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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.

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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.

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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.”

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“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.

Beautiful, digital art by Jennifer Weigel based on photograph of Aristide Maillol sculpture
Beautiful, digital art by Jennifer Weigel based on photograph of Aristide Maillol sculpture

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.

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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.

Jennifer Weigel is a multi-disciplinary mixed media conceptual artist residing in Kansas USA. Weigel utilizes a wide range of media to convey her ideas, including assemblage, drawing, fibers, installation, jewelry, painting, performance, photography, sculpture, video and writing. You can find more of her work at: https://www.jenniferweigelart.com/ https://www.jenniferweigelprojects.com/ https://jenniferweigelwords.wordpress.com/

Original Series

AI Journey: Little Red Riding Hood, Part 1

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And as promised in Big Bad Poetry, we shall embark on our next AI journey, this time looking at Little Red Riding Hood. I had wanted to depict her as the Big Bad Wolf one and the same, although maybe not so big nor bad. But it just wasn’t happening quite as planned. All of these are based upon the AI generated art and prompts using NightCafe and then created as posters in Canva.

Little Red Riding Hood beautiful woman with red cape hiding her wolf face.  Sinister style, July 29, 2023
Sinister style, July 29, 2023

So I actually like this even better than my original vision, it is playful and even a bit serene (especially given the Sinister style). The wolf is just being a wolf. It’s quite lovely, really. But it wasn’t what I had in mind, so I revisited the idea later to see if I could get that result…

Little Red Riding Hood with wolf face, Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023
Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023

Well, that’s not quite right…

Wolf face Little Red Riding Hood, Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023
Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023

Yeah more of the same…

What part of wolf face don't you understand?, Hyperreal style, Aug. 1, 2023
Hyperreal style, Aug. 1, 2023

And as you can see this is starting to devolve quickly. Join us again next week to see how this continued to develop… And if you want to catch the last AI art journey, you can find it on Haunted MTL here. To see more such devolutions into AI generated art, check out the Will the Real Jennifer Weigel Please Stand Up? blog.

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Original Creations

Big Bad poetry by Jennifer Weigel

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So considering my recent revival of a wolfwere and his Lucky Days and Nightmarish Nature’s hostile humanity, it seems we are due for a visit from Little Red Riding Hood, or perhaps even Big Bad himself… Here’s a poem on the subject by Jennifer Weigel.


Over the river and through the wood
flashed the fleet-footed Red Riding Hood
on her way to her “grandmother’s” house.

When running past, who should she see
but just one of the little pigs three
cowering like but a tiny mouse.

“But my dear piggy, what do you fear?”
Red Riding Hood asked as she slunk near,
teeth hidden under a sheepish smile.

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The nervous small pig looked up in fright
and decided that Red was alright,
missing the subtle clues by a mile.

“The Big Bad Wolf, that horrible beast
upon the other wee pigs did feast!”
the last little pig said with a squeal.

Red Riding Hood laughed with a great growl
and threw back her heavy long-robed cowl,
in a vast terrifying reveal.

For she was really the wolf Big Bad
hidden beneath the cape that he had
stolen from Red Riding Hood at point.

“And now I’ve caught you too my pretty
and surely t’wouldn’t be a pity
if I gobbled you up in this joint.”

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T’was then the wee pig leapt to his feet
And cried, “Big Bad Wolf, I shall defeat,
for I am no ordinary swine!”

The little pig also wore sheep’s clothes
spun in spells every woodland witch knows;
Old Granny herself was quite divine.

“Now give me back my granddaughter’s cape,
before I grab you by your ruffed nape
and send you pig-squealing down the road…”

The wolf dropped the cape and ran, that cur,
but Granny was swifter and hexed his fur
and the wolf she turned into a toad.

Thus the moral of this story goes,
when in the woods, no one really knows
what sheepish sheep’s clothing is a ruse
that big bad wolves and old witches use.

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So this is actually an intro to my next AI art journey with NightCafe which developed from me not getting the results I wanted (Little Red Riding Hood herself as a wolf). Here’s a preview with Eric’s versions as he is much more literal in his prompting than I am, but where’s the fun in that? 😉

Prompts (from left to right) in Dark Fantasy style, executed Aug. 1, 2023:

Bipedal wolf in Red Riding Hood’s cloak

Bipedal wolf in Red Riding Hood’s cloak close up portrait

Bipedal wolf in red cloak close up portrait

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: Horrifying Humans

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So we’re going out on a limb here in this segment of Nightmarish Nature and exploring one of the most terrifying, most dangerous, most impactful species to walk this planet. I’m talking about us of course. Sure, as humans, we may not seem all that horrific to ourselves, but to many other creatures we have been a force of nightmares.

Humans male as drawn by Jennifer Weigel
Humans male as drawn by Jennifer Weigel

Why are we terrifying?

Humans are among those species that engage in massive modifications to our environment to serve our needs, like beavers who dam rivers, elephants who eat all of the new growth scrub to keep the savannahs tree-free, and so on. Yeah, all creatures have some impact on their surroundings, but some take it up a notch, and we do so at an order of magnitude higher still. And we have gotten so good at it that we have managed to exist and thrive in places that would otherwise be inhospitable. We are outwardly adaptive and opportunistic to the point of being exploitative. We are the apex predators now.

Sabertooth cowering as drawn by Jennifer Weigel
Sabertooth cowering as drawn by Jennifer Weigel

We have forced many creatures into extinction, intentionally and not, and have sped up these effects enormously. The National Audobon Society chose the egret as its symbol after it made a comeback from being hunted to near extinction, and it was one of the lucky ones. Many weren’t so lucky, especially if they came in direct conflict with humans, such as wolves and the big cats who were in direct competition, or those who were really specialized in really specific niche circumstances that we pushed out of the way. And this is in only a very very limited scope of our earth’s history, and has since been even more ramped up with industrialization.

Humans female as drawn by Jennifer Weigel
Humans female as drawn by Jennifer Weigel

But humans aren’t all bad are we?

Depends on who you ask… We have created all sorts of incredible opportunities for some species too. Take mice for example. And coyotes. And kudzu. And a whole host of animals whom we’ve domesticated, some of whom wouldn’t have continued to exist otherwise or certainly wouldn’t exist in anything resembling their current forms. And the most massive extinctions occurred long before our arrival, when the earth was still forming and underwent rapid catastrophic changes and swings, decimating critters as they were trying to get a foothold. Nothing is constant except for change; that has always been true.

Wolf begging for cheezborger drawn by Jennifer Weigel
Wolf begging for cheezborger drawn by Jennifer Weigel

So it isn’t my goal to get all eco-con​scious and environmentalist here. Just that I feel if we are going to explore some of the more terrifying aspects of nature, we need to look in the mirror. Because if a consensus were taken right here, right now of all living beings globally as to what is among the most terrifying creatures among us, I’m sure we’d appear on that list.

If you enjoyed this closer-than-kissing-cousins segment of Nightmarish Nature on Horrifying Humans, please check out past segments:

Vampires Among Us

Perilous Parenting

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Freaky Fungus

Worrisome Wasps

Cannibalism

Terrifying Tardigrades

Reindeer Give Pause

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Komodo Dragons

Zombie Snails

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