((Author Note: The following explanation of how to get to Brach’s is true; I’ve been that way. Go if you dare, but don’t enter. Seriously. If you would like to skip to the inside of the factory, simply search for *****))
The train sped down the elevated tracks. I saw the Brach’s Candy Factory from several blocks away. Such was the enormity of the buildings, a reminder of more prosperous times. It had been the American Dream made tangible in the early 1900s all the way up to the ‘80s. The great red fortress had once produced tons of candy, the most in the country in its heyday. More than anything, it had once made Chicago the Candy Capital of the World. The sheer scope of the building was enough to make the first rivulet of doubt stream down my forehead since Ella and I had agreed to record a video about the factory.
From the pictures, I had not expected this. The neighborhood in which Brach’s was located, Austin, was once a hub of all manner of factories. Now the shells of departed industry made the neighborhood look like a sad shadow of its former self. Urban decay had set in to some areas, while small business sat here and there. An enormous mural of tropical orange frogs adorned one building. It made me smile, despite my creeping fear.
“This is going to be amazing. Urban Explorers of America is going to flip over our adventure,” said Ella, clutching her camera equipment. A studious looking older gentleman with a short grey afro and black plastic frames looked at us incredulously. Ella frowned. “What?”
“Are you all going to Brach’s?” he asked.
Ella looked excited. “Yeah. We are.”
The man shook his head.
“I’mma say this, then I’m gonna shut up: It’s not a good idea. I teach Chicago History. You all don’t need to be goin’ in there. Homeless people live in there. It’s probably ghosts in there from that sugar explosion. And worse? Probably it’s the damn animals. I saw coyotes around here recently on the tracks. The whole damn thing coming down sooner or later. With or without the construction crew.”
I was about to inquire about the coyotes (the other things I’d already researched or guessed) when Ella cut me short. “We’re urban explorers. We didn’t come unprepared. We have cell phones, respirators, climbing equipment, knee pads, helmets, utility gloves, duct tape…”
The man looked impressed, but he still shook his head at the same time. “Yeah, well, also it was a motherfuckin’ junkie around here with a knife that killed some folks, so I hope you have a gun or bat or somethin’ cause ain’t no respirator gon’ stop him from cuttin’ ya’ll asses up.”
Despite his claim that he was going to shut up, I could feel my eyes widen. In our research, that story never came up…and Ella knew the area pretty well. But both of us lived in San Francisco now, and it had been a while since she’d been back home.
“But whatever. Ain’t even none of my business, so…” the man trailed off.
Ella’s frown deepened. “You right. It’s not any of your damn business.”
“Ella! Chill. He was just trying to help,” I said.
“Trying to help us get scared. We’ve been planning this trip for a long time. We’ve spent a lot of money and a lot of time for somebody to make you get cold feet. You already knew all this stuff he’s saying. We have permission to go in from the owners, we have permits for our equipment, and we talked to the local authorities and heard their spiel or whatever. This is it. This is make it or break it time.”
“Look, I was jus’ tryin’ to help. Ya’ll can go in there if you want, but if you get hurt that’s on you. Plus it’s getting late and everything.”
“Yeah, well thanks but no thanks. We’re set. Thank you,” Ella retorted sweetly, turning back to me.
“Maybe we shoulda come earlier.”
“Maybe,” Ella admitted. “But it’s not earlier right now. Honestly, it’s just 12:00 pm. We have plenty of time.”
“But time flies. Really fast.”
“This is Cicero,” announced the CTA train. Ella looked at me.
“This is us Loren.” She stood, shooting a disgusted look at the old man. He rolled his eyes. “Ya’ll gon’ learn tonight. Ya’ll stupid,” he said. The man snapped a Tribune paper dramatically in front of his face, putting an end to any and all communication with him.
We exited the train onto the platform, Ella excitedly, me with uncertainty. A second bead of sweat marked a second feeling of doubt permeating my body to the core. Shit. Shit and double freaking shit.
I followed Ella, staring intently ahead as we walked down Lake Street. Ella took a left on an intersection. I looked up as a few sparks showered down onto the streets from the tracks above. We walked next to what amounted to a large hill strewn with trash. We saw a solid looking elevated track held up by a viaduct crossed with a tunnel about ten or fifteen feet in length. I followed her as she walked under it, only to be met with a second set of multiple tracks running perpendicular to the bridged-tunnel, but on the ground. They sat about two feet below; we stood on another grassy hill. Lots of angular stones about an inch to two inches in diameter surrounded the tracks, so a couple clicked and clacked in the wind.
I looked up from the tracks at Brach’s, which was right across from us. It loomed bigger and more ominous than it had from the street. Every missing window revealed a world of graffitied walls and rusty, asbestos corridors. Large tanks and things were on the roof, covered in graffiti. I whistled, disbelieving artists would, or could, go to such heights for their craft. The largest piece was enormous, spanning several several feet high and wide, it seemed. AOM. Commanding attention, cementing his place as the king.
Elsewhere on the building showed signs of habitation. Pieces of outer wall were missing from some places, and patched with standard sized sheets of plasterboard like from Menards. I was kind of baffled at this hidden area. You couldn’t really see it from the street unless you were looking for it. Ella snapped me out of my spell.
“Come on. We have to change.” She moved down to the tracks and started to cross them, hopping over the sturdy beams. I followed her. About halfway across, the rocks started vibrating. I kept moving, but I looked down the tracks at a coming freight train.
I was well out of the way when the freight train passed by. There was no end in sight. I turned, spotting a No Trespassing sign on a chainlink fence. Pfft.
We put on our protective gear. Respirators, knee pads, elbow pads, gloves, bandanas, and goggles. We put our braids into ponytails and tucked them safely away. Then we sat a moment and watched the train for a while, it’s wheels rumbling along, each car covered in yet more graffiti. We eventually made our way to a side entrance hidden between Brach’s itself and another trashy hill. A small portal sat on the side, boarded up with plywood and covered in colorful script.
The entire area was covered in different letters, all by different artists. AOM, Spok, Spor1, THC, KID, Snacki… and countless others.
From the corner of my eye, I saw movement a bit above. I snapped my head up to see a fast moving figure disappearing in a large opening on the side of the building. I shook my head. “Hell. No. Hell no. I saw something. I saw something move up there!”
“Like… a big thing. I don’t know! It moved up there.”
I pointed to the opening. Ella looked up, shielding her eyes from the midday sun. She shook her head. “I don’t see nothin’, Loren,” she said. “Are you sure?”
I nodded. She studied me for a moment, then sighed. “We’ll watch our backs. I got my knife, you got yours. So let’s get in and stay away from that room. At least try not to let dude ruin your visit.” I didn’t feel a bit better, but it was clear she was not turning back.
A lone door sat at the back of the path, ajar. Ella didn’t hesitate. She disappeared inside of it. I looked back at the endless train, up at the hole, and down at my shaking hands. I knew that I was just as stupid as the man on the train had said. And yet I was still going along with it. I moved the door aside. The hinges screeched, echoing in the void beyond. I took a deep breath, and entered the darkness.
To say that every single square inch of the structure was covered in graffiti would be an understatement. Artists had obviously been frequenting this place with alarming vigor. It was as if they were competing with the dinosaurs for most layers of history on top of each others. Tags, pieces, burners… they all were plastered on the walls beneath flaking crumbling ceilings and broken fluorescent light fixtures. I swung around a crank flashlight into dark rooms. Really, The place was quite something. At intervals, motivational signs championing good hygiene and work ethic still stuck to the walls. Flashes issued from Ella’s camera every once in a while. I myself had a tiny video camera strapped to my helmet in a seriously amazing rig. So I freely looked around. The ceiling had paint flaking in one foot pieces, hanging by mere shreds. A sweet-smelling dusty fog permeating every inch of the space. Our respirators were definitely a welcome boon.
Ella looked at her phone for directions to the best locations. She’d gotten dozens of in-depth testimonials from brave explorers, so they were really our lifeline. She led us to a large area turned art gallery, with great columns one foot in diameter every couple feet.
[Click to view this pasta’s related Flickr gallery]
The floor was annoyingly sticky! Large windows overlooked other buildings and a parking lot overgrown with grasses and trees even! In the middle of the vast lot, I saw construction vehicles, including one large wrecking ball. I asked Ella if she’d known the building was supposed to be demolished soon; Ella wasn’t paying me any attention, however, as she walked away. She snapped away greedily with her camera, but I walked around the columns in wonder. My ears latched onto a distant noise. At first I thought it was a truck, but I realized we were far in and couldn’t hear anything on the streets from there. I thought it sounded like a steady mechanical sound, but maybe it was simply the servo motors in Ella’s camera…
We left that area. Ella really wanted to get to the roof to check out that graffiti we’d seen from the train, and so began our ascent up the stairs. They were covered in thick layers of paint chips and dust and other debris. Light spilled through windows coated in dust and a sticky yellow substance. Ella bravely touched it and then smelled it. I wrinkled my nose in disgust, but she announced that it was a healthy coating of corn syrup. I told her not to taste it.
We climbed so many stairs that I almost forgot about the sound I’d heard. I actually couldn’t hear it anymore. The fogginess began to clear the closer we got to the top. I stashed that fact away in my mind for safekeeping as we neared a little white wooden door at the top of the landing. It was so old that the edges were rounded from overuse. The hinges swung easily, which surprised me. I guessed that artists were up here a lot. As Ella went through the portal, I heard a disturbance below us. It sounded like a guttural sort of sound, and buckets falling. My heart thumped. Ella spun around with a questioning look on her face. “The hell was that shit?” she asked. I shook my head. “I don’t know-”
CRASH!!! The sounds of something large colliding shook the entire staircase. We nearly jumped out of our skin. “What was THAT?” Ella said. I shut my mouth grabbing my knife. We both strained to listen. Thump. Thump. The sound of heavy steps far below us. They were getting gradually louder, ascending. I closed the door quietly and found a bit of rope in my bag. I didn’t bother with the logistics of how we were gonna get back down. I tied the rope to the doorknob and then to a nearby pipe behind the little square of a landing. Ella’s mouth was open, her head wagging back and forth meekly.
“Uh uh…I can’t believe this. If that’s that fucking junkie I’m stabbing his ass,” said Ella. “Please. Don’t start that I told you so shit.”
“Well…” I challenged, defiant. She sneered at me, her nose twitching, her figure coming toward me. I looked away. I felt totally ashamed that her expression made me falter.
[Click for another Flickr image]
We moved across the roof among the water tanks and pipes. It was like a colorful maze of metal junk. Then Ella flew, tripped over a pile of rusty spray cans, landing just shy of the edge of the roof. Her fingers hung in the open air as a few cans rolled right off the edge. We did not hear the sound of metal hitting pavement for a long time. Time enough for us to realized how high we were. How close Ella had come to traveling just as far. Ella shuddered, visibly shaken. I helped her up. She backed away from the edge, saying a quick “Thank you God” before we proceeded.
We saw no other ways down that didn’t involve fantastic acrobatics. We had no choice but to sit and wait. From so high, we heard faint traffic, and a whistling wind flying through crevices in dilapidated equipment. Other than that, silence. Not a soul was here but us, we had assumed. Ella’s hands were shaking as she put her camera to her face, zooming in to the door. I had good vision, so I kept my eyes trained on it as well.
My eyes wandered a couple times though. I caught a glimpse at something shiny nearby, behind a discarded air conditioner. I tapped Ella, but she waved me off and shushed me. I side-eyed her and crept closer to see what the object was. It looked like a large tree bough, only it was made of a semi-opaque yellowish material, really the color of snot. It was crystalline and jagged, and it had a red center. It smelled horrible, ugh. A nasty looking candy reject is what it was. I removed my gloves, and reached out to touch it. It was sticky. It reminded me of when my nephew left half-eaten candy on the table. All wet and sticky. Disgusting.
I retreated back to Ella to report what I’d seen. She flared her nostrils and went to shoot pictures of it. She was just as disgusted as I was. “Looks like a candy arm,” she said. I almost threw up. Over the edge of the building, damn the height.
After that business was over, we sat there for a long time. My phone read 3:00 pm. There was no one we could call in Chicago for help. The police had warned us that, although we had permission to be in the building, it was a plan wrought with folly. They were no use unless we were in a real emergency. By their standards, not ours.
Eventually Ella got tired of waiting, and we elected to go back the way we came and leave as soon as possible. We had enough footage of old candy wrappers and graffiti and posters and disembodied candied arms for a good collection. We’d had enough.
We crept back to the door. I listened hard, but heard nothing. So I collected my rope and quietly opened the door. I placed my foot on the first stair, and the sound of crumbling paint chips and old plastic wrappers and pop cans sounded to me like an air horn in front of a megaphone. We struggled to make as little noise as possible. Our descent was slow and careful. Every landing we glanced around the walls and checked the hallways. We were halfway down when we heard something. A scratching, rusty sound. We froze for five minutes as the sound faded into the distance. Ella’s lip trembled a bit, but her eyes remained steely.
I gestured toward the stairs. She nodded. We left that landing as quickly as we dared on the slippery paint chips.
[Click for another Flickr image]
The sound of machinery filled my ears again. I was about to stop on the stairs, but I ran into Ella’s back. She was holding onto the railing. “What? Why you stop?” I whispered, feeling like a hypocrite.
“The stairs are out,” Ella said. “Like something fell through.”
I looked down into the hole. The hole went down so far all we could see was broken wood surrounding a black circle. Even if we jumped the gap, we would be jumping gaps for a long time. And there was no guarantee we would always make it…
“We just fucking came up these stairs. What the actual hell fell through here?” Ella whispered.
We turned back and entered the corridor. We were on floor 5! So close. This floor was very dark. The only window was at the far end of the hallway, and the corridor had no doors. They were all gone. I had no idea how we were going to get out. Ella tapped her chin. “I guess we have to climb down, right? That’s what our equipment was for,” she said, removing her pack.
“I really don’t want to. It’s dark down there, and plus, do you know how heavy something had to be to make this hole? Or how strong something had to be to apply enough force to throw-”
“We don’t have much of a choice at this point,” Ella retorted, cutting me off.
“We don’t know what’s down there…”
“WE DON’T KNOW WHAT’S UP HERE!” Ella’s voice reverberated off the walls, echoing. Each repetition lost its steam until it was nothing more than a whimper. My eyes grew wide, my mouth open. “Shut the fuck up unless you want us to get killed!” I whispered harshly. I was tired of her berating me. Ella glared at me. “I should have just brought Jace and left your ass at home. You’re so scary, you let that man mess with your head. I bet it wasn’t anything but a raccoon, or coyote or something.” She strapped her climbing gear on and stalked off toward the stairs. “You can STAY up here. I’m going home. Grow some balls.”
She hooked her rope up to a balustrade and checked its strength. Then she really and truly left me. Bitch.
I swung my flashlight around the floor, fuming. I walked away from the hole, figuring that another set of stairs had to be on the other side of the floor like in any building of this magnitude. I saw a small patch of light at the other end of the hall. Otherwise, there was hardly any light, especially now that I was alone. The hall stretched before me for several dozen feet. Rooms had been stripped of valuable equipment and metals. But every chamber was a gallery. I smiled in spite of my situation. There was graffiti on every inch of this place.
When I reach a window at the far end of the hall, I noticed something really clever, but strange. First of all, the window was painted in some kind of thick translucent material, not quite blocking out all the sun; It looked like the piece we’d seen on the roof. I felt it. It was really sticky and hard, like plastic. It smelled sweet, too. This window had some five or six extension cords sticking out of it, trailing down the hall. They seemed to be lodged inside the weird yellow corn syrup substance.
Down the left corridor was a ceiling cave in. I could hear the creaks of the building, groaning under its own weight. Suddenly, I realized just how fragile this building’s innards really were. The lack of human presence was telling. Twisted metal and hunks of stone lay forlornly in that passageway.
I looked to my right down that corridor. Several of the cords disappeared into the darkness; that hall was pitch black with closed doors and cork boards on the walls between them. I shone my light down the hall. Planks of wood were nailed to the doors, and the entire wall was covered in strange graffiti, all in white. From what I could see, there were pyramids with eyes at the top, ankhs, and strange words. I couldn’t make heads or tales of the gibberish. But there were no useable stairs that way; they had long since rusted away. I could have climbed to the next landing, but the railing, too, was rusted through. I decided it would be my last resort. I went back to the window.
The rest of the cords literally disappeared through a lightless rough hole in the floor. I tried looking down it, but it was too dark to tell where they went or why there was a hole in the floor, even with my light. But I guessed the homeless guys were mooching electricity from the CTA. I looked out to see the surrounding area when I caught a glimpse of a fire escape nearby! It was not very rusty, had a rope or two attached, and was extended all the way down. To my delight, I spotted a neon colored spray can on one of its landings. The escape was used recently enough. A small rooftop was just below. If I could land on it, I could run over to that ladder. I’d be home-free!
Before I could feel guilty about leaving Ella, I began to climb out the window. I swung one leg out and over the sill. A scream nearly caused me to fall out of it! It was the kind of scream that makes your heart stop. My entire body shuddered violently at the sound! I hastily pulled myself back inside, glancing wistfully at my escape, and I ran down the long hallway. That single scream turned into several more frightening screams. I heard sobbing interspersed with them, once at the hole. I also heard a wild thrashing noise, like waves or swimmers. But I will always remember the smell. The smell of something sickly sweet wafted up from the hole. But a strange odor mingled with it. It was a wrong kind of smell. Like dead things or rotting. I recoiled from it.
“Ella?” I called down, covering my nose. I heard nothing but thrashing below and woeful cries. I frowned, terrified. “Ella!” I called. There was no answer. I reached for my cell phone, because surely this counted as an emergency now. I pressed the Call button to wake my phone. Against all the logic I knew in my life, the battery icon in the corner steadily lost percentage until the goodbye message played across the screen. My mouth hung open as the little jingle played, but even that was cut short to a black screen. I noted that my phone was very hot. For a second, I had thought that it was ghosts. But it was simply a defect.
To make matters much worse, the thrashing below grew fainter, farther away. I was losing her. My entire frame slumped, the pit of my core became wracked with an anxiety the likes of which I’d never felt before. It felt worse than the time I locked my keys in the car. Much worse. My hands were shaking. I had finally almost gotten home. What kind of cruelty was this?
It took me a moment to collect myself. If I wanted to get out, I had to do what I had to do, and fast. I took off my pack and put my climbing gear together. I hooked my self to a sturdy part of the railing, and then I began my descent without a hesitation. Because even though I was still angry, and now possibly having a panic attack, I wasn’t a heartless fool. Well… given what happened later, I wasn’t heartless at least…
I lowered myself slowly and carefully. The lower I got the louder things got. The foggier the air became. I was too scared to lower my respirator at that moment; I did not want to fall. At least I had on my bandana. I was getting closer to that generator-noise all the time, it seemed. But it was more than that. I heard water below, and loud motors. I heard moaning, and groaning of metal. Wracking sobs floated up toward me and continued upward. I felt goosebumps prickling my skin. My face tingled, my leg were tense, my hands shook…
Before I knew it, I felt and heard plastic wrappings beneath my feet. I lowered myself carefully, testing the ground. However, my foot nearly slipped. Apparently, I was above a large piece of broken wood, which dipped and penetrated the surface of some kind of liquid. I pulled my light from the side of my pack and swung its beam round. The room I was in was vast. Nothing but a red emergency light illuminated the space. It was almost completely flooded with water, and something else. The smell told me that there was corn syrup in this water. I moved my bandana, and put on my respirator.
I lowered myself carefully onto the makeshift raft and looked around from my new vantage point. I saw an enormous piece of machinery just inches from me. It looked about the right size and shape to have went through the hole in the stairs. But for what purpose did someone toss it from floor 6? It had to be more than one person. I couldn’t see any other way it could have gotten there unless we were talking multiple people. I chewed on the possibilities for just a moment, then continued my survey.
I spotted stacks and stacks of paper bags. Most of them were slit open. One was spilling out powdery corn starch or powdered sugar into the water and into the air. The ceiling had rubber hoses and pipes coming out of its holes and cracks. Electrical wires hung uselessly, as did steel structural parts and debris. The water was viscous. I saw a 2×4 nearby. I grabbed it, and started rowing. Just a little. I tried to see deeper into the room. There was a large slab of broken concrete ahead erupting from the syrup. I looked above it; the ceiling had collapsed long ago. Ahead of that was a large sort of industrial area. I had no idea if it was boilers or generators. They just looked large and imposing.
I did a double take. The machines were vibrating. They were actually on. I strained to see, and realizes a light or two blinked lazily in the fog. Worse, I saw a trail of water on the ground near the machines. I breathed, said a prayer, and rowed that way.
When I finally reached the cement shore, I stood timidly, looking ahead. What looked like enormous washing machines sat in irregular intervals on the floor. I walked ahead to examine one when I stepped on something that shattered beneath my feet. A smoke from the object. I looked down, swing my flashlight to see it better. I almost vomited when I realized it really and truly resembled an arm. Because beneath the translucent yellow I saw brown. And dark red. A congealed mass of red clung to my boots. I scraped my foot on the ground and looked closer. Inside the crystalline object, I could just make out a piece of gingham cloth. I covered my mouth.
I stepped away and looked back at the industrial sized washing-machine. Something large tumbled around and around inside of it. I stepped closer. My God! There was a person inside! I put my hands to the glass, which was hot. There was a large amount of bright blue liquid and corn syrup tumbling right along with them. I stepped away, shaking my head. Somebody was using an actual industrial-washer as a candy-coating tumbler. That much I gathered. I moved my respirator and actually did retch. A sob tore through my chest. I began to cry ugly wracking tears. I was so done with this place. I ran desperately back to the machine to try and turn it off. I couldn’t make heads or tails of the console. My nerves were too shot to try and comprehend. So I tried to get behind it to turn it off with brute force.
I ran behind the machine to unplug the washer when a monstrous hand grabbed my torso and violently threw me across the room right into a metal storage cabinet. Every bit of air exploded out of my lungs and mouth, along with spittle into my respirator mask. I began to hyperventilate, my head whipping every which way, searching for my aggressor. Then I saw him: a haggard, large pale man towered next to the machine. He wore an old pair of shredded coveralls with a name tag sewn on to it. “Robert” is read. A strange, dreamy smile spread across his face. All of his teeth were either gone or were falling out from periodontitis. He had thin stringy light hair, and a long beard festooned with yellow corn syrup chips and bits.
“I will get this factory back to its glory,” he uttered. His voice was even and light, if rusty from disuse. The contrast between it and his body was jarring, disturbing. Robert moved his frame swiftly, picking me up from the ground. I fought, futilely, as he produced a rope from his pocket. He threw me down, and tied me up, poorly. But enough that I couldn’t reach for anything. He had the nerve to place me on a low shelf behind the storage cabinet like a book. “You’ll be a nice piece of candy soon…” he said. He walked away slowly. I sat there, afraid to move. It took him long enough that I regretted not moving. I could have left.
He returned, carrying what appeared to be a life-sized piece of bright pink candy. “This one is coated in chocolate…” he muttered, his ghastly smile widening. He stood it up, and brought out several more of his creations. All appeared to be humans he had thrown into his homemade candy coating machine.
Robert brought out a series of sacks and turned them over all at once. I looked on in horror. It was filled with crystallized eyeballs, spleens, hearts, kidneys… “Halloween is coming up. Got to pass out candy this year. Just like we used to…” he said. “Just like… before…”
Then, his expression shifted. He suddenly looked terrified. No. Incensed. He bellowed and screamed, hitting his head. “NO! NO! Don’t close it down! You can’t! I have KIDS!” he screamed. “I NEED this JOB!” His rampage lasted for a long time. He threw things in my general direction. I had to duck and bob to avoid being hit.
Eventually, Robert stopped. Just like that. He breathed a moment, then turned back to me. “Oh. You will be candy soon,” he said again, as if he forgot I was there. “But first, the other one. Yes…”
My breath caught. Robert went and arranged a couple bags of powder and buckets of water. Then he began to mix candy coating and syrup. I screamed at him to stop, but he threw a metal bucket at my face. My nose bled. When he was finished preparing, he opened a washer, and tossed a bucket full of bright magenta liquid inside, and then a bucket of corn syrup. I caught a glimpse of Ella’s braids. I screamed for him to stop, but he didn’t listen. Instead, he hit a red button, and moved on.
He walked over to the washer that sat in front of me, and opened its front. He leaned over it. I looked below. The cabinet he’d thrown me into was leaning toward him. I gritted my teeth, pissed. If he wanted candy so bad, I was going to turn his stupid ass into candy, a la Hansel and Gretel. It was all I could think to do in my position. So I kicked the shelf over as hard as I could. It hit him square in the backside, causing him to lose his balance. He tumbled right inside it. I all but threw myself off the shelf and ran headlong into the door, closing it. I wasted no time. I pushed the biggest button on the machine console. The light flashed. The tumbler beeped a confirmation.
I was content when suddenly, the whole machine shook. Robert rammed his considerable mass against the door. I heard a crack! I stopped looking at him, and found a sharp piece of broken steel. I worked at cutting through the rope as Robert continued trying to force the door. The circular portal bent. The force of his hits pulled one of the cords, shredding its rubber. I feared he would create sparks.
Finally, the rope fell free. A deep cry rumbled from behind me. Roberts bulk began to rotate in the drum as the machine found its groove. I looked all around for Ella. I searched each drum. I finally found her inside one of the four industrial washers. After I shut off the power, I was able to release the door with a bright red emergency release on the side. She was not unharmed by any stretch of the imagination. Her clothes were all but destroyed, either burned or ripped. Her exposed skin was bloodied. She was covered in hot, magenta syrup from head to toe. Her leg was twisted at a strange angle. I couldn’t tell what else was broken from just looking. But I knew she was in a bad way.
I dragged her moaning form out to the raft. I knew I was hurting her, but it was better than staying behind; I’d spotted a short in one of the cables. With the amount of powder Robert had swung around, we had no time to waste getting out of there. I grabbed the oar. I rowed away from the area back to the rope. Amazingly, Ella found the strength to put her bloodied arms around me as I climbed the rope. Thank God, we only had one floor to climb. But it was horrible. Her pained cries filled me with despair. I had to carry her out of the door we came in through. Back across the tracks, and all the way to another factory next door.
The factory workers there had promptly begun to call the police when an earth-shattering explosion sent shockwaves through the neighborhood. A series of dust explosions ripped through the entire factory. Each explosion set off a chain reaction, no doubt igniting the wafting powdered sugar that permeated the entire building. History repeats itself. Again and again and again…
The authorities and news could not believe Robert Moreston, missing father and apparently disgruntled factory worker, had stayed behind at the factory since 2003 when the juggernaut had closed its doors. His wife had reported him missing, but to no avail. They reported the horrors of what he had done, for my account was proven by Ella’s appearance. Ella’s body was riddled with broken bones, just as I feared. Multiple rib fractures, spinal column broken, shoulder dislocated, leg mangled… She sustained extensive burns to her entire body, not to mention the countless lacerations. It was a wonder she held on to me as I climbed. I marvel at that. The pink candy coating did nothing but add fuel to the already horrifying story.
It was the darkest nightmare that had ever been manufactured at Brach’s. To think that the closing of its doors in 2003 would be the beginning of such a gruesome campaign to put the Candy Capital back on the map. What a sad, repugnant end to one of the biggest symbols of the American Dream. And now it festers, dead, beneath a pile of candied rubble.
Credit To – Lakija