There was once a factory in the prairies. It was an old factory. Maybe something from the late 1700s. Nobody really knew what it used to make, or who had made it. Most believe the factory once made cloth. Some believed it was metal. Others don’t even recall the factory ever producing anything at all. It’s just always been there. Rotting.
Today it is nothing but metal and moss. Mildew and rust. Sealed off long ago. Shepherds tended to stay away from it, because their sheep always disappeared if they wandered too close. They’d send their sheepdogs in, but the hounds would come running back out. The dark and foul scent of rotting metal kept most shepherds out, so they’d decided to stay away. Sometimes rebellious teenagers would pay it a visit, but they were always driven out by the sound of screeching metal, a ghastly wail. And the funniest thing about it is;
It liked to move.
Wandering the British Isles, appearing from town to town. It comes in a blanket of mist. Sometimes rain. And disappears the very next day. No one ever dared to come in. Parents warned their children, and they warned theirs. Generation to generation the warning was passed, but young minds could never resist curiosity. So despite the screeching metal and ghastly wails, they went inside, lanterns in hand (as time passed lanterns became flashlights, and flashlights became phone lights), and they never came back out.
Many times the parliament ordered the destruction of the factory, but each time it appeared, harsh rains (sometimes hail) and thick mist would stir. And the next day it would have gone. So caution became warnings, and warnings became law. It was an unspoken, unwritten law. But a law nonetheless. After all, what would other nations think if the British parliament believed and acknowledged such a silly folk lore?
My name is Angela. Angela White, and I am the only person who’s ever seen the inside of the factory, and told the tale. However, I will not be telling it to you. You will be experiencing it yourself.
Without further ado, let us begin.
You arrived in England but two days ago. You’ve rented a nice cottage in the countryside for a nice, quiet vacation. The rent was cheap, despite the quality of the cottage itself. The view was no disappointment either. Miles and miles of fields spotted with flowers, a forest in the background, and the occasional appearance of sheep. Not to mention the inclusion of a stable to your cottage. You rode to your heart’s content, picked flowers, had fun with the local people. Yet you wonder still, why the rent was so cheap.
The thump, thump, thump of your horse’s hooves cut through the silence around you. The fields were empty that day, not a single sheep or shepherd in sight. Not even the distant barking of sheepdogs could be heard, not a ray of sunlight to be seen. Even the sun decided not to show up that day.
Your horse jumps. Lightning strikes without warning. A whinny in alarm. A second later, you feel a drop of water on your head. Looking up, you see storm clouds rolling in; dark and thick. You try desperately to soothe your startled horse and regain control. Better escape the storm quick.
After a series of petting and cooing, your horse begins to settle down. But by then, the drizzle intensified, quickly turning into a storm, pounding violently onto you and your horse. Without hesitation, you urged the panicked steed into a canter, trying desperately to escape the rain and return to your cottage.
The curtain is thick; you could barely see two feet ahead of you. A blurry silhouette comes into view, outlined by the beating rain. The cottage. You think, relief flooding your system. But as you get closer, your horse stops abruptly, slamming you into the back of its head, and violently rears onto its hind legs, over and over.
You are flung back and forth into its neck and on the back of your saddle. The rain slips through your grip on the reins, and eventually so do your hands. With one, final rear, you were flung off the horse’s back. You slam onto the ground, a dull buzz resonating in your head as you watch your steed take off in the opposite direction. ‘Just great.’
Well, the cottage is only a few feet away anyway. Better get out of the rain. Pushing yourself up, you start walking, swaying, to the building. But the closer you get, the more foreign it looks. Upon closer proximity, you realize it’s not your cottage at all.
A large building stood before you, decaying with rust and mildew. Odd. There weren’t any buildings in your area for miles. At least not a factory. A rundown one at that. Your eyes start to sting from all the water falling into them, and your body starts to ache from the intensity of the rain. Not to mention how cold it was outside.
Desperate, you finally draw closer, circling a bit to try and find the entrance. You find it. Rusted double doors, barely hanging onto its hinges. A rumble of thunder and another flash of lightning. You push inside. The sound of rain now becomes a dull ring. You hear the sound of your own feet step into a puddle, seeping in from the storm outside. Hugging your own shivering form, your stinging eyes wander through the darkness of the building, the smells of iron and rot fills your senses. You think it was the rust and decaying wood, the moisture of the air. Another step-
The sound of metal grinding against metal, causing you to reach up and cover your ears, squeeze them. Your ears ring, and you rush back to the door, trying desperately to push through once again, but the rusted metal hinges groan and snap, collapsing the heavy iron doors right in the your path of exit. You try to move them, but you’re shivering and wet. You don’t have the power.
I see you swallowing that lump in your throat, and you turn back around to see that your eyes have adjusted to the darkness. Your hand wanders to your pocket (carefully installed in your riding pants), and searches around for your phone. There it is. You switch it on, hand trembling and praying the water hadn’t killed it, only to see you have absolutely no reception. But the light helps, doesn’t it?
You flash the ray around the walls. You see splotches of red and green, climbing the foundation of the building. Rust and moss right? As you move further up, you notice scratches. Violent, animalistic scratches. Could there be a wolf or a bear in here? But moving your light slightly to the left, you notice it had formed letters.
Then a slight pan lower reveals the word ‘MAN’, Craftsman. What could that mean?
You drop your phone, looking around to try and find the source. All you could see through the darkness and rubble and collapsed beams, were high ceilings, several rows of wooden mills; decayed and falling apart from moisture and time, some still with threads and remains of a weave, a flight of stairs leading to crumbling skywalks, and large furnace for a forge. A factory? There should be more than one exit right? Right.
It’s right next to you now, on the other side of the wall of rubble beside you. It was so loud, so sudden; I sense you feel your ears ring. As you cringe, you begin to realize, there’s something more to the ringing. A small, soft voice sings to you. Was it a hallucination?
Do you hear?
The mills spinning-
You dash through the debris, water splashing from your feet and through the cracked ceilings. A rickety, groaning sound comes to you as your ears recover. Your eyes search frantically for the sound, and you realize, the mills were spinning. And you slip.
You go down hard. Weakly turning your head, you squint to see what had tripped you. Is that… An arm? I can see your face pale, but as you sit up, you realize it’s a fake arm. Maybe from a mannequin. A sigh of relief tried to escape your lips, but then,
It went high this time. Much higher than the others before. And once again you hear that exact same voice.
Can you see?
The black smoke spewing?
The furnace lights up in a blaze, fire spewing and licking out through the grated doors. It greatly illuminated the factory, and now you could see things that you hadn’t noticed before; mannequins. Mannequins everywhere. In almost every corner of the factory from top to bottom. Mannequins.
Dressed in suits and simple gowns. Some dismembered, with parts scattered and piled up on random locations. Like the arm you slipped on. Now you’ve heard rumors of a vanishing factory during your chats with the locals. Could this be it? Ah, I can see you shiver with dread. Or are you just cold?
Your ears ring suddenly. There was no screech, but then you hear it.
The rain is pouring
Aren't you cold?
You shuffle to your feet, front soaked from the water puddles formed by leaks, but then, why is it red? Maybe it was just the fire playing tricks on your eyes. After all, you can’t possibly tell if it was just simply dirt and grime from years of decay.
Ah, the scents hit you once again. Rust and decay. Is that it? The metals and decaying wood? No, no, no, no, no. It’s much more than that. Overwhelming, thick, and sick. You realize, it was, and always had been, rot and blood.
Open the doors.
Take off your coat.
Stay for a while…
Come see my lovely mannequins
So elegant and refined
With life-like eyes and lovely skin
That voice again. It was coming from everywhere at once. I can see you swallow that lump in your throat, soothe that knot in your stomach. You feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. Your eyes frigidly wander to the pile of mannequin limbs to your left. They didn’t look like plastic. Nor cloth. Rubber? Then why was it oozing red from the exposed metal structure?
“As lovely as you will be.” Right behind you.
You whirl around, and the first things you see were black eyes and yellow irises, brimmed with dry blood tears.
“As lovely as you will be.”
You black out.
It feels like a dream, doesn’t it? A horrifying nightmare. So forgive me… For bringing you back in.
Open your eyes. What do you see? The ceiling? Yes, that’s good… What else? The furnace? Ok, try and look around. Walls, a mill, and mannequins. Right there ‘standing’ right by your side. Lined neatly, their realistic eyes gaze in terror to empty space. You can even tell their ages. All teenagers. All petrified. There were words carved onto their skin, almost like a label. You manage to spell out, ‘CRAFTSMAN’. There it is again. You observe their limbs. So realistic… You want to touch them, but you find your hands are bound.
Squirm, squirm as much as you can. But your entire body is strapped down and stripped down. There’s nowhere to go. “HEEELP!!” You scream but your voice is drowned by the roar of the rain, the roar of the fire.
A sudden clang, clang, clang, catches your ear, and you turn your head slightly to see the forge, and something working the forge. A person… From what you could see from their side. A girl. Blood red hair and the palest of pale skins. A white ribbon hung limply from her ponytail. Tattered and dirty. Her unruly bangs covered her face. In her hand she held a hammer, and that was making the clang, clang, clang you heard. Beside her, you notice the item she worked on; the metal skeleton of a mannequin.
It eerily resembled your body.
The girl attached the final part to the skeleton with an odd, metal-like groan with each of her movements. She turned around, and you realize that she was not a she. For the other side of her body was not human at all.
Charred metal frames jutting out from ripped skin. Human skin. You could see its rusty joints, connecting the exposed metal of its arm and leg. Feet and wrists. Her other hand seems relatively normal, while the metal one had sharp, elongated fingers. Knives? And then there were the stitches. Oh God, the stitches. All over its body. On its good leg and arm, down its back, on its neck. Each one oozing blood.
Your frantic eyes move up from its neck as it stepped closer.
You see its face with the flickering flames. An eerie smile. Stitched onto its face, with traces of dried blood, and those eyes. The ones you saw before. Black, yellow, and mournful. It steps closer, lifting its metal hand and bringing it up to your face, the sharp tip of its finger finding contact with your chin, tilting it up so you’d make eye contact. It’s cold and sharp and it drew blood right away.
It blinked, and you are frozen.
“Not yours.” Its dark, mangled lips barely moved. But that was it; the voice that sang to you. Its eyes flicked across from you, and for some reason you follow it. Piles of skin. Piles and piles of skin and lines and lines of bare mannequins. “Not right.”
The finger left your chin and traced its razor-sharp limb to the bare metal frame of its leg, creating that grating, agonizing screeching sound. She gave it a tap, clearly hoping you’d understand the gesture. “But.”
She moved her knife finger, outstretching the index once again. It pokes your shoulder, drawing blood once again, and pushes in deeper. You scream and scream but that metal rips through your muscle into it hits bone with the softest thunk. An eerier, wider smile stretched her lips despite the stitches. Permanent wounds never to heal. “You will still make a nice addition.”
And you didn’t see, it came so quickly. Its good arm moved in a sudden twitch, metal flashing with the fire light.
And off goes your arm.
Your screams are muted and one by one your limbs are removed. Eventually, so is your head. From fading vision, you watch this creature… Glowing in the flame-lit factory, carefully, terribly delicately strip the skin from your dismembered limbs.
Now you might wonder, how I managed to escape this. All of this. But I’m sorry to tell you, that I didn’t. How then, do I know all this? The factory’s insides, the creature. Well, let me properly introduce myself. My name is- or, was, Angela. Angela White. But now, you better know me as the Craftsman. And I am the it, that you should be afraid of.
Now give me your skin.