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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

Ppppfffftttt, an RPG story by Jennifer Weigel

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Poised Potion Poison Potential, an RPG story by Jennifer Weigel

(There – I finally said it! Second time’s the charm. Can we move along now?)

Pop Pop Fizz Fizz, boy what a relief it is...  Skylanders style
Pop Pop Fizz Fizz, boy what a relief it is… Skylanders style

So I think Barbarella is losing it.  Like she’s been sneaking healing potions.  We never did manage to get to an alchemist before she downed one of those unmarked flasks we got off the goblins when we took their lair.  Yeah, we all know they’re healing potions but I can’t help but think the goblins weren’t getting their goods legit.  I mean, they are goblins, ‘nuff said.  And I’ve heard some of the black market varieties have other weird properties too, so I fear maybe she’s gotten a bad one or something.

Anyway, she’s been acting strange, spending a lot of time by herself.  And not working out, like usual, but rather rifling through the treasure trove.  Not that she’s at all sneaky about it.  I mean c’mon, it is Barbarella after all.  She’s kind of the polar opposite of discreet.  She’s always been more of a don’t-tread-on-me and mess-with-my-buddies-mess-with-my-war-axe kind of a girl.

It’s making Squidge suspicious.  Yeah I know, Squidge is a bit edgy anyway, but they’re acting even more so now.  They seem to have an even tighter grip on whatever things they’ve stashed away all up in that cloak of holding or whatever it is that they never take off and that makes it hard to remember much of anything about them.  Hell, I don’t even know what gender they are, not that it matters anyway. I don’t concern myself with what Squidge is or isn’t up to so I don’t really care; generally the best is to assume the worst and move on.  Nosing around in Squidge’s business is like begging for a stab wound to the back in your sleep, if you know what I mean.  But they’ve been acting even more paranoid than normal, so I think they’ve noticed that something is off too.

You know, it’s been a long time since I’ve even had to down a healing potion; I tend to stay in the far back and let the other two hack n slash, it’s safer that way.  And health elixirs aren’t my cup-of-probiotic-smoothie-protein-tea (it’s all too snake oil salesman fad craze diet antioxidant stuff for me).  I’m more of a freewhellin fireball flingin kind of spell-slinger.  The healing arts magics are a bit too… mushy gushy lovey dovey for me.

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We aren’t a goody-two-shoes fixer-upper team, more of a nice-fill-in-the-blank-I-think-I’ll-take-it kind of ensemble.  You know the type.  #thuglifeforever.  But times like this do make me wish we had a paladin or a cleric or even a druid to tag along.  Where do you find the moral high grounders when you need them anyway?  Sure, I guess I could go to a church or something, but some of the lesser evil critters I’ve wagered pacts and bargains with may not take too kindly to that.  And the nature nice guys are all save-the-treants which generally doesn’t mesh with the whole fireball jive.

I guess Squidge could ask someone, but they only really talk to The Guild and just in that you-don’t-stab-my-back-I-don’t-stab-yours kind of sense, so we don’t have anyone to consult with on these kinds of things.  It’s certainly not worth seeking out a 100 gp pearl for a wizened old wizard to snort for further clarity, even if the relative scarcity and exchange rate has made them significantly smaller and easier to haul around at this juncture, assuming you can find them at all.  I swear, if the alchemists didn’t need to get high to get anything done it’d be a whole lot easier for everyone.  And don’t even get me started on the Oracle, that nympho dominatrix bitch.  Suffice to say I will NOT be going back there anytime soon, for ANY reason.

So here we are.  Maybe whatever it is’ll pass on its own.  But I noticed a couple more of those goblin healing potions have gone missing.  We all know they don’t work if you aren’t hurt.  And I swear I saw Barbarella take her own axe to the shin before she downed one when she thought I wasn’t looking during my nightly séance with the campfire flames.  My cohorts don’t realize I can actually do more than it seems from my ritual state.  The demonspawn that grant me my powers aren’t always all-engrossing, especially if I’m channeling things I’ve done a bajillion times already and not trying to harness something new.  Frankly sometimes it’s best to tune the spirits out since they pontificate at length for no reason, but I suppose I’m not one to talk.

Conversing with Fire Demons, RPG story art by Jennifer Weigel
Conversing with Fire Demons, RPG story art by Jennifer Weigel

I keep coming back to this thought though.  Why would Barbarella hurt herself just to chug a stupid goblin potion anyway?  Usually those dares go the other way.  Goblin potions taste like bad grog two days following a dwarven ale upchuck hangover, and that’s if you’re lucky.  Often they’re worse.  And they’re not even that good as far as healing elixirs, mending maybe a minor flesh wound at best.  They’re crappy, no getting around it, and a last resort at best.  Why would she deliberately go out of her way to drink that shit?

You know, there’s a whole stash of the things left, and I am a bit down on health myself.  Maybe I should try one to see what the allure is.  Perhaps the camaraderie and shared experience could help me get Barbarella to sober up and leave the toxic sludge alone.  Or at the very least, maybe I’ll understand what she sees in them.  Perhaps they’re new and improved, but I seriously doubt it seeing as how they’re still just ill-obtained swag we got off some low-level goblins.  You know, no one ever really gives goblins anything worth having unless they’re trying to exploit them in some way, and even then it’s really not worth it, seeing as how the goblins don’t have anything anybody wants to barter…

I swear those potions were in this satchel here; we had like over 100 of the things.  Oh, here’s one, way down in the bottom of the bag having fallen under some of the other crap we looted that wasn’t worth much of anything.  Wow I really had to dig deep to fish that out, and it’s only been about a week since the goblins’ lair…  In the light looks like the same ol’ ordinary purple black pink tinged sludge we normally find, a tad more sparkle factor but not enough to care.  Now why are Barbarella and Squidge both looking at me like I’m holding the golden goose egg of everlasting mana and fingering their weapons?

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If you enjoyed this RPG story by Jennifer Weigel, perhaps you will want to see some art from previous campaigns or read the Twilight saga, both on Haunted MTL 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.

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

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Original Series

Nightmarish Nature: Vampires Among Us

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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.

Vampire Bats
Vampire Bats

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.

Lamprey Teeth
Lamprey Teeth

Spiders

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.

Spider Eating
Spider Eating

Bloodsucking Bugs

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).

Spider
Spider

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.

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Original Creations

Buried Treasure by “Dread Pirate” Jennifer Weigel

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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

Spanish Moss on Live Oak limbs, marker drawing by Jennifer Weigel
Spanish Moss on Live Oak limbs, marker drawing by 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.

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Inside was the legendary Kernel of Eternal Life, a small sparrow’s heart, still beating.

Promotional Poster for Dread Pirate Queen Miss Kitty performance art by Jennifer Weigel
Promotional Poster for Dread Pirate Queen Miss Kitty performance art by Jennifer Weigel

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.”

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.

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.

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