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“Skeletons in the Closet” by Jennifer Weigel

It started in March.  That was the beginning of the collapse.  The effects supposedly hadn’t made it here yet.  Online there were bats and rats and pangolins and other fantastical creatures haunting Wuhan’s inhabitants because of open air markets and various nonsensical cultural misunderstandings cast straight out of a Dr. Seuss story warning against the dangers of eating them with a fox or in a box or with some lox or something to that effect…  Online people were shuttering their houses…  But that was all distant and far away.  Life continued as usual.  Or so it seemed.

I fell ill before I was supposed to.  My boss was sick before me.  We’d gone to a conference.  But that was before all of this really got going, and it was just a city away and didn’t extend to anyone out of state, not that we knew of anyway.  My boss’s symptoms were spot on, with the 104-degree fever, chest congestion and difficulty breathing.  But she hadn’t been in contact with anyone from the wrong places that she knew of, so she couldn’t possibly have it.  Nonetheless, it was recommended she stay home, just in case.  And she did so because you can never be too sure and there were no tests available unless you’d been in contact with the wrong person who got off the wrong train from the wrong city at the wrong time.

I got it about a week or a week and a half after.  I didn’t fever.  I never do; the only times I have fevered in my adult life were when I’d eaten something off and it was rushing out both ends at once with only one toilet to accommodate it and me finding myself blacked out in a puddle on the floor like a bad college un-memory.  In fact, I thought it was just the milder flu that was going around and overpowering the flu shot.  I was a bit lightheaded and felt faint, and I slept a lot and had a minor scratch at the back of the throat, but nothing of any real significance.  I stayed home regardless.  I wasn’t sure if I did or didn’t have it and work was in this weird in-between state of not knowing what we were doing so I wasn’t really sure I wanted to go in anyway.  Things were beginning to shut down and I just felt in the way.

There was one night, after I thought it had passed, in which I woke with a start unable to breathe feeling constrained and tight and like a nightmare demon of medieval lore was sitting there camped out on my chest.  I thought I was having a heart attack (they manifest differently in women).  So I stayed up until 2 AM so that I wouldn’t chance going back to sleep and not waking up again as if I’d know the difference.  The next day it was obvious that it was my throat so I wrote it off because it didn’t seem as bad being my throat rather than my heart.  I waited it out and it got better.  I continued to stay home.  By then, everyone was told to stay home, unless they were essential, or needed something essential, whatever that was supposed to mean with the subsequent blow to our collective egos as we once again realized that we were just more insignificant flecks of dust on a half-baked planet floating around a mid-range star in a void of nothingness.

Things were pretty uneventful at home.  I dared not go out for fear that I was contagious.  I must have washed my hands 187 times a day.  I think I lost count though, I may not have taken note of 3 or 5 or 16 or 29 more times, 187 seemed like I was lowballing it…  I cooked.  I washed the dishes.  I dried them and put them away.  I cooked again and the cycle repeated.  I tried Zoom.  But there are only so many online conferences you can attend before all of the words that you hear spill out of your ears and soil the sofa with that kind of questionable stain that makes you drape a sheet over it when you know you’re having company, in the hopes that they don’t notice or say anything or create awkward silence.  I tried Facebook.  But there was only so much hopeful dissent about how to express joy and celebrate opportunity and make the most of the situation in the prescribed flavor-of-the-day popular vote meme responses that I could choke down, even before people became more openly discordant and polarized again.  I tried watching YouTube live-feed videos of zoo animals.  The bear just sat, head against the wall…  Ah, but there is comfort there, sitting with one’s head against the wall.  I shall have to do so more often.

I opened the closet late one morning to put on a jacket.  Not that I was going anywhere, mind you.  Just to put one on and remember what it feels like to do so.  Besides which, it was a little chilly downstairs.  That was when I first noticed.  There were leaves in the hall closet, under the stairs, dusting my faux fur pretending-to-be-mink coat and dropping onto the floor.  Maybe they were leaves, or maybe they were tattered bits of very very old paper.  They were dry and crumbly and crackled into stiff brittle sheets like old vellum, somewhat transparent and yet browned with age so that you can’t really tell if they are clear or yellow or brown anymore.  I brushed them off the coat, gathered them up, and threw them away.  I recorded the experience in the back of my mind, closed the closet door, and returned to my deep consideration over what to have for dinner and how to minimize the number of dishes and utensils I would need to do so.

The next day, I opened the closet again.  There were more leaves, trailing like stale Hansel and Gretel breadcrumbs down the faux fur coat and onto the floor.  I felt around but it’s a cramped space.  I don’t know what I was feeling around for, but whatever it was I didn’t find it.  I tried looking up “closet leaves” online but that just brought me to the care and maintenance of peace lily plants.  Did you know that the peace lily plant is also known as the closet plant?  Neither did I; I guess it’s because they need so little light…  And I still wasn’t going anywhere, so I knew I wasn’t bringing the leaves in myself.  Though, even if I were to go out, I wouldn’t have worn a fully lined faux fur pretending-to-be-mink coat in April to do so, not here in Kansas anyway.  It’s almost never cold enough for that, even in February.  But I had to be sure that the closet was not self-generating leaves or held some inter-dimensional portal to some unknown exotic place which I had long known to be there and suspected led to Narnia or an endless bag of potatoes or an almost indistinguishable clone of the closet in a similar but different time space continuum or somesuch.

The next day, when I opened the closet and found more leaves, I took out all of the coats and everything and piled it all over the dining room and into the living room.  Coats, jackets, and sweater vest linings were draped over the backs of all of the chairs and the cat’s loveseat.  Luggage and extra purses for when my current one wears out and spare hats and mittens and the cat’s carrier and all of the other randomly stored goods I had stashed under the stairs were piled on and in front of the sofa, television and bookcases.  This time I got into the closet and looked around.  There was a small gap between the ceiling paneling and the wall right above where the leaves were coming from.  Actually, it would have been a big gap if I were a mouse, reminding me once again why I have a cat even if he has proven a lousy hunter.  The leaves must have been coming from there.  I poked at it hesitantly, just in case there was a mouse.  I thought about calling someone out to look at the house but how essential is that really?  It just didn’t seem truly necessary to seek the counsel of a house inspector because there are leaves in a closet, even if it is an interior closet, even in the best of circumstances… though there was a hole…

That was when I noticed the wall was peeling, just a little bit.  I pulled at it a little more.  Brittle old wallpaper sloughed off in sheets, flaking off at the edges.  Wall repair tape and wallpaper covered in rubbery paint revealed yet more wallpaper beneath.  A poorly-executed minor archaeological excavation by myself revealed three distinct layers of wallpaper.  The outer layer under the paint was yellow or had once been another color that faded to yellow in that sickly sour sense.  The layer beneath that was speckled dusty brownish gray green blue that may not have actually been a color and may have instead been the remains of a long forgotten mold that lay dormant and decayed for decades.  Under that was either the wheat paste backing from that wallpaper with pockets of antique dirt nestled between layers to emerge again as a fine mist of dust falling from the recently peeled off paper, or what may have been the wall surface itself.  Areas were crumbled to dust where objects had collided with them in the tight closet space behind layers of paper and paint holding the façade in place so that it was not obvious at a glance to the casual observer merely hanging up a coat.  I closed the closet door and went on about my day, occasionally feeling the drifting itch of dust mites or tiny spiders or unknown grit that I perceived crawling about my skin until I took a shower.

I returned to the closet the next day, and the day after, and the day after that.  I had to continue my excavation.  I just couldn’t leave it be until I could have someone out to look at it.  Maybe I could fix it myself.  Maybe I could figure out where the leaves were coming from and put a stop to it once and for all.  I had to get as much of the wallpaper off as possible, to get to a surface I might be able to sand or primer or paint or even just board over.  I wondered just how much expanding house foam I would need to fill everything in.  The smell of dust and old mold started to become a recognizable friend, a long-understood knowledge that was bringing me into a closer relationship to the house itself.  I could feel the house breathing all around me from the closet, securing me in its embrace.  Every day, I lingered longer until I eventually just stopped visiting the rest of the house.  The closet became more and more comfortable and was my constant companion.  I don’t know what happened to everything else.  Eventually, the rest of the world fell away to rot.  What remained was still and quiet, imbued with a musty yellow wallpaper smell.

About the Artist: Jennifer Weigel is a multi-disciplinary mixed media conceptual artist. Weigel utilizes a wide range of media to convey her ideas, including assemblage, drawing, fibers, installation, jewelry, painting, performance, photography and video. Much of her work touches on themes of beauty, identity (especially gender identity), memory & forgetting, and institutional critique. Weigel’s art has been exhibited nationally in all 50 states and has won numerous awards.

Jennifer Weigel, author.

Lighter than Dark

LTD Tripped Out Motivational Posters

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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…

Tripped Out motivational poster
Tripped Out motivational poster

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…

Tripped Out seeing eye god sunflower
Tripped Out seeing eye god sunflower

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

Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.

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Original Creations

The Elves Reunion, a short story by Jennifer Weigel

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An Elven portal in the woods, emerging from stone and forest floor.
An Elven portal in the woods, emerging from stone and forest floor.

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 can feel The Elves eyes upon me everywhere.  In the leaves, in the trees themselves.
I can feel The Elves eyes upon me everywhere. In the leaves, in the trees themselves.

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?

The Elves portal remains but the path is unclear.
The Elves portal remains but the path is unclear.

The trees are full of Elven magicks… 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

Eye Candy Jewelry by Jennifer Weigel

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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.

Eye Candy Necklace by Jennifer Weigel with rainbow Evil Eye and magnesite stone skulls
Eye Candy Necklace by Jennifer Weigel with rainbow Evil Eye and magnesite stone skulls

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.

You can check out some of my Hauntings jewelry on Haunted MTL here, and more jewelry is featured on my website here.

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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