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“The Farm” by Lizz Shepherd

Just after dusk was the best time to feed the livestock. The sun had just faded and the air was cool, comfortable and safe for us to do the farm chores.

            I worried when we first started the farm that we weren’t treating the livestock well, that they’d be happier in their natural environment, maybe rolling hills or barns or something instead of a huge industrial building full of short stalls. But then Kobi pointed out that we weren’t a factory farm, and livestock really fared badly in those. At our farm, we took good care of them and only had one level of stalls. That meant no overcrowding, no waste falling from above onto the livestock below. They could live out their lives just fine until they were eaten.

            I grabbed a couple of large, heavy pails of food. Kobi met me at the entrance to the complex to do the watering and straw. We both had keys, but he usually beat me to the unlocking process. Four locks kept them safely inside and kept us confident they couldn’t break out.

            “Hi, Timmy!” I said, and waved to the littlest one. It was a half-grown male with dark hair and a tiny mouth.

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            “I told you not to name them. We’ve all told you not to name them,” Kobi said gruffly.

            “I don’t see any reason not to,” I said, dolling out the vegetables and cooked meats. Anyone else walking into the barn and smelling the smell of human waste in the straw and the aroma of cooked foods wafting up from the buckets might have gotten sick. When the farm was new, it took me a week to stop gagging every time I walked into the building, but I was used to it now. I was a real farmer. Farmers don’t get sick. They may not all name the animals, but then not all farmers had human livestock that could talk and laugh. Some farmers had the type that only oinked or brayed.

            Timmy gave a little wave back. I slipped a little extra of the cooked meats through the bars and into his bowl and gave him a smile. He jumped on the food and ate every bit of it before I’d even finished feeding the next stall over.

            “Don’t worry, Timmy, you’ll get more later. Knox never fails you. He’ll be back with your lunch,” I told him. Timmy nodded and sat by the bars, watching me. Most of the other humans hung as far back from the bars as they could, not moving toward their food until I was well away from their stalls.

            I turned back around and caught Kobi shaking his head at me.

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            “You do your job your way, I’ll do mine,” I said to him for what seemed like the millionth time, but it was probably only the 1,000th time. We’d been doing this shift together for years, but he still thought he could tell me how to do it.

            I still had plenty of food in my pail when I came to another favorite of mine. I’d named her Daphne after an old cartoon I’d seen from decades ago when humans made their own cartoons and movies. She was tall and had red hair, and she always answered to the name. She stood right next to the bars when I arrived, so I knew what she wanted. I was fine with obliging. She held her arm out across the bars so that I could see it perfectly, lit up by the bright lights we had in the center of the building. The arm was pale and smooth, and it looked soft.

            I touched her arm, rubbing it through the bars for a moment before I held it in both hands and bit it in between them. The blood was warm and salty, the perfect

taste before the human’s first food had been served. It still tasted like desperation and was thickened due to her having so little water during the day. It was always that first taste that made my night, an energy boost that would get me through my shift on the farm.

            I gave her some extra cooked meats when I was finished with my drink. Daphne descended on her food with the same enthusiasm that Timmy had earlier. Awww, I always thought. They like their food so much.

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            Through a door and down another hallway was my least favorite of the livestock. None of these humans would give me a drink.

            Kobi followed me in, and we looked around. None of them were near the bars. That was a good sign. Kobi shot me a look that I knew meant to watch myself. I nodded at him. I wasn’t worried.

            “Hey John John,” I said to a particularly large male as I placed his food in his bowl. “Everything’s ok. Here’s your food. That’s a good boy,” I said, keeping my eye on him as I fed him.

            “Girl, I know you didn’t name these in here,” Kobi said, rolling his eyes. I smiled. Yeah, maybe I gave a lot of them names. It just made the hard work of doing my rounds more fun.

            The next stall was a tricky one. The male in it was strong and ferocious, and he had a history of grabbing for us when we fed him. I fed him without speaking, watching him the whole time.

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            Knox and the rest of the midnight crew called this hallway death row after the jails humans used to have for each other. It wasn’t a name I used in front of them, but it was a true one. We usually did kill these first.

            A rattle, screech and bang grabbed my attention and I turned to where Kobi was doling out water and hay.

            “Anne! We have a squealer!”

            I put my bucket down and ran to join him in front of a human who had rarely caused problems. But when he did…

“Stop it!” I growled through the bars and looked at the rest of the livestock. “Stop it now!” I said louder.

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            The full-grown male was banging on the bars and yelling. He’d taken some of his soiled hay and thrown it at Kobi.

            “Shut the hell up or I’m coming in,” Kobi said in a low voice, doing that posturing thing men did when they wanted to look bigger. The male kept yelling, kept banging. He picked up his water bowl and smashed it into the wall again and again. Kobi shot me a look as I watched the other stalls. He stood directly in front of the lock and nodded to me. I got into position- knees loose, arms up, eyes hard on the screeching male.

            Kobi unlocked the three locks on the stall and threw the door open before the human even knew he’d started. Kobi grabbed the male and threw him to the ground and I stood in the doorway. Kobi easily overpowered him, holding him down in the hay of his stall and keeping the male’s arms from flailing. But with Kobi’s arms holding the male’s arms down, he couldn’t stop him from screaming. I stepped in and put a hand over his mouth to stop the noise. The two of us kept him quiet and immobilized for a few minutes before Kobi started to ease up to see the reaction. The male immediately started flailing against him.

            “That’s it,” Kobi said and looked at me. I nodded. Faster than the human could see, I bit into one side of the male’s neck and Kobi bit into the other. We drank until the flailing stopped and then we both sat up and looked at him to see if he’d survive. Kobi took his pulse.

            “Nope,” he said. I shrugged and we both leaned over the male again and drank until the blood went cold. It was a fine meal, full of anger and desperation and just a hint of insanity. And we got him before he ate or drank for the night. I sat back and licked my lips, wanting to savor it for a few moments.

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            We sat still, listening.

            “He didn’t get the others riled up. We got him just in time,” Kobi said. I nodded, not willing to move yet.                                                                                         

“I think the only meal better than that is one that’s mixed just a little with the human’s tears. Have you ever had that?” I asked Kobi.

“A couple of times,” he said, nodding. “It’s tough to get them to cry just the right way, but when they do…” Kobi said, shaking his head with a smile. He sat as still as I was, licking the last smears of blood from his fangs. We were content to simply savor the farming life for a moment. Fresh food, autonomy and a sense of satisfaction. It was a good day on the farm.

This author has not provided a photo.

Lizz Shepherd is a freelance writer living in Alabama.

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AI Journey: Little Red Riding Hood, Part 2

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Continuing our AI journey from last time exploring Little Red Riding Hood herself as the Big Bad Wolf… All of these are based upon the AI generated art and prompts using NightCafe and then created as posters in Canva.

Little Red Riding Hood as a wolf, Sinister style, Aug. 1, 2023
Sinister style, Aug. 1, 2023

How very… Phantom of the Opera predatory… this is definitely not what I had in mind. Maybe something more cutesy?

Little Red Riding Hood woman with wolf head instead of her own, Anime V2 style, Aug. 1, 2023
Anime V2 style, Aug. 1, 2023

Ugh. Maybe not.

Wolf face peering out of red hooded cape, Sinister style, Aug. 1, 2023
Sinister style, Aug. 1, 2023

Wow, that seems like such a cop out, cropping off the head so you don’t have to depict it. And I don’t want to lose the Little Red Riding Hood reference completely.

Wolf in sheep's clothing as Little Red Riding Hood, Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023
Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023

So no surprise there, I knew that was too many references to work.

And we continued to devolve, join us again next week for the final installment to see how this ended… And again, if you want to catch the last AI art journey, you can find it on Haunted MTL here.  To see more such devolutions into AI generated art, check out the Will the Real Jennifer Weigel Please Stand Up? blog.

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AI Journey: Little Red Riding Hood, Part 1

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And as promised in Big Bad Poetry, we shall embark on our next AI journey, this time looking at Little Red Riding Hood. I had wanted to depict her as the Big Bad Wolf one and the same, although maybe not so big nor bad. But it just wasn’t happening quite as planned. All of these are based upon the AI generated art and prompts using NightCafe and then created as posters in Canva.

Little Red Riding Hood beautiful woman with red cape hiding her wolf face.  Sinister style, July 29, 2023
Sinister style, July 29, 2023

So I actually like this even better than my original vision, it is playful and even a bit serene (especially given the Sinister style). The wolf is just being a wolf. It’s quite lovely, really. But it wasn’t what I had in mind, so I revisited the idea later to see if I could get that result…

Little Red Riding Hood with wolf face, Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023
Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023

Well, that’s not quite right…

Wolf face Little Red Riding Hood, Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023
Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023

Yeah more of the same…

What part of wolf face don't you understand?, Hyperreal style, Aug. 1, 2023
Hyperreal style, Aug. 1, 2023

And as you can see this is starting to devolve quickly. Join us again next week to see how this continued to develop… And if you want to catch the last AI art journey, you can find it on Haunted MTL here. To see more such devolutions into AI generated art, check out the Will the Real Jennifer Weigel Please Stand Up? blog.

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Big Bad poetry by Jennifer Weigel

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So considering my recent revival of a wolfwere and his Lucky Days and Nightmarish Nature’s hostile humanity, it seems we are due for a visit from Little Red Riding Hood, or perhaps even Big Bad himself… Here’s a poem on the subject by Jennifer Weigel.


Over the river and through the wood
flashed the fleet-footed Red Riding Hood
on her way to her “grandmother’s” house.

When running past, who should she see
but just one of the little pigs three
cowering like but a tiny mouse.

“But my dear piggy, what do you fear?”
Red Riding Hood asked as she slunk near,
teeth hidden under a sheepish smile.

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The nervous small pig looked up in fright
and decided that Red was alright,
missing the subtle clues by a mile.

“The Big Bad Wolf, that horrible beast
upon the other wee pigs did feast!”
the last little pig said with a squeal.

Red Riding Hood laughed with a great growl
and threw back her heavy long-robed cowl,
in a vast terrifying reveal.

For she was really the wolf Big Bad
hidden beneath the cape that he had
stolen from Red Riding Hood at point.

“And now I’ve caught you too my pretty
and surely t’wouldn’t be a pity
if I gobbled you up in this joint.”

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T’was then the wee pig leapt to his feet
And cried, “Big Bad Wolf, I shall defeat,
for I am no ordinary swine!”

The little pig also wore sheep’s clothes
spun in spells every woodland witch knows;
Old Granny herself was quite divine.

“Now give me back my granddaughter’s cape,
before I grab you by your ruffed nape
and send you pig-squealing down the road…”

The wolf dropped the cape and ran, that cur,
but Granny was swifter and hexed his fur
and the wolf she turned into a toad.

Thus the moral of this story goes,
when in the woods, no one really knows
what sheepish sheep’s clothing is a ruse
that big bad wolves and old witches use.

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So this is actually an intro to my next AI art journey with NightCafe which developed from me not getting the results I wanted (Little Red Riding Hood herself as a wolf). Here’s a preview with Eric’s versions as he is much more literal in his prompting than I am, but where’s the fun in that? 😉

Prompts (from left to right) in Dark Fantasy style, executed Aug. 1, 2023:

Bipedal wolf in Red Riding Hood’s cloak

Bipedal wolf in Red Riding Hood’s cloak close up portrait

Bipedal wolf in red cloak close up portrait

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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