#Journal Entries (mementos from the present)
#Found Documents (mementos from the past)
#Inquiries (answers to asks)
#Sketch Book (AU Art Tag)
9. The Factory
It didn’t take long for the creature to give up its ramming of the door. The pounding ceased; the humming slowly petered off. I was afraid to turn my back on the door, but I decided that it was best to put as much distance between myself and that thing as possible. I finally turned around to see where I had ended up, and was thankful for the result.
Before me stood my factory; great smoke stacks spiraling upwards toward the sky, my company sign burning dull red in the black, smoky clouds. Though, the stacks weren’t currently billowing smoke as they should be… or should they…
I made my way slowly to the entrance, still painfully shaken by my encounter. I could not comprehend exactly what it was I had seen. My eyes had registered the image; wet, scaly flesh, dripping jaws, human feet and aquatic fins… but my mind could not process it. All I knew was that it was a monster. I couldn’t fathom from what deep hell it had been spawned. I didn’t like the probability there…
The factory entrance was open, and it led me straight to the Piston Room. I finally remembered what I was supposed to be doing. The children, the mysterious phone call… I had to get these engines running again.
The Piston Room was dimly lit. Thin coils of metal were heated overhead, casting only the red glow of hot metal, causing the temperature in the room to be stifling. Unfortunately being stealth was not an option; the flooring of the catwalk beneath my feet was metal, and every step I took clanged needlessly. It was disorienting, trying to distinguish the sound of my own footsteps from the sounds of… something else.
The catwalks weaved between great big cogs, which were powered by steam fed pistons. They towered over my head; making me feel quite infinitesimal. Among the many things it seems I have forgotten, the sheer magnitude of this operation was one of them…
I came to the control panel in the center of the piston room. I turned off my lantern then, as the main controls were quite well illuminated by an overhead bulb. The controls seemed fairly simple to operate. There was a set of three leavers; I pulled the first one. The was a sudden blast, and I watched as six separate furnaces lining the room bloomed to life with fire and the smell of coal. The second lever released the pressure on the pipes, allowing water to rush through them once more, into the furnaces where the water was superheated into steam.
The third lever was sticky. It took all of the strength left in my shaken body to push it. And when I did, the lights went out. The whole building shook and I fell to my knees on the metal floor. Above me, the pistons began to pump, turning the great engine wheels. The sound was nearly deafening, but over it, I could hear another noise…
Oh Christ… Not again…
I pushed myself into the space under the control panel, clutching my lantern, keeping it off. I heard the clanging of misshapen feet on the metal cat walk. I could hear, again, the sputtering hum of a broken propeller, sometimes the mechanical clang of the blades hitting the flooring. And I could hear… them… communicating. My heart stopped in my chest. There were two of them. And they were talking to each other with grunts and hums and whimpers. They were searching. Alerted by the sudden rumble of engines. I held both hands over my mouth when I saw limbs shuffle mere inches from my hiding spot. I could smell the sickening odor of schlop, I watched in dim light as the black droplets struck the floor. I was shivering, willing it to move past me. But it was sniffing the air… it could smell me, and it turned its great lumbering body towards the control panel.
In a moment of panic, I threw on my lantern and shined it directly into the monsters eyes. It was startled, just like the last time, but the great squeal it made alerted it’s partner, and I could hear the tromping of feet running toward our location. I threw myself out from under the panel and found myself making yet another run for my life. I knew the direction from which I had come, so I knew I had to run the other way.
A flash of golden orange ran across the beam of my light and I faltered, quickly turning off the lantern and pressing myself into a corner. A shadow blew past my field of vision and I watched it run. The second fish had run past me to help its partner. I took it as a blessing.
I continued running, all the way to the back of the piston room, crossing a bridge to a small platform where I found a door. A single door. My only hope. “Compound X Storage” the sign read, but I had no time to reflect on that. When I reached it, slamming my body into it, I found it would not budge. I turned the handle, threw my shoulder against it but it would not give me an inch. I had no keys. There were no other doors. It was either this, or…
Behind me I heard the humming and the clanging again. They were coming and I had no choice but to descend. Below the bridge was the opening to a coal pit. Without even considering the consequences I flung myself over the edge. I fell into the pile with a crack, feeling my entire body give and slide down the gravel of coal into the pit. Surly this was better than being torn apart by those creatures. I could hear them squealing and gnashing above me. But consciousness did not stay with me for long as I felt a dark chill slide over me.
"We… We can…"
“We can always start chopping down the trees.”
I’ve been such a fool.
I honestly thought I would be able to make something out of this invention… but all I’ve managed to do was put myself in debt. I sunk all of my money into this factory under the foolish pretense that with a greater facility I would be able to sell more Thneeds… But we can’t gather the materials fast enough. We can’t meet the demand. This factory is hemorrhaging money. I can’t pay the workers. I can’t pay the bank. I can barely feed my family.
Mother was right…
She’s always right…
Every day I live in dread that the collectors will come knocking at my door… I’ll lose this house I built for my family… for my brothers. And where will we go when that happens? There is no where left for us to go. I have to make this work…
I’m going to talk to mother. I won’t tell her how bad things are but… maybe she’ll have an idea of what to do.
"Th… The cages…?"
"I am starting to remember bits and pieces… and I… I honestly have no idea why they would be there… I really don’t! But I can only… only speculate that…"
"Well… I did wake up in a cage. I guess it… would be so far fetched to think that maybe… people? No! No the monsters must have been in those cages! They must have gotten… loose… right?”
"Well what else could it be?! I mean… It… it wasn’t… maybe not totally a fish. It was like… both fish and human… and… machine I guess. I don’t know where it came from though! I can’t even believe that I saw it! My mind has been playing tricks on me since I woke up but… I guess… I mean there’s no way that was a hallucination…"
"You… mean the fish… I guess I’ll keep that in mind. I don’t really plan on… seeing any more of them though. I mean… how many could there be?”
8. The Basement
When I reached the bottom of the stairwell, there was yet another great roar, and the stone stairs shot back upwards above me, leaving me face to face with a wall of solid rock, and nowhere to turn back. It was so utterly dark. There was no light, not the faintest crack for moonlight or flicker of fire. It pressed against my ears with the high pitched whine of silence. I was afraid to remain in this pitch… I was even more afraid to flick on my light.
But the light revealed nothing more than an arched passage, heading for yet another set of stairs, taking me further down. I placed one hand against the solid stone wall beside me as I made my way further down, holding on to the only support I had. The fear was creeping back, crawling up my spine, up my neck, into my skull.
There was a fork at the end of the stairwell, and as I contemplated which way to turn, a blur of shadow flashed across my light. I gasped, covering my mouth, falling onto my backside onto the stares as I turned off my lantern again.
There was something else here… There was something down here with me…
I felt tears leak down my cheeks. My mind and vision were hazy and I wanted nothing more than to dissolve into the stone beneath me. I don’t know how long I sat there, frozen with terror, before returning to shaky legs and continuing down my path. I tried so hard to be quiet… I tried so hard to navigate without my lantern on. While its light guided me through the mazes of stone and steel, I knew it would also give away my presence…
I finally came to a room, and in the center of the room was a candle, and the flickering light of the candle illuminated little… but it illuminated enough. The room was stacked, floor to ceiling, with metal cages. My mind reeled, my breath catching, as my head suddenly throbbed with the pain of memory. Cages… why would there be cages under a church… why would there be cages in the tunnels leading to my factory. They were obviously there for something… cages were meant to keep monsters contained… like the one around my bed…
A low sound filled my ears. Its quiet was more terrifying than any loud bang. It was a sound I’d been hearing throughout my journey to this very moment: a hum. Just a soft, sputtering hum, and the slow dragging of limbs. But it grew louder… it was approaching. There was something in here.
I needed to hide. It already knew I was here. I turned on my lantern and I ran, just as fast as I had in the alley, looking for anything I could shield myself with. I searched frantically for a door, and through the bars of cages I could see one at the far end of the narrow room. The humming behind me grew louder, a wet sputtering a slapping of wet feet on the stone was not far behind me. I could smell oil and smoke, and I knew I would not make it to the door. I turned off my lantern and ducked into a corner surrounded by a wall of cages.
I sat with my knees to my chest, my doused lantern at my side, my hands clutched over my nose and mouth. I tried not to breath, tried not to blink. I feared the very sound of my eyelids shutting might give away my presence, not to mention my pounding heart. I stared straight ahead, into total blackness. That flickering candle did not reach this far…
I heard it again… the stuttering hum, the drag of legs, the drip and gurgle of sludge. I heard air being inhaled… oh god it was sniffing… and then suddenly I could smell it. I knew the smell. It stung my nose and my brain with memory and guilt… It smelled like schlop. The grease and oil and residue that was so carelessly dumped into the river outside of the factory. My eyes stung with tears, from the smell and from the sudden slash of guilt. But I didn’t have time to feel guilty… I was too occupied with being terrified.
Everything went quiet for a moment… I could still hear the hum, but didn’t know where it was coming from… I had to get out of here. I had to move. I had to escape. I reached with quivering hands for my lantern. I flipped the switch, and the beam of light shuttered to life.
The light and the sound alarmed the creature, and in an instant it was charging for me. My flight instinct kicked in and I was too my feet, rushing past it. My shoulder banged into a wall of cages. I felt claws rip at my dress and leg. The creature roared, if it could even be called that; the sound was high pitched and warbling, mixed with the mechanical hum of what I realized was a propeller attached to its tail. Fish. It was a goddamn fish.
I pushed past it, holding up my skirts as I ran as fast as I could toward the door. The Humming Fish barreled behind me, but my advantage came in the form of one of its missing arms; it couldn’t keep up. I slammed into the door, still screaming as I jostled the handle and pushed myself through. The last thing I saw was that mouth full of teeth and schlop before I slammed the door and threw the bolt, pressing my body against it as the creature threw itself against the other side.