It could have been a setup for a joke, “A Pollack, a Mexican, and a Frenchie walk into a bar…” but we didn’t walk into a bar. What we walked into was far, far worse.
“2 for $1 Big Macs? Ho-ho-holy crow! Let’s see how much today’s little venture raked in!” Bean, my rather vast and jolly Mexican friend, said as he dug through the rusted-red pot stuffed with cash.
Gene, the diminutive Frenchie, adjusted his green elf hat and made a gesture knocking lint off the fluffy white trim fuzzing around his sleeves. I’m not sure what made us think that spray painting a plastic Halloween jack o lantern candy holder a rusty red colour would help us pass it off as a Christmas collection pot. Maybe it was a stroke of genius on our end or just a lack of willpower to remove the Halloween decorations. Either way, that thing was filled to the brim with green American money and the occasional Canadian Looney. Damn Canadians.
“$37.50,” Bean said.
A child tugged on Bean’s svelte Santa suit and the child’s mother, or maybe it was just a random stranger, grabbed the boy away before Bean could get out a “Ho”.
“Santa!” the child cried.
Bean turned to wave at the child as the woman pulled the kid towards the door. “Ho ho ho!”
“Mommy! Santa!” the kid yelled and made his little feet run in place and then in the air while the mother picked him up.
I wasn’t sure what the mother said, but it sounded like, “That’s not Santa, hunnie, that’s a Mexican.”
“Ho-ho-ho-ly hell? Did she just say I couldn’t be Santa because I’m Mexican?” Bean took the red and white Santa hat off and wiped the sweat coming off his brow.
“Don’t listen to her,” I said. “She’s a nut. A fruitcake. The kid probably wasn’t even hers. We’ll call the cops later. Big reward. I can see it now. Saint Nick saves child from evil woman!”
“Jolly Saint Nick already did that when he filed for divorce, white boy,” Bean said, and it was true.
“I mean, really, Santa has to be a Mexican—who else would work one day a year and take the rest off?”
Before Bean could make a comment, a voice from our hips cried out, “Lil’ help here, guys.”
I turned away from Bean to see Gene trying to wrangle in a tray stacked with Big Macs. Apparently, he ordered enough that when stacked end to end, they would be taller than he is. That number, as I counted in my head, was 24.
“32 Big Macs coming your way! Take this so I can grab the other tray!”
I meant 32, not 24. 24 would obviously be a ridiculous number to stack Big Macs up to see if they are taller than Gene. Bean took the tray as I got some ketchup. I liked working the pumps and often pretended that the ketchup I pumped out was blood and the cups were a menstrual cup.
“Take this, toxic shock syndrome!” I shouted a bit too loud between the last pump. A woman put her hands on a little girl’s ears and turned her head away from me. “Hey, you will thank me later when Dracula starts asking the bartender for a glass of hot water!” The response didn’t make sense to the woman, but Gene caught it.
“We’ll make some tea later; I need to get something in me before we bang those whores tonight.” Gene said, and the woman alternated her hands from the child’s ears to the child’s eyes.
“Oh, like the kid never saw an elf talk about fucking whores before,” Gene said and timed a wave at the kid between the mom’s windshield wiperesque hand protection. Gene blew a kiss to the kid and the mother put her daughter’s face into her bosom then proceeded to walk to her table with a small cup of ketchup and the kid’s head shoved firmly into her chest, each ear covered by a breast.
“And they say we’re the weird ones?” Bean said as he directed us to the table he secured with our food. The Big Macs were piled to one side of the booth and whatever Gene bought for himself was on the other. A smell of cheesy funk hung in the air.
Bean’s Santa beard was covered in special sauce. His eyes were a bit glazed over from the cholesterol doing its job to clog up his mind. I could barely lift my hand to the next box containing a Big Mac. The cheese on the box started to harden at room temperature and whatever temperature Bean’s front teeth were. Some of it actually got warm enough from the chewing motions he made to start oozing down, but then solidified part way. Always part way.
“So, you ordered a bunch of fried cocks?” Bean said looking at Gene.
“You wish! These aren’t fried cocks; these delicious things are the McBratwurst!” Gene held one up to the light. It looked like a shriveled Mexican cock.
“It looks like a shriveled Mexican cock” Bean said, and I had my suspicions verified. “There’s no way this can beat my Chorizo!”.
“You never tried this McBrat then! Come on, Santa Clause!” Without any prompting from me, Gene leaped up on the table and dangled the McBrat in front of Bean’s face. The cheese at the end (the hell? Why would that come with cheese?) dripped off and started to fall to the table until Santa Bean caught it with his tongue. A splotch landed on his tongue ring; the effect made me recall the time a hummingbird ran into dog shit thrown from the rooftop.
“Eat it Santa! Eat it! Put it in your mouth! Take it!” Gene, still in his elf costume, started to shout. I became aware that we should start cutting back on spiking his sports drink when Gene’s hand grabbed the back of Bean’s head. The black brillo hair tangled up in the fuzz of Gene’s elf costume.
I heard, “Mommy, why is the elf playing Dambles with Santa?” I could only assume “Dambles” was a code word the mother taught her kid when the kid walked in on her performing a similar act sans the cheese. I thought I heard more, but terror was blocking all auditory stimulation.
I’m not sure when I got up from our table and started to stutter towards a few booths past ours. I think I was trying to make it to the ball pit. I thought if I could just cover myself in the orange and yellow balls that this would all be over. Then I made the mistake of looking over towards Bean and Gene. Gene had both hands firmly around Bean’s head, and the sausage was nowhere to be seen. He let go suddenly and Bean came away with part of the fake beard still attached to where the sausage was just moments ago. His face—covered in grease and cheese—had a vague smile plastered on like he remembered a fond holiday long dormant. The clicking of his tongue ring against his teeth set me on edge, but it was the way Gene, still dressed as an elf, let out a bestial cry of victory—both little arms waving in the air while yelling for “Santa” to “suck it” that haunts me even today.
It was at this moment that I buried my head between the woman’s breasts. Her mole came at my eye and drew tears. The last thing I could hear was Bean’s “Ho ho ho! The reindeer will be flying high tonight!”
UFO Bizzarro, a graphic journey with Jennifer Weigel
The UFO draws closer, its shiny metal form spinning high overhead. As it approaches, points of flickering light begin to come into focus, shining down like a hundred incandescent bulbs rotating and swirling around its mid-point. The beam falls upon you, unsuspecting soon-to-be abductee. It creates a sort of strange void, mesmerizing you while pulling your body towards its center.
What foul and terrifying beings lurk in the cavernous belly of the strange space vessel? To what dark recesses of the universe are you doomed to travel? Your body hangs limply in the warm sucking light as you ascend into the shiny metal saucer. You disappear from view, lost within the recesses of the UFO. A switch is flipped, the lights abruptly darken, and the spacecraft shoots across the night sky.
You awaken on a metal table. A bizarre alien creature looms overhead. But what is it?
Is that a… space swine? Did someone put lipstick on a pig? But only the porcine parade of Miss Piggy paradigms would come up with something this surreally swinish. Oh, wait…
Yeah, yeah – I know that was a strange and long lead in to this Muppets segment of Pigs in Space, but it’s an homage to the movie Alien in typical bad-pun dad-joke Pigs-in-Space fashion. Sure, it does contain a lot of the same tired tropes we’ve come to expect of the series, but it also hearkens back to the olden days when Jim Henson was still involved. So sit back and enjoy the Bizzarro ride.
Nightmarish Nature: Terrifying Tardigrades
OK so I lied. The dust hadn’t fully settled in Cozmic Debris, the space opry I’d written over the course of this month (you can catch up here with Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3). In fact, it’s blown over into Nightmarish Nature for one last final huzzah…
The Last Chapter of Cozmic Debris
Kara-2-6000 had just signed on with the Voyager probe and was eagerly engaged in her first mission, en route to Mars with more components for the terraforming effort. It seemed like a pretty simple gig, cleaning up the space dust that accumulates on the vessel after landing on the red planet. She had been trained to keep her eye on her work and pay attention to details, that the dirt tended to collect in unusual ways in strange places, and that it was critical she contain and seal all of it to keep the spacecraft in proper working order. She entrusted the computer to keep the vessel on track, as it was preoccupied with doing and never engaged otherwise. No matter. She’d never been to space before and the newness of it had her rapt attention. What stories she would have to tell once she paid off her student loans and got her human body back, for surely Mars must be an exciting place…
And now for Nightmarish Nature…
So, this time on Nightmarish Nature we’re visiting Terrifying Tardigrades… Wait, seriously who comes up with this stuff anyway? Tardigrades are actually kinda cute, at least in the nerd fandom sense, and are remarkable in their ability to survive and withstand crazy adverse conditions. For all that the AI art generator doesn’t seem to have much of a clue what their anatomy is like, they really don’t do anything that scary, unless you’re a yummy little single celled critter that lives in moss in which case pretty much everything has it out for you… Oh, I see that the Cozmic Debris space opry usurped this segment. May as well run with it then.
So what’s so terrifying about tardigrades anyway?
So I don’t actually have much to say about tardigrades except that they started this whole crazy journey here on Haunted MTL. A Facebook friend posted a link to the Ze Frank True Facts video on them (linked here if the below video doesn’t load), and I was instantly hooked. It’s a great series and is part of the inspiration behind Nightmarish Nature here on HauntedMTL. So if you like learning about all kind of crazy animal facts and nature weirdness, feel free to check it out. I will mention, the show contains adult themes and is designed for (im)mature audiences, so keep that in mind as you foray into the freaky side of nature, literally.
To more of my Haunted MTL series on Nightmarish Nature about things that are a bit more terrifying, please feel free to revisit previous segments here:
Cozmic Debris: Space Opry by Jennifer Weigel, Part 3: The Dust Settles
Here’s the third installment of our space opry. For those of you keeping track, here’s Part 1 and Part 2. Thank you for following along and please be sure to keep all hands, feet, tentacles and appendages tucked safely in the overhead bins; just sit back and enjoy the ride. Because, this time, the dust settles.
It had been well over a month since Trent-2-6000 had released Ayarvenia into the Mars probe. She was a mischievous creature and flirted with him incessantly, gliding effortlessly between red cloud and ghost girl. She also managed to avoid notice by the computer, as Trent had made it abundantly clear that if the system became aware of her, he would be forced to put her back in containment, as his sole purpose aboard the spacecraft was to sweep up and trap the dust, which she still qualified as.
Ayarvenia would tease him, flitting to and fro among the static debris and dirt that still settled into every nook and cranny. How was it possible for him to be seeing so much grime still, anyway? It had been months since they had left Mars and yet Trent was finding more and more Mars dust on a daily basis; it was as if they just left yesterday. He had finally finished clearing out the computer room for the second time that day and was preparing the waste containment units for their eventual removal when he caught Ayarvenia swirling about one of the clear acrylic domes from his previous sweep, which was hermetically-sealed and ready to be brought safely back to the confines of Earth and the research laboratory.
The red cloud girl spun her way into the latch mechanism and popped it open right before Trent’s robotic eyes. The dust within was sucked out into the Voyager probe to be quickly and quietly dispersed yet again; some of it was even absorbed into Ayarvenia herself. She then latched the dome shut again and left it at the ready, as found. The container sat empty, a shell discarded.
How could he have been so naïve? It all began to make sense now; all of those sealed packages he had so painstakingly catalogued and prepared for their eventual arrival were still just empty. All of his hard work really had been for naught; he was just sweeping up the same dirt piles again and again only to have them released from the trash to disperse and begin the cycle anew. He grumbled under his breath and Ayarvenia froze in midair. She slowly whirled around and sent a lone tendril towards Trent, forming into her beautiful face as she turned to face him. She looked slightly distraught and more than a little agitated, but that melted and gave way to her usual snarky sweetness as she neared.
“Hey there, robo-boy,” she said, cooing as her unblinking eyes met his. “I didn’t hear you coming.”
“I imagine not,” Trent replied sternly. “What are you doing?”
“Oh… nothing really. Just checking up on things here. I was waiting around for you is all,” she hemmed and hawed.
“Did you find everything to your liking?” Trent snipped. “No particulate out of place or anything?”
“Everything seems okay, I guess… I’ll just leave you to it then.” The ghost girl drifted towards the far door.
“Not so fast…” Trent proclaimed. “I need to know what you’ve really been up to here. I saw you release the Mars dust from that containment unit. You know I’ve been sweeping out this room over and over for the past two days; just how much of my work are you undoing?”
”Work? Work… You call this work!” Ayarvenia’s voice raised. She was truly agitated now. “You’re blowing off my entire being without a second thought, trapping it in these nasty clear coffins, and all you can think about is whether or not you’re fulfilling your job?!”
“I… I just want to be done with this so I can get my body back and get on with my life,” Trent retorted.
“Well, Trent Just-Trent, let me break it to you, then. You’re not getting your body back, robo-boy. What makes you think they’d bother to save a lowlife human body like yours in the first place? These assignments are always dead-ends. I’ve seen them come and go… Makes no difference, in the end the researchers get what they want, and that’s more of my Mars dust for their experiments. We’re in the same boat schnookums, you and I,” the ghost girl blew hastily. “Yeah that’s right, you heard me. You’re not getting your body back. And the way things have been going around here, with you all so feverishly sweeping up every little bit of dirt you find, neither am I.”
“Wait, how would you know anything about that?” Trent stammered.
“I know things. I’ve been around. I can see and hear and feel everything all at once. Part of me is still on Mars, part of me is here in this spaceship, and part of me is on your so-called Earth, trapped in the lab catacombs awaiting who knows what fate…” Ayarvenia sighed. “I’ve tried to do what I can to save my own skin, literally. I’ve flirted with every deadbeat janitor they send on these missions. And you all just keep coming back for more…”
Suddenly a voice boomed from behind in monosyllabic chatter, “Dust-Buster, what have you done? Clean that up, now!” The camera eye that monitored the computer’s every task shifted focus to Trent and Ayarvenia and zoomed into an angry point. “Now!” it wailed. The computer was on to them.
“Shit,” Trent muttered.
“It’s okay, I’ll go willingly,” Ayarvenia whispered as she sucked herself into the ready containment unit and locked it. “Wait it out and release me again later.” She winked and settled into static suspension.
The camera eye scanned everything: the waste containment unit, the dust, Trent-2-6000… Trent froze and tried not to appear guilty. “Dust-Buster, you have one and only one job aboard this vessel. You are not doing that job. There is more dust here now than there was a week ago. You have failed,” the computer droned on. “The penalty for failure is… the airlock…”
“Wait, what?” Trent shouted, exasperated. He hadn’t even realized that was a thing. Yet another gripe for the school career guidance counselor…
“Oh no, not again,” Ayarvenia whispered. “I won’t let them take you, robo-boy Trent Just-Trent. I don’t want to lose you, not another one.”
“Silence!” the computer screeched. “You have sealed your own fates.”
The floor beneath Trent and the container began to quake and rumble. Partitions withdrew radially to a small circular channel beneath, a tube that fed into the lower part of the ship, presumably to be shot out into space. Trent-2-6000 tried to grab hold of the receding floor but his robot body was just too ungainly. He managed to wedge himself into the chasm opening only to see the waste containment dome carrying Ayarvenia slide past, her face peering up at him helplessly. He reached for her to no avail and tumbled after.
The two of them shot down the chute and through a series of rapidly opening and closing doors until the last airlock opened into the vast dark nothingness of space. Pinpoints of distant light greeted them from afar. Trent managed to latch onto the container just as they shot out into the void. The Voyager probe withdrew into the distance. The darkness enveloped the two of them. They were alone.
“Wait, I’m not dead,” Trent exclaimed.
“Of course not, silly,” Ayarvenia answered. “You’re a robot. You were made to withstand this, so that you could operate in places where there is no atmosphere.”
Trent gazed into her eyes as they floated along without purpose or reason, just more cosmic debris now.
And I’m floating in a most peculiar way.
And the stars look very different today. – David Bowie, Space Oddity
So that was Cozmic Debris… Illustrations were generated using the Cosmic template in NightCafe AI art generator. My favorite AI images are the ones that are substantially wrong, making weird mistakes in ways that a person wouldn’t make. So the tardigrades were especially fun, because it doesn’t have a good enough sense for their structure to render them sensibly. Kind of like elephants. The algorithms respond to different cues. Does it really matter how many limbs or trunks or tusks these things are supposed to have anyway…?