Ghost in the Factory
What will I do
once the old place is gone? I wish I
still had a sense of touch so that I could put my palms, my soft palms, on the
rough bricks. I can see, of course, and I am not happy with what has happened
to the neighborhood since my accident.
I still call it my accident.
But it was not an accident.
The early mornings are best, just before the sun
rises. After all, isn’t
this when ghosts are supposed to be at their most potent—frightening the hell
out of folks? As it is I wander the floors, wondering what it would sound like
if I could hear my feet slapping against the wood strips. The place is
completely empty now. All the furniture and machines have been taken out. The
walls are naked, waiting to be destroyed.
The furniture factory went out during the Depression,
and the place was
snapped up after the war and cut into smaller shops. Those people really tried
to make a success out of it, and some did. But they all failed, just like the
Smythe furniture factory.
Each time I climb or descend the stairs, I think
that it will be my last
time to do so. You might thing that after all of these decades, such pacing
would be tedious. But that is not true. Each time I look, I see something
new--perhaps a bit of metal or a hole in the plaster— that I would not have
Each day is an adventure, I suppose.
Any yet I am tied here, as though with some invisible
chain. I think of
those fat businessmen in A Christmas Carol, all bound with chains and iron
ledgers. It is like that, I suppose. I have never tried to leave the factory,
but I do not believe that I could – something would hold me back, some
presence. Not God either, but I do not want to discuss that.
You would think after all of these years that
the view from the dingy
windows would have changed. And yet, as I look beyond the glass, there are empty
fields and ragged lots. Nothing has changed; the area has never been developed.
As I turned away, I could not resist looking at
myself in the mirror—a
slight, youngish man dressed in clothes which would seem strange and antique
today. My thinning hair was brushed back as it had always been. My necktie – a
gift from my sister – was as bright and pretty as it was when I first received
it. And why wouldn’t it be – that is the thing about us: ghosts do not change.
Then I listened to the silence. At one time things
were only quiet at
night, but now the rooms are soundless all the time.
The fall. What was the rhyme from the old readers
– in Adam’s fall, we
sinned all? I did fall, down those winding steps which led you from the
glass-walled office to the shop floor. I did not know what was happening at
first. I just felt my feet collapsing beneath me as I tumbled painfully to the
I did not black out all at once, nor did I feel
any sharp or sudden pain.
When it was over, when I was still, I could feel my arms and feet twisted
As I looked up, I saw Peter Smythe. He seemed
to take a step down and then
stopped as if by some invisible hand. I could barely make out his expression,
but it was complicated—shock, hate, grief, resignation. I tried to call out,
but I was unable to move my mouth. I thought that he would say something or
shout something – after all, we were the only ones in the factory at this time.
But there was only the silence, broken only by
the heavy slicing of the
industrial clock near the doorway. Peter leaned forward again from the top of
the stairs, but said and did nothing.
I did not know whether to keep looking at him
or turn away, resigned to
what would happen next. As I am describing this to you, you would think that
that all of this took some time, but this all happened in a matter of seconds.
I suddenly realized that Peter was looking at me, looking carefully and waiting
until I died. But that made me even more determined to live. I tried moving,
but the best I could manage was to flutter my fingers like some palsied fish.
I knew that I was going to die. I’m not
sure, now, whether it is better to
die suddenly, as if with a swift slash of a knife or slowly, knowingly. What
you have read is correct: if the body knows it is going to die – and it does,
believe me – it tries everything it can to stop the process.
Then I did not sense a blinding or even soft light
– or darkness for that
matter. I felt something else entirely, both peacefulness and terror. I cannot
describe this any more carefully now—maybe I can later.
How long I stayed in that “in between”
state, I do not know, but then I
started to feel more of myself. In this new version of myself, I had all my
strength back and none of the pain.
Abby was pretty. I suppose that is why I was attracted
to her, but she was
also the boss’s sister. And that attracted me, too. When I first started at the
factory, she was not there very much. I learned later that she was at home
caring for her father after his stroke. She described Mr. Smythe’s mute anger,
twisting his lips to speak the words he no longer could speak. She had felt
powerful and helpless at the same time. Abby said that she and her brother had
spoken about nurses or other sorts of care for their father, but Peter, especially,
feared the wrath of the old man’s quick-moving eyes.
In the end Abby stayed with her father until his
When we first talked it was innocent enough. We
chatted about the
factory—she teased her brother often about his long hours. Still, she seemed to
have a curious disinterest in the place although it provided her with the large
house and pretty furnishings and the slatternly girls from the village who
“And where do you see yourself going?”
Suddenly her round face seemed
firmer, harder. She swung back long hair and seemed to move her feet apart, in
sort of a boxer’s stance.
“Going?” I remember asking quietly.
“Yes. Of course that is what I mean.”
Abby reached across quickly with an
open hand. I thought at first (in terror) that she was going to touch my face.
But she brought the hand slowly to the point of my chest.
I laughed. “Where do you think I am going?
I have to work.”
She stood back from me and looked carefully at
my hands and clothes. “Are
you one of those impoverished boys off the farm? Are you avoiding a strict
father or the pile of heavy field work?”
I laughed again, and she grinned in reply. “No,
as a matter of fact, my
father is a preacher, one of the kindest men I have ever seen.”
After a short silence, I added “But it is
time for me to do my own work
“Not the Lord’s?”
“What are you doing, bothering the help?”
We both looked up, across the
Peter was strongly built, but his voice was odd,
tinny and weak. As he
approached, arms pumping, you had the sense that he was mad at one of us.
Still, his face was impassive.
“Just talking, Peter, just talking to the
“Well, why don’t you let the young
man go back to his tasks?” He looked up
quickly at me – not harshly or rudely – but I knew enough to draw back and let
the two of them have at it. As I left the room, I turned since their voices
were loud. Suddenly, she turned and walked away from him, her skirts in a
Peter’s strength allowed him to fill in
at any point in the
process—repairing the machine belts, hauling bags or boxes of supplies. He had
merely to look at a man, and he was obeyed. I suppose I envied him like that. I
suppose that I have always felt uncomfortable around people.
Abby liked me, and that was enough. I guess that
I taunted Peter, at times
making sure that he saw me drawing my fingers across her cheeks. And once I
squeezed Abby’s bottom as we passed by him. I expected him to pull me aside or
fire me or something like that, but none of those things happened.
At this distance, years later, I am not sure how
long we were together. It
might have been a few months. You see, there was no arc to our relationship. We
simply met each other and talked and separated. Sometimes it would be weeks
before we saw each other again.
“Do you like working here, Samuel?”
“Yes, I do, Peter.”
He scowled at me. “Then keep your nose clean”
“What do you mean by that?”
“You know goddamn well what I mean.”
Then he turned abruptly, flapping the
large papers in his hand, and walked upstairs to office with the frosted glass.
I only smiled at him—when he wasn’t looking, of course. If Abby had been there
she would have covered her giggling mouth like a schoolgirl.
We kept our distance. I expected that Abby would
advise us to hold back,
to keep things quiet, since it would have been harder for her at home.
But she was always pushing us on.
We had gone walking that Sunday afternoon. To
avoid Peter, we walked
toward Norrington, along the river. The path was narrow and hard to find, but
the woods, in the early summer, were overgrown, giving us some privacy for our
“What will happen to us?”
Either one of us could have said that, but it
was me who spoke. Abby
looked up at me, suddenly arranging her dress to cover her nakedness. I rolled
toward her, not willing yet to pull on my clothes. The early afternoon sun, now
unobstructed by the trees, seemed hot and unyielding. We spoke quietly to each
“Samuel, what are we going to do about Peter?”
I replied that I did not know. Then I was sorry
that I had said that since
she turned away from me, her mouth set.
We began to talk again, slowly at first. I kept
asking her, kept pressing
her about her own plans.
“I don’t know myself, Samuel.”
Then she laughed. “I suppose that I will be
an old woman decades from now trailing after my brother the factory owner,
clearing up all of his disorder.”
I held her for a long time then, and we did not
speak again until we both
decided to gather our things and head back to town. I told Abby when to
leave—we did not want to be seen either walking together or leaving the village
“You didn’t expect that, did you?”
His laugh was sharp, ugly. And he stood
before me, hands on hips, shaking his head and smiling. “No, my boy, you did
not expect that.”
As I stood up, brushing the ashes from my clothes,
I wondered how the ash
bucket had gotten there, right under my feet.
Of course I thought of a thousand things to say,
but I held off. It was
not just a question of how he would react, but of what Abby would think. After
all, even though we met and talked and played, Peter was still her brother. I
supposed that Peter would have wanted me to swing at him. Then he could have
fired me. But of course, he did not want to fire me—he wanted to keep me around
on a leash so that he could torment me all the more.
I even thought of a sarcastic word or two, but
I remained silent.
Abby and I continued to meet, of course, but now
we were fierce and quick
with our lovemaking. I feared the worst – for her – but she seemed to enjoy the
adventure. Once, as we sweated and panted afterward, she rubbed my hot cheek,
looking as though she had gone a few rounds with the world’s champion.
Peter knew this, of course, but he had no attempt
to find us or disturb
us. It was as thought he enjoyed knowing that we were being watched, terrified
that he might pounce at any time.
I don’t remember how long this went on –
I should, but I must have put it
all out of my mind.
And then the fall, the last few minutes of life,
the grinning expression
of the man who had killed me. I cannot
describe what happened next, the passage from one type of life to the next. I
am not sure I could tell you even if I remembered. Sometimes you hear that the
next life gives you freedom. I can tell you that it is not like that at all—in fact,
I feel more fettered than ever at times.
And there was no floating above my still body,
nothing like that.
And now I have to leave. They have brought the
equipment here to finish
the old place at last
I suppose I should have some last thoughts, but
I don’t. I don’t think
about the others—some of them are still alive.
I was with Peter at the end, in his office, as
he gasped out his last,
clutching his throat and chest frantically. He did not know I was there, of
course, and when it was over I did not see him again. People fancy that ghosts
have this charming afterlife club where we swirl around on clouds in flowing
toga-like robes, but it is not like that at all.
I am outside now, watching the events, watching
the destruction. When it
ends, I will have to wander away to someplace else. Someday, I suppose, this
will end and I will stop walking and sleep or silence will take over. Perhaps
someone will tell me what to do.
I don’t know.
Poor Abby. If there was justice, I would be seeing
her now. I know what
happened to her, but I was not there during her last, terrible illness. Unlike
Peter, she never grew old.
I must have closed my eyes. I supposed that I
slept, but that would be a
strange thing since ghosts do not sleep. When I looked around again, the
building was gone. The workers had left a pile of good bricks, but the rest of
the walls and plaster and shingles lay in piles of rubble. Someone – a
supervisor from the look of him – poked at the heaps with a stick. I heard
nothing, only a strange quietness.
The old expression says that a journey of a thousand
miles begins with a
single step. I wish that I knew how long I would be out here before I come to
the next stage of my existence. I suppose that I must have committed some sins
in the past, and that this is the reason I must wander between both worlds – if
in fact there is a world after this. I guess I don’t believe in it anyway.
Maybe I will see Abby.
Beyond the leveled lot is a small road that works
its way over the hill.
The town of Andrews is beyond, at the end of that road.
I will go in that direction.
After all, it is a beautiful morning, and I can
just hear a flutter or two
of birds in the distance.
Jeremiah Minihan lives
in Rochester, New Hampshire. He has taught school and worked as a software
developer and project manager in the insurance and banking industries.
He writes short
stories and essays, and he has published stories in Pif Magazine, Dark
Dossier, Yellow Mama, Blood Moon Rising, Theme of Absence, Bewildering Stories,
Literally Stories, Literary Yard and CommuterLit.
Darren Blanch, Aussie creator of visions
which tell you a tale long after first glimpses have teased your peepers. With early influence
from America's Norman Rockwell to show life as life, Blanch has branched out mere art form
to impact multi-dimensions of color and connotation. People as people, emotions speaking
their greater glory. Visual illusions expanding the ways and means of any story.
arts mastery provides what Darren wishes a reader or viewer to take away in how their own
minds are moved. His evocative stylistics are an ongoing process which sync intrinsically
to the expression of the nearby written or implied word he has been called upon to render.
View the vivid energy of IVSMA (Darren Blanch) works at: www.facebook.com/ivsma3Dart, YELLOW MAMA,
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DeviantArt - www.deviantart.com/ivsma
and launching in 2019,
as Art Director for suspense author / intrigue promoter Kate Pilarcik's line of books and
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