Manufactured Nostalgia
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rating: +29+x
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one

The surrounding building, though surely in a state of disrepair, had a serene quietness. A stillness that was under assault by the harsh sound of Richard Cobb as he struggled with his newly found rusty pipe. He cursed as his improvised pry bar again slipped free of the rusted door he was attempting to open with a shrieking sound of metal on metal. Try as he might, it just wasn't happening.

"This place gives me the creeps." Sally Gale sheepishly exclaimed.

"That's the whole point, Sally– its called a haunted factory," Richard grunted and with a final wail of tortured metal, he successfully pried open the rusty green door.

"Ya, I know. But this like, I don't know, feels different than the other places we've been to." Sally's words rushed out in a gust of breath as she tried to keep up with Richard's quickening pace.

"Just relax, it's gonna be fun."

The two made their way down the dilapidated corridor, one of them eager, despite the ominous surroundings, the other just wanting to be a part of something daring.

And they were not alone.


two

"Figured they would take this equipment with 'em. It's been what, a year now?" Richard kicked over an empty sugar drum, the heavy sound of the plastic barrel hitting the dusty concrete reverberating around them.

"You think they left any candy? Sure could go for some of that."

Richard laughed, "I doubt it, but even if they did, I'm sure it would be gross by now."

"Yeah probably, but this place is pretty cool anyway, Dick." Sally dashed around a large metal vat, the painted tips of her fingers gently grazing the cold hard steel.

"I told you not to call me that." Richard walked along the row of vats, "Anyway, this is probably where they kept all the sugar and stuff before they processed it."

"You think?" Sally cracked a sarcastic smile, "I thought this was the lunchroom." Her hands spread wide gesturing to the vats around her, another sarcastic quip dying on her tongue as she noticed she was no longer the center of attention. "Hey, Dick, are you even listening to me?"

Richard wasn't listening, he was focused on the graffiti solemnly scrawled along the dusty western wall.

How Many…
How Many…
How Many…

"Huh, that's weird, I haven't seen any other tags on the way in, only on the outside," Sally said as she strolled up to where Richard was standing.

"It's huge too, they'd need a damn ladder to get up there." Richard scratched his head, "Well, let's go see what else we can find."

Sally smiled, and her heart gave a tiny inner leap when Richard grabbed her hand and led them from the room.


three

"That's a fuck ton of paper," Richard said as he kicked ineffectually at one of the larger piles.

"Why do you think they left it all?" Sally shuffled her feet noisily through the shredded paper covering the floor. "I'm sure they could've still used it at the next factory."

"Well, you know the story; after the accident, they probably thought the stuff was contaminated, or something," Richard speculated as he kicked and hopped ankle-deep in shredded paper. "Looks like animals got to it."

Sally grabbed an armful of shredded paper, tossing it up in the air. She spread her arms wide and spun around as the paper fell atop her. As she gazed up through the paper snow, she paused, "Hey, look up there."

1…2…3…
1…2…3…
1…2…3…

"That's the same font, or whatever, as before– how the fuck did they get up there though? It's like 30 feet high," Richard pondered aloud as he stared up at the crudely painted numbers.

"Speaking of getting high…" Sally grinned as she playfully jabbed at Richard's side.

"Oh shit, yeah, I totally forgot!" Richard removed the stringed pouch backpack from his shoulder and retrieved a small ziplock bag, filled with their medicinal herb, "Brian said it's good shit too."

After several moments of fiddling, rolling, and licking Richard produced two tightly packed doobies in his left hand. Taking one, Sally kicked and cleared the paper from a section of the floor and plopped down. Her legs crisscrossed as she patted the ground provocatively next to her.

The two sat awhile; they laughed and toked in their small smokey circle.


four

The two now slightly stoned friends strode, shuffled, and giggled through the halls to the only section they hadn't yet explored. They stopped before a large hole in the wall where a door once stood, gazing blearily at the now-familiar dark red writing scrawled above.

Who…
Who…
Who…

Maybe it was the weed, or perhaps it was the ominous surroundings that gave Richard a twinge of doubt, but it was a trickle of fear quickly brushed aside as a pot-induced paranoia. "Last room, you ready?"

Sally giggled a response, "Last one there buys dinnerrrr!" Her voice trailed off behind her as she darted through the dark aperture.

"Hey, wait u–" Richard's words were choked back down his throat as he was cut off by the sudden and desperate scream that erupted from within. The suddenly-sober Richard leaped into the room only to immediately check his forward momentum as he got his first good look inside.

Small white sticks jutted through glossy wrappers and shredded paper forming a massive bowl. There, in the center of the room, sat a huge and haphazard structure that could only be accurately described as a paper nest. From it Sally waved her arms, frantically trying to draw attention to herself.

"How the– Sally, are you alright!?" Richard yelled up to his trapped friend.

"There's something in he– Oh God, Dick! Behind you!" Sally's voice was raspy and desperate as she looked on in horror.

Richard could barely register the situation as large jagged talons wrapped around his body, squeezing him so tightly he could barely breathe.

"Whooo do we have here?" A cold hollow voice playfully asked, spraying the back of Richard's head with a gust of hot, moist breath.

To call what slithered around to view Richard an "owl head" would be a gross misinterpretation of the creature. Its asymmetrical face was composed of tattered, blood-soaked feathers surrounding two uneven dinner-plate-sized eyes, and crowned by a fleshy, arrow-shaped protrusion. The misshapen crusty bone structure that Richard assumed to be a beak, opened slightly and a horrid yellow tongue slipped through the oozing crack.

"How many will it take?"

Panic immediately sent needles of white fire into his spine and Richard began struggling in the creature's unrelenting grip. "How many what!?"

His pleading shriek elicited only a chuckle from the horrific creature.

Sally's screams echoed from the walls as the putrid yellow tongue once more extended out to probe Richard's head.

"Let's find out."

The warm wetness contrasted with the rough pattern of irregular surface ridges as the tongue scraped against his face. Not having the thought to close his mouth, Richard's palate was quickly overwhelmed by the foul flavor of rotting cherries and ammonia.

"One…"

Richard braced himself as the scaled wetness slid again across his neck and around his head. Warm mucus streamed down his face to gather in the hollow of his throat, and the rancid stench forced him to fight back vomit as he gagged for air.

"Two…"

The fact slowly dawned that he would most likely not escape the owl-thing's grasp. Richard thought of his mother, father, his friends from school and, of course, Sally, whose horrified screams shook him from his daze.

"Sally– get the fuck out of here! Run!" he managed to choke out as the dripping yellow tendril re-wrapped itself around his face.

"Three…"

CRUNCH

….

The sound of splintering bone punctuating Richard's aborted scream echoed relentlessly through Sally's fear-shrouded mind as she ran blindly down the hall. Desperately, she tried to escape the factory, one that turned out to be indeed haunted.

And she was not alone.

five

"How many licks will it take, to get the center of you?"


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