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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.

            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.

            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.

            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.

            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.

            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.

            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.

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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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Original Creations

Eye Candy Jewelry by Jennifer Weigel

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I have been getting ready for a jewelry show in February and thought I’d share some of the fun eye candy necklaces I’ve been working on. Do they thwart or attract the Evil Eye? I think that depends largely on the wearer’s intentions… Each is hand-beaded and features a spooky printed eyeball pendant as its focus.

And the piece de resistance… A RAINBOW Evil Eye necklace with magnesite stone skulls! I love these happy little deadheads – they are just too spoopy… I have seen these beads ranging in size from very small to huge and I love all of them.

Eye Candy Necklace by Jennifer Weigel with rainbow Evil Eye and magnesite stone skulls
Eye Candy Necklace by Jennifer Weigel with rainbow Evil Eye and magnesite stone skulls

I love using eyes in art in weird and unusual contexts in my art. They have so much presence and symbolism. They also bring a sort of surreal atmosphere to any artwork, which bears just a hint of spookiness regardless of context.

Other artworks & graphics by myself that prominently feature eyes have appeared here on Haunted MTL in Insomnia, Indecision, Illuminati, Carriage Factory art installation, The Watchers, The Red Key, and Shaman Sticks.

You can check out some of my Hauntings jewelry on Haunted MTL here, and more jewelry is featured on my website 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.

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