Title: THE MONSTER FACTORY
Author: Sharon Shipley
Genre: Coming of Age/Sci-Fi/Horror
The Age of Innocence.
Two neglected boys need to grow up fast in Perfect-Town, where a voracious Monster born of ecological sludge develops strange new hungers beneath an abandoned derelict factory…out where side-walks end...and no one knows where they are…
Will-Fred is neglected. His sole buddy, Elmo is asthmatic. Peers scorn them. When they stumble on the Monster, they have fat chance of convincing parents or town elders of the blood-freezing peril. Worse, the two discover the most chilling menace, is much closer, and less foreseeable than their worst nightmares and they must take out the Monster on their own... anyway they can...
The Old Factory was new once. The brick a startling shade of raw bloody liver, not the faded blood-stain-pink of Now. World War I posters plastered walls of the proud owner of a tomato-canning factory in 1890, a few years before the Great War. He became rich in that war of 1914.
Indiana. The Tomato Super Bowl.
Hot. Sticky. Like living in the bottom of a teacup covered by a damp towel. Tomatoes were practically the state flower, along with corn. That first day of The Factory's existence, after all the ceremonies and the work whistle blew, an elderly man wheeled in the first barrow heaped with Beef Boy tomatoes—the red of fire engines bursting with the blood of tomatoes, and life-giving seed before being re-sacrificed to he enormous hungry cauldrons of fog and fire, steaming vile hot salty vapors into soon-to-be fuggy interiors.
It was always August thereafter inside The Factory when sultry tomato-misted heat reached 112 degrees and the humidity was 100 %.
The boiler hissed and rattled. Women breathing scarlet mist were stoic and enduring, plucking underarms of sweaty house dresses all calico and pink and blue-sprigged, under aprons long past wearing and used to it.
Tomato gore plastered their faces and fronts if they'd been stabbed to death, as they chattered and gossiped in loud braying voices, while leaning over the snakes of conveyor belts stretched like shiny black rubber smiles rolling on past.
Hands pink and puffy flashed in and out with sharp silver knives. The worker's salt blended with the scalding peeled tomatoes, scooped in molten jars—the lids tightened on tomato entombment. Then, tins, hot as molten glass clanked by, to be buried in cardboard boxes at the end of the last conveyor by larger, beefier women and a few men, too poorly to be in the war.
It was a steamy red hell when the huge boiler's safety valves shrieked, joining screams of pain and hands dripped bright scarlet joining tomato sludge, continuously swamping an enormous Grate in the center of The Factory's floor.
The Grate was gleaming that first day and of an ornate, shining brass and four feet square.
The women didn't like to stand over it, particularly. The feeling was unspoken but they jostled aside or wedged together to avoid The Grate. Perhaps there was an updraft—however, whatever the reason, some unfortunates always lost the game of musical chairs, forced to stand square in the middle of that Grate of ominous designs, as if they knew.
Some thought the pattern resembled sad faces, to others, evil dogs, or grinning goats.
But it was there into that Grate tomato residue, foamy and hot, plus blood dripping from the common slip of the knife and their collected sweat all dropped heavy between the brass scroll work below-floor and onto bare earth. There, sludge collected, moldered, festered, eventually running sluggish down clay tile pipes where it poured, still redly, hotly steaming into The Lake.
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I live and write on South Carolina's amazing coastline and am the author of several books ranging to from erotic Sci Fi, to steamy romantic adventure, and thrillers to illustrated children's books. Other Books: Sary's Gold, Sary's Diamonds, Sary and the Maharajah's Emeralds. Beast In the Moon, The Girl On Convict Lake. Danforth The Dragon.