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“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.

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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?”

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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“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 Smith, Author.

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.

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Original Creations

Goblins, a Short Story by Jennifer Weigel

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Revisiting the creepy faux fingernail art, I made a couple of goblins… They then ransacked my house. This is their story, as told by myself, Jennifer Weigel.

More faux fingernail art from Jennifer Weigel, featuring wide smiling mouth with red sparkly lipstick and faux fingernail teeth on textured green goblins background
More faux fingernail art from Jennifer Weigel

So it finally happened. My art came to life. And of course it couldn’t be one of the cute pretty pictures, like the sparkly unicorns or the cat drawings. No it had to be the faux fingernail goblins… Ugh. I first encountered them in the bathroom.

I see England.
I see France.
I see someone’s underpants!

Of course you do, it’s the bathroom. That’s totally the room for that. Remind me again why I decided to paint these little green monsters. Ugh. From there, they moved on to the kitchen.

We so tricksy.
We so sly.
We eats all the cherry pie!

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Did they have to eat ALL the cherry pie? Like seriously. But what can I expect, they’re goblins and they’re in the house. Ugh. And honestly they’re just plain gross.

I pick my friend.
I pick nose.
Just whose nose, do you suppose?

Get away from me you obnoxious, vile creatures! I can pick my own nose on my own time, thank you. Ugh. Oh, great, now they’re tearing up the living room.

We be goblins.
We be green.
We be making quite a scene!

No, not the sofa! Now there are little bits of fabric and stuffing flying everywhere. I can see you’re all too pleased with yourselves. Nasty critters. Ugh. Why can’t you just leave?

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I do mischief.
I do bad.
This best party ever had!

I did NOT agree to host your little shindig. Stop tearing up my house! All I know is, it’s about time you moved on to wreak havoc elsewhere. Ugh. Just get out – NOW!

We scare the cat.
We scare you.
We scare all, we care not who!

I may have brought these dreadful disgusting demons into being seeing as how I painted them, but I have no idea what brought them to life or why. What kind of cosmic miscalculation caused this? I need to know so I can avoid it in the future. Ugh. Goblins… need I say more?

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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Original Creations

Faux Fingernails Art by Jennifer Weigel

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So I had some faux fingernails leftover from a costume based modeling session, from posing as Cruella De Vil for the figure drawing group… Here’s a teaser from that modeling session, before the horrible creepy art generation in the aftermath. If you zoom in tight enough, you can see my tiger fingernails, which kept trying to fall off constantly, reminding me why I hate trying to wear the things and why they (d)evolved into art.

Cruella De Vil modeling for figure drawing
Cruella De Vil modeling for figure drawing

My version of Cruella De Vil channels Glenn Close or the original animated character more than the recent Emma Stone variant, but they’re all delightfully devilish.

Anyway, I made this series of “Tiger Sharks” prominently featuring the same tiger faux fingernails, including those used in the Cruella De Vil costume. These “Tiger Sharks” also incorporated some pirate fingernails, because sharks and pirates are tight.

Pirate skeleton hand with faux fingernails
Pirate skeleton hand with faux fingernails

I couldn’t think of a better use for the pirate fingernails than adding them to this skeletal hand. I never actually wore these, they were too hard to come up with something to go with. But I do love the Beetlejuice vibe with the stripes…

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.

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.

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Original Series

Nightmarish Nature: Something Rotten, Flesh in Flowers

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This time on Nightmarish Nature we will again explore some of the more fetid fungi and plants, this time focusing on those that imitate rotten flesh in order to attract flies. Among the best known of these are the Stinkhorn and the Corpse Lily or Corpse Flower. The Language of Flowers be damned, literally…

Fungi

Many of the fungi in the Stinkhorn family erupt in mushrooms that reek of rotten flesh and sprout from a white sort of egg sac in various forms, the common type being a phallus like structure with a white body and olive head. The Beefsteak fungus resembles, well, a cut of beef oozing blood. And some mushroom bodies of the Clathrus genus bloom in elaborate lattice structures or devil’s tooth and devil’s fingers that resemble terrifying alien beings. These odoriferous fetid fungi grow in decaying wood material and use their stinky attributes to attract flies and other insects which will then spread the spores from their fruiting bodies. They truly look like something out of an outer space or aquatic nightmare.

Some various fungi that can reek of rotten flesh, drawing by Jennifer Weigel.
Some various fungi that can reek of rotten flesh.

Plants

Some plants also utilize pungent putrid odors to attract flies and other insects, in part to aid in the pollination and dissemination but also to attract insect matter for their own needs, to absorb the insects for valuable nutrients that they cannot otherwise obtain. The largest flowers in the world bear many of these characteristics, also being among the stinkiest. And some pitcher plants mimic rotten flesh to attract flies upon which they “feed”.

The Titan Arum of Sumatra and Indonesia is a plant that over time produces a huge flower somewhat resembling a calla lily but larger as the plant body stores enough energy to do so. While Calla Lilies are often used to symbolize rebirth and resurrection and can be associated with death, often in a funerary setting, the huge Titan Arum does more than that, strongly mimicking decaying flesh in order to attract flies. These flowers can grow to almost 8-feet tall and bloom for only about three days before wilting; they are a huge draw at botanic gardens when flowering because of the rare nature of the event and the remarkable presence that the flower has, in both size and smell. The US. Botanic Gardens has a page devoted to this plant here, where you can even track previous blooms.

Titan Arum flower as drawn by Jennifer Weigel.
Titan Arum flower as drawn by Jennifer Weigel.

Another noteworthy flowering plant is Rafflesia, a parasitic flower native to Indonesia and Malaysia that feeds on the liana vine and grows from a sprouting body bud into a huge flower over the course of five years. Its flowers, once finally formed, can grow to almost a meter across and resembles something out of a horror film. These too smell of death and decay to attract flies in order to cross-pollinate. You can learn more about these unusual plants on this video from Real Science here.

Rafflesia flower as drawn by Jennifer Weigel.
Rafflesia flower as drawn by Jennifer Weigel.

If you’ve enjoyed this segment of Nightmarish Nature, feel free to check out some previous here:

Vampires Among Us

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Perilous Parenting

Freaky Fungus

Worrisome Wasps

Cannibalism

Terrifying Tardigrades

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Reindeer Give Pause

Komodo Dragons

Zombie Snails

Horrifying Humans

Giants Among Spiders

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