Harry and James had made a suicide pact a decade beforehand. They agreed that if in ten years neither of them had quit the factory, they would commit the ultimate sin together in the messiest, most dramatic way imaginable. They even planned the method by which they would end it – they’d strap dynamite to their chests, jump off the Trinity tower in downtown and detonate in mid-jump so that for a couple of glorious seconds they would literally rain down on the city.
Well attitudes change, and in the end so did Harry and James’ enthusiasm for the agreement. It appeared neither of them were leaving the factory anytime soon. The agreement was originally intended to be a catalyst for them to make some changes (mainly to leave the factory for something better), but in spite of the mediocrity, monotony of the work, the idea of finding something new just hung in the back of their minds as another burden to be avoided. Neither of them brought it up because it had become taboo within the shallowing confines of their daily conversations. But James, the first of the two to express his new-found complacence, would make occassional statements he hoped would show his increasing acceptance of working at the factory indefinitely.
“So, I thought that raise would never come, eh? Looks like maybe we’ll get another one soon if we’re lucky. Things are looking up!”
Harry found himself alarmed by these remarks. Though he was losing ambition, he wasn’t ready to admit it yet. So he would respond with tepid sarcasm, “Yes I bet that next one will come some time before we die!”
This, in turn, would bother James to no end, but he himself wouldn’t dare come out and say that he’d abandoned his desire to leave the factory. Instead he said nothing, and through the silence Harry could tell exactly what was happening – that James was slowly opting out of their agreement.
It took about four years, but in the end Harry did acquiesce. One day, after a cold silence between the two which had lasted nearly a year, Harry saw James at the punch clock, went up to him and blurted out that he’d given up.
“I knew you’d come to your senses, Harry. I think we have to grow up, you know? I know this isn’t what we wanted when we were younger, but it turns out this is our life. It would be pointless to change it.”
“I know, I know,” Said harry, “our parent’s did it, we can too, right? I just wanted something different I guess.”
” I did, too, but it turns out this isn’t so bad. Hey, meet me after work. Let’s celebrate! What d’ya say?”
Harry agreed. That night they got soused like the pair of good old boy factory hands they knew they were, just conscious enough afterward to make it home, but barely there when they returned to work the next morning.
From that day on, Harry and James accepted fully their fate as factory workers. It bothered neither of them anymore, the old days of impossible dreaming were behind them.
The Big Give In
One day, many years later, James arrived at work early, slightly hungover but feeling the Friday energy and raring to go. As he approached the punch clock, he found a note on the wall above it. It read:
Notice to Employees:
Layoffs imminent, The factory is due for restructure.
You will be posted with further details.
Among the hushed whispers that swept through the factory that day were those of James and Harry. They were certain they would not be spared from the coming hardship. Since that portentious night at the bar many years ago they’d resigned to their fate and had become fully dependent on the factory. Not just the income, but the hours themselves spent working the machines and the narrow set of skills they now possessed because of it. The thought of being let loose was unbearable, as were the next few months.
After awaiting word from management for what seemed like a lifetime, they finally got the dreaded news one rainy Friday morning:
Notice to Employees:
Begining the first of October, the factory
will be closing down indefinitely. See your supervisor
for unemployement details. We regret the decision, and
wish you all the best in these hard times.Sincerely,
The rain never ceased that September. Harry, James and everyone else were devastated, but no one attempted to do anything about it. To the blue collared, the managment were like spirits that floated around, but withwhom no one could (or should, for that matter) communicate. Everyone stayed to the bitter end, waiting for the hammer to fall. And it did fall. On the last day of September, there was an eerie emptiness about the factory, as if the spirits had vanished. When the last box had been sealed and the last worker had gone home, the doors were barricaded and none of them ever entered again.
The Fate of Harry and James
October was the month of their undoing. The two friends had spent two straight weeks at Marley’s Tavern and had all but wasted their respective incomes for the entire last month at the factory, along with countless brain cells. In those weeks, a sinister issue that used to plague the men had resurfaced: the suicide agreement from years before. It’s unclear whether alcohol or abandonment was the culprit, but their old agreement had a new twist, and was taking hold of them.
One night the two of them left the bar in particularly wretched frame of mind. They decided to head to the factory instead of going home, as maybe it would bring them some closure, but the sight of it just made things even worse.
“Piss on them, Piss on the whole thing!” Harry picked up a brick from a near-by scrap heap and threw it at the factory wall. It made no dent.
“Right idea!” James shouted and went to urinate on the side of the building.
“I can’t take this, James, I’m not well.. There’s nothing here for us but some trash. Worthless..” He kicked at the ground, tears on his face. He felt like a teenager again, like the world was closing in, whatever that might mean.
He’d been suicidal at that age, and in fact it was through mutual mental distress that the two of them bonded. Both had a history of life-long illness.
On this night in Mid-October, the depressive flood gates had burst forth. The two friends shared a feedback loop of misery. After a half hour of lamenting the state of their lives and of the world, the decision was made.
In a final twist of irony, it was Harry who initiated the act. He produced from the scrap heap about 20 feet of thick industrial rope and proceeded to lead James half a mile away to the train tracks – to the train that had always reminded them what time it was when they were still employed.
“It’s dramatic we wanted, right?” he grabbed James by the arm.
“What are you doing?” James slurred.
Harry wound the rope tight around both of the James’ wrists and fastened it with the best knot he could remember.
“What is this!?” James asked. But with all the alcohol in his blood he couldn’t have determined that he was in any danger. He couldn’t have determined much of anything. He laid down on the ground in a depressive stupor. Harry brought out the slack of the rope with him across the tracks and proceeded to bind his own wrists to the best of his ability. Despite his severe inebriation, he managed to succeed in tying himself. He then laid down opposite james and waited. His mind had gone entirely blank; blankly he stared at the stars in the clear sky, shivering and listening.
When the train finally appeared n the horizon, both of them had passed out. It was a tiny dot at first, so harmless from a distance. But with grave quickness it came, blissfully unaware of the impending damage it was about to incur.
Harry’s eyes opened just as the train was about to hit. He stared in horror as the train connected with the rope that spanned the middle of the tracks, attaching the two friends at either end.
If luck had been on their side that night the train might have cut the rope and spared their lives. Then again, if luck were on their side they probably wouldn’t have even ended up in such a predicament to begin with. The rope hooked onto a metal bar in the front of the train engine and dragged poor Harry and James hundreds of feet, leaving tandem trails of blood and bone fragment along the track ballast. Eventually, the rope gave and what was left of the two friends came quite literally to a dead stop, side by side, hugging the rocky ground.
In the distance the sun was peaking ever so slightly over the horizon; the train, smoke pluming from its chimney, disappeared into it, making a picturesque scene against the brilliant backdrop of fall colors.