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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 Series

Nightmarish Nature: Zombie Snails

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This time on Nightmarish Nature, we will look into zombie snails, because we were having so much with the Whore Snails recently. So this is a lot like the Freaky Fungus except that this time it’s a parasitic worm that is the cause of the horror… Leucochloridium paradoxum, the green-banded broodsac worm, forces snails to be a part of its nefarious plans to take over the world (well, really more just continue on keeping on in its strange and bizarre life cycle).

Hungry birds want nummins
Hungry birds want nummins

This Is What We Get for Eating Poop

The worm, which spends much of its life as a parasite in birds’ digestive systems, is part of a weird cycle that includes both birds and snails, though the snail end is much creepier. It starts when a snail ingests worm eggs in bird droppings. These eggs hatch into worm larvae that eventually turn the poor hosts into zombie snails! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Snails make questionable food choices, but I guess this comes from being where they are on the ecosystem clean up crew...
Snails make questionable food choices, but I guess this comes from being where they are on the ecosystem clean up crew…

The worm larvae work their way up into the snails’ brains and take over, hijacking them on suicide missions to continue their own life cycle. These worm larvae eventually grow large and worm their way into the poor snail’s eye stalks, pulsing and throbbing therein to resemble maggots or other tasty treats.

Zombie Snails
Zombie Snails

Mind-Control

The worms use the zombie snails to get into their bird hosts by mind-controlling them into climbing out of the shady undergrowth where they will be easily spotted by bird predators which will feed on them, ingesting the eye stalks and continuing the worm’s life cycle as it gets into the bird’s digestive tract. The huge, bulging eye stalks are irresistible to birds looking to snatch maggots and other delicious delicacies. Eventually, after the worms are well ensconced in its bird hosts, the bird poops out more worm eggs for unsuspecting snails to ingest, completing the cycle.

Birds love their grubs and maggots and other nummins, even if they are just zombie snails.
Birds love their grubs and maggots and other nummins, even if they are just zombie snails.

You can watch this in action on Nat Geo Wild: World’s Deadliest here, if you dare. Warning, it’s a little gross but not near so much as some of the other topics we’ve covered. If you enjoyed this slimy segment of Nightmarish Nature, please check out past segments:

Vampires Among Us

Perilous Parenting

Freaky Fungus

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Worrisome Wasps

Cannibalism

Terrifying Tardigrades

Reindeer Give Pause

Komodo Dragons

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Original Creations

Snails a Whorl Whirl Whore World…

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So a friend and I made some artsy snails awhile back. Essentially this was in response to her granddaughter proclaiming that her favorite animals are whorl snails. My friend heard “whore snails” and was a bit perturbed that the child would use such a word so nonchalantly, whether or not she knew what it meant. But then again toddler-speak is like that sometimes… Anyway, it stuck.

So we made some whore snails, all glammed up and ready to go. We started with these flat metal snails and then painted and decorated them, to whore them up a bit. I figured this would be apropos after my recent Valentine’s Day posts and that the end results were horrifying enough to appear here.

My friend's whore whorl snail
My friend’s whore whorl snail

This is my friend’s creation. I especially like the David Bowie star and cherry bling to match her cherry red lipstick. The purple shell is a great color on her too. I think my friend went back and decorated her shell more after the fact, but I didn’t see the snail after those changes.

My whore snail
My whore snail

And here’s my whore snail. She’s a bit more of an ice queen with her deceptively lovey-dovey eyes and mouth full of poison darts, like the underwater snails do. I believe I called her a Hoar Whore Whorl Snail as when the discussion first came up I heard “hoar” and thought of hoarfrost. Hence the ice queen take…

And another friend joined us via Zoom just to visit and have fun making art together.

Another whore snail, drawn by our friend over Zoom
Another whore snail, drawn by our friend over Zoom

This little Zoomed in snail is kinda cute, like she’s out on the beach in her bikini… Mixed media on paper.

So if that wasn’t disturbing enough, check out my inappropriate Shrinky Dinks posted here before, or maybe this Eye Candy Peeps Easter basket, both taking some innocuous thing(s) turning into something… else…

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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. Her friends will remain anonymous for now…

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Original Creations

Have a Dystopian Girls on Film Valentine’s Day

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So it’s finally actually Valentine’s Day, and thus marks the final segment of our dysfunctional dystopian romance. So far, we’ve survived both Gen X and Krampusnacht, what else could possibly be in store? Girls on Film…

Valentine's Day card Girls on Film
Girls on Film Valentine’s Day card from Jennifer Weigel

Image description: Video camera umbrella shower succubus stares through the lens at the viewer, surrounded by eerie Cthulhoid horror embellishments with text.

Text reads: Happy Valentine’s Day; lipstick cherry all over the lens as she’s falling; give me shudders in a whisper; take me up ’til I’m shooting a star; (she’s more than a lady)

OK so this Valentine’s Day dystopia ends in a Duran Duran video, because of course it does. If the video doesn’t load properly, you can find it by following this link. Girls on Film.

Duran Duran official video

Here’s the camera eye succubus all by itself, for your viewing pleasure. Actually this is the original original image from an Unselfie performance art piece in the shower before I decided to forego the umbrella. Girls on Film.

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Unselfie performance art video still
Video still

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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