's 2016 Horror Write-off:

Sixteen Tons

Submitted by Izzy Delcat Winchester (email)

It's strange seeing something from your hometown become the hot new trend.

Maybe you've seen it around? Pendants, keyrings, cuff links, earrings, catching the sun, rocks in every color of the rainbow. Except, as every shop and owner will be eager to tell you, they aren't rocks at all! The glittering jewels are a miracle of upcycling, a piece of history in the palm of your hand.

How it used to be, they'll happily explain, is that when cars would go down the assembly line in the factory, workers would spray on the paint, and the excess would drip down and build up on the rails and the floor. It wasn't nature that formed the gorgeous strata, but man, building up layers of bright lacquer and somber enamel over the years, waiting to be polished down into cabochons, precious works of art.

They call it Fordite.

It's a little piece of history, it's true, and like any history, the ones who grew up with it know it a bit differently. We know the secrets, and Fordite has one. 

Want to see?

Great. Take this piece, and take this pen knife, and start scratching.

It's fine, honestly. I have more. Here, it's softer than it looks. Just dig in, careful you don't cut yourself...there. See how the layers start coming away? Fascinating, right? It's like the rings on a tree. That top one is...probably about 1987. They stopped hand painting not too long after that, went to safer methods. That's one of the reasons it's getting rare.

One of? Oh, I thought the other was obvious. I forget tourists don't notice, since...haha, well, tourists. You don't see how much is closed down because it happens while you're not here. That's what we have, tourism and cars, and, well, how many cars have you seen roll out of Motor City lately? Detroit, I mean. That's what they called it. What he called it.

Never mind, keep scratching. Ah, see that shade of green? There aren't many layers like it. That was big for a little while, but not too long, you only see it in particular years. That's 1983, when the worker who had been painting was diagnosed with lung cancer from the particulates, but not when he died of it, it took eight months of rotting from the inside before...

Don't stop scratching. That isn't the only knife I have.

There. Much better. Look at that cherry red! '76, the year for bicentennial colors, and for the first time they started warning us we were running out of gas. Hey, next generation's problem, right? Keep 'em rolling while they're hot, keep the line moving, keep scratching, I don't care if your hand hurts.

1970, deep brown, same color as the stain on the wallpaper from the exit wound of a man laid off. He's the first of the pink slips turning red, he'll be followed by others soon enough.

1964, bright sunny yellow. The insurance papers get denied, again, because there's no way to prove that it was twenty years on the line that took away his ability to work or move or think without the pain, and the overdue bills pour in with the rest of the mail.

1959, pure white, because this accident can be proven, certainly, but thankfully the blood didn't get into the batch, they hurried and got him out while it was still soaking into his clothes. Excellent, isn't it? Not a drop wasted. He loved efficiency. Who? Who do you think?

1942, do you see how it's starting to shine? The biggest assembly line in the world, nine thousand planes rolling off sparkling new for Uncle Sam! Never mind the celebration over his book in Germany, what was it to him if they took his ideas too far?

Keep digging, damn you! Faster! Can't you see how close you are to the center? 1937, the Battle of the Overpass, cries for a union silenced with broken backs! 1932, the Hunger March, five shot to death by police and company security, the walking wounded chained to their hospital beds, hungry mouths closed by breaking teeth! 1929, three hundred farewell notes clutched in cold, starving hands, useless men disposed of efficiently, ropes, pistols, knives, use the knife! Faster! Stop slowing down the line!

There! There! The glow at the center, do you see it? Do you see the secret? Do you hear the pistons, smell the oil? Can you see him shift the stones from his grave, pushing through the blood and bone of the earth? Are you weeping for the blood from your fingernails or for the tyrant king's resurrection? See his entourage, the broken wage slaves of the company store, see how they carry his crown! See what history has buried under decades of shining lacquer!

You goddamned fools, did you really think that if you made a graven idol, your god wouldn't rise?


With thanks to Raile for encouragement and proofing

Image credit to