didn't tell anyone about the problems with the clean-up back in the city. And as no one ever asked, he was able to hide it well.
By the time the next generation of dwarves was born, there was only one cleaning golem left active in the city. His name was Goll-E, and he was working his hardest to clean up the city. But one little golem working alone can only do so much, and so progress was very slow. And Goll-E was lonely. To make up for his loneliness, he started collecting interesting trinkets that had been thrown away by the dwarves. He found plates and cups, forks and spoons, children's toys and enchanted lights, and other small things. He treasured the uniqueness of these items which had been discarded, and even though he didn't need them, he took them to a house he decided to use for himself, and kept them as a reminder of the dwarves that used to live there.
Goll-E also loved music and dancing. He remembered times when dwarves used to sing and dance all the time, and he missed it. So after a long day of cleaning, he would go to his house, sing songs for himself, and dance, all alone, just to remind himself what it was like when there used to be company.
After many years by himself, one day Goll-E was working when he heard something down by the docks in the city. Going down to check on the noise, he discovered a small boat that had been tied up at the dock. Getting off the boat was Eve, a golem who'd been sent on the yearly inspection to find out how well the clean-up was going. Now Eve was a much newer golem than Goll-E. She was polished to a shine, was so fast it almost seemed she could fly, and she even had a sword she could use to defend herself in case she came across a lake monster on her way.
.... There is more of this story ...