When Susan came down from the sales office to the factory floor, which she did every week, it was like she had stepped into a different world, the well-maintained, up-to-date million-dollar office, fit for a Fortune 500 company. The upstairs floor had climate controlled heating & air-conditioning with state-of-the-art communications which was silent save for the rhythmic typing and the occasional fax machine noise. The ground floor was the extreme opposite; it looked forsaken, two shakes from bankruptcy. Hot in the summer due to the working presses and freezing in the winter due to the loading and unloading of trailer trucks. The deafening racket of a dozen working presses competed with the loud Rock ’n Roll music piped into the intercom installed in the 70s. She was at her station by the machine running at full steam. It was hard for her to hear and she had a coil of steel running through the press so she had an obstructed view but it was hard not to notice something eerie happening. Managers and supervisors with concerned faces would run past sporadically every so often, rushing to an unknown location.
She had to concentrate on her husband, a state police officer, and her daughter, Hannah, or she would cower in fear on the 300-ton press pounding away right next to her. The familiar ting, ting, ting from the finished product hitting the basket soothed her a little. Nevertheless, traveling at 3400 revolutions a minute all it would take is one poorly maintained die punch to overheat and it would shatter into pieces. The entire world couldn’t stop a runaway projectile coming straight for her head. She used a shaky hand for the computer that slowed down the feed from a 14-inch coil and the piston press itself so she could write down monthly numbers. When the bay doors would open for the forklifts even with earplugs she could hear the sound of a Wolf wailing in the distance. She did not give it another thought until the paramedics arrived rolling a gurney with them leaving oil tracks in its wake. Susan was curious for a moment but she went back to work, it was rare but in this profession horrible accidents occurred from time to time. Was it that horrible, she thought, when she came down from the upstairs sales floor and an accident occurred she was relieved that it hadn’t happened to her. There was always the risk of being impaled by a runaway forklift or a lacerated finger or even losing a hand from a slip on the oily floor. The paramedics finally got around to her station again and rounded the corner.
She just got finished with the diagnostics of the press when she remembered the paramedics. Half-hour went by with no sign of them. It may have been her imagination but she thought she heard faint screaming from more than one person. At her isolated workstation she longed for any interaction that could explain what was happening. When a coworker and good friend Leroy appeared out of thin air, finally, she thought someone could tell her what was going on.
“Hey!” She yelled over the roar of the presses, “Hey, Leroy, what’s going…..”
Susan stopped short when she looked into her coworker’s eyes, empty of all human emotion, eyes full of frenzy. He was frothing at the mouth and mumbling. Her good friend, Leroy, the one who made it his personal mission to visit the hospital when she had been sick and made sure that Hannah had a babysitter when her husband visited her now growled at her, foaming at the mouth.
Susan closed her eyes and crinkled her nose; Leroy was close enough to feel the heat and smell of his pungent breath.
“Leroy!” She pleaded, her eyes still closed.
In the long concrete hallway she could hear several dozen footfalls scampering about resonating in the distance. She heard a commotion like a pack of starving, savage dogs fighting for scraps. As if she had been transported to an animal shelter she could hear growling, yelping, howling, whining and occasional human screaming.
He creased his nose as well trying to absorb her scent then he growled, “Sssssusan!”
Leroy sniffed Susan again, then grabbed and squeezed her by the waist. He hoisted her off the ground, the breath leaving her. She found herself flying through the air stopping only when she hit the hulking machinery. She tripped over the control panel for the lethal 300-ton press. Her palm rested on the hard oily shiny surface of the bottom half of a massive die.
Susan gasped as she looked up to see the top half of the die swiftly falling in a collision course toward her palm. The punches were like hardened ice picks able to blow out 0.1644 inch galvanized steel with ease and would surely impale her hand. The top half of the die would rest on the bottom like a well-fitting jigsaw puzzle before opening again revealing her bloody stump. Her feet were moving in the slippery oil, but her body remained still like a ludicrous cartoon character she forgot all about Leroy, but thankfully he did not attack her, choosing to move on to the shipping department.
“Shit, shit, shit!” Susan swore bracing for the inevitable.
Susan heard the sound of brakes from the 300 pound press squealing as it halted just before it smashed her hand like a pancake the safety sensors doing what they were designed for.
“That’s it!” She thought to herself out loud, “I have got to get out of here!”
Susan rubbed her hands together, if it were not for the safety sensors working as they should she would have one less appendage. At the babysitters house for Halloween her daughter Hannah had plans to go out with her friends to trick-or-treat. With all that happened to her and the strange things going on Susan wanted her daughter by her side.
With shaking hands Susan retrieved her cell phone and dialed her husband, Capt. Rogers, “Honey, I’m taking off early. I’m going to take Hannah and I’m really kind of scared, there is some weird shit going on, if you get this please come home!”
Susan had to get through the employee parking lot, but in doing so she had to run through the sales room where all the noise and commotion had come from.
Luckily she had made it through the Booker A-line labyrinth unscathed. She ran toward the parking lot and to her car. As she sat in the driver seat she lit a stale cigarette from an old pack of cigarettes that she had hoarded away in her glove box. She looked in her rear view mirror. Relief washed through her as she inhaled the caustic smoke for the first time since she had been sick. She left through the chain link gate.
Escaping from the frenzy at A-line and driving on down the road a bizarre event caught her eye over at a wedding in the park. The bizarre makeup and tattered clothing suggested a zombie themed wedding which wasn’t so outlandish being Halloween but what transpired made her cringe. It all started when the howling began. The bride-to-be stopped in the middle of her vows staring vacantly into space until she fell to the ground having a grand mal seizure and foaming at the mouth. Suddenly, she sat up, her animalistic eyes aglow delivering a savage bite to the neck of first bridesmaid to come to her aid. A groomsman had to pull the bride away getting bit too, prompting action from the stunned guests. The audience taking out their cell phones in unison to call 911. Susan put her foot to the accelerator speeding off unable to watch the rest of strange scene, too worried about the safety of Hannah.
She turned into a subdivision that did not skimp on the Halloween décor. House after house, she saw decorated. Houses had gravestones and animatronic slashers as seen on the silver screen, even a huge spider web from sidewalk to roof top. Spotlighting the spider web a blacklight and strobe light flashed incessantly lending an eerie glow to the scene.
Miles away from the factory and the park’s madness it started to feel like it had been just a dream. When Susan turned into the parking lot of the babysitter’s house she saw Hannah anxiously watching her through a dirty window and all fears began melting away.
“Mama!” Hannah excitedly shouted. The storm door slamming closed behind her.
“Hannah!” Susan’s eyes brightened seeing her daughter safe from harm.
Dressed as little red riding hood for Halloween this year, Hannah’s face all elaborately done with bright red lips and her hair all done up, she wore a silk white ruffled shirt and an old pleated skirt, holding a basket empty for now but after a nights worth of trick or treating it would be suitable for grandmother’s house. Susan had to take a picture with her cell phone, the cuteness too much to stand.
“Say cheese!” Susan smiled.
“Cheese!” Hannah’s dimples deepened as she smiled and posed proudly.
A dark shadow appeared from the edges of the house. When Susan’s eyes come to focus she saw thick brown fur and long black nails coming toward Hannah. Instincts to protect her child taking over she lunged forward.
“Roar!” The small werewolf grabbed and squeezed Hannah before her mom got to her.
She could smell the makeup and latex as soon as the Wolf-man playfully grabbed for her neck. She squealed saying “Stop it, Terrell!”
Susan breathed a sigh of relief, “it’s time to go, Hannah.”
“Awwww, mom!” Hannah protested. “But we were going to meet Tasha by the library to trick-or-treat for a while, she promised to go with me.”
Susan looked at the big bad Wolf and the little red riding hood so cute in their costumes then looked over at the streetlights. Dusk was quickly approaching but the brilliance of the Moon suspended the lights for a good while longer. About a dozen trick-or-treaters walked the sidewalks filling her with a sense of calm.
“Okay, I guess you can go trick-or-treating with Tasha for a while after I call your father and tell him where we are at.” Susan relented, knowing Hannah loved spending time with her favorite babysitter.
Hannah and Terrell in unison squealed with delight.