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“From The Papers of AvH” by Kathy Sherwood

Of all my experiences and studies of the undead, the first time I encountered them face-to-face has haunted me the most throughout my life.

I was in medical school, though at the time in question, it was a holiday, and I had left the city for some climbing. It was my plan to only spend the day in the mountains, and perhaps had taken too few precautions.

I had forgotten my watch, and I was still high among the cliffs and woods late in the afternoon when a monstrous thunderstorm appeared out of nowhere. Soon, I became lost, and quite frightened, wandered through the woods in the dark. Lightning struck near me more than once.

It was with great relief when I stumbled across the ruins of an old castle. And it truly was a ruin—to get out of the rain, I, foolishly, ventured deeper inside and down below to its crypt. It was dark, though occasionally punctuated by flashes of lightning above.

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            Without the rain on my head, I felt safe.

            Then I saw them.

            They stood still, no doubt as startled to see me as I was them. A man and two women, all engaged in unwrapping themselves from their shrouds.

            The smallest woman recovered first, snarling like a beast, springing forward, fangs bared. Fortunately for me, she was not yet out of her shroud and could not get very far.

            I turned and ran, taking the stairs two at a time—by some miracle not falling. The only indication of their pursuit was the noise of their hisses and snarls. Their feet made no sound.

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            In my shock and disorientation, I made a wrong turn, running up the stairs, and ran deeper into the ruins. And then I did fall, tripping over some roots that were tearing up what had been the old flagstone floor. I landed on my shoulder, and my right arm went painfully numb.

            Staggering to my feet, I saw that the male vampire had caught up to me. He lunged at me, and though I tried to jump out of the way, he caught me by my numb shoulder. We grappled, his rotten breath making me cough and choke almost as much as his grip on my neck. Then I was suddenly snatched away by another force—the small woman had entered the fray. Her fangs were already extended, and my heart stood still, waiting for them to sink into me.

            The man abruptly let go of me, causing the small woman to lose her balance, and I managed to pull myself out of her grasp. He advanced on her, striking her hard across the face with enough force to throw her to the floor.

            With one arm still useless, I tried to run again, but it was further into the dark. Unable to see where I was going, I suddenly found myself face-to-face with the taller woman. She didn’t speak or move to attack me. She did raise one hand and pressed a finger to her lips. Then against mine.

            She then pointed to a passage leading to the left. There was a hint of light in there, and I could vaguely hear rain striking the stones again. I looked back at her, and she shoved me down through the doorway.

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            I ran again, after a few yards breathing in fresher air. Hope surged within my chest, and along with a sense of confusion. Abruptly the hope died away when I realized I had come into what appeared to be a dead-end, the fresh air coming from a lack of roof. I looked over my shoulder, to find the tall woman just a step or two behind me. She pointed ahead, still silent, and not knowing what else to do, I looked at the dead end again.

            Lightning flashed, momentarily illuminating the space. She hissed, sounding like she was in pain, as I took in what remained of the old castle’s chapel. A cross was carved into the wall, once ornate, but now rough and faded. The altar still stood, if a bit tumble-down.

            Glancing over my shoulder, I saw that I was alone. But I knew what she intended me to do.

            Carefully making my way across the broken up, slippery floor, I stumbled to the front of the chapel and crouched down behind the old stone altar. Rain poured on my head and pooled underneath where I sat. It was terribly cold, but a sense of relief warmed me from within.

            A cacophony of angry, animalistic noises outside the chapel made me cold with fear again, and I waited for the creatures to return. But they never did.

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            Gradually the feeling returned to my right shoulder and arm, and slowly the lightning stopped, the thunder silenced, and the rain gave way to a heavy morning mist. I couldn’t bring myself to move until sunlight peeked over the highest wall of my ruined sanctuary.

            And when I first tried to move, I found I couldn’t. My limbs were stiff and cold from spending the night crouched beneath the stones. It took me several minutes of crawling, stumbling, and once grazing my forehead on the feet of a stone saint I could no longer recognize before I was able to walk somewhat normally again.

            All my instincts screamed for me to run back to civilization, but my escape had been so narrow… it would not be right for me to leave this danger to befall anyone who might come after me.

            The trees, courtesy of the violent storm, presented me with a bounty of broken branches, and I found several that possessed sharp points. The ruins themselves were full of heavy, easy to hold rocks. So armed, I descended down the stairs again, until I found the shrouds.

            The first one I pulled back contained the man. He lay like a statue, his eyes open, like two gray islands in seas of blood.

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            I selected a stick and hammered it against his chest, just above the heart. His face contorted, but I knew I hadn’t broken the skin. His shirt was very old, though, and tore easily. And striking again, with more strength, this blow brought up a pool of black blood, and he howled in pain. It took me three more strikes before he was silent.

            Standing back to catch my breath, I watched in horror and awe as his flesh melted away to become a dusty skeleton, still with pronounced fangs.

            I pulled away the next shroud, revealing the small woman, who also rested with her eyes open. Out of delicacy, I left her clothes in place as I leveled my makeshift stake. It took six blows with the rock. My ears rang as I straightened up, and her screwed up features dissolved into bone.

            Trepidation filled me as I pulled back the final shroud. The tall woman had scratches on her face, and I wondered if she received those as punishment for aiding me. Unlike the other two, her eyes were closed. My palms began to sweat, in spite of how cold I was.

            She was a vampire, I reminded myself. Even though she had saved my life, eventually she would have to drink the blood of someone else. Maybe they would even become a vampire, like her. I had to do it.

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            But I still hesitated another long moment before I steeled myself, aimed my stick, and brought the rock down with all my strength. Then again. And again.

            I looked down at her as her face shrank down, finally fading into bone like her companions. She still had fangs, but one of them fell away. As I took the shroud out from under her bones, her skull was knocked askew. I replaced it.

            The others I left where they rolled when I pulled the shrouds away to burn.

            Throughout the years, I encountered more vampires, and they all were reminiscent of the two creatures who attacked and fought over me. I never understood why the tall woman chose to help me—she had to know what would happen to her if I survived the night—and I still wonder if other vampires had any chance to rise above their monstrosity as she did.

Kathy Sherwood was born in Virginia, educated in Ohio, and now resides in the wonderfully morbid Wisconsin. She has written and loved the horror genre her entire life. Kathy recently published an ebook, In the Full Moonlight, and is currently working on another novel, Born Dead.

This author has not provided a photo.

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Original Creations

Zombie Christ – Second Coming Art by Jennifer Weigel

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So I probably should have taken a before picture, but I found a faux wood stained plaster Jesus statue and turned it into Zombie Christ. Because it’s the second second coming. Or something. It’s kind of an offshoot of my nail polish paintings reappropriating thrift store art

Anyway without further ado, I present…

Zombie Christ remake statue by Jennifer Weigel
Zombie Christ remake statue by Jennifer Weigel

I was a little concerned that I made him too green at first, but I’m happy with the finished result. This statue just looked so anguished. It’s eyes had been closed but I like them better open and even painted them with blacklight reactive nail polish so they will stand out even more and be interactive in other ways to add creepy factor.

Another view of sculpture
Another view of sculpture
From the top...
And taking it from the top…

Sadly I don’t have a blacklight anymore or I’d share a picture that way too. Oh well. I’ll leave you with a fun detail shot instead.

Zombie Christ detail with eyes
Zombie Christ detail with eyes

Next time I may make him more gray than green though. We shall see…

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 Creations

Jennifer Weigel Art Collection Highlights Part 3

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So it’s been awhile since we’ve looked at some of the things I have gathered, so I thought I’d bring back my art collection for another round… Here are the first and second highlights in case you missed earlier explorations.

Art Collection highlights

From left to right: M Pena Windstone Editions bat-winged flap cat, bone mask by Terry and Susan Wright, wood cat in skull by labcreature, real hair art by myself, pencil drawing of Barbarois Elder for Vampire Hunter D anime cel

Art Collection highlights

From left to right: Barbarois Elder for Vampire Hunter D anime cel, Turn Me Royal portrait of my father and stepmother as Frankenstein’s monster and his bride, painted horse skull

Art Collection highlights

Left to right: Overgrowth by Ellie Bradley, heart by TenderFlesh, praying devil girl by Torman’s Treasures

Vintage plastic Jack O LAntern

And a vintage plastic 2-foot Jack O Lantern I got at a yard sale and have kept on display on his very own stool in the living room since. So happy.

Anyway, there are some more highlights from my art collection, as it is always growing and evolving. I have lucked into several of these pieces at antique and thrift stores or acquired them from the artists or more. And yes, I still have Da Ting the taxidermy shih-tzu from the first of these posts.

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 Series

Nightmarish Nature: Assassin Fashion

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I thought about featuring some sort of Father Nature bit for Father’s Day, but having already explored Perilous Parenting I decided to focus on more creepy insects instead. Because we love creepy insects here at Haunted MTL. Thus, I present Assassin Fashion, featuring the Assassin Bug…

Assassin Bug drawing by Jennifer Weigel
Assassin Bug

Fashion Plates

Now I don’t know about you, but my first thought after snagging my prey and slurping out their dissolved innards is that I totally want to wear the dried up husk of their now lifeless body. Like that necklace made of nothing but shrunken heads. That is some first-rate fashion right there, and no one would dare to say otherwise lest they want to become a part of the dead-flesh coat… And this is exactly what the Assassin Bug does. Like a spider, it stabs its unsuspecting prey, turns it into a giant protein shake inside of its insectoid shell-glass, sips it out, and then attaches the corpse’s carapace to its ever growing collection atop its back.

Aside from being totally badass, these nightmarish embellishments serve a number of additional functions. They help the Assassin Bug blend in among its prey, masking its own odor and helping it to appear as a mass of insects that belong in or near the nest (especially among those more social networking creepy crawlies like ants and termites). In fact, it may even draw the attention of those clean up crews seeking to bury their dead, luring them in to become part of the body snatched horde. And the horrifying additions also act as a sort of armor and potential decoy for other predators like lizards and birds, who can end up with a mouth full of dead bug bodies rather than a bite of juicy Assassin Bug.

Wearing the Latest Trend in Dead Ant Bodies, drawing by Jennifer Weigel
Wearing the Latest Trend in Dead Ant Bodies

Kissing Sucks

And Assassin Bugs don’t just carry around one or two dead bodies, they may totally pile them up, as well as use other insects’ and plants’ secretions to their own advantage. Here’s a cool video from Deep Look that shows a partnership some Assassin Bugs have with Tarweed, keeping moth caterpillars from eating all of its flowers so that it can itself reproduce and spread.

Fortunately humans are too big to be susceptible… Or are we? There are also parasitic Assassin Bugs known as Kissing Bugs or Vampire Bugs that feed on mammal’s blood at night; they even act as a vector for other parasites that can cause disease years after feeding, which are associated with Chagas disease and are transmitted to mammalian hosts when the Assassin Bug poops while feeding and the host animal smears the poop into the bite when itching it.

pencil drawing by Jennifer Weigel
Pencil Drawing by Jennifer Weigel

So here’s a pencil drawing I did of a dead bug I found (I had a whole series of these back in the day). I hadn’t at the time known what it was, but it turns out to be an Assassin Bug. I wonder what its fashion sense was like…

So remember, if you want to be at the forefront of creepy horrific fashion, just look to the Assassin Bug for inspiration. If you’ve enjoyed this segment of Nightmarish Nature, feel free to check out some previous here:

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Vampires Among Us

Perilous Parenting

Freaky Fungus

Worrisome Wasps

Cannibalism

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Terrifying Tardigrades

Reindeer Give Pause

Komodo Dragons

Zombie Snails

Horrifying Humans

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Giants Among Spiders

Flesh in Flowers

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