“The Body In The Middle” by Meera Dandekar
On a gloomy night, Alice woke up in a dark room, placed neatly in a chair, as if she had dozed off to sleep while working. The chair creeped as she lifted herself up and shuddered at the sound of the thundering storm outside. The ceiling was out of reach, like in a Victorian house. She looked around and observed that the only window in the entire room was on the roof. She kept looking around the room. There was an operating table, placed right in the middle, with something on it, covered with a white sheet. She walked away from the thing.
The lightning outside occasionally illuminated the room with bright white light. She walked alongside the walls, trying to find a switch for the lights that hung lowly from the roof. Her hand fell on the doorknob instead. She tried to twist it but it didn’t budge. It rattled loudly in the silent room. She finally gave up and walked around to see if she could find anything useful to break the door down. She tried to stay calm about her situation. She knew that if she panicked now, she’d never find a way out. The rain was hitting on the window so harshly that Alice thought it might break the window at some point. She tried to recall how she had gotten here but nothing came back to her.
She wanted to get out before her curiosity ate her. She desperately wanted to lift the sheet to see what was underneath it. The walls were made up of stones that were cemented in place, which cooled down the temperature in the room. It was almost freezing. Alice tried to warm herself up.
As she walked around the room, she felt around a handle and flicked it on. She thought that it could be a switch but no lights came on. She refused to give up as she felt the big machine that stood behind it. It looked like some sort of a generator with an air compressor at its side. When the lightning struck, she could see the numerous dials on the machine, all pointing to zero. She flipped all the switches on.
She walked to the other side of the room, looking at the massive cupboards, the metal knobs felt colder than its wooden body. She timed her search to the thundering so she could see what she was touching. She glared at the painting that hung above her head, the name reading “Dr. Frankenstein.” She stepped back to look at it. The lightning struck again and she saw the face of the madman. The electricity wizzed but Alice did not hear it. She was distracted by the painting.
She had heard about the cases that followed in the footsteps of Frankenstein, but this was a shrine. She had heard about the murders that had taken place in different parts of the town. Usually, some body parts were missing like, only a hand or a leg and in one case, the head. It seemed like that person was gathering all the parts. She looked back at the table with the body.
She needed to find the key. She looked for it in the cupboards and drawers but no trace. Someone had locked it from the outside and taken the key with them. She huffed air as she gave up.
Suddenly, the Thing on the table moved which grabbed her attention. She could feel her heart racing against her chest. It was alive. She ran towards the door and banged and on it. There was no one to listen to her. She was doing exactly what she wasn’t going to—- panicking.
She looked intently at the body to see if there was another movement. It didn’t move. She sighed in relief. She must’ve imagined it or it could’ve been a dead reflex. She was getting more and more curious now. She wanted to lift the sheet to see underneath it. She did.
The sheet stayed near the abdomen, revealing a half naked body. The stitches felt fresh. It was too difficult to see properly so she waited for the lightning to strike. The thunder shuddered louder this time and caused the generator to jump to a start. Alice jumped back in surprise. Her back was touching the far end of the wall, horrified to see that the body was sitting up straight. She could hear the slow grunts it was making. The lightning gave enough light to reveal a sewed up face. Its eyes were now open but it didn’t move, it just sat upright.
Alice tried to slide her way towards the door. She did it slowly so It wouldn’t notice her in the room. It kept looking at nowhere in particular when she reached the door. She tried to turn it slowly. Lightning illuminated her but It didn’t take notice. She thought that It might be brain dead. Then she saw it, the key. It was around Its neck.
Emotions rushed into her as she tried to formulate a plan. She started to step towards It. She was almost behind it when the thunder lit up the generator and It grunted to life, again. It was still sitting there but now had a sense of life in it. She stared at it in horror when It noticed someone in the room and it turned its head around to face her. Its body did not move a bit.
She could feel the sweat trickling down her face but stayed steady. She thought she could blend into the background and it wouldn’t take notice, but It did. It started to put its legs down from the table, one at a time and lifted itself up to stand. It wobbled as it started to walk towards Alice. Alice started scramming to the farthest point. She slid between the two cupboards, placed remotely close to each other, just enough to fit her. It took a long time to walk towards her and stuck its hand between the cupboards to grab her. She squeezed herself into the wall. It was leaning closer, its head trying to fit into the space. She saw the key dangling around its neck.
She tried to find the courage to rip it off. She took a book that she found lying and threw it in the other direction. Something toppled over which grabbed Its attention. It wasn’t looking at her anymore and she took her chance. As she ripped it off, it grunted in pain. The force had created the stitches to loosen and it was starting to bleed. It started taking careful steps to back away but fell when it couldn’t control its balance.
This was it. This was her open window and she needed to take it. She ran towards the door and the door clicked open, but wasn’t her who turned it.
A man stepped into the view. The thunder striked and illuminated his face. A scar on his eyebrow gave him a deadly look. She tried to back away but she realised that It was right behind her. The man locked the door behind him.
“All right, now that you’re awake, I’m going to need your organs.” His face grew into an evil smile as he started walking towards her with his sharpest knife.
Meera Dandekar loves to explore the fictional worlds that show the magical realm of being. You can befriend her by offering her some coffee, she loves it. She wants to visit the scariest place in the world, Derry, Maine. She’s currently living in Mumbai, India.
Nightmarish Nature: Cannibalism
Let’s return to explore more Nightmarish Nature, shall we? This segment focuses on cannibalism, as we generally find it icky / taboo and because it’s more common than you might think. There are many different reasons that different creatures engage in cannibalistic practices. Energy waste doesn’t last long in nature; gaps are filled as things evolve to utilize whatever resources are available to meet their own needs. C’est la vie (light up another cigarette). In any case, the challenge to the cannibal lies in determining kinship and not accidentally erasing their own line or progeny, thus decreasing their likelihood for survival over generations. Oh, and in avoiding those pesky prion diseases…
Resource Driven Cannibalism
Resource driven cannibalism can occur when competition for resources is high. This may be due to scarcity, with individuals taking to eating each other to avoid themselves starving to death (with those consumed either still alive and killed to this end, or eaten after death of other causes). Or it may be outside of the cannibal’s control, considering the spread of Mad Cow Disease from feeding beef meal harboring the prion disease (and parts from other mammals like sheep) to growing cattle to save money, ’cause it’s not like the cows were allowed to order whatever they wanted. Or it may be due to direct conflicts with other groups of the same species, either due to competition for resources, mating rights and/or territory. These behaviors have been noted in mostly male chimpanzees raiding other groups, which have even been documented as all out wars against other males in neighboring bands, campaigning to eradicate all outside of their ranks.
Thinking about chimpanzees, males are also documented to gang up on alpha males seen as too controlling or sadistic, with groups of younger males attacking and rendering the alpha male to pieces, often consuming his flesh and blood in the process. This can upend established hierarchies to replace them with new structures, for example with a new male taking on the role of leader. But cannibalism can also be used to reinforce existing hierarchies, as seen in African Wild Dogs wherein the dominant pair will kill off any offspring that other dogs may have birthed so that the pack will focus on raising only the alpha pair’s pups, thusly reestablishing and enforcing social structure while ensuring the best survival chances for the pups raised by channeling all resources to the one brood.
Infanticide & Filial Cannibalism
Like African Wild Dogs, other parents may also eat their offspring, or better yet their rivals’ offspring. Stillborn or unhealthy offspring may be consumed, or just any that they can get their hands on at birth. (Again with the young male chimpanzees…) Some creatures enter into cycles wherein smaller individuals are more vulnerable to predation by larger ones both within and outside of ones own species, as is seen among many fishes with eggs and smaller fishes playing an important role as prey to larger ones. Other creatures may engage in these practices to reduce competition (for themselves and/or their offspring) and/or increase opportunities to mate. Male cats are notorious for killing kittens that are not their own in order to bring females into heat again sooner, potentially increasing the likelihood of mating with said females themselves while decreasing future competition. Win-win! Female cats must take great care to hide their kittens in order to protect them from males as much as other predators, and can have kittens by different fathers within the same litter in order to increase their kittens’ overall survival as a group with father cats more willing to accept kittens when their own kin are present.
Mantids and spiders are especially known for sexual cannibalism, with larger females consuming males during copulation, but this is not always linked to vast size differences and does not appear in every species. Females who engage in this practice may have healthier eggs in larger clutches, thus increasing the survival likelihood of more of their offspring. Sometimes the risk to the male suitor of being mistaken for another species by an aggressive would-be mate is high, and various rituals have developed within certain species to help avoid such mistakes and entice the female to mate. Male spiders are known engage in elaborate dances, movements, tapping and silk spinning rituals to avoid being eaten pre-copulation or at all. It’s a hell of a lot more involved than a good pick up line and a well-timed drink, as you can see here.
If the above video doesn’t load, you can find it on PBS YouTube here.
Thank you for joining us for another exciting episode of Nightmarish Nature. If you enjoyed this, please feel free to check out these previous segments:
Revisitations: The Devil Went Down to Georgia
So I’ve been working on more painting into found art (as seen here before) and I thought I’d share a newer one, based on the song The Devil Went Down to Georgia by Charlie Daniels. But first let’s make like my She Wolf post enjoy a couple variations of the song, shall we?
First we have Charlie Daniels, the writer of the song which was inspired by the beautiful poem by Stephen Vincent Benet titled The Mountain Whipporwill. You can read the poem on Your Daily Poem here.
Then we have to watch my favorite version, the animated music video by Primus. I know there are claymation-haters out there who find the effect bit too “uncanny valley” but how can you not just love those chickens?
Anyway, without further ado, here is my painting, incorporated into a found still life, original signed L. Harady.
Here The Devil is defeated, crushed along the lower edge of the artwork beneath the fiddle and lamenting his loss. The bow jabs into his sneering nose as if to add insult to injury, but his eyes still glow, alight with the prospect of coming back for another round. (They actually do glow, I have acquired some blacklight reactive nail polish to use in these pieces now.) I suppose I may go to Hell for this portrayal (or for defiling yet another painting) but alas, such is the price of art sometimes. I guess I’ll add it to the list…
Cravings Part 2, story by Jennifer Weigel
If you missed the beginning of this pregnancy horror story by Jennifer Weigel, you can catch Part 1 here.
Jayden’s stomach turned. Who or what was this creature standing before him, and what had it done with his wife? Claire proceeded to eat more than half of the jar of eggs in a fury of consumption; Jayden finally retreated to the office alone unable to watch any more. He heard a sloshing sound as she finished the jar and proceeded to drink the brine before retreating to the bedroom and crashing into their bed, presumably to pass out. Again. Later that night, he crept in to find her sleeping, clammy and sweaty, nervously twitching. Her body made the most abnormal guttural sounds as her internal systems groaned and sputtered. It was definitely getting worse. Jayden resolved to call Dr. Randolph the following morning; this had gone on for far too long already.
The next day, Claire awoke with a start from another bad dream that she couldn’t remember. Crying uncontrollably, she clutched her swollen belly, still ripe with child, and hurriedly exclaimed, “Blood sausage! I must have blood sausage!”
Jayden woke from his curled-up safe haven beside her and muttered, “Wha… What is that? I’ve never even heard of such a thing.”
“Go!” she snapped. “I’m starving. Go now! Return with blood sausage.”
Jayden staggered over to the dresser, threw on some clothes, shuffled into his waiting shoes, and gathered himself to duck out the door in the well-practiced gesture he’d become so accustomed to. “I’ll stop on my way home from work, I guess,” he mused, making his own plans. Claire seemed to settle down a little as she woke further, but it was little consolation.
“Thank you Sweetcheeks,” she said. “You’re the best.” She blew him a kiss.
While at work, Jayden managed to secure an appointment with Dr. Beth Randolph, Claire’s primary physician since before he had known her, for later that day. He took off early and rushed home to gather his unwilling wife. She was going in, whether she liked it or not.
He opened the front door and peered inside. The house was dark and quiet, as he’d come to expect. He crept in and stole upstairs to the bedroom to rouse Claire from sleep. He’d tell her where they were going once he got her in the car, no sense in making this even more difficult than it already was. Unsurprisingly, there she was, a shadowy form hunched over in the bed, her back to him with the covers pulled up over her eyes. He peeled away the comforter and blanket to reveal a tangled mess of white knitted yarn; Claire was nowhere to be found. He looked around, trying to focus on the darkness of the bedroom that enveloped him. That unsettling feeling had returned, like he’d had at Maresh’s shop, sinking into his gut. Claire was here idling, watching, waiting; he could sense her presence sizing him up as if she could read his mind and was on to his plan. But why was her company so disconcerting? This was still their house, their home, their lives intertwined… Jayden felt his trust ebb, spine tingling sensing danger.
“Hey there Sweetcheeks,” Claire’s voice echoed from the darkness of the closet. “Do you have something for me?” She emerged into the room, her eyes wide, frothing slightly at the edges of her mouth. Tiny bubbles of drool burst forth from her quivering lips and trickled down onto her chin.
“I couldn’t find any… blood sausage… whatever that is,” Jayden lied through his teeth. He hadn’t even gone to the store. Claire should never have expected him back at this hour; apparently she didn’t even know what time it was. But that seemingly wasn’t a concern. She wasn’t herself. Something about her fragile frame, the way she rocked from side to side, reminded him of that crazy old witch doctor Maresh. He finally managed to connect the two; it was as though she were possessed. It was imperative that she saw Dr. Beth Randolph as soon as possible, if for no other reason than to sever ties to that crazy old hag and hopefully start to snap out of it. He simply had to get her to that appointment.
“No blood sausage!” Claire shouted, becoming more and more agitated. “No… blood… sausage!” Her breathing became less regular and her body shivered all over as she hulked towards him. “I am sooo hungry!”
She lunged towards him, stumbling into his arms and collapsing towards his feet laughing maniacally. Jayden reached for her instinctively, to lower her to the ground gently, and felt something sticky and warm envelop his hand. Feeling lightheaded, he glanced down as he fell to the floor beside her. Protruding from his gut was a long silver thread, no something pointedly metal and hard, oozing thick oil sludge all around. Not oil, blood. His blood. Claire continued laughing, her lightning-fast fingers quickly and methodically ripping their way into his tattered shirt and worming around within his wounded frame to pull forth bits of viscera, which she wrung in her hands and smeared up and down her arms and torso. As Jayden passed out, she mouthed each of her fingers in turn, sucking the precious liquid off of them one at a time, before she began to feast on his entrails.
Claire’s belly was finally full. The baby developing within squirmed and settled, as if finally satiated. She swiped a stray bit of flesh from her bosom, licked it off of her fingertips, and heaved a sigh of relief. Miracle Madame Maresh Meliasma was right; she just needed to get to the root of her cravings.