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“Frail” by Ryan Sullivan

The full-time care wing of Dayspring General Hospital was darkened to a dim light throughout the main hall when Clara’s night shift started.  She worked as a part-time nurse at Dayspring overnight as she took graduate courses for medical school during the days.  She was often exhausted during her nursing shifts, but coffee helped.  That, and Dayspring was usually quiet at night, so all Clara had to do was make hourly checks on the patients and she was good to go.

            The night crew usually consisted of anywhere to three to five nurses at night, but Dayspring was understaffed, so only Clara and one other nurse, Janet, were working.  Clara sat at the main desk filing paperwork into the computer when Janet came back from checking on some of the patients.

            “How is everyone doing tonight?” Clara asked as Janet took a seat at the desk beside her.

            “All of the rooms seem good; no alarms going off, thank the lord,” she answered as she shifted through files in the cabinet.  “Damn, the day crew don’t know what they’re doing anymore.”

            “Is everything okay?” Clara asked.

            “Yeah, just a rash of spotty work from our lovely dayshift coworkers,” she said.  “We have a new patient in Room #7 but I can’t seem to find any paperwork on her.  It looks like she isn’t checked into any of our records.”

            “Do you think she doesn’t belong in this wing?”

            “Woman, I doubt it,” Janet said.  “She looks older than most of our other elderly guests and as frail as fine china.  My chips are on the dayshift misfiling it with another wing in the hospital.  I’m gonna have to go down to archives on Level 1 to see if I can find any duplicate copies of her record so we don’t have any nasty, medical surprises with her if she starts stroking out.  You good to watch things up here?”

            Clara hesitated for a moment.  “Yeah, I’ll be good for a little bit.  You can go down.”

            “Thanks, sweetie,” she said.  “I’ll try to be quick.  I know you get anxious on your own up here.”

            Janet went out the door leading to the stairs as Clara tried to refocus on inputting data into the computer before her hands trembled.  She took a deep breath to calm herself of her anxiety when the monitor on the wall started beeping, which signaled that there was something wrong with a heart monitor in one of the rooms.  The flashing red light beeped underneath the marking for Room #7, the room of the patient with no record.

            Clara shot up from the desk and made her way down the dimly lit main hall.  With each step, she became more anxious until she reached the room.  She took a deep breath and opened the door.

She entered the darkened Room #7 as the heartbeat monitor beeped relentlessly.  Not knowing what could be ailing the elderly patient laying still on the hospital bed, Clara inched closer and closer to the woman, her gut turning over nervously.

She turned back nervously to look at the door.  “J-Janet!” Clara yelled, but there was no response.  She slowly put her fingers on the elderly woman’s neck to check for a pulse and was surprised to feel a steady beat.  Clara, puzzled, checked the heartbeat monitor to discover that the sensor had fallen off the patient’s finger and landed on the floor, setting the alarm off.  She felt a sigh of relief and knelt to the floor as she grabbed the sensor.  As she rose back up, Clara was greeted by the elderly patient staring at her.

            Clara jumped and dropped the heartbeat sensor.  “Are… are you okay, ma’am?” she asked, frightened.

            “Oh, deary,” the woman said.  “I was perfectly fine until someone yelled out for a ‘Janet’ while I was asleep.”

            “I am so sorry, ma’am,” Clara said sheepishly.  “The heartbeat monitor went off, and I-I got nervous, so I…”

            “No need to explain yourself, deary,” the woman said.  “All is well.  Just trying to get some humor in tonight.  My name is Isabella, and you are…?”

            “Sorry,” she said.  “My name is Clara.  I’m one of the overnight nurses.”

            “Clara,” Isabella said.  “What a wonderful name for such a young, pretty thing like you.”

            “Awe, thank you,” she said.  “I’ll let you get back to sleep, Isabella.  It was nice meeting you.”  She took a few steps toward the door.

            “Wait,” Isabella said.  “Please don’t leave me yet.  It’s rather lonely here.  Would you mind sticking around for just a few minutes more?”

            Clara learned long ago not to upset some of the more elderly patients lest yelling would occur, so she went back to Isabella’s side.  “Sure,” she said.  “But only for a tiny bit.”

            “Thank you, deary,” she said.  “I’ll only take a moment of your time.  I used to be quite the catch back in my day.  All the boys would fight each other to try and gain my attention, much less my affection, but that can only happen for so long before age catches up.  I miss having those boys near me.  Does that happen to you too, Clara?”

            “No, not really to that extent,” she said with a reserved smile.  “I mean, boys always come up to me, but I’m far too busy for a relationship right now.  I’m still in medical school.”

            “Wasted beauty,” Isabella said.  “Life is ever so fleeting.  You’ve got to take advantage of your youth while you can.  Do you mind if I take a look at your hand, deary?  It’s been so long since I’ve seen a hand not covered in wrinkles or liver spots.”

            Clara was uncomfortable, but she relented and gave her hand to Isabella.

            “Ah yes,” she said as she grabbed Clara’s hand.  “So young; so pretty.  Thank you for being here for me.  This youthfulness will do just fine for me.”

            “Fine for you?”

            Isabella’s grip grew tighter.  “Why yes.  Just the age I was waiting for.  I thought I was gonna have to settle for that older coworker of yours, but thankfully you came to my room instead.”

            “Excuse me?” Clara asked.  She tried to pull her arm away, but Isabella was locked on tight.  Her skin started to tingle, and then burn.  “Please let go of me!  You’re hurting me!”

            Isabella’s grip grew stronger every second, as her strength weened.

            “What are you doing to me?!” Clara yelled.

            “You’ve been wasting your youth, deary,” Isabella said with a devilish grin taking form.  “Don’t worry, I’ll put your beauty to good use.”

            Clara’s hand withered away rapidly as her veins became more defined, her skin paler.  She dropped to her knees.

            Isabella sat up, her liver spots gone, her body leaner.  She slid out of the bed and finally let go of Clara’s hand.

            Clara laid frail on the ground, all of her strength sucked out of her, her body covered in wrinkles.  “W-what did you… do?” she asked.

            “I just came for a fill-up, old-timer,” Isabella said as she neared the door.  “Make sure to get some good life insurance before you pass on.  Old age can take forever to kill you, but when it does, it hits like a freakin’ train.  Toodles!”  She left the room as Clara shook on the ground.

            “Hello, Clara?” Janet asked a few minutes later, entering Room #7.  “Oh my God, ma’am!  Are you okay?”

            Clara was crying and shaking, unable to get to her feet.

            “Don’t worry, I’ll get you right back into bed, ma’am,” Janet said as she picked up her and helped her onto the bed.  “I’m so sorry, my coworker Clara was supposed to be monitoring the rooms.  I don’t know where she’s gone off to.”

This author has not provided a photo.

Ryan Sullivan is a short story writer based out of Hopatcong, New Jersey. A lover of all forms of fiction, nothing quite feels right to write other than horror.

Original Creations

Some Bewitching Line Drawing by Jennifer Weigel

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This month we are going to explore more fun marker art from Jennifer Weigel, starting with black and white line drawing. Jennifer is getting ready for her big Life Is Brilliant solo show in March and has snuck in a few spookier themes, so she wanted to share them with you here.

Witch Way line drawing
Witch Way

The magic is strong in this Witch Way line drawing with its fun witchy head-topper, complete with striped hat band and star dangle. No self-respecting wizard’s ensemble would be complete without it.

Kitty Witch line drawing
Kitty Witch

And now the adorable Kitty Witch will don the Witch Way hat and cast a spell of cuteness on you. You gotta wonder just how the hat stays on but best not to question these things. We all know it’s magic…

Not Today Satan line drawing
Not Today Satan

The devil is in the details in this Not Today Satan line drawing, and boy is he pissed!

She Devil line drawing
She Devil

This She Devil is just plain goofy. Maybe she’s coyly playing innocent; it’s not a look most devils can pull off, seeing as how innocence really isn’t their schtick…

Hang in There Spider line drawing
Hang in There Spider

This little spider came down to your tuffet to remind you to Hang in There. She is very well-intentioned and is only looking out for you. I guess maybe she’s not so little though, she is an Argiope after all

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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Lighter than Dark

LTD Tripped Out Motivational Posters

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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…

Tripped Out motivational poster
Tripped Out motivational poster

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…

Tripped Out seeing eye god sunflower
Tripped Out seeing eye god sunflower

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

Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.

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Original Creations

The Elves Reunion, a short story by Jennifer Weigel

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An Elven portal in the woods, emerging from stone and forest floor.
An Elven portal in the woods, emerging from stone and forest floor.

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 can feel The Elves eyes upon me everywhere.  In the leaves, in the trees themselves.
I can feel The Elves eyes upon me everywhere. In the leaves, in the trees themselves.

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?

The Elves portal remains but the path is unclear.
The Elves portal remains but the path is unclear.

The trees are full of Elven magicks… 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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