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“Strzyga” by Tabatha Jenkins

The halfhearted glow of the bathroom light pushed the veil of darkness into the corners of the room so that she could see the fullness of her body. Running her hand around the curve of her abdomen, her fingers naturally fell into the grooves of her stretch marks. So many times she had wished that this was all a dream, until the reality of it began to peek out from under her shirt. She cursed herself, him, and the innocent consequence she wanted so badly to be rid of. When people in her neighborhood found out, they made a point to remind her that she had made her bed and that she should lie in it. But how could she regret relishing the sweet comfort of the smell of his skin? She couldn’t quite declare it love but she at least wanted the chance to find out for herself. 

All of that changed the minute she saw the positive, +, emerge in the tiny square of her pregnancy test. Suddenly, a mass of pressure of expectations flooded both of their minds and their hearts, suffocating the warm glow of possibility. She couldn’t blame him for taking off; there were times where her legs felt shackled to the floor, and she wished she would’ve went with him. But more than anything, she wished for their baby to not exist. Why she should be the one left behind? 

Removing her hand from her stomach, she reached up to the sides of her face. In her mind, she repeated her wish over and over until she was almost meditating. But every time she could almost see the color in his eyes, she felt a kick to her ribs. Only now the kicks grew stronger. Fingers gripping the counter, she cried out with each impact. This continued until she finally fell to the floor. Panic clogged her throat when she saw the ribbons of blood streaming down her thighs. Pulsing waves of fire seemed to be engulfing her insides. 

Her legs couldn’t support her enough to get to the door, and she didn’t have a cellphone to call 911. All she could do was clutch her stomach and try not to vomit or pass out. She managed to crawl onto one of the soft rugs, using an old folded towel as a pillow as the kicks evolved into a level of pain she had never felt. She didn’t even realize she was screaming until her voice broke. Soon she felt the urge to push, fear and confusion dissolving her resistance. Was this a miscarriage? She suddenly realized that along with everything she felt, she also felt a bit hopeful. She was hopeful that, if this was a miscarriage, she wouldn’t have to watch another life affected by forced choices, breeding a resentment that slowly destroys love. 

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She froze as she felt a mass move from inside her body. Her veins began to darken as if someone had filled her with ink. A chill ran down her spine as she leaned over just enough to see a decaying, black limb emerge from her body, almost slithering out. She closed and again wished that this wall a dream, her inner voice screaming out her thoughts. But she couldn’t ignore the ripple of pain she felt when the limb grew into a shoulder, the grisly strands of hair, or the misshapen head as the black mass forced its way out. The arms were spidery and covered with a single layer of putrid skin that resembled curtains. The fingers were curled nearly into a fist, hiding nails that were as sharp as blades. The festering brain running on hatred rooted too deep to remove. 

Her body began to struggle as more blood drained from her veins and into the narrow pathways of the bathroom tile. She barely felt the rest of the birth as she laid flat on the floor, staring only at the ceiling. Finally, she felt the feet leave her body. Many times she had imagined what her baby’s cry might sound like; would she feel the need to rush to their side? Would she sigh and reluctantly go to check on her? But she never imagined how she would feel if she ever heard the deafening shriek she now heard echoing from every corner of the room. She felt no motherly compassion, no sympathy, and no urge to comfort. She only felt the familiar urge to run that she had for so long. Only now she knew she could never run fast enough. 

The mass’ shadow grew in length as she watched it stand and stretch it’s crooked spine, shaking then turning toward her. She saw the disfigured face with pair of wide set, yellow eyes that seemed to be nearly absorbed in the face. The mouth had a bad overbite which exposed the rotting teeth. She couldn’t convince herself this was a dream; she couldn’t even convince herself this was human. The creature was just tall enough to look down at her face, and she saw more clearly how the skin seemed to have been nearly spun from the skull. She saw the arm reach up into the air, stretching out the hand of knives. With another shriek, she felt the knives slice open her abdomen, and then the abrupt plunge of her insides. And as she felt the numbing wave of death spread through her body, she recalled the love she felt while falling asleep in his arms.

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Tabatha Jenkins, author

Tabatha Jenkins graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello in 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing. She has been published by the Adelaide Literary Magazine, Helen Literary Magazine, The Write Launch Magazine, The Scene & Heard Journal, The Bookends Review, Havik Literary Magazine, Gravitas Literary Magazine, Foliate Oak Magazine, and High Plains Register. She still currently resides in southeast Arkansas with her fiancé , her dog, JP, and her cat, Cayde-6. You can learn more at her personal website: tabathajenkins.wixsite.com/tabathajenkins.

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Original Series

Nightmarish Nature: Zombie Snails

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This time on Nightmarish Nature, we will look into zombie snails, because we were having so much with the Whore Snails recently. So this is a lot like the Freaky Fungus except that this time it’s a parasitic worm that is the cause of the horror… Leucochloridium paradoxum, the green-banded broodsac worm, forces snails to be a part of its nefarious plans to take over the world (well, really more just continue on keeping on in its strange and bizarre life cycle).

Hungry birds want nummins
Hungry birds want nummins

This Is What We Get for Eating Poop

The worm, which spends much of its life as a parasite in birds’ digestive systems, is part of a weird cycle that includes both birds and snails, though the snail end is much creepier. It starts when a snail ingests worm eggs in bird droppings. These eggs hatch into worm larvae that eventually turn the poor hosts into zombie snails! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Snails make questionable food choices, but I guess this comes from being where they are on the ecosystem clean up crew...
Snails make questionable food choices, but I guess this comes from being where they are on the ecosystem clean up crew…

The worm larvae work their way up into the snails’ brains and take over, hijacking them on suicide missions to continue their own life cycle. These worm larvae eventually grow large and worm their way into the poor snail’s eye stalks, pulsing and throbbing therein to resemble maggots or other tasty treats.

Zombie Snails
Zombie Snails

Mind-Control

The worms use the zombie snails to get into their bird hosts by mind-controlling them into climbing out of the shady undergrowth where they will be easily spotted by bird predators which will feed on them, ingesting the eye stalks and continuing the worm’s life cycle as it gets into the bird’s digestive tract. The huge, bulging eye stalks are irresistible to birds looking to snatch maggots and other delicious delicacies. Eventually, after the worms are well ensconced in its bird hosts, the bird poops out more worm eggs for unsuspecting snails to ingest, completing the cycle.

Birds love their grubs and maggots and other nummins, even if they are just zombie snails.
Birds love their grubs and maggots and other nummins, even if they are just zombie snails.

You can watch this in action on Nat Geo Wild: World’s Deadliest here, if you dare. Warning, it’s a little gross but not near so much as some of the other topics we’ve covered. If you enjoyed this slimy segment of Nightmarish Nature, please check out past segments:

Vampires Among Us

Perilous Parenting

Freaky Fungus

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Worrisome Wasps

Cannibalism

Terrifying Tardigrades

Reindeer Give Pause

Komodo Dragons

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Original Creations

Snails a Whorl Whirl Whore World…

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So a friend and I made some artsy snails awhile back. Essentially this was in response to her granddaughter proclaiming that her favorite animals are whorl snails. My friend heard “whore snails” and was a bit perturbed that the child would use such a word so nonchalantly, whether or not she knew what it meant. But then again toddler-speak is like that sometimes… Anyway, it stuck.

So we made some whore snails, all glammed up and ready to go. We started with these flat metal snails and then painted and decorated them, to whore them up a bit. I figured this would be apropos after my recent Valentine’s Day posts and that the end results were horrifying enough to appear here.

My friend's whore whorl snail
My friend’s whore whorl snail

This is my friend’s creation. I especially like the David Bowie star and cherry bling to match her cherry red lipstick. The purple shell is a great color on her too. I think my friend went back and decorated her shell more after the fact, but I didn’t see the snail after those changes.

My whore snail
My whore snail

And here’s my whore snail. She’s a bit more of an ice queen with her deceptively lovey-dovey eyes and mouth full of poison darts, like the underwater snails do. I believe I called her a Hoar Whore Whorl Snail as when the discussion first came up I heard “hoar” and thought of hoarfrost. Hence the ice queen take…

And another friend joined us via Zoom just to visit and have fun making art together.

Another whore snail, drawn by our friend over Zoom
Another whore snail, drawn by our friend over Zoom

This little Zoomed in snail is kinda cute, like she’s out on the beach in her bikini… Mixed media on paper.

So if that wasn’t disturbing enough, check out my inappropriate Shrinky Dinks posted here before, or maybe this Eye Candy Peeps Easter basket, both taking some innocuous thing(s) turning into something… else…

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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. Her friends will remain anonymous for now…

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Original Creations

Have a Dystopian Girls on Film Valentine’s Day

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So it’s finally actually Valentine’s Day, and thus marks the final segment of our dysfunctional dystopian romance. So far, we’ve survived both Gen X and Krampusnacht, what else could possibly be in store? Girls on Film…

Valentine's Day card Girls on Film
Girls on Film Valentine’s Day card from Jennifer Weigel

Image description: Video camera umbrella shower succubus stares through the lens at the viewer, surrounded by eerie Cthulhoid horror embellishments with text.

Text reads: Happy Valentine’s Day; lipstick cherry all over the lens as she’s falling; give me shudders in a whisper; take me up ’til I’m shooting a star; (she’s more than a lady)

OK so this Valentine’s Day dystopia ends in a Duran Duran video, because of course it does. If the video doesn’t load properly, you can find it by following this link. Girls on Film.

Duran Duran official video

Here’s the camera eye succubus all by itself, for your viewing pleasure. Actually this is the original original image from an Unselfie performance art piece in the shower before I decided to forego the umbrella. Girls on Film.

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Unselfie performance art video still
Video still

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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