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“Lucky Break” by Hyten Davidson

There’s different kinds of opportunity in the world, or so I hear: some knock sweetly on your door, some slam into a pole. I listen for the first, but dream of the latter. Either way, I am always welcoming to whatever type of opportunity my mother loved to remind me was “out there.”

In my dreams I run from a man that looks like Agent Smith from The Matrix, but at the last second— when I’m trapped in the basement and he’s almost got me— something else happens. I suddenly find a trap door, or miraculously the house sets on fire and I escape in the smoke and confusion. It’s too perfect to recognize as being a random opportunity perfectly presenting itself,  but you don’t realize that until you’ve already woken up from the nightmare and are back where you fell asleep against the cool vinyl kitchen tiles. 

 I haul myself up and move toward the window in the family room where the old Christmas tree is hunched to turn off its lights. Out the window, the empty street waits for me like that tree in that forest who wonders if it still makes a sound when there is no one around to hear it fall. I bear witness to the night.

After I wake up from a nightmare I  always like to take a dead-of-night walk through my neighborhood to relax, loose and free in my kimono and slippers, even on a mid-February night.

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My neighborhood is quiet, which means it’s full of secrets. Bright streetlights but dark houses. I’ve lived in my split-level home for thirty four years now, even after my parents died off, and yet I have no idea who lives in all these rows of houses. But at least they don’t know me either.

I really do need to “get out more” like my mother constantly nagged, but rather if only to stir more rumors and legends about myself.  It’s a fantasy to think of the neighborhood kids pointing at my parents’ house and crying “The crazy witch lives there!” Maybe even get the neighborhood moms to whisper about me being a “New Age Spinster.” But then again, no one wants to be alone and forgotten all the time. Even witches and spinsters want a love connection.

One person I did know in my neighborhood was a classmate of mine in elementary school— Jason P. Jason got a D.U.I while on a thirteen hour trucking job and had to move back into town with his parents a few years ago. He was tall and lanky, with chipped teeth and a droopy eyes.

Tonight he looks different I think to myself as I watch him stumble out of his dark blue Volvo, the front of which is wrapped around a streetlight. I watch him teeter into the street, spitting and sputtering to himself. He grabs chunks of his salt-and-pepper hair in panic once he looks back at the mess he’s made. Same as our 4th grade teacher when Jason choked in class from shoving too many marshmallows down his little gullet I muse to myself, Oh Jason what have you done??

This might have been the perfect meet-cute— I rescuing Jason, bringing him home to tend to his wounds, promising to keep our little secret of what happened to his car.

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Instead, I retreat behind a bush. Jason flicks his head up and down the street to see if anyone is around. Don’t worry, Jason. Everyone’s inside their cozy homes committing their own dark deeds. No one saw you.

Jason stumbles away and jogs past my bush then off around the corner back to Mommy and Daddy’s house. I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

I emerge from behind the bush back onto the empty street.  I look over at the car, a Volvo 240 DL; it’s right back turn signal still flashing. The engine in my own brain starts to kick and the wheels start turning.

BLINK-ER. BLINK-ER. BLINK-ER.

My heart beats in tandem with the car’s mesmerizing blinker. It’s giving me the green light.

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I approach the vehicle slowly…as to not scare or disrupt the precious moment. The driver’s side door is still open. Don’t mind if I do.

I sit down in the driver’s seat, still warm. The dashboard is lit up like a small Christmas tree, its little glimmering lights glowing through the fabric of the air bag. I lay my cheek down against it. It’s surprisingly soft. I poise the rest of my body accordingly— right foot on the brake, left slipper thrown off, hands draped down in my lap. I throw my glasses onto the dashboard…then take them back. That doesn’t seem right. Gently, I put the lens in my mouth between my teeth and crunch down hard. Now broken, I frame them back on my face then lay back down on the bag. Then I wait.

And wait.

And wait.

And start to dream. In my dream, I’m waltzing down the streets of my neighborhood in a flapper dress and little heels. The street lights are chandeliers. The road is black velvet carpet. In my embrace is a handsome gentleman — like Jason but taller, more stoic…maybe more-so like Agent Smith. Someone my mother would approve of. I see myself in the reflection of his early 2000s sunglasses, a jolly, smiling lady with not a single scratch mark on her face.

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Agent Smith’s voice is like a low siren.

“Ma’am?” He asks in a two-tone pitch, “Ma’am, can you hear me?”

Then….the dream is gone. Always gone, like a nasty one-night stand. But the sight in front of me was nearly better…a sweet-faced boy with chunks of freckles on his cheeks is caressing the back of my hair.

I glance up at him, flapping my eyelashes like big butterfly wings, as he grabs the radio attached to his shirt pocket. “Say something. Be friendly.” My dead mother’s voice rings in my ears.

“Hi.”

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“Yes, she’s responsive.” To me, “Ma’am have you been drinking tonight?”

“No, but I’m down if you’re free after this?”

The look on his face informs me this was far too strong a come-on. Two young women appear behind the boy, with a stretcher.

“Can she be moved?’

“She’s conscious, so I think we’re clear.” My mystery man states.

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His brute strength seizes me by the shoulders— I might argue a bigger come-on than my comment but that’s fine—  and hoists me out of Jason’s car and onto the stretcher, facing up to the night sky.

“What’s your name?”

“Where do you live?”

“Where did you come from tonight?”

It’s like Friday night at a bar, surrounded by flirty singles desperate to get to know me more.

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“Who me?” I flirt back.

See, Mother? I can go out and meet people.

Hyten Davidson, author.

Hyten Davidson is an emerging writer currently based in Chicago. Her stories have been published in New Reader Magazine, The Maine Review, and Cat on a Leash Literary Review. She’s also a screenwriter, having won the Scaffolding Magazine Best Short Screenplay Award at The Shortcut 100 International Film Festival, the Best Screenplay Award at The South Shore Film Festival, The Indie Horror Film Festival Best Short Script Award, among other accolades. For more, visit www.hytendavidson.com.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Liam Moran

    January 8, 2023 at 12:49 am

    Very engaging piece. Concise, direct, has a rattling, jaring narrative, that almost shakes you through the end, and at times provides that nice tongue in cheek humour. Loved it through and through, and especially enjoyed the ending. Would be interested in reading more of the author’s work. Hyten Davidson, if you ever publish a book/short story collection/whatever, please send the name of it my way.

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Original Creations

Dirty Clean Sweep, a Short Story by Jennifer Weigel

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Wendell was a germophobe. His obsessions with cleanliness extended far beyond the reach of OCD and even hypochondria, because for all that he was totally infatuated with his own mortality and utterly convinced that he was sick, it was his peculiar obsession with germs that eventually drove him to an insanity that doomed the world to an unexpected and dire destruction. For Wendell was the reason for the Clean Sweep.

When the COVID pandemic happened, it only increased Wendell’s fear, and his germophobia worsened significantly. He started meticulously waxing all of the hair off of his body, even his eyebrows, and would shower several times per day, using an abrasive pumice to slough off any dead skin that might otherwise accumulate and attract mites. As his manners and habits surrounding cleanliness became more and more rigid and involved, he left his house less and less for any reason whatsoever. He began to treat his home environment like a hospital or chemical facility and reworked everything to minimize debris, personally installing air filtration systems that rivaled some of the most sterile industry environments and cleaning everything constantly (he had once worked in HVAC and now no longer trusted anyone else to be involved in his efforts).

He took advantage of all of the delivery services, with packages coming to his back porch once weekly. He had everything on video camera and would scream at anyone who didn’t follow his explicit instructions through a small speaker in the ceiling. If a delivery-person didn’t first sanitize their hands with the supplied wipes and then put on latex gloves and booties before turning the door handle to drop their package on the specified table, they were yelled at and reported, and a bad review was left for whatever service had sent them.

Dirty Clean hand sanitizer out and about
Dirty Clean…

Wendell only order packaged foods, simple soups and cereals that would not come in contact with the world outside of their factory packaged settings. He meticulously researched processing plants to determine what he could and could not consume according to his own standards of cleanliness. When a parcel was delivered, he would leave it where it sat for two to three days time depending on the weather, all the while monitoring it. He would eventually suit up in a tyvek jumpsuit, goggled and gloved, and brave the porch himself in order to extract his needed food and hygiene supplies. Whilst there, he would spray and wipe down the porch, replenish the hand sanitizing wipes and latex gloves, and take everything that might have come into contact with the outside world out with his trash. The cycle would then repeat again a few days later. Every delivery included yet more gear to perpetuate his clean infatuation. More latex gloves, more wipes, more sprays, more tyvek suits… And every time his labors increased…

While Wendell continued to go about his business, ordering life necessities like soap and soup online, a slow and subtle change to his environment began to take over. It wasn’t obvious and, as he never put any distance between himself and his bubble world, he was unaware of the shift. It began because of a spore, well more of an anti-spore like blossoming of suddenly self-aware sterilization. No one really knows where it came from, or how it managed to get such a strong foothold, but perhaps it was because of Wendell’s meticulous cleaning habits. For this strange and unusual being, or beings as it were (for it was hard to tell whether there was a single individual or a number of them all acting under one consciousness), though unaffected by cleaning reagents and the like, had once been highly susceptible to bacteria and rarely survived at length when competing for resources with other species previous to its evolution in Wendell’s abode. But the bereft home was the perfect outpost for it to thrive, and it finally managed to gain a foothold. It grew rapidly and had soon infiltrated most every corner.

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As mentioned, Wendell didn’t notice, or perhaps he welcomed the change. For this strange surface skimmer actually looked even cleaner than its surroundings, appearing as an even brighter less dingy white that almost seemed to glow. It embodied cleanliness, at least insofar as we have come to perceive the concept. And the more that it acclimated to its habitat, the more resilient it became, learning to alter its own surroundings to its gain by killing off any and all other life forms that stood in its way. When a small quantity of some bacteria or mite or other single-celled threat was introduced, say on a box surface or embedded in the cardboard, the newly evolved clean critter would attack and annihilate them almost as if it were itself composed of harsh cleansers like bleach and ammonia. It seemed to develop a memory for different organisms and found a way to destroy most everything. It steadily increased in size and became stronger and stronger.

Clean Dirty hand sanitizer out and about
Clean Dirty…

Finally, one day, it had grown large enough to determine that Wendell himself was a threat, for no matter how clean his environment or person was, he still harbored a myriad of organisms required to keep a human healthy and fully functioning. He was inherently dirty and had to be eliminated. And so the creature he had fostered at length, by providing a nearly sterile environment for its incubation, rose up and destroyed him. It did so while he was sleeping and so he had no awareness of what had happened; had he realized a blanket of seemingly sudsy foam was suffocating him he would have panicked thinking it was some sort of bacterial infection or the like. But he blissfully slept through his untimely death, and the aggressive new organism worked to dispel all of the unclean bits and detritus of his being.

After finally taking over the whole of the house, this new creature began to spread, much like a fungus or a rot, dismantling all in its path in order to leave a wake of clean sterile nothingness. Although it has been said that nature abhors a vacuum, somehow this void had become powerful enough to negate that and continued on its path of complete and utter destruction, leaving nothing living in its path. Before too long it had absorbed the two neighboring houses, and then the houses just beyond those, in a sort of reverse infection that defied logical explanation. The local health department and center for disease control were perplexed; these spaces seemed too clean to harbor such a deadly silent killer and yet something was slowly annihilating everything in its path on a microscopic level. It almost acted like a slow progressing chemical spill but yet there was no evidence of such either.

Before long, word had gotten out and samples had been taken and distributed across the globe. One of those samples was eventually leaked intentionally, as a weapon of mass destruction, and was unable to later be contained. The Clean Sweep was upon all and the world began to be disinfected wholly as it spread. Life was literally in the balance, slated to be eradicated and left to a sort of shiny surface devoid of substance. All was being cleansed, slowly but surely. What started with Wendell, whom would never be known or acknowledged as the source of this new terror, had grown to be much larger.

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.

If you enjoyed this tale, here is another creepy story about cleanliness. 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

More Nail Polish Paintings by Jennifer Weigel

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Well, seems I’m at it again, with more nail polish paintings into found thrift store art. Why so many flowers this time…? Well a friend sent them and I just couldn’t help myself. They are so perfect for creepy fairy paintings. And for those of you who think fairies aren’t scary, you haven’t read much about the fey now have you?

More Revisitations nail polish paintings by Jennifer Weigel
More Revisitations nail polish paintings by Jennifer Weigel

Top left: Blue Fairy, originally painted by M Wadorf

Top right: Pegasus, originally painted by Edie Babb

Bottom left: Unicorn, originally painted by R Lovelace (After I painted this I realized I missed the opportunity to do a troll with a bridge and so I hope to do another along those lines in the future.)

Bottom middle: Fairy, originally painted by SD Janz

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Bottom right: Dragon, original signed FZ, very sparkly with black-light sensitive eyes

And the most horrific of the bunch this time is this mermaid, who started as a weird bucket painting by Helen Miller… So, what’s in the bucket, Helen? Body parts? Fish? Plants not yet in bloom? I envisioned a trapped mermaid waiting to ensnare some unsuspecting land-goer, because no one would expect to find a mermaid there…

Mermaid in bucket, original by Helen Miller
Is this mermaid trapped in need of help or just trying to lure you close?

So I broke down and redid the unicorn to a troll. Apparently the troll was hungry… Anyway, here is the result. I am happier with it now.

Troll with toll bridge, original by R Lovelace
Hungry troll wants bridge tolls after eating innocent unicorn.

You can find more of my Revisitations art on Haunted MTL here, including links to even more nail polish paintings…

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

Bloody Mary or More Doll Costuming by Jennifer Weigel

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So I came upon a Liv doll with no wig and decided to make her a mourning ensemble. The result was so reminiscent of this Bloody Mary music video based on the Lady Gaga song, by Ruben Samuel Cortez for his film school final (not the Wednesday TikTok remix, though that is also fun) that I simply had to share.

Costumed Liv doll to Bloody Mary by Jennifer Weigel
Costumed Liv doll to Bloody Mary by Jennifer Weigel

The outfit is made up of really fancy thick black lace leftover from a skirt I decorated for a party and an old translucent black handkerchief. It really reminds me of the table dancers in the music video but black instead of white (though it also alludes to some of the other outfits too, and Wednesday’s dress from the TikTok remake).

Close up of Bloody Mary doll's face
Close up of Bloody Mary doll’s face

I love the detail on the eyes on these Liv dolls, which are embedded and not painted on.

Closer still...
Closer still…

The Liv dolls’ eyes are just so lifelike. I think this is what attracts me to the Rainbow High dolls too, and why I had to turn the Makeover Failfix 2Dreami into Lady Amalthea of The Last Unicorn…

Failfix 2Dreami as Lady Amalthea from The Last Unicorn (not scary but one of my all time fave movies and I love how this doll turned out so I'm posting her here anyway)
Failfix 2Dreami as Lady Amalthea from The Last Unicorn (not scary but one of my all time fave movies and I love how this doll turned out so I’m posting her here anyway)

If you want to check out more of my altered dolls, I have posted several to Haunted MTL here:

Fashion Zombies

Heartbreak Hotel

Mummy Dearest

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Catharsis

Fairy Wands

She Wolf

Queen of Everything

More Altered Dolls

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Krampus

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.

Oh and here’s a bonus photo of the skirt that I got the lace for originally, titled Kiss My A$$.

Portrait of the artist, dressed for a Blue Jeans and Bling party
Portrait of the artist, dressed for a Blue Jeans and Bling party

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