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The window creaked as I closed it and I immediately thought of the last horror movie I’d watched, though it had been years before. Still unused to living alone, I shook off my chilled paranoia and turned to close another. The storm was coming in fast, and my spacious old house had a lot of windows.

Once done, I strolled to the living room, grabbed a tattered paperback I’d read about a dozen times, and headed to my room upstairs. As the thunder rolled closer, it resembled faint growls. The wind added a high-pitched whine and I couldn’t help but shiver. I had always loved stormy weather, but the last year had been tough. The medicine helped, but my feelings of irrational anxiety, fear, and the occasional hallucination took their toll. I almost wished for the safe hospital room with the quietly sympathetic nurses who were always on hand for comforting words to reassure me that I was OK. Here, I was on my own, independently vulnerable. Mixed emotions rolled through me as I tried to focus on the story in my lap. The heroine was so unlike me– strong, self-assured, and with no diagnosis of mental illness to hold her back from her full potential.  I felt like I could be her if only I could quell my inner demons. She could have done it for me, if she were real. The storm grew closer and more powerful snarls of thunder shook my empty house. The hostility of the weather felt personal, almost. As though it knew I could only withstand so much; like the dainty flowering trees outside I quivered and tried to stay mentally upright. 

I got up and paced the halls, worrying. I was starting to see dark patches in my peripheral vision again, the kind that generally warned of an upcoming hallucination. When I looked directly at the dark shifting blotches, they moved just out of sight again. I felt my skin crawl and it seemed like if I could just turn around quick enough, I would see a monster behind me, but I knew that was nonsense. It was a blend of an illness that I had sought treatment for and an overactive imagination in a house that was way too spacious for one person. Lightening flashed brightly, and I welcomed it in spite of its noisy partner. Light was always my friend. Every light and lamp in my home burned 24/7. It was critical that I not be in the dark. I might be safe from physical danger, but the emotional assault would be inevitable and devastating. 

My wanderings took me through the rarely used kitchen, through the abandoned family-sized dining room, and into the library. It’s funny how even the rich can suffer so greatly. I hadn’t always had money, and I hadn’t always been sick. It almost seemed that to obtain one I had to accept the other. Not a good trade in my book.  Still restless and fearful, I turned to head back to my bedroom and I saw it- just barely, but it was there and it seemed so real. Knowing it wasn’t, I ignored the evil eyes and bared fangs. These types of things are always bouncing around in my head, waiting to jump out like a mischievous child yelling “Boo!” only they weren’t children and they were very scary. The growls that I had taken for thunder now seemed to come from him. His eyes flashed yellow at me, reminding me of the lightening I had welcomed so naively. I turned my back on him, willing him away, trying to get ahold of myself before I wound up in the fetal position in full melt down mode. I tried to think of someone I could call, but I really was alone in the world. 911 operators don’t get paid enough to talk me down when I get like this. Feeling hunted, I walked down the hallway. I could feel him follow me, though there was, of course, nothing there. Hot breath caressed my bare legs as he panted in his excitement. I stopped and closed my eyes as tightly as I could. I would have to take my next dose early. I couldn’t make it without it. I turned in his direction because I had to in order to get to my pills. Impressed with my bravery, I felt a little more like the heroine in my story. Maybe I could face this after all. I took a few steps and then tripped over something. Something hairy yelped in surprise and sank his teeth into my arm. Pulled down by his massive weight I was astonished that for once I was in my right mind. My monster was real.

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Laura Austin lives in rural Kentucky with her husband and two children. She has been previously published by The Haberdasher and Better Than Starbucks magazine. She writes poetry, short fiction, children’s’ books, and song lyrics.

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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Original Creations

Goblins, a Short Story by Jennifer Weigel

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Revisiting the creepy faux fingernail art, I made a couple of goblins… They then ransacked my house. This is their story, as told by myself, Jennifer Weigel.

More faux fingernail art from Jennifer Weigel, featuring wide smiling mouth with red sparkly lipstick and faux fingernail teeth on textured green goblins background
More faux fingernail art from Jennifer Weigel

So it finally happened. My art came to life. And of course it couldn’t be one of the cute pretty pictures, like the sparkly unicorns or the cat drawings. No it had to be the faux fingernail goblins… Ugh. I first encountered them in the bathroom.

I see England.
I see France.
I see someone’s underpants!

Of course you do, it’s the bathroom. That’s totally the room for that. Remind me again why I decided to paint these little green monsters. Ugh. From there, they moved on to the kitchen.

We so tricksy.
We so sly.
We eats all the cherry pie!

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Did they have to eat ALL the cherry pie? Like seriously. But what can I expect, they’re goblins and they’re in the house. Ugh. And honestly they’re just plain gross.

I pick my friend.
I pick nose.
Just whose nose, do you suppose?

Get away from me you obnoxious, vile creatures! I can pick my own nose on my own time, thank you. Ugh. Oh, great, now they’re tearing up the living room.

We be goblins.
We be green.
We be making quite a scene!

No, not the sofa! Now there are little bits of fabric and stuffing flying everywhere. I can see you’re all too pleased with yourselves. Nasty critters. Ugh. Why can’t you just leave?

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I do mischief.
I do bad.
This best party ever had!

I did NOT agree to host your little shindig. Stop tearing up my house! All I know is, it’s about time you moved on to wreak havoc elsewhere. Ugh. Just get out – NOW!

We scare the cat.
We scare you.
We scare all, we care not who!

I may have brought these dreadful disgusting demons into being seeing as how I painted them, but I have no idea what brought them to life or why. What kind of cosmic miscalculation caused this? I need to know so I can avoid it in the future. Ugh. Goblins… need I say more?

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

Faux Fingernails Art by Jennifer Weigel

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So I had some faux fingernails leftover from a costume based modeling session, from posing as Cruella De Vil for the figure drawing group… Here’s a teaser from that modeling session, before the horrible creepy art generation in the aftermath. If you zoom in tight enough, you can see my tiger fingernails, which kept trying to fall off constantly, reminding me why I hate trying to wear the things and why they (d)evolved into art.

Cruella De Vil modeling for figure drawing
Cruella De Vil modeling for figure drawing

My version of Cruella De Vil channels Glenn Close or the original animated character more than the recent Emma Stone variant, but they’re all delightfully devilish.

Anyway, I made this series of “Tiger Sharks” prominently featuring the same tiger faux fingernails, including those used in the Cruella De Vil costume. These “Tiger Sharks” also incorporated some pirate fingernails, because sharks and pirates are tight.

Pirate skeleton hand with faux fingernails
Pirate skeleton hand with faux fingernails

I couldn’t think of a better use for the pirate fingernails than adding them to this skeletal hand. I never actually wore these, they were too hard to come up with something to go with. But I do love the Beetlejuice vibe with the stripes…

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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