“Sweet Tooth” by Tiffany Promise
It didn’t seem that late on Halloween eve—the frothy, mossy stink of recently-scooped pumpkin still permeated the air—but only the goth kids remained outside, bleeding themselves silly in the cemetery. I’d been hoping that a few pretend-witches might clutter my un-welcome mat. Their warts a’bubble, moles stuck with hair, I didn’t know if they were paying homage or mocking; either way, I planned to stick photocopies of my best Hex Stew recipe in their buckets (along with the prerequisite chocolate bat bar, of course). But instead, at the very stroke of midnight, a skeleton dude knocked on my door. He was tall, lithe, a sight for lonesome eyes. And since I still had a bucketful of black licorice left, I opened the door. Wide.
“Trick or treat.” His voice sounded like it came from somewhere deeper than the dirt.
“Great costume,” I said, dizzying; the space between his bones seemed to go on forever.
“Thanks,” he mumbled. “Can I come in?” It had been months since I’d had a real visitor, years since anyone had crossed my threshold. And since ground-up boy-bones are an integral ingredient in most love-spell-banishing brews, I ushered him in. He was all black and bone; a pure, unadulterated nothingness. I forgot myself and gawked.
“You’re the prettiest witch I’ve seen all night,” he said, reaching out and touching my cheek. “People always talk about how ugly you are, but they’re wrong.”
“People are idiots,” I whispered. Pulled into the galaxies of his eye sockets, hooked by the emptiness of his hips, I moved closer.
“Can I kiss you?” He asked, reading my mind.
It had been years since I’d been kissed, decades since a little slap-&-tickle, so I closed my eyes and leaned forward. I’m tempting fate, I thought. Nothing good’s ever come from my kind kissing his kind… But I dove in anyway.
His lips were webbed with sugar and he tasted better than anything I’d ever licked. I generally find it tacky to indulge in foodstuffs that fairytale-witches use to lure innocent kiddies; besides, things like frog’s breath and will-o’-the-wisp blood keep me clear-headed and adept at the intricacies of the darkest arts. But as I pushed my tongue into his mouth, I found little nubs of gummy stuck between his molars. Reaching down his throat, I discovered Fun Dip still fizzing his epiglottis. Suddenly, more pig than witch, drooling for his sweetmeats, I hocus-pocused myself into a wee thing and slipped deep inside of him.
Dissolving candy hearts peppered his esophagus while sour worms conglomerated in his tum. A hunk of cotton-spun sugar was wedged in his intestines—still-stiffish, hot pink, and out-of-this-world. I ate him up. I couldn’t help myself. I was risking it all, but I kept on swallowing.
Until, uh-oh! I caved into a candy-coma on his prickly pelvic floor.
“You alright?” he thundered.
“Ughghllgh” I guttered.
I’m not sure how long I slept, but I awoke with an achey start. “Hey,” I squeaked, “I’m kinda stuck in here. Mind helping me out?” I’d only meant our interaction to be a quick romp—an hour at most—but I’d gone and slept inside the guy. Stupid witch.
“Sid Da Kid’s gonna flip when he hears about this,” he said, chuckling. “He bet me fifty that I couldn’t even get a kiss. Wonder how much he’ll cough up now.”
Wait, what? I was a dare? A measly fifty bucks? “If you don’t let me out this minute, you will regret it forever,” I threatened, feeling my temper quickly rise.
“Oooh, a firecracker, huh? Me likey.” He laughed. “You got yourself in there, why can’t you get yourself out?”
I didn’t want to admit that his sugars had sapped my powers. That by acting the part of a spoiled, mortal girl, I’d risked everything. “I will fucking destroy you and everything you love,” I promised.
“I’ll help you out if you just admit how much you liked it.”
“I’d rather eat a razor blade sandwich,” I hissed.
“I bet it’s been years since you’ve been properly boned. You should be thanking me.”
Properly boned? Thanking him? Fury filled me up fast. Expanding, ballooning, in only moments I was back to my normal size; his easy-peasy weak sternum strained against the force of my flesh.
Almost instantly, there was a sharp crack and I hit the floor like a seed. Sticky and sick, I threw up in my hair. It was me or him…him or me, I reminded myself. But slumped against my baseboard, he didn’t look so tough. A walnut shell, a spent cicada skin, a mortal boy that messed with the wrong witch.
“What’s Sid Da stupid Kid gonna say about this? I should be the one getting paid,” I spit, summoning my energy for one last abracadabra.
Bone Boy’s ashes still sit on my shelf, tucked up next to a bottle of nightshade. Someday soon I’ll sprinkle him into a brew and offer a cup to my black-and-blue-eyed neighbor. Or her sister with the pantyhose runs and lipstick on her teeth. Maybe even that convenience store clerk, the one who never lifts her eyes; the punk girl at the bus stop with brass knuckles tattooed over the deep scar on her wrist.
Because their stories are my story are their stories are my story—held firm in hardened hearts, silent against a world full of witch-shaming flames, mother-in-law’s tongues, those lovers of racks and screws. We may keep quiet, but we stay vigilant, ever-summoning the powers of Hecate as we build our graham-cracker fortresses, the mortar a mash of our own spit and knucklebone.
Tiffany Promise was awarded an MFA in creative writing from CalArts in 2010, and an MA in psychology from California Institute of Integral Studies in 2013. Her stories have appeared in Black Clock, Gingerbread House, Blanket Sea, High Shelf, and the Salt River Review. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize twice, in 2015 and 2019. Having attended Tin House and Sirenland, she’s had the privilege of working with both Eileen Myles and Anthony Doerr on various projects. She spent 2017 polishing her first novel with Francesca Lia Block in Los Angeles, but recently relocated to Victoria, B.C. As a mother, she is particularly interested in exploring mother-child dynamics and the feminization of madness.
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Nightmarish Nature: Vampires Among Us
This is the kickoff to a new series exploring nature that is kind of horrifying, at least in ways. Our first subject is Vampires Among Us. There are lots of animals named for vampires, sometimes due to folklore and sometimes for their appearance (like the Vampire Squid), but most of these animals don’t have blood sucking tendencies.
Bats & Birds
There are legit vampire leaf-nosed bats in Central and South America that drink blood. They feed on mammals and are often shown to feed on livestock. They’d be kinda cute if they weren’t so creepy. There are also vampiric birds: some finches in the Galapagos have developed the taste for blood of other birds, mainly seabirds that flock to the islands to raise their young.
Leeches & Lampreys & More
And then you get into leeches and lampreys and other denizens of the water that are known to attach themselves to larger creatures and drink their blood. Leeches were even believed to have medicinal value (and still are in certain circumstances). And there are also numerous plants that are known to be parasitic and feed on other plants, wrapping their roots or vines around others to steal nutrients.
Now I’m going to drift off into the realm where this becomes truly horrific. Spiders. Now, spiders aren’t vampires per se, seeing as how they actually kill their prey – they don’t just feed off of it while it remains living and wanders about its business. But because of their structure, they cannot eat solid foods, so they have to inject their prey with enzymes to liquefy it so they can slurp it out like a protein shake. That’s sort of vampirism on steroids if you ask me, just the kind that no one is coming back from.
But let’s get back on topic. Now let’s consider mites and ticks and fleas and mosquitoes and the like. Some drink blood for their survival; others do so as part of their reproductive cycle (like mosquitoes which otherwise eat fruit and nectar but need the extra protein from blood to grow their eggs).
Ticks need to feed on blood once at every stage of their life cycle and can pick up diseases along the way (like Lyme Disease) but don’t always do so. Different ticks are more likely to come in contact with different things and often humans are not their preferred meal but they are opportunistic and will feed on whatever is available when necessary. Symptoms of illness from tick bites may take years to develop and can have really weird side effects (like the allergy associated with Lone Star Ticks which makes a person unable to consume mammalian flesh).
Anyway, here are some brief glimpses of vampirism in nature. Thank you for joining us for Nightmarish Nature and may you avoid getting bitten by any true vampires among us… And I still think spiders take first place in the creepy eating category here, even if they aren’t technically vampiric.
Buried Treasure by “Dread Pirate” Jennifer Weigel
This story came to me in a sort of roundabout way from a rather unusual source. So I thought I’d share it with you, dear readership, and see if you can make heads or tails of it. – Jennifer Weigel
Dread Pirate Rum Tum Tugger could tell this was the right spot.
The site, beneath the sweeping limbs of the Live Oak, Spanish Moss swaying gently in the breeze, was a perfect match to the crude map he had bought off that soothsayer Deuteronomy.
The earth moved easily, as if it had been excavated previously. He dug in with greater fervor with each swipe. The sandy soil gave way to reveal something hard. He scooped and smoothed the remaining detritus from the surface as he uncovered a box.
The carton was simple.
No markings; no ornamentation; no writing. Just a plain cardboard crate, brittle from having been buried for so long but still sturdy. He hoisted it from its burrow.
“Ha HO!” he shouted to the passing breeze, rousing a small cloud of birds that erupted from a nearby thicket. They captured his attention for a moment, but he quickly refocused and returned to his task.
The box was locked but no difference.
Any self-respecting ruffian like himself could pick a lock in seconds. And he did so with panache, as was his way. He pried the lid open and licked his lips.
Inside was the legendary Kernel of Eternal Life, a small sparrow’s heart, still beating.
Artwork description: Myself as Dread Pirate Queen Miss Kitty wearing black bell sleeve shirt and black vinyl skirt with strapping leather belt over leopard print shirt and tights, with strapping leather boots, pirate head wrap and leopard cat ears.
Image text reads: Purr! Avast ye mateys, Dread Pirate Queen Miss Kitty invites ye to check out her booty stash and dig ye up a dungbie prize. Seek ye some buried treasure! Just grab ye a plastic litter scoop and dig… dig… dig… to ye heart’s content.
I created this image for a promotional poster for a performance piece in a charity art show in which I, as Dread Pirate Queen Miss Kitty, hawked a carnival sideshow style sidewalk installation. For a mere $5 donation to the animal shelter the show supported, gallery goers could dig around in a kiddie pool full of litter to find a prize: a cheap plastic trinket from the dollar store. I had some takers, including one kid who seemed to really enjoy the digging and whose parents were all in, saying “You know, you can totally do that at home too.”
For more cat antics, we invite you to read C-2747’s logbook here on Haunted MTL. 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.
Queen of Everything Mother’s Day Wishes
Happy Mother’s Day to the Queen of Everything… nothing gets by you.
Artwork description: A Happy Mother’s Day card featuring a picture of a Nefertiti doll with swooping hair, glitter makeup, and elaborate gold and blue headdress and evening gown.
Image text reads: Happy Mother’s Day! You are the Queen of Everything and you shimmer brighter than the twinkliest star in the sky. Stay sparkly and shine on in your magnificent glitter bombasticness. You ARE truly everything everywhere all at once and you’ve seen and heard it all. Eyes in the back of your head and superpowered hearing mean we can’t get away with much no matter how hard we try. So Queen on and rule over home in sparkly sentinel.
And may this be a testament to why us kids shalt never get you out of bed too early or run amok while you are getting ready to start your day… Because being the Queen of Everything takes planning and preparation…
Feel free to check out this Mummy Dearest Mother’s Day card from 2021 here on Haunted MTL.
January 26, 2020 at 11:14 pm
This was a great story by Tiffany Promise. The imagery was amazing.