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“Quenched In Blood” by Max Carrey

They’d been shoved into a blacked out van and driven on winding bumpy roads. Overcrowding, that’s why they were relocated; at least that’s what they’d been told, but this was no prison or holding site. It was a rundown building in the cover of a wood. Prison guards replaced with mysteriously black dressed men. Their bodies fine-tuned, sharpened, most likely military of some sort. Upon the realization of this threat a roar of grumbles burbled up from the gagged prisoners. There were thirty of them in total. Sweaty, hot, crammed together, being forced to walk single file all the way into a room glowing orange from coal fueled flames. This place was a forge, and a great burly blacksmith greeted them with a smudgy smile as he tinged away on his hammer against heated metal.

They tried to fight but their captors swatted them behind the knees to make them drop to the ground, and dragged them the rest of the way. They lined them up on the wall opposite of the blacksmith, as if they were an audience going to take their seats to watch a show, though shackles and cuffs constrained them. Iron tightly wrapped around their wrists and ankles, cutting into their skin the more they fought against them.

Abruptly left alone in the presence of the blacksmith, with the heat of the forge beating in waves against their skin, looking to one another with widening pupils, tears dripping down until evaporating off their faces, it became apparent that this man, this place would do them no good.The blacksmith, muscles tensed and taut, worked efficiently and quickly churning out stacks of unfinished metal. No longer just billets but not quite knives, the rough blades sat raked amongst the coals with their tangs piling outside the heat begging for handles.

The prisoners pulled against their bonds, but they refused to give. They bit down on their gags, but they didn’t budge. Their cries were muffled and weak in their throats. It had been hours, a horrifying slow burn, waiting for the peak of the moment to rise and reveal itself. No heart beat steadily in those men’s chests. They pinged off ribs in a deafening symphony as blood rushed to their eardrums booming the sound.

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“Damascus-” the blacksmith began suddenly, causing the men to start and send them to the brink of fainting. “-blades normally aren’t the strongest of metals, but they stay sharper for longer. And you can make such intricate patterns.” He bellowed deeply, though his voice was surprisingly polished. “That’s usually why blacksmith’s chose to make them. For their cutting and their beauty, but I-I can make any blade strong, despite the metal. I could make a piece of scrap indestructible, but Damascus…Damascus is the best. It holds the most inside it, because of its layers. Things…” he chuckled darkly, “tend to get trapped there.”

The blacksmith threw one last rough blade into the pile and then leaned against his workbench facing the prisoners. He dragged a dirty hand through his sweaty beard. His fat cheeks pushed up into a grin, flashing a golden tooth. “With these blades I not only can make them stronger than any other, unbreakable, but the more blood spilt the stronger the wielder, the more powerful they become. The blade and the solider together as one, unstoppable.

”The sense of dread mounted, and each man began to see his years coming to a close, all culminating to this moment. The prisoner’s arms slackened against their restraints, defeated. Some tired bodies slumped low to the ground, others hung in mid suspension against the pull of the chains. In all their years of being a prisoner, this was the truest form of it enforced upon them. Their resolve weakened. Because who would care? Who would save them, even if they could? They were murderers, assaulters, and thieves. They were heathens, who would question their fate? People only cared if they met an end at all.

“It’s time!” the blacksmith growled. The door flung open and the room filled up with soldiers. Some faces recognizable, the men in black now dressed in camouflage, but there were more of them crowding into the room stifling out the light breathable air. Too many bodies. Each one stood in front of their chosen prisoner. Each prisoner gave one final surge of effort, tugging against their bonds, tearing their skin, blood leaking forth and dripping over.

“Well, gentlemen I suppose it’s symbolic in a way…because here you are on the road to Damascus,” the blacksmith chuckled wryly as he passed a glowing blade to each solider. Thirty prisoners, thirty soldiers, thirty blades. He then turned his back, preparing the grinder that would shape the metal into a smooth surface ready to cut with ease. The solders smiled and gripped the scorching blades in their clamped fists. The blacksmith’s voice roaring up over the prisoner’s terror as their muted screams landed dully in the cloth wedged between their teeth. “Perhaps if the metal you all were made of had tested well you wouldn’t be here. But so be it. Time for the quenching!”

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The crude weapons were drawn back in synchronizing motion, the exacerbated energies of the prisoners heightened and they flailed so hard against their bonds the sounds of joints snapped as wrists cracked and broke, but then the blades were struck forth embedding messily and coarsely into their chests. Those that didn’t puncture and simply broke the ribcage swung back and struck forth again until it was buried in flesh. The blood dripping down over the blade, the prisoner’s soul evaporating out their body with a molten heat, but they did not travel far instead going down, down into the metal, deep within the layers.

The blades now quenched, hardened, and their souls trapped inside. They cried new soundless screams of terror that only bounced off the metal, pinging like a bullet to echo among them in the lonely dark. But soon others would join, paying an unlawful penance, crowding in around them. All kept prisoner inside the blades to give the wielder the power of God. Though this was no heaven. This was a place that the Devil ruled from afar. The layers of hell made of Damascus.

Max Carrey loves to delve deep within the complicated pasts and suspense filled futures of her characters. Currently she lives in sunny California, but will be moving to a gloomier location much like the settings in her stories (hopefully without the tragedy and mayhem involved). She has several upcoming stories to be released in print and online with magazines and indie publishers alike. To stay up to date on future releases follow her on instagram @maxcarrey

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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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