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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.”

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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.

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“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.

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“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.

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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.”

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“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.”

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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.

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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. 

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“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-”

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“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?”

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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. 

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“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…”

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“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. 

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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.”

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“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?”

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“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.”

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“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.

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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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Original Creations

Goblins, a Short Story by Jennifer Weigel

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Revisiting the creepy faux fingernail art, I made a couple of goblins… They then ransacked my house. This is their story, as told by myself, Jennifer Weigel.

More faux fingernail art from Jennifer Weigel, featuring wide smiling mouth with red sparkly lipstick and faux fingernail teeth on textured green goblins background
More faux fingernail art from Jennifer Weigel

So it finally happened. My art came to life. And of course it couldn’t be one of the cute pretty pictures, like the sparkly unicorns or the cat drawings. No it had to be the faux fingernail goblins… Ugh. I first encountered them in the bathroom.

I see England.
I see France.
I see someone’s underpants!

Of course you do, it’s the bathroom. That’s totally the room for that. Remind me again why I decided to paint these little green monsters. Ugh. From there, they moved on to the kitchen.

We so tricksy.
We so sly.
We eats all the cherry pie!

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Did they have to eat ALL the cherry pie? Like seriously. But what can I expect, they’re goblins and they’re in the house. Ugh. And honestly they’re just plain gross.

I pick my friend.
I pick nose.
Just whose nose, do you suppose?

Get away from me you obnoxious, vile creatures! I can pick my own nose on my own time, thank you. Ugh. Oh, great, now they’re tearing up the living room.

We be goblins.
We be green.
We be making quite a scene!

No, not the sofa! Now there are little bits of fabric and stuffing flying everywhere. I can see you’re all too pleased with yourselves. Nasty critters. Ugh. Why can’t you just leave?

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I do mischief.
I do bad.
This best party ever had!

I did NOT agree to host your little shindig. Stop tearing up my house! All I know is, it’s about time you moved on to wreak havoc elsewhere. Ugh. Just get out – NOW!

We scare the cat.
We scare you.
We scare all, we care not who!

I may have brought these dreadful disgusting demons into being seeing as how I painted them, but I have no idea what brought them to life or why. What kind of cosmic miscalculation caused this? I need to know so I can avoid it in the future. Ugh. Goblins… need I say more?

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

Faux Fingernails Art by Jennifer Weigel

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So I had some faux fingernails leftover from a costume based modeling session, from posing as Cruella De Vil for the figure drawing group… Here’s a teaser from that modeling session, before the horrible creepy art generation in the aftermath. If you zoom in tight enough, you can see my tiger fingernails, which kept trying to fall off constantly, reminding me why I hate trying to wear the things and why they (d)evolved into art.

Cruella De Vil modeling for figure drawing
Cruella De Vil modeling for figure drawing

My version of Cruella De Vil channels Glenn Close or the original animated character more than the recent Emma Stone variant, but they’re all delightfully devilish.

Anyway, I made this series of “Tiger Sharks” prominently featuring the same tiger faux fingernails, including those used in the Cruella De Vil costume. These “Tiger Sharks” also incorporated some pirate fingernails, because sharks and pirates are tight.

Pirate skeleton hand with faux fingernails
Pirate skeleton hand with faux fingernails

I couldn’t think of a better use for the pirate fingernails than adding them to this skeletal hand. I never actually wore these, they were too hard to come up with something to go with. But I do love the Beetlejuice vibe with the stripes…

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.

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.

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Original Series

Nightmarish Nature: Something Rotten, Flesh in Flowers

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This time on Nightmarish Nature we will again explore some of the more fetid fungi and plants, this time focusing on those that imitate rotten flesh in order to attract flies. Among the best known of these are the Stinkhorn and the Corpse Lily or Corpse Flower. The Language of Flowers be damned, literally…

Fungi

Many of the fungi in the Stinkhorn family erupt in mushrooms that reek of rotten flesh and sprout from a white sort of egg sac in various forms, the common type being a phallus like structure with a white body and olive head. The Beefsteak fungus resembles, well, a cut of beef oozing blood. And some mushroom bodies of the Clathrus genus bloom in elaborate lattice structures or devil’s tooth and devil’s fingers that resemble terrifying alien beings. These odoriferous fetid fungi grow in decaying wood material and use their stinky attributes to attract flies and other insects which will then spread the spores from their fruiting bodies. They truly look like something out of an outer space or aquatic nightmare.

Some various fungi that can reek of rotten flesh, drawing by Jennifer Weigel.
Some various fungi that can reek of rotten flesh.

Plants

Some plants also utilize pungent putrid odors to attract flies and other insects, in part to aid in the pollination and dissemination but also to attract insect matter for their own needs, to absorb the insects for valuable nutrients that they cannot otherwise obtain. The largest flowers in the world bear many of these characteristics, also being among the stinkiest. And some pitcher plants mimic rotten flesh to attract flies upon which they “feed”.

The Titan Arum of Sumatra and Indonesia is a plant that over time produces a huge flower somewhat resembling a calla lily but larger as the plant body stores enough energy to do so. While Calla Lilies are often used to symbolize rebirth and resurrection and can be associated with death, often in a funerary setting, the huge Titan Arum does more than that, strongly mimicking decaying flesh in order to attract flies. These flowers can grow to almost 8-feet tall and bloom for only about three days before wilting; they are a huge draw at botanic gardens when flowering because of the rare nature of the event and the remarkable presence that the flower has, in both size and smell. The US. Botanic Gardens has a page devoted to this plant here, where you can even track previous blooms.

Titan Arum flower as drawn by Jennifer Weigel.
Titan Arum flower as drawn by Jennifer Weigel.

Another noteworthy flowering plant is Rafflesia, a parasitic flower native to Indonesia and Malaysia that feeds on the liana vine and grows from a sprouting body bud into a huge flower over the course of five years. Its flowers, once finally formed, can grow to almost a meter across and resembles something out of a horror film. These too smell of death and decay to attract flies in order to cross-pollinate. You can learn more about these unusual plants on this video from Real Science here.

Rafflesia flower as drawn by Jennifer Weigel.
Rafflesia flower as drawn by Jennifer Weigel.

If you’ve enjoyed this segment of Nightmarish Nature, feel free to check out some previous here:

Vampires Among Us

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Perilous Parenting

Freaky Fungus

Worrisome Wasps

Cannibalism

Terrifying Tardigrades

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Reindeer Give Pause

Komodo Dragons

Zombie Snails

Horrifying Humans

Giants Among Spiders

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