“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.
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.
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.
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.
Wax Museum Living Dead Girls with Jennifer Weigel
Revisiting my costume modeling work, like my previous witch and skeleton sitting, I participated in a Living Wax Museum as part of No Craft Left Behind at Monika House over Halloween this past year. The premise is that participating performers each choose a historical figure, living or dead, and portray them. Anyone attending the event then asks questions to deduce who the living wax figures are. It’s a lot of fun, and also educational.
Here are some images of my outfit and props. Since I was a silent film actress, I decided to create intertitle signs to flash at audience members rather than talking, kind of like reading the snippets of conversation between scenes in actual silent films. See if you can guess who I am.
The intertitle signs from the Living Wax Museum read:
I was a silent film & stage actress.
I was 30 years old when I became famous.
I appeared in more than 40 films between 1917 & 1926.
I was known as the 1st “Vamp” for my femme fatale roles & am cited as the 1st sex symbol of the film era.
Magazines called me “The Arch-Torpedo of Domesticity”, “The Queen of Vampires”, “The Wickedest Woman in the World” & more.
My best known roles included Salome, The Vampire in A Fool There Was & Cleopatra.
I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio to Jewish parents Bernard Goodman, a Polish tailor, and his wife, Pauline Louise Francoise of Switzerland.
I moved to New York City in 1908 & debuted in The Devil on Broadway.
I was falsely hyped as born in the Sahara in Egypt “under the shadow of the Sphinx & the Pyramids” & I dabbled in the occult.
I was known for my kohl-outlined eyes & revealing costumes before the 1930s Hays Code for decency.
I was rumored to have trained with Sarah Bernhardt, received over 1,000 marriage proposals & had a sandwich in my honor.
Most of the films in which I appear were destroyed in the 1937 Fox vault fire.
I married director Charles Brabin in 1921 & retired from acting in 1926.
I died in April 1955 and am buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Ca.
I was named for the daughter of US Vice-President Aaron Burr, Theodosia.
My film name is an anagram of “Arab death”.
Gaming3 years ago
Parasite Eve II • Mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell
Gaming3 years ago
Luigi’s Mansion • Who you gonna call?
Gaming3 years ago
Resident Evil 2 (2019) • MR X GON’ GIVE IT TO YA
Gaming3 years ago
Slender: The Eight Pages • An exercise in futility
Gaming3 years ago
Bloodborne • Transfusing elements of action and horror
Movies n TV3 years ago
Review: Ashwin Saravanan’s “Game Over” is अद्भुत
Gaming3 years ago
Resident Evil 3 (2020) • Nemesis Doesn’t Get the Stars He Was After
Breaking News3 weeks ago
Coming to Shudder and AMC+ for January 2023