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Among The Flayed by Ben Spencer

Mygento sold their agrochemical seed steroid under the trade name “Sorocom,” but after a year on the market, a period in which it turned most farmers who used it and most people who ate the food they produced into shambling lepers, the FDA pulled it and declared a National Health Emergency.

It was too late for twenty thousand or so families and the counties they lived in throughout the midwest, 55,000 square miles of which––roughly the size of Iowa––was quarantined by the Army and the National Guard. Second Amendment supporting militias who had guns to spare and recruits eager for action helped patrol the borders of the containment zone.

In the common vernacular of middle America, Sorocom came to be known as “The Flayer,” and victims of its horrific side effects came to be known as “The Flayed.”

This brief history of Sorocom is running through my head as Rex is driving us down some unnamed access road in a wheat field, away from a pack of the Flayed that found us hiding in Ted Johnston’s hayloft with a dozen others.


Rex puts the old diesel truck into third gear. It belches out black smoke, obscuring the rearview. Looking through the oily cloud, I see the Flayed disappear.

But they’re still coming. They’ll never stop coming.

Rex did what he always did when he got into the truck. No matter how many unhealthy life choices he made––junk food, whiskey, chewing tobacco––Rex always buckled his seatbelt.

“Where do we go?” I ask. “What do we do?”

Rex holds his side. Maybe a stitch from sprinting to the truck. We barely made it. Rex was pulled out of the truck by one of the Flayed, but managed to unholster his revolver and blow its head off before the others got to him.


“We buy our time, Cherry,” he says. “We survive.”

I love that Rex still calls me by my pet name despite the chaos. He started calling me Cherry shortly after we started dating, a year before we got married. It’s a reminder that things were normal once.

Rex downshifts to pull around a hairpin turn. The wheels of the truck skid before finding traction and the rear end fishtails in a plume of dust.

I still wonder how we escaped the fate of so many thousands of other families. We speculated that the chemical properties of Sorocom that caused some peoples’ flesh to shed from their bodies were unstable. It was as if the drug had discretion. It picked and chose its victims, but without any logic that I could make sense of.

Staring at the ceiling at night, I often wondered if it would have been better to be among the first wave of people who’d become flayed. The transformation looked agonizingly painful. But I always imagined it would have been better to get it over with, better to be spared from witnessing the horrors of this new world.


Three farmhouses ago, I saw Eustice Jones’ husband Bill became flayed before my eyes. 

I mark time by “farmhouses” now. The days and weeks started blending together not long after cellular service ceased, and I lost track of time.

On the run, we’d occupy a farmhouse, be discovered, and leave. Occupy a new one, get overwhelmed by the Flayed, and relocate. Each cycle constituted one “farmhouse.” In truth, “days” and “weeks” didn’t matter anyway, because it felt like we’d been on the run for years. I’d counted eighteen farmhouses so far, so many that I forgot who they all belonged to.

When Bill Jones became flayed, it started with his face. We were eating dinner, laughing and smiling and remembering the world as it used to be. Then Bill’s face turned into a frown. Working as a part-time nurse before the world fell, I’d seen my fair share of stroke victims. That’s what it looked like––that Bill lost control of the muscles in his face.

Eustice, his wife, asked what was wrong. And as Bill tried to answer, looking just as stunned as the rest of us, the skin from his face slipped off of the muscle that gave it shape, leaving a blood-red mask. Within seconds, the same thing had happened to the rest of his body. Within a minute, he’d killed three of us.


My attention comes back to the cab of the truck, to Rex, my last beacon of happiness and hope. He’s holding his side. His eyes are watering––no, he’s crying.

“I love you, Cherry.”

He upshifts, fourth gear, speeding faster down the road. The speedometer hits forty miles per hour. The truck rumbles across the hard-packed earth.

Rex’s face changes into a frown. The same frown I saw come across Bill Jones’ face.

“Rex, you’re scaring me.”


His face sags. The stroke. His skin becomes slippery, elastic. Then it starts to fall off onto his lap.

“Jump out of the truck Cherry,” he says, his jaw a sickening crimson. “I’m not going to slow down, I’m going to crash it. I won’t let it happen to me.”

He pulls up his shirt, showing me a deep gash in his side.

One of the Flayed bit him before he managed to get into the truck.

Suddenly, everything that made Rex the man I fell in love with, over beers in a smoky pool hall, slips away. The flesh sheds completely from his face. Now, Rex is reduced to a grinning skull covered in shiny red sinew. And he becomes terrifyingly aggressive like they all do. Like I’ve seen a hundred times before.


Rex releases the steering wheel. He lunges for me. I close my eyes before it happens, but hear a sharp click as Rex’s seatbelt locks him in place. His jaws snap. He’s like a rabid dog. He pulls against the seatbelt, but the stringent automobile safety standards keep him locked in place.

The tears come, pouring from my eyes. I remember everything that made Rex and I happy. Even though we’d never been able to have children––even though three pregnancies had ended in miscarriage – we’d started a family, just the two of us. And we’d been happy.

Rex’s foot is locked against the gas pedal. The speedometer reaches sixty. I think of trying to stall the truck, to stop it somehow. If I jumped out at this speed, no matter how soft the field, I’d be injured or killed. And if I happened to live, the Flayed would catch up to me, like they always do.

Rex is still restrained by his seatbelt, struggling ferociously against it. My hand closes around the gear shift. In his calloused, farmer’s palm, Rex––this monster that used to be my husband––grabs my wrist and brings my arm to his mouth. I pull away before he manages to bite it. I reach and try to downshift again, but Rex grabs my arm, pulls it to his mouth with extraordinary strength, and snaps just as I manage to slip out of his grasp.

In this final, vicious struggle for life, I’m reminded that it won’t end well. None of this was ever meant to end well. There will be no federal relief. Waiting for the government and the army is not an option, because they are not here to help us––only to keep us contained. Only to let all of us become flayed. We die after twenty-four hours. Once everyone’s dead and gone, then they’ll come in to clean up the mess.


I wonder if God has a plan for me, or if my Christian religiosity has been a lie I’ve told myself for thirty-three years to believe that there is a plan, that there is meaning. That there is something, rather than nothing.

If I live in a Godless world, one without Rex––is that world worth living in? How many more farmhouses, now, by myself? How long until I’m flayed? What will the change feel like as the skin falls from my face? Will I remember who I was? Does our sanity depart as we become flayed? Are we trapped inside a body that is not ours? Do our souls live on, or do they, too, depart?

As these questions cross my mind, I make my decision. Death has the final word in any scenario. Dictating how I meet it is my last act of free will.

Rex’s foot has continued depressing the accelerator. We’re humming along at eighty-five miles per hour.

The wheat shines in the moonlight––a translucent amber blur.


I look into Rex’s eyes. I see a flicker of blue color that made me fall in love with him. It aids my decision.

“Goodbye Rex,” I say.

I unbuckle my seatbelt. I grab the steering wheel. I close my eyes and pull it towards me as hard as I can.

Before everything goes black, I feel the truck lift from the ground. I open my eyes. We’re flying over the moonlit wheat field, which––if there were still people to harvest it––would be nearly ready.

The moon fills the cab of the truck.


I close my eyes again. Gravity pulls the truck down to earth.

This author has not submitted a picture.

Ben Spencer lives with his wife and two beloved Boxer dogs in Washington state, where he works as a writer and content strategist for a tech company. Ben is currently at work on his second novel, a young adult horror story and homage to H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.”

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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.

Broken Doll Head, secured in her own glass case with new moss accents
Broken Doll Head, secured in her own glass case with new moss accents

Again, if you want to learn more about the V-Day movement, please check out their website here.

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.

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Original Creations

The Way Things Were, story by Jennifer Weigel



Revisiting my last St. Patrick’s Day post, what’s a wolf to were?

Howling at the Moon digital art Reversals werewolf by Jennifer Weigel
Howling at the Moon digital art Reversals werewolf by Jennifer Weigel

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…

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.

Check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s writing here at Jennifer Weigel Words.

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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.

Shakira She Wolf
Madonna Express Yourself
Metropolis dance scene

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.

She Wolf digital art by Jennifer Weigel
She Wolf digital art by Jennifer Weigel

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.

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.

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