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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.”

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            “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.”

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            “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.

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            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.”

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            “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?”

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            “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?”

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            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.”

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            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?”

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            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 Series

Nightmarish Nature: Zombie Snails

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This time on Nightmarish Nature, we will look into zombie snails, because we were having so much with the Whore Snails recently. So this is a lot like the Freaky Fungus except that this time it’s a parasitic worm that is the cause of the horror… Leucochloridium paradoxum, the green-banded broodsac worm, forces snails to be a part of its nefarious plans to take over the world (well, really more just continue on keeping on in its strange and bizarre life cycle).

Hungry birds want nummins
Hungry birds want nummins

This Is What We Get for Eating Poop

The worm, which spends much of its life as a parasite in birds’ digestive systems, is part of a weird cycle that includes both birds and snails, though the snail end is much creepier. It starts when a snail ingests worm eggs in bird droppings. These eggs hatch into worm larvae that eventually turn the poor hosts into zombie snails! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Snails make questionable food choices, but I guess this comes from being where they are on the ecosystem clean up crew...
Snails make questionable food choices, but I guess this comes from being where they are on the ecosystem clean up crew…

The worm larvae work their way up into the snails’ brains and take over, hijacking them on suicide missions to continue their own life cycle. These worm larvae eventually grow large and worm their way into the poor snail’s eye stalks, pulsing and throbbing therein to resemble maggots or other tasty treats.

Zombie Snails
Zombie Snails

Mind-Control

The worms use the zombie snails to get into their bird hosts by mind-controlling them into climbing out of the shady undergrowth where they will be easily spotted by bird predators which will feed on them, ingesting the eye stalks and continuing the worm’s life cycle as it gets into the bird’s digestive tract. The huge, bulging eye stalks are irresistible to birds looking to snatch maggots and other delicious delicacies. Eventually, after the worms are well ensconced in its bird hosts, the bird poops out more worm eggs for unsuspecting snails to ingest, completing the cycle.

Birds love their grubs and maggots and other nummins, even if they are just zombie snails.
Birds love their grubs and maggots and other nummins, even if they are just zombie snails.

You can watch this in action on Nat Geo Wild: World’s Deadliest here, if you dare. Warning, it’s a little gross but not near so much as some of the other topics we’ve covered. If you enjoyed this slimy segment of Nightmarish Nature, please check out past segments:

Vampires Among Us

Perilous Parenting

Freaky Fungus

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Worrisome Wasps

Cannibalism

Terrifying Tardigrades

Reindeer Give Pause

Komodo Dragons

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Original Creations

Snails a Whorl Whirl Whore World…

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So a friend and I made some artsy snails awhile back. Essentially this was in response to her granddaughter proclaiming that her favorite animals are whorl snails. My friend heard “whore snails” and was a bit perturbed that the child would use such a word so nonchalantly, whether or not she knew what it meant. But then again toddler-speak is like that sometimes… Anyway, it stuck.

So we made some whore snails, all glammed up and ready to go. We started with these flat metal snails and then painted and decorated them, to whore them up a bit. I figured this would be apropos after my recent Valentine’s Day posts and that the end results were horrifying enough to appear here.

My friend's whore whorl snail
My friend’s whore whorl snail

This is my friend’s creation. I especially like the David Bowie star and cherry bling to match her cherry red lipstick. The purple shell is a great color on her too. I think my friend went back and decorated her shell more after the fact, but I didn’t see the snail after those changes.

My whore snail
My whore snail

And here’s my whore snail. She’s a bit more of an ice queen with her deceptively lovey-dovey eyes and mouth full of poison darts, like the underwater snails do. I believe I called her a Hoar Whore Whorl Snail as when the discussion first came up I heard “hoar” and thought of hoarfrost. Hence the ice queen take…

And another friend joined us via Zoom just to visit and have fun making art together.

Another whore snail, drawn by our friend over Zoom
Another whore snail, drawn by our friend over Zoom

This little Zoomed in snail is kinda cute, like she’s out on the beach in her bikini… Mixed media on paper.

So if that wasn’t disturbing enough, check out my inappropriate Shrinky Dinks posted here before, or maybe this Eye Candy Peeps Easter basket, both taking some innocuous thing(s) turning into something… else…

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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. Her friends will remain anonymous for now…

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Original Creations

Have a Dystopian Girls on Film Valentine’s Day

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So it’s finally actually Valentine’s Day, and thus marks the final segment of our dysfunctional dystopian romance. So far, we’ve survived both Gen X and Krampusnacht, what else could possibly be in store? Girls on Film…

Valentine's Day card Girls on Film
Girls on Film Valentine’s Day card from Jennifer Weigel

Image description: Video camera umbrella shower succubus stares through the lens at the viewer, surrounded by eerie Cthulhoid horror embellishments with text.

Text reads: Happy Valentine’s Day; lipstick cherry all over the lens as she’s falling; give me shudders in a whisper; take me up ’til I’m shooting a star; (she’s more than a lady)

OK so this Valentine’s Day dystopia ends in a Duran Duran video, because of course it does. If the video doesn’t load properly, you can find it by following this link. Girls on Film.

Duran Duran official video

Here’s the camera eye succubus all by itself, for your viewing pleasure. Actually this is the original original image from an Unselfie performance art piece in the shower before I decided to forego the umbrella. Girls on Film.

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Unselfie performance art video still
Video still

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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