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“Seriously, you’re an arsehole,” Kate cuts in behind me, watching me with Subject 205.

“No, no!” I exclaim, half-disappointed that she didn’t congratulate me on my ingenuity, “You just don’t understand my parents. It’s just…they know something is up with me and they’re…not…understanding when it-”

“You are taking a janked-up dude over your parents house instead of telling them about us,” she cuts in. Even though that’s basically what I’ve done, it hurts to hear her say it like that. Like I’ve replaced her. Which is insane. I would never do that. 

“No,” I try again, “It’s not like that. They just won’t accept it-”

“Right,” she says, flatly, “Let’s get back to work…Dr. Kostyshyn.”

She is royally pissed, but she just doesn’t understand the dynamics of my family. She doesn’t understand that I’m actually saving her.

“Yes, Dr. Wright,” I quietly answer and realize that I’ve put a strain on our relationship.

We work in silence for the rest of the day.

***

Subject 205 is ready. I straighten his tie again and slick back his hair. He stands, quiet, not really reacting. He looks slick. Appealing. Even handsome.

“How are you?” I ask, mostly to gauge his reactions.

“Very well, thank you,” he politely answers and forces a smile.

“Are you ready?”

“For dinner?” He asks.

“For dinner.” I conclude with my own tight smile.

“We are dating,” he softly says, as if to himself.

“Yes,” I answer quickly, but feel the awkwardness settle on my heart. Kate hasn’t come back home yet. She left work without a word and I didn’t have the heart or gumption to call her. I’ll sort it out later.

“What do I like best about you?” He asks and it takes me by surprise.

“Oh, uh…I guess my eyes.” It’s an easy and vague enough answer.

“I like your eyes,” he says and stares at me for a few seconds too long and too intensely.

I make sure to have the kill switch in my purse before we leave.

***

“Merry Christmas!” Mom exclaims, then sees 205 behind me, “Oh, how handsome, Ginny! What’s your name, sir?”

“Greg.”

“Oh, lovely, come in. Please! Come in out of the cold.”

“I like her eyes most,” Subject 205 says abruptly and my stomach sinks. 

“What was that?” Mom asks, looking over to me.

“He meant nothing by that. Did you, Greg?” I nervously grit my teeth around the words. Maybe this was too soon for him. He has only been reanimated for three days. I’ve only reconditioned him for two, and prepped him for one. Maybe it just wasn’t enough time.

I try not to panic around my frozen smile. 

“No,” he blankly says, “I meant nothing. Sorry.”

When she goes to put our coats away, I grunt at him, “What was that?”

“Sorry,” he pauses, “I don’t think I’ve done this before.”

“What? Dinner? Christmas?”

“Family…”

My mother comes back before I can say anything, but I can feel his words as my brothers join us and we all settle down for dinner. There’s laughter. There’s awkwardness from 205 that they mistake for anxiety with meeting them, or just a general “off-ness” that they usually associate with me. There’s ham. There’s wine. There’s my brothers and their pale, skinny wives.

But it seems empty without Kate. 

‘I’m new to this, too, 205,’ I think, wistfully. I’ve never had someone that I was this thoughtful towards. I never had someone that I had an inkling to even share my family with, or vice versa. 

I feel a little sick when I wonder who I’m hiding from who. Maybe Kate was right. Maybe I just didn’t want her to get close. As much as we undertake the experiments we do, the blood we’ve spilled, the hearts we’ve literally ripped from chests, having her sit beside me at this mundane table, surrounded by the people I love and yet fear…it’s overwhelming. 

I’m being ungrateful and childish. I’m being “chicken-shit”, as Kate would say. Just because I know what they’d say, how they’d react…

It’s two lives I need to keep cleanly separate, even if it hurts. 

“Her eyes,” I hear 205 say, “Her eyes. Just eyes. That are hers…Eyes. Brown, I think, no certainly. Her brown eyes…”

Oh Jesus Christ.

I snap out of my thoughts and see my family closely watching 205 as he’s starting to sweat profusely. One sweat drop rolls down his cheek into the gravy boat that he’s holding with an iron grip. 

Fuck me.

“Hey, honey,” I sweetly prod, “How about we talk in the kitchen for a sec? Just a quick sec-”

“I was kicked out,” he says, blinking as if suddenly aware I was there. Yeah, this was way too soon for him. I was an idiot. 

“Uh, no, you’re not kicked out-”

“My father…said he hated me…”

“Uhhh.” That is my voice, my tone, but I have no idea what to say. 

“Greg,” mother interjects, “What’s wrong? Your father kicked you out tonight?”

He wipes his sweating forehead and…some skin peels off with it. Perfect strips of muscle shine, glossy and wet, from the torn flesh.

I am stuck, pinned in the moment, utterly not knowing what to do. Panic freezes every artery. I cannot move, or even breathe. 

“Oh my God,” one of my brother’s wives says and takes out her phone to record. I snap out of my stupor when I see her phone. 

“No, put that away-” I tell her, but I feel the cold, clammy hand of 205 on my wrist.

I spin around to see his skin flapping open, like a loose page in a book. This was a bad idea. Worst idea. Such such a bad idea. 

“It’s because,” 205 calmly tells me, “Because I’m gay.”

Yeah, seriously, honestly: fuck my life right now. All of it. Just fuck it to kingdom come. 

“What the hell is happening?” my father finally speaks up.

I look to all of their blanching faces, squished in confusion and disgust. Familiar faces, now twisted and gaping from this horrific scene, turns my stomach. I feel like I’m going to vomit.

“Uh….I…uhh…”

“Is this a joke?” my mom snaps suddenly, cheeks blushing with anger, “Is this some kind of school project? To bring over a gay person? To parade around this weirdness? During our holiest of days?”

I’m just at a loss. I don’t even know how to respond.

“That’s really poor taste,” my older brother says, crinkles his nose.

“I…uh…no, that’s…”

With that, 205 abruptly passes out, sliding right into the bowl of mashed potatoes before crashing to the floor. 

Roger Whitaker’s Christmas album plays in the background, without pause or hesitation. 

I am alone in this chaos.

***

“Yeah?” Kate sighs, answering my phone call on the third ring.

“You were right.”

“Yeah, I know, but what about?”

“Um…so…205 didn’t really…work out.”

“That’s a shame,” she blandly replies.

“Um…yeah…so,” I take a breath because I’m on the verge of just losing it, “Um, yeah…and actually…you’re not welcome to my parent’s house…”

“Huh?” That actually gets her attention. “What do you mean?”

“Well…I’m not so sure…that I am anymore, either…”

There’s a moment of silence, then, “Where are you?”

“At the lab…I’m trying to piece 205 back together,” I try to laugh, but a tear finally loosens and falls down my nose.

“I’ll be there in fifteen,” Kate resolutely answers.

“No, no,” I tell her, rushed and embarrassed, “It’s Christmas. You enjoy it.”

“I’m coming over. I’d rather spend tonight with you and your janked-up beard boyfriend than doing anything else in the world,” she says, tongue-in-cheek, before softly adding, “I’m sure you had a wild night.”

“Oh,” I struggle out a laugh through my restrained tears, “You have no idea…”

I hang up, waiting to spend our first Christmas together. Listening to the gentle hum of the fluorescent lights, I wistfully smile and carefully begin washing the mashed potatoes out of 205’s hair.

When not ravaging through the wilds of Detroit with Jellybeans the Cat, J.M. Brannyk (a.k.a. Boxhuman) reviews mostly supernatural and slasher films from the 70's-90's and is dubiously HauntedMTL's Voice of Reason. Aside from writing, Brannyk dips into the podcasts, and is the composer of many of HauntedMTL's podcast themes.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Jennifer Weigel

    December 18, 2020 at 9:13 am

    Family itself is all-too-often the actual freak show… 🙁

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Lighter than Dark

LTD Tripped Out Motivational Posters

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Tripped out… in case you just couldn’t get enough of Everything Everywhere All at Once and the return of the infinite bagel with EVERYTHING on it…

Tripped Out motivational poster
Tripped Out motivational poster

Artwork description: kaleidoscopic image of pink hairy horror (This is actually a fink fuzzy frond plant not unlike a Cockscomb but with longer thinner flowering feelers rather than the fuller protuberances you see on a full-bodied Cockscomb plant. I have no idea what it was, but it was very odd so I had to snap a photo.)

Image text reads: Mixing Magic Mushrooms & Peyote Just remember: once you open that Pandora’s box, you’re never going to get the pink hairy tarantulas back in it…

Tripped Out seeing eye god sunflower
Tripped Out seeing eye god sunflower

Artwork description: kaleidoscopic sunflower backlit by the sun with text and rainbow eye overlay

Image text reads: Eye See You Eye See All (in circle text so you can start and end reading wherever). In an ideal context this would be printed in the bottom of your tea mug or on a record that can slowly spin.

For more crazy tripped out fun, check out Weird Al’s post on Craig’s List

Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.

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Original Creations

The Elves Reunion, a short story by Jennifer Weigel

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An Elven portal in the woods, emerging from stone and forest floor.
An Elven portal in the woods, emerging from stone and forest floor.

I had heard tale that The Elves dwell in these woods.  Many underestimate The Elves; they have a fondness of heart for Tolkienesque Middle Earth fantasy stories and tales where Elves are the most highly civilized, virtuous and intelligent.  They forget that those are just myths, save for The Elves being cunning.  Remember that the Pied Piper was an Elf, and the children he took were not destined for such a glorious fate.

My sister lost her firstborn to The Elves.  She hadn’t noticed the Changeling until it was too late.  Her baby had already long since been stolen away.  She was so distraught she refused to eat or speak.  She locked herself in her room.  Or my family locked her into it as she succumbed to the madness.  Such are the ways of the family, for all of our protection.  We never question but follow as expected, as a means of self-preservation.  It has kept us all alive.

But I couldn’t get the sinking feeling out of my stomach; the grief became too overwhelming. That is why I came here.  I know I will not be able to rescue the child, nor my sister.  But I seek to avenge their meaningless deaths.  To ensure that it doesn’t happen again.  My family will never act.  I am tired of the Village Elders just shrugging these things off in hushed whispers and badly shrouded secrets.  It happens time and again.  We are all expendable.  They never do anything.

So here I am, in the Elven wood.  Alone.  As soon as my family figures out that I’m here, they will disown me.  They probably already have.  Again, it is for our own protection.  I’ll be just another casualty of The Elves.  Everything is so structured, so regimented.  Anyone who dares act in opposition to the rules vanishes.  We are all so afraid.

I lay in wait.  It’s just a matter of time before the portal appears.  The Elves use the portals to travel across time and space.  They appear where and when they wish.  But this time, I will go through first.  I know not what is on the other side, just that the portals allow only one to traverse in each direction.  We will trade places, if only for a moment until another portal forms.  Hopefully that will be enough time.

The trees shift and morph.  Falling leaves drift slower and slower towards the ground.  There is a stillness that I cannot fully express.  My breath hangs heavy in the silent air.  There is no sound, no smell, no taste.  It is time.  The hairs on the back of my neck and arms rise. I can sense the opening forming.  There is an uncanny familiarity in this moment, as if I have been here before.

As soon as the portal opens, I dash through.  But something isn’t right.  No one came through from the other side.  Or did they?  I cannot tell.  I am alone, in limbo between states of existence.  The world spins around me.  I can feel the drift.  Is this what death feels like?  Cold unbroken silence?  I feel distant eyes upon me everywhere, all around me, in the trees, the clouds, pinpoints of light that shimmer through.

I can feel The Elves eyes upon me everywhere.  In the leaves, in the trees themselves.
I can feel The Elves eyes upon me everywhere. In the leaves, in the trees themselves.

I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Maybe this is all according to plan.  But who was orchestrating the exchange?  My idea was only half formed in those passing pensive moments I am able to think for myself, few and far between.  My family, the Village Elders… no one allows time for freeform thought.  I hadn’t considered what would happen after the portal exchange.  I never really got past step one.

A voice greets me from the trees.  It is hauntingly familiar but seems only a distant memory.

“I’ve been expecting you.”

The world slowly comes into focus.  Clarity restored, the leaves circle me in an embrace.  My sister emerges, her dark eyes smiling.  She cradles the baby in her arms.

“You made it.  You escaped,” she sings.

“I didn’t see anyone,” I retort, skeptical.  I hadn’t recalled having seen any Elves, dark nightmarish fiends that they are, wild, unkempt, uncouth.  Savage beasts like Pan or Krampus.  Is this an illusion?  My sister seems so lifelike, so much herself.  She is the joyful young mother I had known her to be.  Filled with love and laughter.  Light dances about her, and she shimmers.

“Not in passing,” my sister clarifies.  “You have been living among them your whole life.  I had done so as well until the baby was stolen.  My heart broke; I had to follow after.  That was when I learned the Truth.”

“Why do you think we are so sheltered?  Why are we forbidden to do anything?  They do so to protect us from the Truth about who and what we are,” she continued.  “We’ve spent our lives evading that which we truly know ourselves to be.  We were the stolen ones, not the other way around…”

I notice that the portal I came through is still open, reinforcing my idea that no one had passed through the other way.  It is as if the portal was opened specifically to call me through. My sister extends her hand, beckoning me to join her.  There is a gleam in her eye I cannot pinpoint.  She seems happy, but something still isn’t quite right.  I’m still uncertain why I am here, in this time and place, as if destined to be present in this moment, in this decision.

The Village has fallen away to the woods.  There are no breadcrumb trails to follow home.  The idea of home itself seems distant like yet another illusion.  Nothing makes sense anymore.  I am unsure whether I am coming or going.  Two paths lay open before me.  Which shall I take?

The Elves portal remains but the path is unclear.
The Elves portal remains but the path is unclear.

The trees are full of Elven magicks… Feel free to check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s work here on Haunted MTL or on her writing, fine art, and conceptual projects websites.

Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.
Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.

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Original Creations

Eye Candy Jewelry by Jennifer Weigel

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I have been getting ready for a jewelry show in February and thought I’d share some of the fun eye candy necklaces I’ve been working on. Do they thwart or attract the Evil Eye? I think that depends largely on the wearer’s intentions… Each is hand-beaded and features a spooky printed eyeball pendant as its focus.

And the piece de resistance… A RAINBOW Evil Eye necklace with magnesite stone skulls! I love these happy little deadheads – they are just too spoopy… I have seen these beads ranging in size from very small to huge and I love all of them.

Eye Candy Necklace by Jennifer Weigel with rainbow Evil Eye and magnesite stone skulls
Eye Candy Necklace by Jennifer Weigel with rainbow Evil Eye and magnesite stone skulls

I love using eyes in art in weird and unusual contexts in my art. They have so much presence and symbolism. They also bring a sort of surreal atmosphere to any artwork, which bears just a hint of spookiness regardless of context.

Other artworks & graphics by myself that prominently feature eyes have appeared here on Haunted MTL in Insomnia, Indecision, Illuminati, Carriage Factory art installation, The Watchers, The Red Key, and Shaman Sticks.

You can check out some of my Hauntings jewelry on Haunted MTL here, and more jewelry is featured on my website here.

Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.
Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.

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