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.
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.
LTD Tripped Out Motivational Posters
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…
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…
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…
The Elves Reunion, a short story by Jennifer Weigel
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 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?
Eye Candy Jewelry by Jennifer Weigel
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.
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.