“Chicken Tea” by Melinda Smith
I’m sipping chicken tea from the mug with a chip in it. This bothers me but I put on my smile because it is impolite to frown as guests arrive. Clive, Judith, and Owen sit in one corner. Judith is making small talk about the new exhibit at the Broad museum. Something about lights and pain. Seems interesting and I nod politely as I pour more chicken tea. Rich stock that smells of steeped sinew and bones sure makes a chilly day shine.
“Darling, I could use a refresher,” Beatrice coos from the other side of the room. Of course she is chitting and chatting with Deborah and Flora. They’ve worn their best hats and a small piece of my stomach roils with resentment that I have not yet gotten mine back from the specialty cleaners. I must attend to that before the next gathering.
“Of course, moonbeam,” I say as I pour the thick broth into her cup. I let her have the purple one with the daisies. It’s perfect for Beatrice because she likes to wear both purples and florals, though neither today. Today her fuzzy skin is bare. But she’s still cute as a button and I tell her so.
The silver tray clinks as the tea cups move with each of my steps. I notice my distorted face in the tray. My lipstick has been smeared around my lips and now I’m mad. Don’t let it show don’t let it show don’t let it show. Not now godammnit. My final guest is coming.
A knock at the door and I almost drop my tray. It’s you! At least I think it is. I met you yesterday at the library. You made eyes at me and I invited you for tea. You will be surprised that it’s chicken tea. I hope it’s a good surprise. I also hope you don’t mind the others. They’ll be quiet, I promise.
I fix my lips and pinch color into my cheeks. Angry vessels break and now my skin is an ugly mix of white and purple. Goddammit. Smile Smile. I open the door.
“H- hello,” I say, a little nervous. The others turn to see who I’ve let in.
“Hi,” you say, a bouquet of daisies in your hand. What are the chances? I’ve just given the daisy cup to Beatrice. This is so funny. I will tell you all about it once I hang your coat. You look around the room and your face falls.
“Are you ok?” I ask. Dammit, you look concerned. I want this to go smoothly. I know it’s because I’m not wearing my good tea hat. I know it. “It’s awfully chilly out there. Why don’t you come in?”
You step through the door and I lock it tight. I slip the key into my apron. At least I remembered to press it this morning. Did I unplug the iron? Wouldn’t that be a disaster, I think to myself and I laugh heartily. You look at me and wonder why I’ve laughed. I explain that is nothing to worry your pretty little head about.
“I see you have some dolls…?” you say. They are not dolls. What the hell must you think of me?
“They are stuffed animals. They are not dolls. They are having the chicken tea. Is that a problem?” I fear my tone is a little high and charged. Not polite for a hostess. But my entrails are burning with anger at your error.
“Liver. Liver. Liver,” they begin to chant.
“Not now, goddammit,” I seethe.
“Not what now?” you ask. Your face is white. The white face reminds me and I laugh at my white and purple reflection from the platter earlier. Your eyes grow wide. I do hope I haven’t alarmed you. Once you get to know me, you’ll understand that I just replay scenes in my head and laugh a little. It’s honestly nothing to ruffle your feathers about. Mother used to say it’s one of my silly little quirks. Then she gave me my chicken tea and I would go to sleep for hours, like a good good little girl. I do look back fondly on those tea parties. Same stuffed animals, would you believe? They live forever and that’s why they’re magic.
I assure you it’s all nothing, and show you a place to sit. The chair is a bit small, and it groans at your large frame. How absolutely dreadful. You don’t fit and I am so very sorry. Goddammit. Why did I not think to get the big chair out for you? I take my notepad out of my apron and jot down one hard slap on account of the chair to remind me of my punishment for later. There, now I can let it out of my mind for now.
“Liver. Liver. Liver,” they continue. They are so rude. Now I am starting to get very angry. You sense it and back away from me. My embarrassment swims through and I scramble to the kettle.
“Uh would you,” I say, my voice stuttering and shaking, “would you like some fresh chicken tea?”
You ask what that is and I explain that it is bone broth in a mug and that it’s delightful and that it may not be what you had in mind but it is lovely and warming. You sigh and agree to try. Now I am all happy again and I know it will all be right. Beatrice and the others have gone back to their tea and I am so very relieved.
I put out a cheese plate and you sit. Some color has come back to your cheeks and it pleases me. Nothing like cold skin on my fingertips. Not that I should be so presumptuous. I don’t know what your intentions are. Parts of me burn under my Sunday dress and I yell at them under my breath. Not now, just like I keep the animals at bay, so too must I keep parts of me in check. But I am hungry.
Ever so hungry.
I look into your eyes and I lick my lips. I can’t tell if you are smiling out of fear or pleasure. The best kind of uncertainty to have. I watch, nearly aroused in my hunger as you put my best china mug to your lips and drink.
I look at you expectantly. I am hoping you’ll love the flavor as much as I do. You smile and sigh. It has indeed warmed you and I am so very happy. You take another few sips as I share some tales of Owen and Judith and their encounter with a real live unicorn.
The pupils in your eyes grow wide and you sit and listen. You are such a good boy. Mother would have been proud of you had you grown up in our house. Your lids droop on account of the chicken tea. The friends have noticed and they lick their furry lips. Beatrice cranes her long giraffe neck over and tries to nibble on you a little. Half-conscious you bat her away. Don’t you touch her that way, goddammit.
“Liver. Liver. Liver,” they all chant.
I giggle. “Oh, all right. My goodness,” I say. “I suppose it’s time.”
The knife from the cheese plate hasn’t even been used yet. I won’t even have to wipe its cold edges on my tea towel before I use it and that gives me endless pleasure.
Melinda is a scientist with the heart of a writer. After being immersed in academia studying the neural circuits that make us, she retains a love for creativity, for questioning the reality that our minds create. Are we real? How do we know? What signals from the outside world make it into our minds and how do our minds infuse these inputs into a narrative? How can we understand the motives of others, especially those who are evil or not of this world? You know, little things like that. Melinda lives in sunny California with her husband and two little girls.
LTD Tripped Out Motivational Posters
Tripped out… in case you just couldn’t get enough of Everything Everywhere All at Once and the return of the infinite bagel with EVERYTHING on it…
Artwork description: kaleidoscopic image of pink hairy horror (This is actually a fink fuzzy frond plant not unlike a Cockscomb but with longer thinner flowering feelers rather than the fuller protuberances you see on a full-bodied Cockscomb plant. I have no idea what it was, but it was very odd so I had to snap a photo.)
Image text reads: Mixing Magic Mushrooms & Peyote Just remember: once you open that Pandora’s box, you’re never going to get the pink hairy tarantulas back in it…
Artwork description: kaleidoscopic sunflower backlit by the sun with text and rainbow eye overlay
Image text reads: Eye See You Eye See All (in circle text so you can start and end reading wherever). In an ideal context this would be printed in the bottom of your tea mug or on a record that can slowly spin.
For more crazy tripped out fun, check out Weird Al’s post on Craig’s List…
The Elves Reunion, a short story by Jennifer Weigel
I had heard tale that The Elves dwell in these woods. Many underestimate The Elves; they have a fondness of heart for Tolkienesque Middle Earth fantasy stories and tales where Elves are the most highly civilized, virtuous and intelligent. They forget that those are just myths, save for The Elves being cunning. Remember that the Pied Piper was an Elf, and the children he took were not destined for such a glorious fate.
My sister lost her firstborn to The Elves. She hadn’t noticed the Changeling until it was too late. Her baby had already long since been stolen away. She was so distraught she refused to eat or speak. She locked herself in her room. Or my family locked her into it as she succumbed to the madness. Such are the ways of the family, for all of our protection. We never question but follow as expected, as a means of self-preservation. It has kept us all alive.
But I couldn’t get the sinking feeling out of my stomach; the grief became too overwhelming. That is why I came here. I know I will not be able to rescue the child, nor my sister. But I seek to avenge their meaningless deaths. To ensure that it doesn’t happen again. My family will never act. I am tired of the Village Elders just shrugging these things off in hushed whispers and badly shrouded secrets. It happens time and again. We are all expendable. They never do anything.
So here I am, in the Elven wood. Alone. As soon as my family figures out that I’m here, they will disown me. They probably already have. Again, it is for our own protection. I’ll be just another casualty of The Elves. Everything is so structured, so regimented. Anyone who dares act in opposition to the rules vanishes. We are all so afraid.
I lay in wait. It’s just a matter of time before the portal appears. The Elves use the portals to travel across time and space. They appear where and when they wish. But this time, I will go through first. I know not what is on the other side, just that the portals allow only one to traverse in each direction. We will trade places, if only for a moment until another portal forms. Hopefully that will be enough time.
The trees shift and morph. Falling leaves drift slower and slower towards the ground. There is a stillness that I cannot fully express. My breath hangs heavy in the silent air. There is no sound, no smell, no taste. It is time. The hairs on the back of my neck and arms rise. I can sense the opening forming. There is an uncanny familiarity in this moment, as if I have been here before.
As soon as the portal opens, I dash through. But something isn’t right. No one came through from the other side. Or did they? I cannot tell. I am alone, in limbo between states of existence. The world spins around me. I can feel the drift. Is this what death feels like? Cold unbroken silence? I feel distant eyes upon me everywhere, all around me, in the trees, the clouds, pinpoints of light that shimmer through.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. Maybe this is all according to plan. But who was orchestrating the exchange? My idea was only half formed in those passing pensive moments I am able to think for myself, few and far between. My family, the Village Elders… no one allows time for freeform thought. I hadn’t considered what would happen after the portal exchange. I never really got past step one.
A voice greets me from the trees. It is hauntingly familiar but seems only a distant memory.
“I’ve been expecting you.”
The world slowly comes into focus. Clarity restored, the leaves circle me in an embrace. My sister emerges, her dark eyes smiling. She cradles the baby in her arms.
“You made it. You escaped,” she sings.
“I didn’t see anyone,” I retort, skeptical. I hadn’t recalled having seen any Elves, dark nightmarish fiends that they are, wild, unkempt, uncouth. Savage beasts like Pan or Krampus. Is this an illusion? My sister seems so lifelike, so much herself. She is the joyful young mother I had known her to be. Filled with love and laughter. Light dances about her, and she shimmers.
“Not in passing,” my sister clarifies. “You have been living among them your whole life. I had done so as well until the baby was stolen. My heart broke; I had to follow after. That was when I learned the Truth.”
“Why do you think we are so sheltered? Why are we forbidden to do anything? They do so to protect us from the Truth about who and what we are,” she continued. “We’ve spent our lives evading that which we truly know ourselves to be. We were the stolen ones, not the other way around…”
I notice that the portal I came through is still open, reinforcing my idea that no one had passed through the other way. It is as if the portal was opened specifically to call me through. My sister extends her hand, beckoning me to join her. There is a gleam in her eye I cannot pinpoint. She seems happy, but something still isn’t quite right. I’m still uncertain why I am here, in this time and place, as if destined to be present in this moment, in this decision.
The Village has fallen away to the woods. There are no breadcrumb trails to follow home. The idea of home itself seems distant like yet another illusion. Nothing makes sense anymore. I am unsure whether I am coming or going. Two paths lay open before me. Which shall I take?
Eye Candy Jewelry by Jennifer Weigel
I have been getting ready for a jewelry show in February and thought I’d share some of the fun eye candy necklaces I’ve been working on. Do they thwart or attract the Evil Eye? I think that depends largely on the wearer’s intentions… Each is hand-beaded and features a spooky printed eyeball pendant as its focus.
And the piece de resistance… A RAINBOW Evil Eye necklace with magnesite stone skulls! I love these happy little deadheads – they are just too spoopy… I have seen these beads ranging in size from very small to huge and I love all of them.
I love using eyes in art in weird and unusual contexts in my art. They have so much presence and symbolism. They also bring a sort of surreal atmosphere to any artwork, which bears just a hint of spookiness regardless of context.
Other artworks & graphics by myself that prominently feature eyes have appeared here on Haunted MTL in Insomnia, Indecision, Illuminati, Carriage Factory art installation, The Watchers, The Red Key, and Shaman Sticks.