This is a companion story to my Lighter Than Dark advertisement from Feb. 3, Best Friends Forever. https://hauntedmtl.com/originals/lighter-than-dark/ltd-best-friends-forever/
Misty glanced at her phone. It wasn’t like him to be late. She checked her messages: no contact, no email, no sign of any change in plans. She checked her calendar. This was the right time and place. What could be taking him so long?
“Sorry I’m late,” a throaty calm and collected male voice echoed in her head. It was the kind of deep hollow voice that sinks into your heart and reverberates through your soul, the sort that should be narrating those late night mystery shows that leave you awake in bed, pondering the unfathomable. There were many who would give themselves freely over to that voice and follow it to the ends of the earth, but Misty knew better.
Nothing had changed. To the casual observer, the middle-aged woman sat alone at the café table, sipping a cup of hot tea with lemon and honey and nibbling intermittently on a beignet. Her bobbed black hair perfectly framed her gaunt face as she stared blankly ahead, a slight smile creeping to her ruby lips while she lost herself in her thoughts. There was an almost otherworldly quality about her, but nothing anyone could place without more of an understanding of the inner workings of the Dark Arts. Her visitor arrived unbeknownst to anyone else as a pinpoint glimmer of green light deep in the recesses of her eyes, which she discreetly hid behind dark sunglasses.
Misty blinked slowly. “Did you take care of it?” she thought.
The voice answered in her mindscape. “The deed has been done, exactly as you specified.”
“Good.” Misty’s smile widened and she took another sip of her tea. “And the onlookers?”
“No one suspected a thing. He just fell over when the Pact was discharged; he had broken his vows and thusly paid the price. It was assumed to be a heart attack. He was pronounced dead on arrival.”
To engage in this kind of dark magick was risky, especially out in the open, and on parade day no less. Those that could navigate the alliances were in high demand and were often tied up in a multitude of things beyond their own puppet-mastery. But parade day was actually perfect timing, as most spectators wouldn’t know the difference between a spell or a hex or a soul-binding incantation, and the throngs of tourists provided a great diversion.
The deed needed to be done, and Misty couldn’t do it herself because that would break her own end of the bargain. She’d had to find an arbitrator, an angel walking the earth as its conscience of sorts. But these “angels” always had their own agendas… She fingered the gold ring on her left hand and grimaced, hearkening back to the day she’d found her husband in bed with his buxom young secretary who had been wearing Misty’s very own bathrobe. She’d wished she could have ended it then and there but she knew better, so she bit her tongue and bided her time.
“Do you remember our arrangement?” the male voice interjected rather forcefully, jarring her from her reverie. “Now it’s up to you to uphold your part in this…”
Misty’s smile faded and her demeanor became more somber. That was the problem with soul-binding, you had to wheel and deal your way out of it through the darkest of magicks, and for every Pact that you wanted to break free of, it seemed you formed another two lesser alliances. It was tiresome, but this was the end of the line and it was worth everything.
Misty stroked a small wooden box in her purse, which she had been holding in her lap. “Yes,” she answered, her lips parting slightly to mouth the word as she thought it. “Payback’s a bitch, especially when you deal with devils,” she thought to herself, contemplating her late husband’s fate as much as her agreement with the arbitrator.
“Good,” the voice in her head hissed, “You know what to do with it…”
Misty nodded slowly to herself and took a long last sip of her tea, which had grown cold. She hated playing a pawn in all of this but it was too late to turn back now. She meticulously opened the box and pulled out a diminutive antique single-shot pistol. She wrapped the gun in her folded cloth napkin and placed it in her lap as she lowered her purse to the ground, poised and ready to strike. The single silver bullet marked her fulfillment of her end of the bargain.
A small brass bell sounded as the door beside the café leading to the upstairs curiosity shoppe and small apartment opened. Madame Alcatrez, spiritual advisor, was seeing a client off after a Tarot reading. As they parted ways, Madame Alcatrez lingered in the doorway a moment too long, just enough time for Misty to strike.
Misty stood and brandished the pistol, releasing the napkin to drift to the ground. Her eyes ablaze with green fire hidden in the dark recesses of her sunglasses, she aimed and fired the single silver round at Madame Alcatrez, hitting her squarely in the heart. Madame Alcatrez’s dying words filled the void between them, “I’ve been expecting you.” Misty fell slowly to the ground as her final obligation and the magicks that surrounded it left her body. Madame Alcatrez crumpled, and the street flew into a frenzy of activity.
Misty came to in jail. The trial was short and the sentencing was abrupt – two life sentences. Still, it was better than the alternative, and Misty had finally extracted herself from the Pact that she bore. She smiled as she was escorted to prison, now all she had to do was await Eternity…
Ppppfffftttt, an RPG story by Jennifer Weigel
Poised Potion Poison Potential, an RPG story by Jennifer Weigel
(There – I finally said it! Second time’s the charm. Can we move along now?)
So I think Barbarella is losing it. Like she’s been sneaking healing potions. We never did manage to get to an alchemist before she downed one of those unmarked flasks we got off the goblins when we took their lair. Yeah, we all know they’re healing potions but I can’t help but think the goblins weren’t getting their goods legit. I mean, they are goblins, ‘nuff said. And I’ve heard some of the black market varieties have other weird properties too, so I fear maybe she’s gotten a bad one or something.
Anyway, she’s been acting strange, spending a lot of time by herself. And not working out, like usual, but rather rifling through the treasure trove. Not that she’s at all sneaky about it. I mean c’mon, it is Barbarella after all. She’s kind of the polar opposite of discreet. She’s always been more of a don’t-tread-on-me and mess-with-my-buddies-mess-with-my-war-axe kind of a girl.
It’s making Squidge suspicious. Yeah I know, Squidge is a bit edgy anyway, but they’re acting even more so now. They seem to have an even tighter grip on whatever things they’ve stashed away all up in that cloak of holding or whatever it is that they never take off and that makes it hard to remember much of anything about them. Hell, I don’t even know what gender they are, not that it matters anyway. I don’t concern myself with what Squidge is or isn’t up to so I don’t really care; generally the best is to assume the worst and move on. Nosing around in Squidge’s business is like begging for a stab wound to the back in your sleep, if you know what I mean. But they’ve been acting even more paranoid than normal, so I think they’ve noticed that something is off too.
You know, it’s been a long time since I’ve even had to down a healing potion; I tend to stay in the far back and let the other two hack n slash, it’s safer that way. And health elixirs aren’t my cup-of-probiotic-smoothie-protein-tea (it’s all too snake oil salesman fad craze diet antioxidant stuff for me). I’m more of a freewhellin fireball flingin kind of spell-slinger. The healing arts magics are a bit too… mushy gushy lovey dovey for me.
We aren’t a goody-two-shoes fixer-upper team, more of a nice-fill-in-the-blank-I-think-I’ll-take-it kind of ensemble. You know the type. #thuglifeforever. But times like this do make me wish we had a paladin or a cleric or even a druid to tag along. Where do you find the moral high grounders when you need them anyway? Sure, I guess I could go to a church or something, but some of the lesser evil critters I’ve wagered pacts and bargains with may not take too kindly to that. And the nature nice guys are all save-the-treants which generally doesn’t mesh with the whole fireball jive.
I guess Squidge could ask someone, but they only really talk to The Guild and just in that you-don’t-stab-my-back-I-don’t-stab-yours kind of sense, so we don’t have anyone to consult with on these kinds of things. It’s certainly not worth seeking out a 100 gp pearl for a wizened old wizard to snort for further clarity, even if the relative scarcity and exchange rate has made them significantly smaller and easier to haul around at this juncture, assuming you can find them at all. I swear, if the alchemists didn’t need to get high to get anything done it’d be a whole lot easier for everyone. And don’t even get me started on the Oracle, that nympho dominatrix bitch. Suffice to say I will NOT be going back there anytime soon, for ANY reason.
So here we are. Maybe whatever it is’ll pass on its own. But I noticed a couple more of those goblin healing potions have gone missing. We all know they don’t work if you aren’t hurt. And I swear I saw Barbarella take her own axe to the shin before she downed one when she thought I wasn’t looking during my nightly séance with the campfire flames. My cohorts don’t realize I can actually do more than it seems from my ritual state. The demonspawn that grant me my powers aren’t always all-engrossing, especially if I’m channeling things I’ve done a bajillion times already and not trying to harness something new. Frankly sometimes it’s best to tune the spirits out since they pontificate at length for no reason, but I suppose I’m not one to talk.
I keep coming back to this thought though. Why would Barbarella hurt herself just to chug a stupid goblin potion anyway? Usually those dares go the other way. Goblin potions taste like bad grog two days following a dwarven ale upchuck hangover, and that’s if you’re lucky. Often they’re worse. And they’re not even that good as far as healing elixirs, mending maybe a minor flesh wound at best. They’re crappy, no getting around it, and a last resort at best. Why would she deliberately go out of her way to drink that shit?
You know, there’s a whole stash of the things left, and I am a bit down on health myself. Maybe I should try one to see what the allure is. Perhaps the camaraderie and shared experience could help me get Barbarella to sober up and leave the toxic sludge alone. Or at the very least, maybe I’ll understand what she sees in them. Perhaps they’re new and improved, but I seriously doubt it seeing as how they’re still just ill-obtained swag we got off some low-level goblins. You know, no one ever really gives goblins anything worth having unless they’re trying to exploit them in some way, and even then it’s really not worth it, seeing as how the goblins don’t have anything anybody wants to barter…
I swear those potions were in this satchel here; we had like over 100 of the things. Oh, here’s one, way down in the bottom of the bag having fallen under some of the other crap we looted that wasn’t worth much of anything. Wow I really had to dig deep to fish that out, and it’s only been about a week since the goblins’ lair… In the light looks like the same ol’ ordinary purple black pink tinged sludge we normally find, a tad more sparkle factor but not enough to care. Now why are Barbarella and Squidge both looking at me like I’m holding the golden goose egg of everlasting mana and fingering their weapons?
If you enjoyed this RPG story by Jennifer Weigel, perhaps you will want to see some art from previous campaigns or read the Twilight saga, both on Haunted MTL here.
Check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s writing here at Jennifer Weigel Words.
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.