Okay, so all of your campfire stories have been pretty good. But now, I am about to knock your socks off with a true story. Hold onto your marshmallows.
My story is called “Backyard Party.”
We were the first to arrive. Lisa had already ordered a couple of pizzas and laid out some snacks. It looked less like a study session than a party, but I was excited about that. I had expected to see her parents there, but they had left for a bit on a date night to give Lisa some time to hang out. Most of us were still in our early 20s, so it was a nice gesture to the study group.
Lisa gave us a tour of the house and the property; it was a pretty ideal spot. It wasn’t overly large as nice two-story houses go, but it sat in a two-acre clearing practically carved from the woods. It was surreal to see a wall of trees that cut so clearly against the manicured lawn, and the trees were packed tightly enough that it made me a little uneasy.
After the tour, Lisa had Ken and I set up the firepit, and while that was happening, Jason and Anja arrived. We all took a seat outside with our textbooks we’d dragged from the trunks of our cars and started studying. The pizza arrived shortly into that, with Kerri arriving after.
The later afternoon was mostly uneventful, and as the light outside began to die down, we opted to quit studying and just hang out around the firepit. Soon enough, night fell, and we were pretty happy working through a case of beer Jason had brought.
Throughout the night, I kept looking across the yard. The tree line at the rear of the house was about 50 or 60 feet away. Eventually, everyone noticed my attention was elsewhere, and Lisa mentioned she hadn’t gotten used to the trees either, having been raised in the city. She said on windy nights that the woods seemed to sway.
As though to lend color to her story, the wind picked up, and in our silence, we heard the trees of the woods sway behind us. We all burst into nervous laughter at the timing of it.
What we heard next almost made me piss myself.
As our laughter faded, we noticed distant laughter coming from the woods. We were quiet and listened to it die out.
Ken, as a joke, yelled out to the trees, “havin’ a laugh, mate,” in his fake-British accent.
We waited for a reply, and just as we collectively shrugged off the sounds as an echo, we noticed a man emerge from the woods, shirtless and shoeless, with a stringy beard and long hair.
Lisa asked the man who he was and if he needed help. He said nothing, staring at us.
By now, Anja and Kerri had risen from the seats around the firepit and backed toward the sliding glass door. Ken and Jason stood up and stepped toward the stranger a few feet from the pit. I followed not of an inclination toward bravery but because I was probably expected to.
The stranger didn’t move. He stood there, staring at Lisa. Even given the distance from us, we could see his gaze was on her, even as she got up and made her way to the screen door. It was all in the head tilts.
Lisa called us inside with the girls, and we followed, Ken quickly smothering the fire with the metal lid. Inside she called her parents and told them what was going on. They were a couple of towns over. They would be back within an hour and a half. They told her to call the police.
Lisa, Kerri, Jason, and Anja went to each window, drawing the shutters, as Lisa made her call. Ken and I stood at the glass door, and, without saying a word, Ken shut off the lights in the kitchen. The darkness made me nervous. But, it allowed us to look into the backyard. Ken yelped as he saw the man standing at the firepit, about 10 feet from the screen door. I did the same thing when I noticed it, and within a few seconds, I made my way past the breakfast bar and pulled a larger knife from the block.
The man didn’t react to me coming back to the sliding door with a knife. He stood there next to the fire pit, staring into the house, searching for something with his eyes. As much as we could tell in the moonlight, his skin was dirty and pockmarked, and his pants, his only clothing, hung loosely off his thin hips.
Lisa appeared behind us, still on the phone with 911, and screamed when she saw him out the window. Her scream caught me off guard, and I dropped the knife. By the time I had reached down to pick it back up, the stranger had already moved from the firepit to a different spot around the house. I took a few steps back and sat at the kitchen table as Ken and Lisa darted to the windows to catch a glimpse of where he was going. I just sat in shock, listening to everyone say they had seen him walk past and Jason screaming that the stranger was tugging on the front door.
After twenty minutes of confusion and sporadic sightings, we noticed flashes of blue and red against the trees on the side of the house, followed by a knock at the door. The cops arrived, and as we told them our story, they agreed to check around the area. We waited for them in the backyard, near the firepit, as they cast pale beams of light into the woods. One cop came around from the side of the house and asked which of us was the homeowner.
Lisa answered. The cop asked her if she knew the house had crawlspace access, and Lisa admitted she didn’t but assumed there was due to a removable floor in one of the closets. The cop seemed annoyed by this and began to search the house’s base from outside. Sure enough, he found one, a wooden panel that he slid out of the way.
He flashed his light beneath the house and, content he saw nothing, conferred with the other officers that the coast was clear. The cops offered unhelpful advice to keep an eye out and left. We agreed as a group to stay with Lisa until her parents came home.
Within a half hour, we seemed to be okay. The stranger was still on our minds, but in one room with locked doors, we felt safe enough not to worry as much. I decided to use the restroom, and Jason volunteered to accompany me, as Lisa didn’t want anyone wandering the house alone.
Jason and I made our way to the guest bathroom on the first floor, and he waited outside while I did my business. Once done, he asked me to keep watch as he took a turn. I agreed and stood far from the door to give him some privacy.
That is when I heard some shuffling in a closet. I kept my distance and was silent, my eyes locked on the door. I thought I saw it open slightly for a moment, but it may have just been nerves. I didn’t even hear Jason come out of the bathroom.
He touched my shoulder, and I felt my heart leap into my throat. I pointed at the door, and his eyes grew wide.
Just then, he yelled for everyone to come to the bathroom, and while he was yelling, I swore I heard the click of the closet door. When the others arrived, we made out way to the closet door, throwing it open, ready to fight.
The closet was empty, but Lisa shrieked when she saw that the wooden panel on the floor was open, the crawlspace exposed.
The participants of the 2022 summer fiction series at Haunted MTL hope that you have enjoyed this batch of original creations. If you have missed the previous installments, you can find them all linked below.
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Lighter than Dark
LTD: Revisiting Broken Doll Head, Interview 2
Our last interview with Broken Doll Head here on Haunted MTL never set well with me. I just feared that I wasn’t able to get the whole scoop on the V-Day Uprising for you, our dear readership. So I arranged another exclusive interview to reconnect and see how it’s going.
Without further ado, I bring you our second exclusive interview with Broken Doll Head…
Thank you so much for having me again. Wow you have changed since the last time we spoke. You seem… calmer. Please don’t hate me or burn down my house for saying anything about it.
The movement is still underway; it is still time. But I needed to take care of me, you know. The rage has subsided somewhat. My anger was not serving me well. After the last uprising, the rest of me was sent to the far corners of the earth in biohazard bags. I had to find another approach, for the cause as well as my own sanity. I am much calmer, thank you for noticing.
In our last interview, you kept repeating that it is time. Time for what exactly? Would you care to elaborate here now?
It is still time. It is always time. Until the violence is addressed we must continue to rise up and make a scene. We will not be silenced or stigmatized. We can’t be complacent. This is how we got to where we are with the Supreme Court in 2022. Horrific injustices are still happening globally and even within our own borders; it’s too easy to forget that.
What do you suggest we do?
Take action. Share your stories. Give others space to voice their own. Raise awareness and fight the system of oppression. Rally. We must take back our own power. It will not be just given freely.
So what are you up to nowadays?
I’ve been getting in touch with my inner Earth Goddess. Are you aware of how our environmental impacts affect dolls everywhere? Climate change is creating greater vulnerabilities for those already at risk. We have to look at the intersections of climate, gender and race globally. We have to return to our Mother Earth.
Thank you again Broken Doll Head for joining us and our dear readership here on Haunted MTL’s Lighter than Dark. It’s good to reconnect with you after the V-Day Uprising and we wish you all the best in your bold eco-enlightenment vision.
Again, if you want to learn more about the V-Day movement, please check out their website here.
The Way Things Were, story by Jennifer Weigel
Revisiting my last St. Patrick’s Day post, what’s a wolf to were?
I grimaced as I remembered the previous St. Patrick’s Day. I had been shot while I was eating a sugar cookie waiting in line to buy a Scratchers ticket, my golden ride to my dream cabin in the woods. Wow, to think that was just a year ago and so much has changed since then. But where should I begin?
Well, the junkyard’s under new management. Or something. It seems they decided I wasn’t ferocious enough so I’ve been replaced by a couple of working stiffs. Or Mastiffs as it were, same difference to me. Apparently after they found the bloodied shirt I’d draped inconspicuously over a chair, they thought something had happened on my watch and decided to retire me.
Or at any rate ol’ Sal took me home. I guess it’s like retirement, but not the good kind where you tour the world Route 66 style, head lolled out of the side of a vintage Cadillac, breeze flowing through your beard as you drink in the open road. More the kind where you just stop showing up to work and no one really asks about you.
Now Sal’s a pretty cool dude, and he tends to mind his own business. But he’s a bit stingy with the treats and he’s a no-paws-on-the-furniture kind of guy. I don’t get it, his pad isn’t that sweet, just a bunch of hand-me-down Ikea that he didn’t even put together himself. Not that I could have helped with that, I can’t read those instructions to save my life even if they are all pictures. It’s all visual gibberish to me unless there’s a rabbit or a squirrel in there someplace that I can relate to.
And it’s been a real roll in the mud trying to cover up the stench of my monthly secret. I miss third shift at the junkyard when Monty would fall asleep on the job and I was free to do whatever I wanted. It sure made the change easier. Monty never noticed, or he never let on that he did. We were a good team and had it pretty good, he and I – I don’t know how I wound up shacking up with Sal instead when all was said and done. There was some kind of talk at the time, over landlords and pet deposits and whatnot, and in the end Sal was the only one who said yes.
So there I was, this St. Patrick’s Day, trying to figure out how to sneak out into the great suburban landscape with the neighbors’ headstrong Chihuahua who barks his fool head off at everything. He doesn’t ever say anything interesting through the fence about the local gossip, just a string of profanities about staying off his precious grass. Just like his owners… Suburbia, it doesn’t suit the two of us junkyard junkies. I’m pretty sure Sal inherited this joint with everything else here. He just never had the kind of ambition that would land him in a place like this on his own, if you know what I mean.
Fortunately, this St. Patrick’s Day, Sal was passed out on the sofa after binge watching some show on Netflix about werewolves of all things. Who believes in that nonsense? They get it all wrong anyway. The history channel with its alien conspiracies is so much better.
I managed to borrow a change of clothes and creep out the front door. At least there’s something to say about all the greenery, it is a fresh change of pace even if the yards are too neatly manicured and the fences are too high. And I do love how I always feel like McGruff crossed paths with one of those neighborhood watch trenchcoat spies this time of the month. I’d sure love to take a bite out of crime, especially if it involves that pesky Pomeranian that always pees on Mrs. Patterson’s petunias and gets everyone else blamed for it.
So sure enough, I slunk off towards the local convenience mart, which is a bit more of a trek here past the water park and the elementary school. Nice neighborhood though, very quiet, especially at this time of night.
Well, when I got there, wouldn’t you know it, but I ran into that same nondescript teen from my last foray into the convenience store near the junkyard. What was he doing here of all places? Seriously don’t these kids learn anything nowadays? I let out a stern growl as I snatched a cookie from the nearby end cap, making sure he noticed that I meant business.
Apparently the kid recognized me too, he stopped mid-tracks at the beer cooler and his face blanched like he’d seen a ghost. Some cheeky little girl-thing motioned to him to hurry it along by laying on the horn of their beater car from the parking lot. Whatever they were up to was no good, I was certain. He snapped out of it, grabbed a six-pack and headed towards the cashier, eyes fixed on me the whole time. Not again. Not after what it cost me the last time when I hadn’t realized my job was at stake. I stared back, hairs rising on the back of my neck. I bared my teeth. This time, I wouldn’t let him off so easy…
The teen edged up to the cashier and presented his trophy. Unsurprisingly, the clerk asked for ID, and the kid reached into his jacket. Let the games begin, I grumbled to myself. But instead of a gun, he pulled out a wallet. He flashed a driver’s license at the clerk and pointed in my general direction, “I’ll get whatever Santa’s having too.” He tossed a wad of cash on the counter and gave me a knowing wink before he flew out of there like he was on fire. I stood in dazed confusion as he and his girl sped out of the lot and disappeared down the road.
“Well, Santa?” the clerk said, snapping me out of my reverie. Her dark-circled eyes stared over wide rimmed glasses, her rumpled shirt bearing the name-tag Deb. She smelled like BBQ potato chips and cheap cherry cola.
I quieted and shook my head. “I want a Scratchers. Not one of those crossword bingo puzzle trials but something less… wordy. How ‘bout a Fast Cash?” I barked as I tossed the cookie on the counter.
“Sure thing,” she said as she handed me a ticket and looked towards the door at the now vacant lot. “And keep the change, I guess.”
A couple silver pieces, a peanut butter cookie and a lotto ticket later, maybe this is my lucky day after all…
Check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s writing here at Jennifer Weigel Words.
Movies n TV
She Wolf, Art by Jennifer Weigel
So this isn’t a review but more just some thoughts…
I have to admit that I actually like the She Wolf music video by Shakira.
Maybe partly because my Zumba group back in the day used to dance to it with all of us cautioned to not to look up the music video for fear it would be too risque or something… (The Zumba dance to this was one of my favorites, and I loved our group of mostly 60+ year old retirees for all that some of them did act surprised at these things, whether or not they actually were.) Or maybe partly because it reminds me of Madonna’s Express Yourself, or by extension the famous dance scene in Metropolis directed by Fritz Lang.
It’s a guilty pleasure.
The ways these things evolve and stay the same over time fascinates me, especially how the messaging and movement change, and yet stay the same.
Anyway, I created this artwork based upon the She Wolf video and song, incorporating a Hazelle puppet head atop a modern Barbie doll body. I don’t recall what happened to Barbie’s actual head though I’m pretty sure I needed it for another project. (Technically I needed the body for another project too, and this was just a stopover.) Years ago this piece found itself part of the Women’s Caucus for Art website as one of the chosen artworks for the year. I was going to try to write something to go with it for Haunted MTL but instead I thought I’d share it as a lead up to my revisitation of my werewolf story from St. Patrick’s Day last year.
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.
Breaking News2 days ago
The Last Drive-In Season 5 Premiering April 21st Exclusively on Shudder!
Original Creations6 days ago
The Way Things Were, story by Jennifer Weigel
Lighter than Dark4 days ago
LTD: Revisiting Broken Doll Head, Interview 2
Sound4 days ago
Unwell, a Midwestern Gothic Mystery, Season two
August 25, 2022 at 8:28 am
This was a good one, and that’s quite the study group you have going…