He set the trap and waited. He knew it would come. It was just a matter of time. The moon smiled smugly overhead, spying on him through the thick undulating clouds. Why was it taking so long? He was certain this was the spot. He fingered the soft metal band clutched in his grasp as he waited, fixated on its smooth surface.
It was only just a month prior that he and his partner were hiking in these woods, when they were attacked. He was bowled over by the beast, knocked unconscious at the edge of the path, his partner’s eyes staring back at him like saucers wide with surprise. He’d blacked out in slow motion staring into those eyes.
The moment that he came to and looked down the trail to the ravine was forever etched in his mind, the scent of blood hanging heavy in the air. His partner’s body was rendered and strewn about the chasm where the path dips down, blood flowing into the stream that trickles through the valley dividing these woods and partitioning the living from the dead…
The crime scene investigations yielded nothing.
He’d walked these trails before and heard the howling wind in the distance. It was a haunting sound that circled around from afar, impossible to pinpoint. The moon had always hung heavy here, wide, like the yawning maw of a lazy abyss that can’t be bothered to create a proper void or entrance. And yet, it had always beckoned, drawing him into its embrace like a warm and welcoming hug…
Bits of tattered yellow tape encircled several trees. Samples of dirt and fabric scraps and other detritus of the weekend hiking trip were still strewn about, still yielding nothing. Why couldn’t he remember? Spinning the ring from thumb to fingertip and back bore no further answers.
The moon skirted the clouds and stared down at him. He heard the distant wind howling around and through him. His body rippled from an unseen terror; his consciousness faded as the transformation took hold. He leapt forward, out of the way of the ravaging beast, aware again of its presence, its hot breath making the hairs at the nape of his neck stand on end. A sharp snap wracked his wrist and his hand let loose its treasure. The pain engulfed his remaining consciousness and the world around him went silent and fell into darkness.
The next morning…
The woods were abuzz with activity as the park rangers and game wardens descended upon the scene. They’d expected it to return as was typical. They always came back to the scene of the crime in the following month. But they’d never seen such a large one before, its heavy paw the size of a human hand shattered within the snap of the thick metal jaws. These “dogs” were usually smarter than this and knew to avoid these sorts of traps, which is why the rangers didn’t bother to set them anymore. The victim’s partner had been lucky it seemed… The hulking beast must have been attracted to the faint shimmer of a small circular gold band half hidden in the moss, perhaps an engagement or wedding ring. Its face was wrought with distracted helplessness as if reflecting the pain and anguish of love found, lost, and found again.
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.
Queen of Everything Mother’s Day Wishes
Happy Mother’s Day to the Queen of Everything… nothing gets by you.
Artwork description: A Happy Mother’s Day card featuring a picture of a Nefertiti doll with swooping hair, glitter makeup, and elaborate gold and blue headdress and evening gown.
Image text reads: Happy Mother’s Day! You are the Queen of Everything and you shimmer brighter than the twinkliest star in the sky. Stay sparkly and shine on in your magnificent glitter bombasticness. You ARE truly everything everywhere all at once and you’ve seen and heard it all. Eyes in the back of your head and superpowered hearing mean we can’t get away with much no matter how hard we try. So Queen on and rule over home in sparkly sentinel.
And may this be a testament to why us kids shalt never get you out of bed too early or run amok while you are getting ready to start your day… Because being the Queen of Everything takes planning and preparation…
Feel free to check out this Mummy Dearest Mother’s Day card from 2021 here on Haunted MTL.