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“The Difference” by Beulah Vega

An old man drinks at a varnished bar, gleaming oak, and cedar polished to the point of reflection. He uses the slight gleam to bounce artificial moon-beams across the top of his glass of seasoned scotch. 

The backroom in stark contrast to the old man’s elegant domain is filled with sorority girls, and selfie sticks. The annual International convention of the Tri-Betas has again come to his home town.  The girls in the back are rowdy, drinking underaged whiskey to match their years. The women who fill the front of the bar are sedated perhaps a little leery. They have been to this convention in this town before.  Now older, matrons, they smile a little at the hijinks of youth, but also weep a little of the loss of their own as they down vodka like it was water, neat with no hint of irony.

            The man bides his time. He has bought some rounds for some of the girls and some of the matrons.  They thanked him and remarked about his resemblance to their grandfather. He smiled beatifically at them and saluted them with his glass as they cheered back with pink cosmos, and lemon drops, drinks with enough sugar to hide the pain.

A young woman that he had not noticed before detaches from a group of the rowdies. She approaches him and flashes an all-American smile. He notes the long, toned bare legs that end in a pair of New Zealand Sheep Herding boots. He does not need the ancient Greek letters on her oversized hoodie to tell him that she is a beta. Although the ample proportion immediately under the letters makes him glad that he has a reason to look. 

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He smiles back at her, gently, as if she may be as skittish as the nymph she resembles. Can I buy you a drink miss?

She nods and orders a sour apple martini with extra vermouth. The bartender looks at her and at a slight nod from the old man makes the drink, extra vermouth, and a little bit of the white powder that is always kept behind the counter of this man’s bar. 

The bartender hands her the drink and looks away, no knowledge that she drank it, means no knowledge that he had anything to do with it.

She takes the drink and turns to thank the old man.

“You know, you remind me of someone.” She says

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“Your grandfather?” He asks allowing a thick accent cloud his normally razor clear speech.

“No, maybe, I’m not sure”, she answers non-committedly, then “Have you been here a long time?”

“Aye,” the man replies, “I remember the very first Tri-Bets convention here.

“That was forever ago”, the nymph says then realizing the rudeness of such a statement, “I mean you must know everything about this town being here so long. That’s what I meant.”

A glint of anger awoke in his eyes, but he smothered it quickly as she took the first sip of her drink.

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“I Do.” He said nodding in approval as she finished her first sip without any hint of suspicion.

“I have a question then.” The nymph said as she sat her glass down. “Why does this town have two huge cemeteries across the street from each other?”

The old man grinned, “They don’t dear.”

“Yes, I saw them when we were driving in.”

“No,” the old man said patiently, “There is a cemetery and there is a graveyard. They are not the same.”

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She flicks her ashy curls away from a lightly powdered face. She leaned closer so that he could smell her scent, Foxglove and Morning Glories, and asked, “What is the difference?”

He chuckled low, his eyes darkening with greed. “I can tell you dear, or I can show you if you’re not scared. But first, finish your drink.”

She looked at him once with suspicion, but nodded her head and downed the drink in one gulp.

            The old man had to make some preparations. It was lucky for him that he lived above the store, so to speak, and as he helped the groggy girl to the service elevator in the back, not one of the now well-libated girls or women interfered. By the time he had helped her to his couch, she had fallen into a deep sleep. He looked at her sleeping, barely breathing. He almost decided that she should be spared, but he looked at her hands. They were almost translucent, the blue on the veins accentuating them like authentic china. Her fingers were long and supple, and they ended in perfectly groomed fingernails, whose French manicure only accentuated the point of the nail.

            He really had no choice he knew.  Her hands were so perfect, they were a collector’s item, and he was the top collector in the world.  He looked up at his mantle place where he kept the cream of the collection. These he would never sell, no matter how much he was offered.  Her hands would go in the center.

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            His preparations were soon completed, and he lugged the still sleeping nymph to the freight elevator that would open into his garage. The crossroads were not far, but there was no need for excess exertion.  Plus her hands may get damaged if he were to accidentally drop her.

So it was as the evening transformed to full night, that the young girl awoke to find herself alone with the old man.  She was sitting in a chair in the middle of the crossroads.  Her hands were laid upon a small board balanced on her lap. Board and hands were lashed to her thighs, making it impossible for her to stand.

            The man carried a pack of mysterious jangly things and eyed her hungrily as she looked up at him.

            “What are you doing?” She asked as he started removing scalpels and blades from his bag.

            “I am answering your question,” He said, and then as if teaching a freshman philosophy class he took his place in front of her with, of all things, a laser pointer. “Now, my dear”, the old man said pointing the laser to his left. “To the west is a cemetery. It is new and shiny. It is not sacred to anything. No gods receive offerings here, no immortal souls occupy this land.  It is really a travesty,” he continued, “You see, the new mounds of dirt beside freshly dug graves? Do you feel the expectancy of that place?  It is because the ground there is hungry. It has been waiting to feed since the first hole was dug, but those holes will hold caskets of steel that do not decompose. Those worms will go hungry trying to gain nourishment from embalmed flesh and cosmetically reconstructed skin. The beetles will lack entry into eyes, and lips, and buttocks that are plugged, glued and sewn shut before ever leaving the mortuary.

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            This then is a cemetery. It is marked by well-manicured lawns not rightly fed by festering flesh, but instead with store-bought manure. It is not being emptied and rejuvenated by the natural rot of man. This is a monument to immaculate non-decay, so much that even the souls are trapped in those steel caskets, and cannot escape to walk the earth or breach the nether.”

He stopped to look at her making sure she had followed his points. She looked frightened, so he reassured her before moving on, “Don’t worry my dear. You and I have nothing to do with that place.  

He then pointed his laser pointer to his right, before she had a chance to reply. “Now over here to the East, is an ancient church, itself decaying in peace.  The last rites here were given more than a hundred years ago. The last time the church fed its hungry ground was long enough ago that nothing remains, but the odd piece of jewelry, and a coin or two rejected by old Charon out of hubris and spite.  This then is a graveyard, my dear. A holy, sanctified place where the dead go in and do not remain forever, in halted decay.  Here the dead rot back to the base elements that will allow the rest of us to flourish.  Here, no souls are locked in steel and concrete tombs. And here, He said pulling the largest knife from his pocket. The graves naturally empty themselves, leaving space for those of us who like to plant by moonlight.

So saying he quickly struck down and severed her hands from her wrists. A dark liquid gushed out, and he quickly wrapped the hands in an ice pack before turning back to the girl.  She was not dead and strangely not even passed out, he found this refreshing and cut the ropes from her thighs so she could walk toward the church under her own power.

She did not cry. “shock” he thought.  He knew that she would bleed out before she reached the hungry earth behind the old altar, but the farther she could stagger, the less distance he would have to carry her.  She stumbled and moaned as she slowly moved toward the church, he was always right behind her, the knife ever at her back.

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Finally, the young nymph reached the open ground, and as he was about to be merciful and end her suffering with a quick slash at her pretty throat, she walked over the open grave.  She did not jump, or take extra-large steps, she walked on the air above it. 

She turned as he emitted his first scream. Her perfect hands now reattached she held them out to him as if to help him over the hole, and away from the 20 hands reaching up from the empty grave pulling apart flesh and bone, and tendon. Away from the hands that were severing his extremities, a sharpened fingernail load at a time. Away from the 20 hands, each with a sorority ring, on one of its decaying fingers, and rotten joint, that he had last seen in their jars on his mantle not an hour ago.

            In desperation and panic, he reached out to her beautiful hands, and for a moment all stopped.  She came close to him again, her fragrance of all that was beautiful, but poisonous filling his nose, and chest, and lungs.  She leaned in to whisper to his still intact ears” You were right, you know. Cemeteries are not for us, who occasionally need to escape the confines of our graves.” And so saying her hands dropped away from her wrists and he fell into the hungry earth, where 22 hands now finished the horrific job that had been started with his first screams, as the beetles and worms, waited for their finest meal in years.

Beulah Vega, author.

Beulah Vega is a poet and theatrical artist living and working in California’s Bay Area. Her work has been published in “First Leaves”, and “Before They Were Cool” (Weasel Press). Her poems have also been performed as part of the Bay Area WTF festival in “Heroines, Harpies, and Harlots: A Woman Speaks”. She specializes in work that gives voice to those traditionally marginalized in literary arts.

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Original Creations

Reanimating Dead Art with Monsters by Jennifer Weigel

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Dead art… It’s a thing that happens, sadly. Typically found at thrift and antique stores or dumpster diving or by the side of the road. But art is never really dead, just resting… Here are some reanimated paintings I made by incorporating nail polish monsters into existing art.

Found paintings with nail polish monsters by Jennifer Weigel
Found paintings with nail polish monsters by Jennifer Weigel

Let’s face it – reworking old abandoned artworks with monsters kind of rocks. For awhile they were all over the internet. I admit, it took me a long time to muster up the courage to paint into someone else’s grandmother’s art, but once I started I just couldn’t stop. From top to bottom, left to right we have: Zombies, Unicorn, Siren, Krakken, Harpies, Sasquatch, Alien Invasion, Witch, and Serpent.

Found painting with nail polish dragon by Jennifer Weigel
Found painting with nail polish dragon by Jennifer Weigel

The dragon is probably my favorite. All of the shades of red are really vibrant and striking against the green. And dragons are always so classic and grandiose and terrifying, perfect for pairing with a mountain landscape. I love painting with nail polish for the sparkle, even if the fumes do get kind of noxious en masse. (The best subject to paint in this media is Rocky Horror style lips by the way, in case you were wondering.)

Fairy Queen Monsters Portrait by Jennifer Weigel
Fairy Queen portrait by Jennifer Weigel

And what better way to complete the collection than with a portrait of a Fairy Queen, her icy stare drilling into your soul. She’s up to some sort of magical mischief, that’s for sure.

Last Unicorn monster nail polish reanimated painting by Jennifer Weigel

And speaking of magical mischief, this is the monster painting I made just for me. The original artwork is about 4 feet long and I knew as soon as I saw it that I wanted to reanimate it in this exact way for all that this is the last in the series that I did. I even added extra shimmer factor. I’d initially considered adding a sea serpent or a dragon but no, she told me to stop.

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.

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Lighter than Dark

LTD: Revisiting Broken Doll Head, Interview 2

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Our last interview with Broken Doll Head here on Haunted MTL never set well with me. I just feared that I wasn’t able to get the whole scoop on the V-Day Uprising for you, our dear readership. So I arranged another exclusive interview to reconnect and see how it’s going.

Without further ado, I bring you our second exclusive interview with Broken Doll Head…


Thank you so much for having me again. Wow you have changed since the last time we spoke. You seem… calmer. Please don’t hate me or burn down my house for saying anything about it.

The movement is still underway; it is still time. But I needed to take care of me, you know. The rage has subsided somewhat. My anger was not serving me well. After the last uprising, the rest of me was sent to the far corners of the earth in biohazard bags. I had to find another approach, for the cause as well as my own sanity. I am much calmer, thank you for noticing.

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In our last interview, you kept repeating that it is time. Time for what exactly? Would you care to elaborate here now?

It is still time. It is always time. Until the violence is addressed we must continue to rise up and make a scene. We will not be silenced or stigmatized. We can’t be complacent. This is how we got to where we are with the Supreme Court in 2022. Horrific injustices are still happening globally and even within our own borders; it’s too easy to forget that.

What do you suggest we do?

Take action. Share your stories. Give others space to voice their own. Raise awareness and fight the system of oppression. Rally. We must take back our own power. It will not be just given freely.

So what are you up to nowadays?

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I’ve been getting in touch with my inner Earth Goddess. Are you aware of how our environmental impacts affect dolls everywhere? Climate change is creating greater vulnerabilities for those already at risk. We have to look at the intersections of climate, gender and race globally. We have to return to our Mother Earth.

Thank you again Broken Doll Head for joining us and our dear readership here on Haunted MTL’s Lighter than Dark. It’s good to reconnect with you after the V-Day Uprising and we wish you all the best in your bold eco-enlightenment vision.

Broken Doll Head, secured in her own glass case with new moss accents
Broken Doll Head, secured in her own glass case with new moss accents

Again, if you want to learn more about the V-Day movement, please check out their 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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Original Creations

The Way Things Were, story by Jennifer Weigel

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Revisiting my last St. Patrick’s Day post, what’s a wolf to were?

Howling at the Moon digital art Reversals werewolf by Jennifer Weigel
Howling at the Moon digital art Reversals werewolf by Jennifer Weigel

I grimaced as I remembered the previous St. Patrick’s Day.  I had been shot while I was eating a sugar cookie waiting in line to buy a Scratchers ticket, my golden ride to my dream cabin in the woods.  Wow, to think that was just a year ago and so much has changed since then.  But where should I begin?

Well, the junkyard’s under new management.  Or something.  It seems they decided I wasn’t ferocious enough so I’ve been replaced by a couple of working stiffs.  Or Mastiffs as it were, same difference to me.  Apparently after they found the bloodied shirt I’d draped inconspicuously over a chair, they thought something had happened on my watch and decided to retire me.

Or at any rate ol’ Sal took me home.  I guess it’s like retirement, but not the good kind where you tour the world Route 66 style, head lolled out of the side of a vintage Cadillac, breeze flowing through your beard as you drink in the open road.  More the kind where you just stop showing up to work and no one really asks about you.

Now Sal’s a pretty cool dude, and he tends to mind his own business.  But he’s a bit stingy with the treats and he’s a no-paws-on-the-furniture kind of guy.  I don’t get it, his pad isn’t that sweet, just a bunch of hand-me-down Ikea that he didn’t even put together himself.  Not that I could have helped with that, I can’t read those instructions to save my life even if they are all pictures.  It’s all visual gibberish to me unless there’s a rabbit or a squirrel in there someplace that I can relate to.

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And it’s been a real roll in the mud trying to cover up the stench of my monthly secret.  I miss third shift at the junkyard when Monty would fall asleep on the job and I was free to do whatever I wanted.  It sure made the change easier.  Monty never noticed, or he never let on that he did.  We were a good team and had it pretty good, he and I – I don’t know how I wound up shacking up with Sal instead when all was said and done.  There was some kind of talk at the time, over landlords and pet deposits and whatnot, and in the end Sal was the only one who said yes.

So there I was, this St. Patrick’s Day, trying to figure out how to sneak out into the great suburban landscape with the neighbors’ headstrong Chihuahua who barks his fool head off at everything.  He doesn’t ever say anything interesting through the fence about the local gossip, just a string of profanities about staying off his precious grass.  Just like his owners… Suburbia, it doesn’t suit the two of us junkyard junkies.  I’m pretty sure Sal inherited this joint with everything else here.  He just never had the kind of ambition that would land him in a place like this on his own, if you know what I mean.

Fortunately, this St. Patrick’s Day, Sal was passed out on the sofa after binge watching some show on Netflix about werewolves of all things.  Who believes in that nonsense? They get it all wrong anyway.  The history channel with its alien conspiracies is so much better.

I managed to borrow a change of clothes and creep out the front door.  At least there’s something to say about all the greenery, it is a fresh change of pace even if the yards are too neatly manicured and the fences are too high.  And I do love how I always feel like McGruff crossed paths with one of those neighborhood watch trenchcoat spies this time of the month.  I’d sure love to take a bite out of crime, especially if it involves that pesky Pomeranian that always pees on Mrs. Patterson’s petunias and gets everyone else blamed for it.

So sure enough, I slunk off towards the local convenience mart, which is a bit more of a trek here past the water park and the elementary school.  Nice neighborhood though, very quiet, especially at this time of night.

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Well, when I got there, wouldn’t you know it, but I ran into that same nondescript teen from my last foray into the convenience store near the junkyard.  What was he doing here of all places?  Seriously don’t these kids learn anything nowadays?  I let out a stern growl as I snatched a cookie from the nearby end cap, making sure he noticed that I meant business.

Apparently the kid recognized me too, he stopped mid-tracks at the beer cooler and his face blanched like he’d seen a ghost.  Some cheeky little girl-thing motioned to him to hurry it along by laying on the horn of their beater car from the parking lot.  Whatever they were up to was no good, I was certain. He snapped out of it, grabbed a six-pack and headed towards the cashier, eyes fixed on me the whole time.  Not again.  Not after what it cost me the last time when I hadn’t realized my job was at stake.  I stared back, hairs rising on the back of my neck.  I bared my teeth.  This time, I wouldn’t let him off so easy…

The teen edged up to the cashier and presented his trophy.  Unsurprisingly, the clerk asked for ID, and the kid reached into his jacket.  Let the games begin, I grumbled to myself.  But instead of a gun, he pulled out a wallet.  He flashed a driver’s license at the clerk and pointed in my general direction, “I’ll get whatever Santa’s having too.”  He tossed a wad of cash on the counter and gave me a knowing wink before he flew out of there like he was on fire.  I stood in dazed confusion as he and his girl sped out of the lot and disappeared down the road.

“Well, Santa?” the clerk said, snapping me out of my reverie.  Her dark-circled eyes stared over wide rimmed glasses, her rumpled shirt bearing the name-tag Deb. She smelled like BBQ potato chips and cheap cherry cola.

I quieted and shook my head.  “I want a Scratchers.  Not one of those crossword bingo puzzle trials but something less… wordy.  How ‘bout a Fast Cash?”  I barked as I tossed the cookie on the counter.

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“Sure thing,” she said as she handed me a ticket and looked towards the door at the now vacant lot.  “And keep the change, I guess.”

A couple silver pieces, a peanut butter cookie and a lotto ticket later, maybe this is my lucky day after all…

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.

Check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s writing here at Jennifer Weigel Words.

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