A pattern is made up of many parts. ‘Factory by the Sea’ lives in my head as a perfect stand-alone short story, despite being an early chapter of a longer audio drama. A truck driver (voiced by Jasika Nicole) makes a delivery to a strange ugly factory on a beach. She enters, but only sees one worker at any one time: the same worker, only progressively older as she moves through the rooms. Revelations about the factory (“machine after machine, Alice. Imagine the scale of them. Picture it for me”) – and the true nature of the trucker’s delivery and thus, complicity – are alternated with her memories of her missing wife, and their own rituals: more human, more colourful, more crafted with love. This story is all iterative process, parts into parts, an unthinking making. All themes which Fink introduces for us early using form: repetition and the juxtaposition of grey mundanity and red warning.
There was a young man there. Very young – 18, at the most. Probably less. Probably less. The kid was wearing this gray factory jumpsuit with the company’s logo on it in red. The logo was a dog cringing in pain.
The factory becomes its own symbol of unavoidable destiny: a process of self-created endings, and a final image which clicks into place with a terrible oh. Question upon question of what parts make a whole life, and a life whole.
Episode 4 of Alice Isn’t Dead, Night Vale Presents, 2016. Available here, and transcript here