“Truly A Monster” by Rachel Cubbage
Yikes! That fire spell missed your head by no less than an inch. You knew you shouldn’t have snuck into this witch’s house, but your friend was in there. However, you knew you couldn’t leave him behind to go get help, so you decided to do this by yourself and rescue him, even if your friend was an idiot.
“How did we ever get into this situation?” you thought as you dashed behind a wall just barely missing another fireball that hit the wall in front of you.
Scenes flashed into your mind as you began to see where it all started when you and Mark walked by a shoddy, broken up house or so it seemed from far away. Mark dared you to go investigate the house. You were someone who could never pass up a dare, so off you went to the front door of the horrible, disgusting house. As you opened the rotten wood door, it fell off its hinges and landed with a crash. Mark yelled to see if you were okay, but when there was no response, he went into the house after you. “At least, he was trying to be somewhat heroic,” you thought to yourself.
Meanwhile, you decided you were going to scare him by standing behind the wall beside the doorway that was hidden enough from the outside that you couldn’t be seen. Five… ten… fifteen minutes went by and he hadn’t shown up to the door you were at. “That’s odd,” you said aloud briefly as you poked head out of the doorway to look for him. Before in your nook, you could see him from where he was waiting for you, but now, he wasn’t anywhere to be seen.
All of a sudden, the old run-down house you were in transformed into a colossal mansion with three floors and at least twenty rooms on each floor with twice as many windows. Then you heard a horrid, screechy voice that seemed like it was getting closer to you say, “Look at what we have here, sisters! Some poor lost boy decided to come in and have a look at our lovely house. Hmm, shall we show him around our beautiful creation, sisters?”
Then you heard loud footstep noises that sounded like they were going downstairs dragging an unwilling captive thrashing at every single step further and further down into the abyss of the basement. You looked around you for somewhere a stairway could be, but unfortunately, you couldn’t see any stairwells around you. This meant that you have to now move from where you were well hidden to deeper inside the not-so-disgusting looking house to search for Mark and, hopefully, not run into those horrid, female sounding beings.
A door slammed shut close by you and out stepped this beautiful woman who had a crooked grin across her face as it seemed to peer right at you. “This isn’t right, as there is no way this woman sounded like that voice did,” you thought to yourself, but what you couldn’t help prevent was the gasp that escaped from your lips. Thankfully, the woman was too distracted by Mark, or you at least hoped it was Mark, to notice your gasp.
You glanced up at the woman as slowly it turned into this awful looking creature with skin full of blemishes and a long pointy nose. This confirmed one thing that unfortunately for you: you were in the presence of the worst kind of witches in the world. This creature wasn’t those like witch costumes at Halloween that wore a pointy black hat while riding a broomstick across the sky, but these were truly the worst type of witches as they craved for human flesh to consume and were able to perform the most powerful black magic that truly held limits to it. These witches had no name beside The Witches of No Return because no one had ever lived to tell about them before. Everyone knew the tales of these witches as they claimed many lives each year. You can vividly remember several recent reports of individuals who disappeared for days on end until they were discovered months later as bare bones with not a single piece of tissue left on it and bite marks carved directly into it. People always claimed that witches caused these disappearances, but no one knew for sure, so everyone began referring to them as The Witches of No Return.
“Mark, why did you have to dare me to investigate this house?” you accidentally mumbled just a little too loud. Just then the witch heard her and immediately turned toward you. As soon as your eyes met, you knew that you would soon join Mark wherever he was.
“Ahh another one?! Wow, sisters aren’t we so lucky today. We can have twice the fun now as we consume your flesh while your male companion watches as you squirm in agony!” she crackled.
In a flash, two other sisters appeared beside the ringleader you just met. Now was the moment that you realized you are completely screwed as you have no back-up, no hope of escaping, and no weapons. This was the moment that your mind returned you to as the ringleader cast a fireball right at your head.
You have two options now. You can escape through the door that you entered originally, or you can go try to find the basement deeper in the house.
Option 1: Escape Through the Door
As much as you care for Mark, you care for your own life more than him. “It was his fault that you got into this whole mess, so if you leave, then won’t affect you if he dies in this house, right?” your mind tried to reason with your guilt of leaving him behind. You decided that the option to escape through the door was much more important than saving Mark because all he has ever done was to get you into trouble.
It truly wasn’t your fault that Mark came into the house, right?
It was too late for him now.
It is too late for you as well because as your mind let you disregard the danger you were in by attempting to reason with yourself to leave him behind, the ringleader released another larger fireball that there was no possibility of dodging. As soon as you saw the fireball fly from the witch’s hand, your mind snapped yourself back to the present moment rather than your subconscious. You can feel the heat of the fireball as it grows closer to your face. Instead of rescuing your friend, you are left to sizzle, to cook, and to burn inside your own skin that you can barely even feel anymore. It doesn’t matter anymore because you were a selfish monster who deserved to die if you didn’t even want to rescue your friend who was captured because of your childish prank that failed miserably.
You have died due to a fireball to your face and whole body. Congratulations for being a monster. You thought that you could escape being a monster yourself, but you imagined this entire circumstance up. It was you who was holding the burning knife that melted Mark’s face to appear like The Witches you had heard about. He considered you a friend and thought nothing of how you invited him into your house despite it looking rickety and destroyed. You killed him with your bare hands and blamed it on The Witches, but truly it was you who was the monster.
The police showed you the video of the awful things you did to Mark as he screamed at you to stop and told you multiple times that he thought YOU were his friend. The police informed you that his name wasn’t even Mark. It wasn’t even a him either. It was a she. She was Samantha. You turned a blind eye to her screams and imagined it was just some monster that killed her, but it was you the entire time. You even had the audacity to record yourself doing everything to her and set it loose on the internet to run free throughout every single continent of the world.
Option 2: Find Mark Deeper in the House
Knowing how much Mark means to you, you decide brave forward into the house in hopes of losing the witches. You take one last look at the door you could have left through before turning in the opposite direction which leads you deeper into the house. You could still hear the footsteps of multiple beings following close behind you, so you kept going farther down the hallway. The hallway you run down seems like it is repeating itself every few doors you pass. At first, your mind doesn’t process it as the noises seem to be gaining on you like they could reach you at any second, but considering how large this house is, you know you shouldn’t be able to see repeating objects like a vase of flowers on a small, normal table. However, on the fourth time you keep passing the vase filled with flowers, you notice the flowers aren’t flowers at all, but each one is a carved skull intricately designed to form complex petals. You could have sworn those were flowers the first time you had seen them.
As you continue through the house, you begin to notice small inconsistencies like carpet where the ceiling should be, a familiar lamp you own, and even a pet you owned as a child. You found it weird, but seeing as the witches were right behind you, you didn’t have too much time to really concentrate on those discrepancies right now. The thudding steps behind you that you could have sworn you had been hearing suddenly vanished as if they had never been there at all.
Then you heard it. A scream. A single scream that pierced complete silence. A scream that could only belong to your friend, Mark. That’s when the lights around you flashed bright white for what felt like forever before it dimmed so dark that you could barely see your hands in front of you. You covered your eyes with your hands to prevent the bright lights from blinding you, but now you could only feel was liquid drizzling down your face. As your hands moved down to where the mysterious liquid was flowing, you begin to see one single color. The color was a deep crimson red, but as soon as you saw it, the lights turned back on and everything seemed to be back to normal.
A thought began to form, but it stopped halfway through as if you truly didn’t belong where you were. An object behind you shattered as if it had been deliberately used to distract you from any thought you could form. You know what you saw before, yet your mind can’t quite place what it would be. This color was familiar to you, yet you can’t even begin to think of how.
You looked behind you where the noise came from, but you saw nothing. No hallway with the lamp you thought you had seen before. No flower vase on the simple table. No witches following behind you. You saw nothing at all except small cracks if you squinted to see farther in the white abyss.
When you looked forward, you could see one door open in the distance from the hallway you knew you were in. The hallway contained several doors, a dark table with a vase full of flowers, and something at the very end of it which was forming in front of you. As soon as you blinked, the hallway contained a single door at the end with “Help me” on it written in a crimson liquid which had multiple drips coming from each letter. You heard another scream. This time it lingered in the air but slowly faded out into silence once again. You dashed towards the door at the end of the hall knowing that this had to be the door that would lead you to Mark.
This had to be it.
It had to be.
It must be, right?
You were going to open it and take it wherever it leads you, even if there was a small chance Mark would be at the bottom of it. You were going to save him. You had to because you would never want to hurt a friend.
As soon as you grasped the doorknob preparing to open it wide, you realized what you had done. Your eyes flashed open within a second as you tried to take in everything that had happened. You stood there wringing someone’s neck with your hands as they tried to call out to you. Their last words to you were, “Stop. Please. Help. Me.” Each word came at a cost of a breath that they said to save themselves, yet instead you grasped harder until you could feel their warm blood turn cold.
You looked as the person whose throat you held slowly opens as they release their last dying breath. You thought you were rescuing someone yet instead you took the life of someone you held close to you. Mark wasn’t even her real name. She was your friend who came to you for help, and yet here you are with her dead in your arms.
Why would you kill someone you loved?
Did they deserve this death caused by you?
Why would a monster like you do something like this?
With more questions rising and populating your thoughts, you take one last look at your hands and feel appalled with what you had done. You can’t even bare to look at them anymore as you slowly fade out of the real world and go back into your subconscious fantasy of you rescuing Mark from monsters you created. You were going to be the hero who was incapable of injuring another human being you care for, or at least that’s what your mind decided as the world around you faded out into nothingness.
Rachel Cubbage comes from a small town in Stanley, Virginia. Rachel graduated from her high school after she graduated from Lord Fairfax Community College with an Associate’s Degree specialized in English. She is currently going to Bridgewater College with a double major in Professional Writing and Computer Science. She has always been interested in writing Fantasy, Fiction, and Horror.
Into the Deep Woods 1, an October AI journey with Jennifer Weigel
I am embarking on an AI journey using NightCafe to illustrate this graphic story based on a dream I had awhile back. I am also using Canva, so here’s to learning more online systems of image dissemination and propagandizing…
I will include some of the original AI generated images with each piece along with a bit of the dream that inspired it. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.
Artwork description: Overall layout: Lightning strike through the corner into obscure clouds and map-like graphic in gray tones sets the mood for Into the Deep Woods.
Part 1, Art: AI generated image of a girl with reddish hair dressed in a robe of some sort and holding a staff. A similar girl in soldier garb fades behind her. Edited in PhotoShop.
Part 1, Text: 1.) Two sisters entered the woods, one a soldier and the other a witch. Only one lived. 2.) The young witch had picked up a bit of magic as she and her sister fled into the deep woods to seek the old witch… They were tired and alone, this was their one and only chance… 3.) The war raged on all around as the Nazis drew closer…
Prompt (Horror): Portrait of soldier girl sister
Prompt (Horror): Portrait of witch girl sister (Evolved from soldier girl)
Prompt (Horror): Soldier girl sister hit by lightning (Evolved from soldier girl)
As mentioned this series is based on a dream that I had awhile back. The two girls first enter the woods to escape the Nazis. In my dream there were initially more soldiers with them who perish due to the war or hazards in the woods. It wasn’t unlike Pan’s Labyrinth but on a much smaller and more intimate scale.
It had been awhile between having the dream and creating this story to share with you. And I quickly learned that the term “Nazi” is prohibited by the AI art generator interface. So there are some changes that have been made, but hopefully you can still follow along. The time and place are not as relevant to the overall anyway.
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…