Brick Fight (guest story by Sean)
4.15.2003 by , every Tuesday.
It's Tuesday again, and this week I have a special treat for you: a nifty story by Tangmonkey's Sean. Not only is this a cool story, but it fits the fractured bedtime story theme really well. Enjoy!
Grit hissed under the door as the last man left the factory, slammed the door shut with a clang. You could hear his footsteps as they slowly padded away. A cough. Then the silence of moonlight through a window.
The machines of the brick factory were enormous: huge steel mammoths with sheet-metal tubes and grates that burped red smoke. For now, however, the lights were off, the plugs pulled, the ovens quiet. A single grey mouse scuttled like a stone over the cement floor, its fur singeing as it passed too close to a new pile of brick.
By day, there were tours. Dozens of school-kids – gifted classes, architecture students – shuffled past sweaty workers, wheezing dry pan grinders, the orange maw of the Hoffman Kiln. While a bored administrator recited his speech from memory they would walk down the long Anders Tunnel, stare at fork-lifts and flat-beds, and emerge onto the stonefields. Pile upon pile of bricks lay cooling: a thousand miniature pyramids.
By night, all of this was dark, but rarely cold. A seething heat lived in those bricks, a flame that had not yet died. As a wind scattered dust through the piano-wire fence, one of the Brick Creatures woke up.
“Up, up, at ‘em,” it murmured. Its voice was low and crumbly, like the sound of dried clay splitting. Echoes fell like tossed stones. Yellow eyes opened, limbs unfolded in unpredictable ways, and from the symmetrical stack of fired bricks rose a monster with strong, crooked legs, arms like lightning-fired tree-trunks, and a face like a workman’s boot.
It stood at the farthest corner of the stonefield. Around it, fifteen thousand brick pyramids, unmoving, unbreathing, slowly cooling.
“Ha ha,” chuckled the Brick Creature in its voice like cracked nuts. “Sleepytime, eh? Not up for a Brick Fight. So be it. So be it.”
It began to move with the gait of a cast-iron marionette, limbs creaking and bending as it stepped around sheds, over dump-trucks. A white owl circled over the crown of its head, then away, with speed. The Brick Creature’s pace increased, and soon it was running over brothers, sisters, uncles, a lantern gleam in the circles of its eyes.
It ducked its head as it entered the factory, then looked up and surveyed the gloom and the grey.
“Hello,” it said, eyes on hips, as its gaze alighted on the thick steel box of the Hoffman Kiln.
The machine was quiet, almost motionless; only a flicker on the Pressure Dial registered the presence of the Creature.
“Brick Fight,” whispered the Creature, its breath hot. It grinned a wide, jack-o-lantern smile. “Brick Fight.”
Beside it was a pile of crushed rubble, several orderly stacks of unfired brick. Two wide, clawed hands grasped stone, heaved it up in fingers splayed like garden-rakes. The Creature’s shoulders rose and fell, steam and smoke filling the rough spaces between ribs.
Then it began to throw.
Brick struck steel. It dented with a sound like bone on bone. The Kiln trembled on its rivets. Bricks punched into it, tore through smoke shafts. It began to ache.
The Creature cackled and lifted another handful.
Volley. Volley. The Hoffman Kiln was battered from the front, clobbered from the back. Something ripped through it from below. Metal began to shriek, folding in upon itself. It could feel the Creature’s presence, its heat. Craggy lips against the wall of its innermost chamber. A whisper like cracked chalk:
A long, dry breath.
“Ha ha ha.”
It was much later that the red sun rose over the riverbed, sending new shadows across the stonefields. Inside the factory, all was still. The Kiln lay broken, body scattered like the ruins of a city. A hundred chipped bricks, hurled and now fallen. The memory of an unvoiced panic. And an orderly pyramid; a folded heap; a low, seismic, triumphant laugh.