“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?”
“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?”
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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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Nightmarish Nature: Vampires Among Us
This is the kickoff to a new series exploring nature that is kind of horrifying, at least in ways. Our first subject is Vampires Among Us. There are lots of animals named for vampires, sometimes due to folklore and sometimes for their appearance (like the Vampire Squid), but most of these animals don’t have blood sucking tendencies.
Bats & Birds
There are legit vampire leaf-nosed bats in Central and South America that drink blood. They feed on mammals and are often shown to feed on livestock. They’d be kinda cute if they weren’t so creepy. There are also vampiric birds: some finches in the Galapagos have developed the taste for blood of other birds, mainly seabirds that flock to the islands to raise their young.
Leeches & Lampreys & More
And then you get into leeches and lampreys and other denizens of the water that are known to attach themselves to larger creatures and drink their blood. Leeches were even believed to have medicinal value (and still are in certain circumstances). And there are also numerous plants that are known to be parasitic and feed on other plants, wrapping their roots or vines around others to steal nutrients.
Now I’m going to drift off into the realm where this becomes truly horrific. Spiders. Now, spiders aren’t vampires per se, seeing as how they actually kill their prey – they don’t just feed off of it while it remains living and wanders about its business. But because of their structure, they cannot eat solid foods, so they have to inject their prey with enzymes to liquefy it so they can slurp it out like a protein shake. That’s sort of vampirism on steroids if you ask me, just the kind that no one is coming back from.
But let’s get back on topic. Now let’s consider mites and ticks and fleas and mosquitoes and the like. Some drink blood for their survival; others do so as part of their reproductive cycle (like mosquitoes which otherwise eat fruit and nectar but need the extra protein from blood to grow their eggs).
Ticks need to feed on blood once at every stage of their life cycle and can pick up diseases along the way (like Lyme Disease) but don’t always do so. Different ticks are more likely to come in contact with different things and often humans are not their preferred meal but they are opportunistic and will feed on whatever is available when necessary. Symptoms of illness from tick bites may take years to develop and can have really weird side effects (like the allergy associated with Lone Star Ticks which makes a person unable to consume mammalian flesh).
Anyway, here are some brief glimpses of vampirism in nature. Thank you for joining us for Nightmarish Nature and may you avoid getting bitten by any true vampires among us… And I still think spiders take first place in the creepy eating category here, even if they aren’t technically vampiric.
Buried Treasure by “Dread Pirate” Jennifer Weigel
This story came to me in a sort of roundabout way from a rather unusual source. So I thought I’d share it with you, dear readership, and see if you can make heads or tails of it. – Jennifer Weigel
Dread Pirate Rum Tum Tugger could tell this was the right spot.
The site, beneath the sweeping limbs of the Live Oak, Spanish Moss swaying gently in the breeze, was a perfect match to the crude map he had bought off that soothsayer Deuteronomy.
The earth moved easily, as if it had been excavated previously. He dug in with greater fervor with each swipe. The sandy soil gave way to reveal something hard. He scooped and smoothed the remaining detritus from the surface as he uncovered a box.
The carton was simple.
No markings; no ornamentation; no writing. Just a plain cardboard crate, brittle from having been buried for so long but still sturdy. He hoisted it from its burrow.
“Ha HO!” he shouted to the passing breeze, rousing a small cloud of birds that erupted from a nearby thicket. They captured his attention for a moment, but he quickly refocused and returned to his task.
The box was locked but no difference.
Any self-respecting ruffian like himself could pick a lock in seconds. And he did so with panache, as was his way. He pried the lid open and licked his lips.
Inside was the legendary Kernel of Eternal Life, a small sparrow’s heart, still beating.
Artwork description: Myself as Dread Pirate Queen Miss Kitty wearing black bell sleeve shirt and black vinyl skirt with strapping leather belt over leopard print shirt and tights, with strapping leather boots, pirate head wrap and leopard cat ears.
Image text reads: Purr! Avast ye mateys, Dread Pirate Queen Miss Kitty invites ye to check out her booty stash and dig ye up a dungbie prize. Seek ye some buried treasure! Just grab ye a plastic litter scoop and dig… dig… dig… to ye heart’s content.
I created this image for a promotional poster for a performance piece in a charity art show in which I, as Dread Pirate Queen Miss Kitty, hawked a carnival sideshow style sidewalk installation. For a mere $5 donation to the animal shelter the show supported, gallery goers could dig around in a kiddie pool full of litter to find a prize: a cheap plastic trinket from the dollar store. I had some takers, including one kid who seemed to really enjoy the digging and whose parents were all in, saying “You know, you can totally do that at home too.”
For more cat antics, we invite you to read C-2747’s logbook here on Haunted MTL. 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.
Queen of Everything Mother’s Day Wishes
Happy Mother’s Day to the Queen of Everything… nothing gets by you.
Artwork description: A Happy Mother’s Day card featuring a picture of a Nefertiti doll with swooping hair, glitter makeup, and elaborate gold and blue headdress and evening gown.
Image text reads: Happy Mother’s Day! You are the Queen of Everything and you shimmer brighter than the twinkliest star in the sky. Stay sparkly and shine on in your magnificent glitter bombasticness. You ARE truly everything everywhere all at once and you’ve seen and heard it all. Eyes in the back of your head and superpowered hearing mean we can’t get away with much no matter how hard we try. So Queen on and rule over home in sparkly sentinel.
And may this be a testament to why us kids shalt never get you out of bed too early or run amok while you are getting ready to start your day… Because being the Queen of Everything takes planning and preparation…
Feel free to check out this Mummy Dearest Mother’s Day card from 2021 here on Haunted MTL.
December 18, 2020 at 9:13 am
Family itself is all-too-often the actual freak show… 🙁