We had the most beautiful farm to be found in the South, let alone our South Carolina state. Twenty acres exactly, I remember, with two healthy cows, plenty of plump pigs, chickens, hundreds of colored people working, and oh how I loved to watch them work! On top of that, we had the most spirited steed, my horse Cassie. She was my secret keeper, or so I called her. I told her everything. Such happy times.
Then one night, we lost our brother, James. My dad went crazy and drowned his sorrows in Scotch at the town's best bar. Someone we don't even know talked him into gambling everything he had except his wife, three daughters, and son. My father, for some reason that God himself could not tell us, agreed. All we ever had was lost. My older sister, Theresa, told me not to worry, and Ted and Lisa, the twins, were, and still are, too young to understand. Lisa came up to me, asking when James is coming back. I just turned my head and looked away.
Now we are stuck in this dirty factory that I will never ever like. I have to do the most mundane tasks, yet they are also the most dangerous. Watching the spools fill up, then cutting the thread, then replacing the spool, it's just so tiresome. I thank God I have shoes, because the sharp glass on the floor, and the poles running across the rows of spinning spools, they could just slice one's foot open.
I made a friend after about a week, somewhat reluctantly, and she is 12, so she is a full year older than me. Sometimes, she tries to sound all mature and older, and make me feel young and unwise in the ways of the world.
She told me once about a little ten year old boy who worked in this factory with his family. Working 14 hours every day, day after day, finally made him catch a cough. A minor cough, but a cough nonetheless.
He wasn't allowed to miss work, so he continued to come to the mill each day. The intake of dust and fiber became greater and greater; his faint cough turned into a rasping cough, his rasping cough turned into wheezing, his wheezing turned into not being able to breathe for seconds at a time. And all the while, Mr. Slater made him come to this factory.
Finally his lungs burst open and the fiber and dust that he kept in there were let out into the air. They never buried him, she says, and put a machine right on top of him.
He comes back in the middle of the night, midnight exactly, planning his revenge on Mr. Slater, the manager. And he swears that all who disturb his plans will die a terrible death. A death not fit for the worst criminal.
Frances, my asks me if I would like to join her at midnight when the body is fully reincanated, when she wishes to tempt fate.
I am not crazy, I tell her plainly and simply that I would rather not. She laughs, and, even though I'm not scared, says, Oh Kirsten, what a scaredy-cat!
I watched the machine as a spool filled up. Where are the scissors? Oh, right by my foot. Up the pole, with the scissors in hand, I snip it. Down I go to get the spare spool. Almost got the next pole, my foot's almost on it, here we-
Heaven help us! I watch in horror as another girl's hair get pulled into the machine. Not realizing what I'm doing, I fall. I can't move. The girl comes out with a bloody head, half her hair gone. I soon feel something on my foot. I close my eyes. I open with a jerk as I feel myself being dragged. A four year old comes over and tells me, It's ok. Don't worry. You're not dead.
I'm frantic. I now realize I'm being dragged into the machine. My whole body becomes numb. Frances notices me for the first time. She screams and calls for help. As she does so she loses her balance and falls, landing on her hands to keep her safe. I hear the snap. They are both broken.
I've stopped moving, and the feeling rushes back to my body with a jolt. I have never felt pain like this. I scream, but no one notices. Frances screams, but the machines drown out our voices. I look around, desperate, and see a fourteen year old girl about 100 yards off. It's Theresa. I shout.
She turns around and screams with complete terror. I look down at my legs, realizing they're slowly sinking into the spools of death. Theresa has gone to get help. My vision blurs. I look around. No one. No one except broken-wristed Frances.
I feel for my heartbeat on my chest. Much slower than usual. I feel like someone splashed water all around my legs. I feel it, then bring it up to my face. Red water? No.
Tell Cassie and my family and friends I love them. Tell them I'll always watch over them, always love them, always care for them. But now, now I am just another statistic. Just another child laborer whose death has come in result of her work. I am now living, or soon to be dead, proof of how dangerous this job really is.
It's strange, dying. The sounds of the world become faraway, all one can see is blackness, darkness, except for a faraway light at the end of a long hallway. A white light, and you can almost hear music. Angels come around, and I hardly remember I am in a disgusting factory, laying on it's hard ground. I feel ready for life after death. I am ready for life after death, a pious afterlife with God.
Suddenly everything rushes back. All pain, sight, and sound, just at the touch of something on my foot. Not a machine, more like a human touch.
It's a boy, a boy's touch. Girls touch different than boys. The boy who touched me, he pulls me under. I see my mother, crying and sobbing hysterically Lisa, looking down at me, holding her hand out, Ted, off in another world, doesn't know what's going on, Theresa, begging me to take her hand, and father... stern, watching me fade into a bloody death, sadness filling up his eyes as he witnesses another of his children's death...
Nothing. I am doomed to live forever, to haunt forever, in this horrid place they call a mill.