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Low Pressure by Martin Toman

Phillip drove without thinking. He looked squarely ahead at the strip of bitumen, a single carriageway heading away from the small town where he worked as the senior engineer at the paper mill. The trees that bordered each side of the road waved their limbs in distress, the blasting gale that preceded an imminent storm whipping their bare forms. Every time Phillip passed a break in the trees, he felt his truck veer across the centre line, buffeted by the blunt fists of air that compressed through the gaps. All the while vehicles driving in the opposite direction barreled down against him. At their passing Phillip could feel their speed as his truck struck the low pressure pocket left in their wake.

All day the approaching storm front had framed the horizon. The weather bureau had forecast it would come down in the late afternoon, but as Phillip pulled off the road and onto his property it had yet to fall. In the last moments of daylight grey clouds scudded across the blue black sky. The horizon was all darkness, and no stars would peep through.

When Phillip pulled into the shed he turned off the engine and took the keys out of the ignition. Through the closed windows he could hear the wind pushing at the sides of the car port. He opened and closed the truck door without bothering to lock it, and walked to the adjacent side entrance to his house. As he put his key into the lock the wind abated for a moment, as if holding its breath. He paused, the pinging sound of the engine popping in the shed as it cooled, the air cold even through his thick coat. And then the rain came, at first individual drops on the tin roof, and then merging to a steady din.  The day long wind made a return, the gusts too lazy to go around him. Phillip opened the door.

His first thought upon entering was: This isn’t how I left it.


Every workday morning when Phillip left his house he had the habit of leaving it in a certain way: the toilet seat down, the bed made, books stacked neatly on the coffee table. Years ago when he had first arrived in town he had entertained the idea that he would bring women home with him. They’d walk in after he’d met them somewhere, the instant chemistry guiding them to the bedroom, where everything would be prepared for him to show off the way he lived, how female friendly he was. Eventually it became a habit, a check list of things he would do before he went out. But in a town as small as the one where he worked there were few single women, and most of them were attached to his workplace. Phillip knew better than to mix his personal and work spheres. And as the local women were all paired off with local men, there had been no ladies to seduce in his well-kept bachelor pad, no spontaneous moments of attraction to turn his fantasies into reality. The closest he got to available female company was Kelly, the hairdresser in town.

Despite his aspirations, loneliness was a natural state to Phillip. When he was a child he lived with his mother. He had no brothers or sisters, and had no memory of his father, who had left when he was a baby. His mother would walk him to the school gate, and collect him from the same spot in the afternoon. Phillip spent long afternoons in his room, school holidays in the park. He spoke to himself. He invented friends in his head for company. 

Sometime since he had left this morning there had been violence in his house. The sofa was overturned, a side table and lamp upset. The lamp was turned on, the naked globe exposed by the bent angle of the lampshade. Phillip paused at the front door, unmoving. The storm, metastasizing through the day, hammered on the roof. He tracked his eyes across the room. A picture on the wall had been shifted and hung evenly. Near the sink in the adjoining kitchen there was a dinner plate pool of blood, and leading from it were more blood marks: boot prints, a trail leading to the corridor, a hand print on a wall.

Phillip followed the blood down the hall. He concentrated upon his senses: what he could see, what he could hear. The foot marks faded the further he walked from the kitchen, but the consistent trail showed him the way. The dark lines and drops curved around the corner to the bathroom. There was another pooling at the foot of the door. The handle was smeared with blood. He touched it with his finger. It came away tacky. He put his ear to the door, but he couldn’t hear anything above the sound of the rain beating on the roof.  

He opened it. A naked woman submerged in the bath. The bathwater a bled out red. The woman’s face unrecognisable in the murk, her shape amorphous in the semi-opaque water. Phillip walked towards her on legs that suddenly felt as if they controlled by someone else. He dipped his hand into the bath and thought, lukewarm. The ground rushed up to meet him. Darkness.



Phillip awoke in the midst of a dream. The room was still winter dark, but it felt like it was almost morning. He reached out to the side table where he normally kept his mobile, and found it plugged into its charger cable. He looked at the screen. Half of five. The wind that had excoriated the countryside yesterday had blown away. It was silent. In his mind’s eye the remnants of his dream had already started to fade, but he could still remember what it had been about, even if those visions would soon disappear as most dreams do. Phillip had dreamt of his childhood cat.

When Phillip was twelve his mother bought him the animal. A simple desexed male, grey and white. Denied the company of other children he poured his affection into the feline, projecting himself onto his soulless form. When the cat was seven he escaped the house when Phillip was putting out the garbage bins. Out of his usual environment, bewildered by the bright street lights and traffic noise, the cat ran out onto the road and was struck by a car. Phillip gathered the body from the gutter. Sharp teeth drawn back in grimace, a crescent spray of blood across the bitumen. Phillip buried the animal in the backyard in the darkness, wiping the tears from his cheeks with the back of his hand as he shoveled the dirt. His face became streaked with earth and cat blood, like war paint. Afterwards he went inside and ran himself a scalding hot shower. Under the water he wept.

And then as the thoughts of the cat washed away, Phillip remembered. The body. The blood. Immediately his skin felt overly sensitive, prickly. His clothes and sheets scratchy. He lay in the silence, desperately attuned to the noises of the house. Nothing. The rain had passed, and he could detect nothing in the still. He pulled back the covers and swung his legs out of the bed. He had to find out.

The bathroom was spotless. Everything was as he would normally leave it. He ran his fingers around the bath, it was dry and clean. The door handle shone its normal dull chrome. Phillip walked down the hall. The floor was clean, no marks visible on the wall. A stack of clean dishes from a meal sat in the drainer next to the sink, the white tiles blemish free. He bent down. Even the colour of the grout was consistent. His lounge was as normal, the furniture in its regular place, the lamp upright and in the centre of its side table, the picture straight.


Phillip took a glass out of a cupboard, filled it with tap water. He closed his eyes. I must be losing my fucking mind.    


Two hours later as Phillip drove to work there was standing water on the edges of the bitumen. It must have rained through most of the night. Washed out gravel from driveways had run into the roadway. 

 Phillip was first into the mill. He went to the office, checked his emails. There were more than usual, a few backed up from yesterday. Sometimes the local server dropped out and there was a delay in correspondence getting through. He wrote his replies, and went down to the factory floor, started the machines, ran the safety checks, filled out the compliance ledger. The first shift arrived and he went back to the office, looked out the window. His staff were on board, machines ticking over, cutting and sorting. Jenny, the second plant engineer and his understudy, was looking at him.

You feeling ok, Phill? 


            He glanced at her.

            Why do you ask?

            Yesterday, you know, when you left work you said you weren’t feeling well.

            I did?

            Yes, you did. Are you ok now?


            Phillip ran his hand through his hair. His scalp felt sore, like every hair follicle was irritated.

            I had the strangest dream, well actually two dreams. The second was about the cat I had when I was kid. The first was so real I dunno, but it turned out to be nothing.

            I’m not surprised your dreams were freaky. When you left yesterday you said you had a migraine and were just going home to sleep it off. You looked out of it. I covered for you when you left. Nothing happened, it’s all good.

            You covered for me?

Yes. You left early. You weren’t well. But you’re better now, yeah? Or do you want to take the day?


No, I’m fine, really. Just fine. Let’s get about the day, eh? Paper and all that. Pressing, folding, cutting. Jenny turned away. She bent over, put her lunch in the office bar fridge. Phillip thought to himself, I’d rather take you home and press you up against something.

            The rest of the day passed without incident. The events of the night before seemed to take on more of a dream like quality as the day stretched out, the sharpness of the images blurring into a fog of unreality. By the time he finished up he was sure that he had imagined it. That he had driven home from work yesterday with a blinding headache, had an early dinner and went to bed to sleep it off. Except he couldn’t remember doing any of that, and when he tried to recall anything of the previous evening he felt queasy and hot, like he was nursing a brooding fever.


Phillip arrived home from work in the deepening dusk. After the storm front of the day before, the sky patched out between isolated clouds and a bleary blue, as if it couldn’t decide what mood it was in.

He stood at the side entrance, inserted his key into the lock and waited. He held his breath, and opened the door. It was as he left it this morning. The air locked in his lungs escaped like an explosion. He leant against the doorframe, closed his eyes, Some dreams are just dreams. The rest of his night was unremarkable. The last thing he did before turning out the light was plug his phone into the charging cable. Outside the night was silent. All Phillip could hear was his own breath sliding in and out.



Phillip woke under the brightening sky. His first sensation was of cold, and then the discomfort of the surface beneath his back. He propped up on his elbows and tried to get his bearings. He was lying in the tray of his truck. It was nearly light. He was parked down near the river, at the far end of his property. He could hear the sliding sound of the water passing through the river stones. He looked up. The fading stars stared down on him coldly. What the fuck is going on?

It was then that Phillip noticed the grey tarpaulin next to him. It was covering something about his size. The shovel from his shed was lying between him and the sheet of material, the lump.

Phillip leapt from the truck without thought, landing on the muddy grass of his paddock. He noticed that he was fully dressed. Whatthefuckwhatthefuckwhatthefuck. Phillip stared at the tarp. Even in the half-light it was unmistakable. A person shaped lump under the sheet. He undid the latches at the back of the truck, lowered the rear, and flipped over the edge of the tarp. An exposed naked foot, shin, calf muscle. Chipped blue green nail polish on the toenails. White skin, almost luminous in the dim.

Phillip grasped the tarp and flung it over, the material landing on the grass. A naked woman. Beautiful. Voluptuous. She lay on her back, arms by her sides, palms down. A deep gash under her chin to her ear, but no signs of bleeding. He walked around the side of his vehicle, looked at her face. He knew her. It was Kelly, the hairdresser. She was the woman in the bath. It was her blood on the door handle, carpet, walls, kitchen floor. Dead in the back of his truck, under his tarpaulin, with his shovel resting next to her, on his property. And then he realised it was no dream. He must have murdered her. He had done this. He had no memory of it, just a series of blanks spaces over the last two days.



Phillip bulled his truck down the road away from town. He was making every effort not to think. As the engine droned away under him he concentrated on his breathing, searching for the point where one breath stopped and another started, but never finding that moment of stillness. The emptiness. He look at his hands. There were traces of dirt under his fingernails, still there no matter how hard he had scrubbed. It was nearly dusk. He had spent the much of the day burying Kelly near the river. He chose the nicest spot he could find. He had placed river stones on top of the disturbed dirt, but was under no illusions that the grave would conceal her body permanently, but he felt he owed her the effort nonetheless. When he returned the shovel to his shed he found a bag with her clothing and shoes, and a pile of bloody rags and cleaning products. His vacuum cleaner was also in there, the dirt canister full of dark fibers and dust. His phone had rung three times while he was digging, two calls from Jenny’s extension at work, one from his own. He expected that he had maybe two days at most before Jenny or someone else made their way to his property to check on him. Phillip also assumed that people were searching for Kelly, and that it wouldn’t be long before someone made the connection.

So Phillip drove. He harbored no hope of escape, but the thought of telling the police his story was unbearable. And then the shame of facing Kelly’s family in court, admitting his guilt to the world.

There was no explanation that he could find. It was utterly inexplicable. He searched his mind for a memory, any recollection that would tell him the story of his actions. There was only the suspicion that there was another voice within him that knew what had happened. Another version of Phillip sleeping restlessly within the dark fugues of his existence, that was as much a part of him as any of his memories, any moment of his past. An imaginary friend that dreamt his own dreams. He hoped that there was only one story to tell, that there were no other graves scattered across his land, runaways and hitch hikers and prostitutes long since missing, now under his earth.

Phillip thought of the cat he had loved when he was a child, struck by a car and killed in an instant. The split second of fear the cat had felt before impact, and then the immediate darkness. He hoped that he would share such a moment when it came.


The truck chased its headlights into the dark. If Phillip had the eyes of a cat he could have seen another winter storm gathering on the horizon, a cell of low pressure, soon to break.

Author, Martin Toman.

Martin Toman lives with his people in a tree house overlooking Melbourne, Australia. He has been published online and in print, and recently in publications such as Across the Margin, Fresh Ink and Literally Stories.

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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.

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