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“Coffin Birth” by David Simmons

When another person is going on about something you find disagreeable and you wish to make them stop talking, the best strategy to employ is to let them know that they have a little something on their face.

“You got a little something…,” you say. “On your face. Right there,” and you’re pointing to your own chin, right below your bottom lip. Cringing, half-smile, eyes squint condescendingly.  This is when they stop talking.

“Oh…” and they’re speaking and making excuses but their sputtering isn’t actual words and they’re dabbing their chin with their napkin in the same spot that you pointed to on your own chin.

“Ah, no, yeah, it’s still there,” and now you’re pointing to a different spot, lower, smiling sympathetically.


“Did I get it?” is what they ask you, anxious, desperately blotting their face.

“Ah, nevermind,” you tell them, your hand waving them off. “Don’t worry about it.”

“No seriously, did I get it?”

“Hey, forget about it,” you reply, refusing to speak about it any further.

They sit across the table from you now, frantically dabbing and blotting at their face. They have completely forgotten what it is they were pontificating about and furthermore, now, they cannot remember why they felt so adamantly about whatever it was.


*          *          *

Gar is going on and on about something he has recently started referring to as Taco Tuesday. Gar is always going on and on about something.

“The premise is simple. I transfer the mydriatic from the original bottle into this one.”

He is pointing to a vial of eye drops, the label on the front peeled off.

“Atropine,” Gar declares, tapping the vial. “The doctors used to keep Atropine in the office which is way more potent than Tropicamide. A bottle of Atropine will close your throat all the way up. Tropicamide; it’ll do it but it’ll take a lot more.”


He plucks the vial of eye drops between his index finger and thumb and frantically begins to tap it against the gnarled and scratched wood of the tabletop.

“Atropine…” he goes on, “dysphoria, tremors, psychomotor agitation, tachycardia, convulsions…”

Gar is listing off the symptoms of mydriatic eye drop poisoning on his left hand, starting with his thumb, then index, then middle and so on until he has made it all the way to the little finger of his right hand and then he stops and says, “did I say dysphoria yet?”

The Honeywell wireless door chime produces the sound of a digital device attempting to recreate the sound of a natural doorbell and a young woman in yoga pants walks into the restaurant. Gar looks away for a moment, his eyes following the woman as she makes her way to the counter.

The woman says to the man at the counter, I ordered online? and she says it like it’s a question in that distinct way that only privileged caucasian women from places with shiny, new gentrification-names like NoMa and SoHo speak. She scrolls through her phone, finds what she is looking for, shows the man at the counter the image on the screen.  The man looks over his shoulder and yells fifty-six, picking up!  He looks at the woman, smiles, tells her just a moment.


“Look,” Gar says, eyeing the counter. “Watch him say it, he always says it.”

The man at the counter puts utensils and napkins in the plastic carryout bag, hands it to the woman, still smiling. The woman nods at the man, thanks him.

“Our famous pico de gallo is over there on the condiment table,” the man at the counter says, Gar silently mouthing the words of his speech along with him. “Along with flour tortilla chips—made right here in our own kitchen—and salsa; mild, medium or diablo. Please help yourself.”

The woman nods, makes her way to the condiment table. Gar is watching her, focused. He licks his aubergine sausage lips.

“Fine piece of ass like her probably don’t even eat chips and salsa,” says Gar, sneering.


“Alright, that’s enough,” I say to Gar and that’s all I say. Three words. This will probably be all that I say for the remainder of this engagement. This woman is somebody’s daughter. Somebody’s sister. Perhaps somebody’s mother, although judging from her narrow waist this would probably prove unlikely. Fuck! Here I am, focusing on this woman’s hips like a lecher, objectifying this woman, turning her into an object, all because of Gar’s insidiously skewed perception of women, infecting me like some kind of lubricious virus. Everyday I become more like Gar and less like me.

“What’s the big deal?” he says, playing innocent.

Gar winks at me, uses his eyes to draw a line to the condiment table where the woman is shoveling chips into her takeaway bag.  She’s using the tiny condiment cups, filling them up with different kinds of salsa, snapping the plastic lids on top. With the salsa all being the same shade and hue, I can’t help but wonder how she is going to tell the difference between mild, medium or diablo.  It’s not like she took the time to label the condiment cups or keep them separated in some way.

“Off you go then,” he says and the Honeywell wireless door chime lets us know that the woman has exited the restaurant.

I watch Gar watch the woman walk out the door, out into the parking lot.


“Did you know,” Gar says, mouth full of masticated tortilla chips, “that in 2007, a 23-year-old woman in India, over eight months pregnant, decided to hang herself moments after her contractions started? A living child was spontaneously delivered, bursting forth from the woman’s body, which—I’ll have you know—was still suspended by the neck, dangling from the ceiling.”

Gar makes a fist and holds it a foot or so above his head, arm bent at the elbow; cocks his neck at an angle, grits his teeth together and pulls his fist up like he’s holding a noose.

“The healthy infant was found on the floor, still tethered to the body of the mother by the umbilical cord, crying and messy with afterbirth.”

I think about the woman, wonder if she has a family.

“I’m Desi. Did you know that?” he says, food particles spraying out of his mouth. “You wouldn’t know it by looking at me. Grew up in Mumbai, right next to the Matunga Road railway station. All my life.”


I’ve never been outside of the country, never left the state of Maryland. I don’t think Gar has either. I think about the woman, not the pregnant woman in India who hung herself, although I think about her often as well because Gar tells this story so frequently. I think about the woman who just left the restaurant. I wonder if she prefers mild, medium or diablo.

When Gar plays Taco Tuesday he prefers diablo.

Gar, with his mouth full of food, says, “2005. Hamburg, Germany. A landlord is always having issues with a particular tenant paying her rent on time. After weeks with no communication he decides to let himself into the unit where he finds a tenant, pregnant with her lips blue and brain dead from a heroin overdose. When officials found her in her apartment, she was in an advanced state of decay. That’s technical mumbo jumbo for the broad was full of insects. During the autopsy, the baby’s head and shoulders were found to be outside the woman’s vagina, the other half still stuck up inside her. That’s what they call coffin birth. Have you heard of this phenomenon?”

I wish Gar would stop talking. Sometimes it feels like his voice is coming from the inside and that the sound I hear with my ears is the echo of his actual words. The inside ones.

“The technical term for this extraordinary phenomenon is post-mortem fetal extrusion.  Dead bodies create natural gases as they decay. Precious, corpse-stink effluvium. When a pregnant woman dies the gases enclosed in the upper body and pelvic area exert pressure on the uterus. Then pop! The baby pops right out. Like a fucking pimple!”


Gar takes his thumb and presses it into his cheek to create that wet popping sound—simulating what he believes to be the sound of coffin birth—then cracks up laughing. He’s slapping his thighs, eyes wet and black like two oil spills.

The man at the counter working the register looks over at us, startled by Gar’s guttural laughter.

“I’m German. Did you know that? Ich bin Deutscher. Street tough, raised hard in Dresden. Wir sind ja nicht aus Zucker you realize.”

The door chime goes off and another woman walks in, this one with two young children.

“Aw shit,” he says, eyes following the woman as she approaches the counter. “Prime real estate.”


I hate it when Gar turns people into objects. The woman and her children stand at the counter, order their food, fish tacos and lengua, sides of red rice. She orders something else, pollo con chile guajillo in Spanish.

“Did you know, in 2008, the body of a 38-year-old woman was discovered in Panama? Plastic bag over her head, duct taped wrists and ankles, plus they gagged her. Overkill if ya ask me, no pun intended. During the autopsy, they found a fetus in her undergarments, the umbilical cord intact, still attached to the godforsaken placenta.”

The son—about five or six—is older than the daughter who clutches the mother’s legs, peering at us suspiciously, eye-fucking me then eye-fucking Gar, back and forth. Back and forth. Gar waves at the little girl, winks at her with one of his oil spill eyes and she gasps, hiding herself behind her mother’s legs.

Gar says, “Still intact! Would you believe it?” and then “did you know I’m Panamanian? Soy Panameño. All my life. My family is still in San Miguelito. The fucker at the counter working the cash register? El sigue mirando a mi chica. No puedo soportar ese pelao.”

I watch the man at the counter put plasticware and napkins into a plastic bag. He doesn’t seem to be giving the woman an inappropriate amount of eye contact—not overtly so—at least as far as I can tell.


“Watch,” Gar is saying, his ocean-black eyes sparkling with delight. “He’s gonna say it again. Sweet galactic fuck, he’s gonna say it again!”

He’s violently shaking his right leg under the table, the fabric of his pants audibly chafing the side of the booth we are in, barely able to contain himself.

He’s fucking saying it!”

The man at the counter says: “Our famous pico de gallo is over there on the condiment table. Along with flour tortilla chips—made right here in our own kitchen—and salsa; mild, medium or diablo. Please help yourself.”

Gar is in tears, his face red and swollen as if he has eaten too much salsa.  The woman instructs the older child to go to the condiment bar, stock up on as much of the chips and salsa as he desires. Gar wipes the wetness from his cheeks, still smiling in the corners of his eyes. He follows the boy’s movements with his starving wolf gaze. The boy pauses in front of the salsa, contemplating whether he wants mild, medium or diablo.


“You’re a big boy aren’t you?” he says to the child with a conspiratorial wink. “Then get the diablo. You’re not afraid of a little heat now are you?”

The boy does that deer-caught-in-headlightsthing with his lips parted in an O, anime eyes wide with confusion. I watch him watch Gar; see the boy try to make sense of what he’s seeing. Gar is a very large man. Unnaturally so. The way the child wears shock all over his face you can tell he’s been told never to talk to strangers. Especially strangers who look like Gar. Although he is still young and hasn’t seen the world for all of its chaos and unpredictability, some kind of evolutionary fight-or-flight instinct buried deep inside his bladder informs him that this large man sitting in the booth is an imminent threat. Something about this man is making the hair on the back of his neck stand up. Palms clammy, his stomach feels larger than usual and hollow, as if he has too much empty space inside of him. Gar smiles at the boy, sticks his tongue out and crosses his eyes.

“Bryson!” the woman shouts. “Bryson, get back here now. Wait with Mommy.”

The little boy is still frozen in terror; one hand ladling the salsa, the other holding the condiment cup. His tiny hand shakes, spilling tomato mush onto the floor.

Gar leans forward, hisses, “Listen to your mother Bryson.”


Hearing his own name makes the boy come alive. Eyes bright with awareness, he darts over to the woman, joins his younger sister in the safe space behind his mother’s legs.

The woman says, “Do not speak to my child?” and the word child has that familiar insecure question mark at the end of it, turning what should be a demand into a pusillanimous request.

Gar is still smiling with his inkwell eyes. He licks his lips. They look like two fat worms.

“Sir,” says the man at the counter, putting a little bass in his voice, “I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

“Alright, alright,” Gar waves off the man at the counter and doesn’t move.


“Now. I’ll call the police.”

“Will you now?” Gar asks, his deep space eyes never leaving the boy at the mother’s legs. “And what will you tell them? Did I not pay for my meal?”

“Sir please,” the man at the counter says, the last hint of bass leaving his voice with the word please.

“Did I run off on my bill? Does this piece of paper with your company name and address printed across the top not indicate receipt of payment? If my money is good enough here to take, then am I not also good enough to enjoy the use of your dining facilities?”

“Please sir, I don’t want any kind of trouble.”


Gar is waving his receipt in the air and the man at the counter is retreating. I watch as his primitive animal brain does the cost-benefit analysis of what would happen if he engaged Gar in a physical confrontation. I watch him measure the distance between Gar and himself, wondering if he can reach the phone in time to call 911. I watch him as the Cortisol floods his brain, watch the moment of realization when he determines that the cost of approaching the threat is too high and that retreat is his only option for survival.

“But it’s Taco Tuesday!” Gar whines. He pulls in one of those thick purple worms that he calls a lip, juts out the lower worm—presses it out—and I realize that Gar is trying to pout.

“Please just leave.”

We get up from the table together, scoot out of the booth at the same time. I take one last look at the salsa; mild, medium or diablo.

“You’ve got a little something,” Gar says, pointing at the man. “On your face.”


The man at the counter’s hand comes up to touch his face, reflex-quick. He’s wiping and rubbing, trying to find that stray piece of whatever it is.

“No, not there,” Gar says, pointing to his chin. His swollen, purple worm-lips spread out into a grin until all that’s left are teeth.


David Simmons, author.

David Simmons lives in Baltimore where he has worked as an optician, electrical estimator and drug trafficker. His writing has been featured in Strange Horizons, Bridge Eight, Snarl, 3 Moon Magazine, Across The Margin and the Washington City Paper.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Reece

    September 2, 2021 at 5:35 pm

    This is dark. I love it.

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Original Series

Nightmarish Nature: Cannibalism



Let’s return to explore more Nightmarish Nature, shall we? This segment focuses on cannibalism, as we generally find it icky / taboo and because it’s more common than you might think. There are many different reasons that different creatures engage in cannibalistic practices. Energy waste doesn’t last long in nature; gaps are filled as things evolve to utilize whatever resources are available to meet their own needs. C’est la vie (light up another cigarette). In any case, the challenge to the cannibal lies in determining kinship and not accidentally erasing their own line or progeny, thus decreasing their likelihood for survival over generations. Oh, and in avoiding those pesky prion diseases…

Resource Driven Cannibalism

Monkey cannibalism, staring at you, smiling wide and thinking about Brains...
Drawing of monkey cannibalism, thinking about Brains…

Resource driven cannibalism can occur when competition for resources is high. This may be due to scarcity, with individuals taking to eating each other to avoid themselves starving to death (with those consumed either still alive and killed to this end, or eaten after death of other causes). Or it may be outside of the cannibal’s control, considering the spread of Mad Cow Disease from feeding beef meal harboring the prion disease (and parts from other mammals like sheep) to growing cattle to save money, ’cause it’s not like the cows were allowed to order whatever they wanted. Or it may be due to direct conflicts with other groups of the same species, either due to competition for resources, mating rights and/or territory. These behaviors have been noted in mostly male chimpanzees raiding other groups, which have even been documented as all out wars against other males in neighboring bands, campaigning to eradicate all outside of their ranks.

Social Demonstration

African Wild Dog cannibalism, tongue lolling out
Drawing of African Wild Dog

Thinking about chimpanzees, males are also documented to gang up on alpha males seen as too controlling or sadistic, with groups of younger males attacking and rendering the alpha male to pieces, often consuming his flesh and blood in the process. This can upend established hierarchies to replace them with new structures, for example with a new male taking on the role of leader. But cannibalism can also be used to reinforce existing hierarchies, as seen in African Wild Dogs wherein the dominant pair will kill off any offspring that other dogs may have birthed so that the pack will focus on raising only the alpha pair’s pups, thusly reestablishing and enforcing social structure while ensuring the best survival chances for the pups raised by channeling all resources to the one brood.

Infanticide & Filial Cannibalism

Tom Cat calling out "Here kitty..."
Drawing of Tom Cat calling out “Here kitty…”

Like African Wild Dogs, other parents may also eat their offspring, or better yet their rivals’ offspring. Stillborn or unhealthy offspring may be consumed, or just any that they can get their hands on at birth. (Again with the young male chimpanzees…) Some creatures enter into cycles wherein smaller individuals are more vulnerable to predation by larger ones both within and outside of ones own species, as is seen among many fishes with eggs and smaller fishes playing an important role as prey to larger ones. Other creatures may engage in these practices to reduce competition (for themselves and/or their offspring) and/or increase opportunities to mate. Male cats are notorious for killing kittens that are not their own in order to bring females into heat again sooner, potentially increasing the likelihood of mating with said females themselves while decreasing future competition. Win-win! Female cats must take great care to hide their kittens in order to protect them from males as much as other predators, and can have kittens by different fathers within the same litter in order to increase their kittens’ overall survival as a group with father cats more willing to accept kittens when their own kin are present.

Sexual Cannibalism

Cannibalism in spiders: 'cause spiders eating just about anything is terrifying, and they eat just about anything
Drawing of spider yelling “More spiders”

Mantids and spiders are especially known for sexual cannibalism, with larger females consuming males during copulation, but this is not always linked to vast size differences and does not appear in every species. Females who engage in this practice may have healthier eggs in larger clutches, thus increasing the survival likelihood of more of their offspring. Sometimes the risk to the male suitor of being mistaken for another species by an aggressive would-be mate is high, and various rituals have developed within certain species to help avoid such mistakes and entice the female to mate. Male spiders are known engage in elaborate dances, movements, tapping and silk spinning rituals to avoid being eaten pre-copulation or at all. It’s a hell of a lot more involved than a good pick up line and a well-timed drink, as you can see here.

Peacock Spider mating ritual

If the above video doesn’t load, you can find it on PBS YouTube here.

Thank you for joining us for another exciting episode of Nightmarish Nature. If you enjoyed this, please feel free to check out these previous segments:

Vampires Among Us


Perilous Parenting

Freaky Fungus

Worrisome Wasps

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Original Creations

Revisitations: The Devil Went Down to Georgia



So I’ve been working on more painting into found art (as seen here before) and I thought I’d share a newer one, based on the song The Devil Went Down to Georgia by Charlie Daniels. But first let’s make like my She Wolf post enjoy a couple variations of the song, shall we?

Charlie Daniels Band, Devil Went Down to Georgia, Live

First we have Charlie Daniels, the writer of the song which was inspired by the beautiful poem by Stephen Vincent Benet titled The Mountain Whipporwill. You can read the poem on Your Daily Poem here.

primus, devil went down to georgia, animated

Then we have to watch my favorite version, the animated music video by Primus. I know there are claymation-haters out there who find the effect bit too “uncanny valley” but how can you not just love those chickens?

Anyway, without further ado, here is my painting, incorporated into a found still life, original signed L. Harady.

The Devil Went Down to Georgia Revisitation art by Jennifer Weigel, nail polish on found thrift store painting by L. Harady
The Devil Went Down to Georgia Revisitation art by Jennifer Weigel, nail polish on found thrift store painting by L. Harady

Here The Devil is defeated, crushed along the lower edge of the artwork beneath the fiddle and lamenting his loss. The bow jabs into his sneering nose as if to add insult to injury, but his eyes still glow, alight with the prospect of coming back for another round. (They actually do glow, I have acquired some blacklight reactive nail polish to use in these pieces now.) I suppose I may go to Hell for this portrayal (or for defiling yet another painting) but alas, such is the price of art sometimes. I guess I’ll add it to the list…

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 Creations

Cravings Part 2, story by Jennifer Weigel



If you missed the beginning of this pregnancy horror story by Jennifer Weigel, you can catch Part 1 here.

Jayden’s stomach turned.  Who or what was this creature standing before him, and what had it done with his wife?  Claire proceeded to eat more than half of the jar of eggs in a fury of consumption; Jayden finally retreated to the office alone unable to watch any more.  He heard a sloshing sound as she finished the jar and proceeded to drink the brine before retreating to the bedroom and crashing into their bed, presumably to pass out.  Again.  Later that night, he crept in to find her sleeping, clammy and sweaty, nervously twitching.  Her body made the most abnormal guttural sounds as her internal systems groaned and sputtered.  It was definitely getting worse.  Jayden resolved to call Dr. Randolph the following morning; this had gone on for far too long already.

The next day, Claire awoke with a start from another bad dream that she couldn’t remember.  Crying uncontrollably, she clutched her swollen belly, still ripe with child, and hurriedly exclaimed, “Blood sausage!  I must have blood sausage!”

Jayden woke from his curled-up safe haven beside her and muttered, “Wha…  What is that?  I’ve never even heard of such a thing.”

“Go!” she snapped.  “I’m starving.  Go now!  Return with blood sausage.”


Jayden staggered over to the dresser, threw on some clothes, shuffled into his waiting shoes, and gathered himself to duck out the door in the well-practiced gesture he’d become so accustomed to.  “I’ll stop on my way home from work, I guess,” he mused, making his own plans.  Claire seemed to settle down a little as she woke further, but it was little consolation.

“Thank you Sweetcheeks,” she said.  “You’re the best.”  She blew him a kiss.

While at work, Jayden managed to secure an appointment with Dr. Beth Randolph, Claire’s primary physician since before he had known her, for later that day.  He took off early and rushed home to gather his unwilling wife.  She was going in, whether she liked it or not.

He opened the front door and peered inside.  The house was dark and quiet, as he’d come to expect.  He crept in and stole upstairs to the bedroom to rouse Claire from sleep.  He’d tell her where they were going once he got her in the car, no sense in making this even more difficult than it already was.  Unsurprisingly, there she was, a shadowy form hunched over in the bed, her back to him with the covers pulled up over her eyes.  He peeled away the comforter and blanket to reveal a tangled mess of white knitted yarn; Claire was nowhere to be found.  He looked around, trying to focus on the darkness of the bedroom that enveloped him.  That unsettling feeling had returned, like he’d had at Maresh’s shop, sinking into his gut.  Claire was here idling, watching, waiting; he could sense her presence sizing him up as if she could read his mind and was on to his plan.  But why was her company so disconcerting?  This was still their house, their home, their lives intertwined…  Jayden felt his trust ebb, spine tingling sensing danger.

“Hey there Sweetcheeks,” Claire’s voice echoed from the darkness of the closet.  “Do you have something for me?”  She emerged into the room, her eyes wide, frothing slightly at the edges of her mouth.  Tiny bubbles of drool burst forth from her quivering lips and trickled down onto her chin.


“I couldn’t find any… blood sausage… whatever that is,” Jayden lied through his teeth.  He hadn’t even gone to the store.  Claire should never have expected him back at this hour; apparently she didn’t even know what time it was.  But that seemingly wasn’t a concern.  She wasn’t herself.  Something about her fragile frame, the way she rocked from side to side, reminded him of that crazy old witch doctor Maresh.  He finally managed to connect the two; it was as though she were possessed.  It was imperative that she saw Dr. Beth Randolph as soon as possible, if for no other reason than to sever ties to that crazy old hag and hopefully start to snap out of it.  He simply had to get her to that appointment.

“No blood sausage!”  Claire shouted, becoming more and more agitated.  “No… blood… sausage!”  Her breathing became less regular and her body shivered all over as she hulked towards him.  “I am sooo hungry!”

She lunged towards him, stumbling into his arms and collapsing towards his feet laughing maniacally.  Jayden reached for her instinctively, to lower her to the ground gently, and felt something sticky and warm envelop his hand.  Feeling lightheaded, he glanced down as he fell to the floor beside her.  Protruding from his gut was a long silver thread, no something pointedly metal and hard, oozing thick oil sludge all around.  Not oil, blood.  His blood.  Claire continued laughing, her lightning-fast fingers quickly and methodically ripping their way into his tattered shirt and worming around within his wounded frame to pull forth bits of viscera, which she wrung in her hands and smeared up and down her arms and torso.  As Jayden passed out, she mouthed each of her fingers in turn, sucking the precious liquid off of them one at a time, before she began to feast on his entrails.

Claire’s belly was finally full.  The baby developing within squirmed and settled, as if finally satiated.  She swiped a stray bit of flesh from her bosom, licked it off of her fingertips, and heaved a sigh of relief.  Miracle Madame Maresh Meliasma was right; she just needed to get to the root of her cravings.

Pregnancy 4, doll hands canvas art by Jennifer Weigel
Pregnancy 4, doll hands canvas 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.

Continue Reading