Trigger warning: This story contains content related to school shootings, including some very graphic scenes, which I know can be hard to process, especially with how politicized and mainstream this news has become in the United States. Please do not continue reading if this topic is too much for you; take care of yourself first and foremost.
The kids huddled under their desks. After all of the drills they were used to the routine. But no one was whispering or snickering this time; it was for real. The children did their best to stifle sobs to little avail. Teachers stationed themselves where they could provide whatever protection they could afford, wary and keeping lookout. They were all trapped, unable to act, waiting to be rescued. A few brave individuals texted the outside world, trying to minimize any light or sound or vibrations from their smartphones that could alert the shooter to their presence.
The shooter was older, having come to the school to make a point about something. The kids and the teachers weren’t sure what the point was or why they had been dragged into it, but apparently whatever the shooter had to say was going to be driven home with a semi-automatic barrage of bullets claiming innocent lives. If this was a publicity stunt, sadly it was working. All of the news stations had showed up; it was making national talk everywhere. People were paying attention.
The shooter rounded a corner, surprised to find a lone boy out in the open facing away, no more than six years old… a sitting duck. The brown-haired bronze-skinned child absently paced, as if completely unaware of the danger he was in. His hair was neat; his clothes were tidy. He didn’t seem to have any sense of upheaval about him at all. He was clutching a stuffed giraffe, dragging it gently along by the tail. He ambled down the hallway at a snail’s pace, one foot in front of the other. The giraffe bobbed along behind.
The shooter opened fire. Nothing happened. The boy didn’t cry out, nor fall, nor bleed, nor turn to face the aggressor. He continued walking slowly and methodically like a robot, watching some distant point down the hallway where flickers of light caught specks of dust. They glimmered between the smoldering haze of disarray and the illumination peeking in from the tiny skylight windows. Time seemed to slow and pause. The scene was bathed in yellow warmth, but cold from the presence of death. There was a rift growing between the two figures, disconnecting them but binding them to one another.
The shooter shouted a string of profanities at the boy before firing again. And still nothing happened. The boy kept moving towards the faraway point upon which his eyes were fixated. The shooter began to run towards the boy but could not close the gap between them. Lunging towards the child didn’t help; the distance grew with each and every footstep, the hallway widening like a yawn. The more the shooter struggled to near, the more the space between gaped open threatening to swallow them both.
The shooter began to veer to the side but no matter what he did, the boy somehow remained in full view with his back turned, seemingly unaware. Frustrated, the shooter shifted further, perhaps to kick in a nearby door to hunt other quarry, or to find a different approach. But the scene remained fixed; no matter where the shooter stood, twisted or repositioned, the hallway continued to stretch out in front towards the boy’s back, always angled away.
Finally the boy paused. The giraffe dropped from his hand to the tile floor at his side. As the stuffed animal fell, it melted into the floor and vanished into just another part of the scenery. A voice echoed forth from the boy’s small frame, not the diminutive and naive voice of a child but the divine and booming voice of a god. “Why?”
The shooter, still driving towards the child, stumbled slightly, taken aback.
The voice bellowed forth again, “Why do you kill?”
The shooter glanced left and right before taking a deep breath and stammering sharply in equally resonant tone, “No one will listen. They do not understand the threat. It is for the future of humanity.” Bolstered, the shooter continued, fear permeating every word, “These kids, they just keep pushing. They are turning the world towards evil with their irreverence. They do not follow the true path. Why? Why do you question?”
“Humanity has no future here,” the boy answered. “We have lost the path awhile ago; how long we cannot tell.”
The child turned to face the shooter, a glow radiating from his small frame, making it impossible to make out his features. At first it crept along the periphery of his silhouette but slowly it began to overtake him as he became more and more visible. The light bathed everything in its path, erasing all to its unspecified energy, white and hot and crackling with electricity. The hallway dissipated, tile and brick and securely locked & barred doors giving away to the white nothingness. The light crept further and further into the shadows towards the shooter.
“I follow the path of righteousness,” the shooter shouted, “It is for our own good.”
“There is no path of righteousness,” the light beamed as the boy’s form dissipated into its all-encompassing presence. “Salvation knows only grace.”
The way that both voices lingered and echoed in that now expansive space would send chills up the spine of even the most stalwart. Something about the discourse was immeasurable and otherworldly, outside of the realm of human understanding, timeless, eternal… True. These were indeed the words of angels, or of devils; the difference between them not always as easily discerned as one might wish.
The light eventually enveloped both the boy and the shooter completely before erasing all; everything was absorbed. The two became one and the same. They vanished together in a flash, leaving an empty hallway and a discarded stuffed giraffe, the only remaining evidence of their presence in that time and place.
Time passed. Minutes dragged on for what felt like hours. An hour plodded along like days on end. Slowly, doors began to open from the periphery. Teachers emerged and took in their surroundings before finally calling forth their charges. Once an orderly exodus of the building was complete, with all parties reconvening at their designated safe zones, police combed the building. Neither the shooter nor the boy could be found anywhere. Perplexed by the absence of the shooter or their body, a manhunt was called but yielded nothing. No one knew to look for the child who was not there.
This story is a reflection upon the poem Call Me By My True Names by Thich Nhat Hanh. I first encountered his writing when I was working through some of my own struggles, trying to come to a place of radical acceptance and compassion, and I found some of the concepts to be very difficult because they reflected so much of my own hurt back at me. The anger was not serving me well and the fire within my heart that it fueled was not allowing room for growth, forgiveness, compassion or acceptance, and this took away my own power to heal.
There comes a point when one must release, to recognize the oneness of all of it, bound together by space, time and circumstance. This is a difficult and bittersweet place to be in, and I recognize that this story may seem ill-timed or improper given so much pain that is happening now in relation to the topic at hand. The timing of acceptance and coming into compassion differs from person to person and the paths we travel are winding and are not always clear, nor driving to the same ends. But that is why I chose to explore this, because it is in this most raw and vulnerable state that we come to those decisions of how to respond, of the people we choose to be… It is here that our human nature resides: good, bad and ugly. This is, in my mind, one of the greatest strengths of horror writing.
Revisitations: The Devil Went Down to Georgia
So I’ve been working on more painting into found art (as seen here before) and I thought I’d share a newer one, based on the song The Devil Went Down to Georgia by Charlie Daniels. But first let’s make like my She Wolf post enjoy a couple variations of the song, shall we?
First we have Charlie Daniels, the writer of the song which was inspired by the beautiful poem by Stephen Vincent Benet titled The Mountain Whipporwill. You can read the poem on Your Daily Poem here.
Then we have to watch my favorite version, the animated music video by Primus. I know there are claymation-haters out there who find the effect bit too “uncanny valley” but how can you not just love those chickens?
Anyway, without further ado, here is my painting, incorporated into a found still life, original signed L. Harady.
Here The Devil is defeated, crushed along the lower edge of the artwork beneath the fiddle and lamenting his loss. The bow jabs into his sneering nose as if to add insult to injury, but his eyes still glow, alight with the prospect of coming back for another round. (They actually do glow, I have acquired some blacklight reactive nail polish to use in these pieces now.) I suppose I may go to Hell for this portrayal (or for defiling yet another painting) but alas, such is the price of art sometimes. I guess I’ll add it to the list…
Cravings Part 2, story by Jennifer Weigel
If you missed the beginning of this pregnancy horror story by Jennifer Weigel, you can catch Part 1 here.
Jayden’s stomach turned. Who or what was this creature standing before him, and what had it done with his wife? Claire proceeded to eat more than half of the jar of eggs in a fury of consumption; Jayden finally retreated to the office alone unable to watch any more. He heard a sloshing sound as she finished the jar and proceeded to drink the brine before retreating to the bedroom and crashing into their bed, presumably to pass out. Again. Later that night, he crept in to find her sleeping, clammy and sweaty, nervously twitching. Her body made the most abnormal guttural sounds as her internal systems groaned and sputtered. It was definitely getting worse. Jayden resolved to call Dr. Randolph the following morning; this had gone on for far too long already.
The next day, Claire awoke with a start from another bad dream that she couldn’t remember. Crying uncontrollably, she clutched her swollen belly, still ripe with child, and hurriedly exclaimed, “Blood sausage! I must have blood sausage!”
Jayden woke from his curled-up safe haven beside her and muttered, “Wha… What is that? I’ve never even heard of such a thing.”
“Go!” she snapped. “I’m starving. Go now! Return with blood sausage.”
Jayden staggered over to the dresser, threw on some clothes, shuffled into his waiting shoes, and gathered himself to duck out the door in the well-practiced gesture he’d become so accustomed to. “I’ll stop on my way home from work, I guess,” he mused, making his own plans. Claire seemed to settle down a little as she woke further, but it was little consolation.
“Thank you Sweetcheeks,” she said. “You’re the best.” She blew him a kiss.
While at work, Jayden managed to secure an appointment with Dr. Beth Randolph, Claire’s primary physician since before he had known her, for later that day. He took off early and rushed home to gather his unwilling wife. She was going in, whether she liked it or not.
He opened the front door and peered inside. The house was dark and quiet, as he’d come to expect. He crept in and stole upstairs to the bedroom to rouse Claire from sleep. He’d tell her where they were going once he got her in the car, no sense in making this even more difficult than it already was. Unsurprisingly, there she was, a shadowy form hunched over in the bed, her back to him with the covers pulled up over her eyes. He peeled away the comforter and blanket to reveal a tangled mess of white knitted yarn; Claire was nowhere to be found. He looked around, trying to focus on the darkness of the bedroom that enveloped him. That unsettling feeling had returned, like he’d had at Maresh’s shop, sinking into his gut. Claire was here idling, watching, waiting; he could sense her presence sizing him up as if she could read his mind and was on to his plan. But why was her company so disconcerting? This was still their house, their home, their lives intertwined… Jayden felt his trust ebb, spine tingling sensing danger.
“Hey there Sweetcheeks,” Claire’s voice echoed from the darkness of the closet. “Do you have something for me?” She emerged into the room, her eyes wide, frothing slightly at the edges of her mouth. Tiny bubbles of drool burst forth from her quivering lips and trickled down onto her chin.
“I couldn’t find any… blood sausage… whatever that is,” Jayden lied through his teeth. He hadn’t even gone to the store. Claire should never have expected him back at this hour; apparently she didn’t even know what time it was. But that seemingly wasn’t a concern. She wasn’t herself. Something about her fragile frame, the way she rocked from side to side, reminded him of that crazy old witch doctor Maresh. He finally managed to connect the two; it was as though she were possessed. It was imperative that she saw Dr. Beth Randolph as soon as possible, if for no other reason than to sever ties to that crazy old hag and hopefully start to snap out of it. He simply had to get her to that appointment.
“No blood sausage!” Claire shouted, becoming more and more agitated. “No… blood… sausage!” Her breathing became less regular and her body shivered all over as she hulked towards him. “I am sooo hungry!”
She lunged towards him, stumbling into his arms and collapsing towards his feet laughing maniacally. Jayden reached for her instinctively, to lower her to the ground gently, and felt something sticky and warm envelop his hand. Feeling lightheaded, he glanced down as he fell to the floor beside her. Protruding from his gut was a long silver thread, no something pointedly metal and hard, oozing thick oil sludge all around. Not oil, blood. His blood. Claire continued laughing, her lightning-fast fingers quickly and methodically ripping their way into his tattered shirt and worming around within his wounded frame to pull forth bits of viscera, which she wrung in her hands and smeared up and down her arms and torso. As Jayden passed out, she mouthed each of her fingers in turn, sucking the precious liquid off of them one at a time, before she began to feast on his entrails.
Claire’s belly was finally full. The baby developing within squirmed and settled, as if finally satiated. She swiped a stray bit of flesh from her bosom, licked it off of her fingertips, and heaved a sigh of relief. Miracle Madame Maresh Meliasma was right; she just needed to get to the root of her cravings.
Cravings, a Pregnancy Horror Story by Jennifer Weigel
Here is Part 1 of Cravings, a pregnancy horror story considering darker cravings and changes in contrast to the glow that comes with the all-too-often toxic-positivity focus of carrying a child.
“Honey, I’m home,” Jayden’s voice echoed through the house like a bad 50s sitcom rerun for all that he didn’t watch those kinds of shows. The callout seemed equally rehearsed and hopeful but harbored a hint of fear in the way his voice cracked that didn’t bespeak Mayberry or the like. He waited for his wife Claire to greet him at the door. The house was still and cold with all of the heavy drapes drawn and no lights on anywhere. He glanced towards the dark bedroom where she must be napping, like the day before and the day before that, for weeks and months on end now.
Honestly, Claire hadn’t been the same since she’d finally conceived, following that witch doctor Miracle Madame Maresh Meliasma’s advice after years and years of trying to get pregnant. Now Claire was lethargic and succumbed to migraines, nightmares & morning sickness that kept her bedridden much of the time, screaming bloody murder because of her headaches if anyone so much as flicked on the lights. And she had barely even gotten into the second trimester. Jayden had read that it was supposed to get better but there didn’t seem to be any improvement; if anything she seemed to be getting worse. He tried to get her to see her doctor about it but she snubbed the idea. “After everything they put us through, all those years of fertility treatments, the invasive procedures, the bills… No way. To Hell with modern medicine,” Claire had retorted.
So now here they were, readying themselves for their first child. Maresh had foreseen that Claire would birth a healthy baby boy, and with all of the card readings, spiritual advice and herbal concoctions, Claire had fallen right in line, hanging onto the witch doctor’s every word. Jayden was still frustrated she wouldn’t consult with her normal doctor, but she instead visited with Maresh every day through Instachat online for about an hour and even invited the creepy old woman into their home once a week on Thursday mornings to supply fresh herbs, massage her aching joints and swelling tummy, and call forth healing realigning energies with elaborate candlelit rituals. Claire could focus on only one thing: anticipating the pending home birth and natural delivery of their firstborn child, still several months away.
Jayden wished his wife had never set foot in that weird alternative new age spiritual center, something about it had just seemed off. It wasn’t the crystals or candles or psychic energy books that seemed to line every surface; he wasn’t into any of that mysticism crap but it seemed pretty innocuous. He recalled small figures made of sticks, straw and mud, and giant Mason jars boasting exotic herbal remedies, and the lingering scent of something sickly sweet decaying, all of which was genuinely unsettling, but it wasn’t really that either. There was something decidedly sinister about the place that he couldn’t quite put his finger on, more caught up in the air surrounding and within the space itself. It settled into his gut like that feeling you get when you know you’re being watched by some unseen far away presence or when you meet someone you know deep down has ill intentions. And Maresh herself was just as disturbing; she only ever addressed Claire and had not uttered a single word to Jayden in the entire time. In fact, she acted as if she looked right through him without even seeing him.
As days turned into weeks into months, Claire became more withdrawn and more obsessed about the baby. She never left the house, locking herself away in the gloomy stagnant nest and occupying herself with the remedies, rites and rituals that Maresh suggested. Oh, and knitting. Jayden hadn’t realized that Claire knitted since he had never seen her do so before, but her hands were a frenzy of motion, whipping silver needles back and forth and pulling soft white yarn between them like a growing umbilical cord tethering her to the circumstance at hand like some sort of strange pregnancy lifeline. The so-called blanket she was producing grew larger and larger every day.
Jayden snapped out of his reverie to see his wife eyeing him from the hallway. She studied him up and down slowly, staring longingly at his body. She inadvertently bit her lower lip in anticipation, teeth striking flesh to cut forth a small droplet of blood. Her tongue eagerly danced across her pursed mouth and lapped it up before withdrawing again.
“Aw, what’d you bring me this time, Sweetcheeks?” Claire smirked; eyes alight with flame like a cat readying to pounce
She had been ravenous throughout the pregnancy so far, and her cravings kept getting stranger and more bizarre as time passed. The other day, Jayden had fetched boiled shrimp, and she had devoured over 2 pounds of the mud-bugs in less than an hour’s time, shell, tail and all, their little legs matted together like thick wet whiskers. Today she had requested pickled eggs, the kind that they import from Europe or Dutch-country Pennsylvania in those big almost gallon-sized jars, stained pink with beet juice vinegar. Jayden procured the giant jar of eggs from the paper bag in his arms. Claire lunged at him and grabbed up the prize, prying the lid off in one fell swoop. She reached in, pulled out a pink rubber-looking egg still dripping with brine, and shoved it in her mouth whole. She hadn’t even bothered to chew it before she grabbed another to meet the same fate. And another.
I hope you have enjoyed the first part of this story. Part 2 will air next time here on Haunted MTL. In the meantime, feel free to follow your cravings and order up some midnight munchies, or listen to this lullabye.