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“Victim #2: The Dickhead” by J.M. Brannyk

Morgana woke up first and already showered, smelling like soap and desperation, when she roughly shook me awake. In the darkness, the flecks of green in her eyes reflected back my own sweaty, terrified face. I blinked and tried to gather where I was and what was going on.

“We need to go soon,” she whispered, even though we were the only ones in her room, “Can you survive without a shower?”

I cracked my bones back into order and sat up slowly like an old man in the morning who had forgotten what he was supposed to do that day. It was feelings that trickled back instead of thoughts. I had a vague sense of urgency and horror that stuck in my dry throat. The urgency became stronger as she helped lift me to my feet and murmured, “Alex, go get your EMT bag. Hurry, please!”

As I stumbled to my room, I felt guilt and more exhaustion. Anger swooped in, but never landed, just circled above me. Each step made me more tired. I pushed things around for my bag before finding it on the kitchen counter. I shed my clothes and put on new ones that weren’t exactly clean, but didn’t smell like a few people had died in them, including me.

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When I stumbled back into her room, she pulled me out and dragged me with her.

“We have to go now,” she hissed and her hand clutching my wrist was so tight, I knew that each finger was busy bruising my wrist. I didn’t argue since I was just trying to keep up mentally and physically. My feet were flying out in a flurry just to keep up, like a little kid being pulled and stumbling over his shoelaces and his own stupid feet. The huge bag on my back encouraged gravity and my own awkwardness to crash into the cement. The only things keeping me up were my sleepy determination not to break my face on the ground and Morgana’s insistence that I keep following her.

Morgana led us to some sketchy areas. I tried to be as quiet as possible, but my lungs cried for air and my muscles cried for a comfortable chair and to never be moved again. Nothing eased or soothed the aching, even the wind was nearly rejected by my lungs. Graciously, she propped me up on a wall and said quickly, “Stay here. Just play along.”

She spoke so fast, my brain finally caught up when she went into the slimy mouth of a bar. I rested against the muddy brick wall, closing my eyes and hoping that my bag wouldn’t get mugged from me. The cruel combination of standing and the cold air woke me up. As soon as my mind began to defog, I realized what we were doing and my hands started to shake. I sloppily kicked against the wall to expend some nervous energy. 

At any moment, she would have a bloody stump that used to be a person that, in some magic way, I needed to make back into some semblance of a human.

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When she walked out with a living human with all his parts and pieces, I overclocked my anxiety. This wasn’t in my head plan. I didn’t think I had to see victim #2 as a person, especially a douchebag with his arm around her, like he owned her, marking his fucking territory, when I’m the one who was building her a goddamn van and came out in the middle of the night to save his ass. The least he should have done was show me some damn respect. I was fuming.

“Is that him?” The asshole scoffed and he was the kind that had the gelled hair, white teeth, unstained shirt, and matching pants. A hypocrite and worse, a bully. His large brown eyes sized me up in a second and any pride or respect that I may have had in his mind was instantly deleted, and all that was left was the impression of something softer than a fart and less noticeable.

I didn’t even feel like saving this prick.

“Yeah,” she smiled to me in a very forceful, very play-along way, “That’s my boyfriend.”

“No wonder he wants to watch someone fuck you,” he laughed and she playfully punched him.

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“Hey, he’s a great guy–“

“Just not enough to satisfy you, huh?” He flirted in front of my fucking eyes.

I have been insulted before. I probably have an honorary degree in it at some college. I have had my girlfriends stolen before (usually by my oldest brother) and I’ve dealt with it. But to be put in an awkward position by my girlfriend to where I’m belittled to my face, under the pretext that I was going to watch a smegma-sucking panty-gobbler bone her against a filthy wall while I stood in wonder and wished to be half the man that he was — yeah, that’s a fucking no.

But I didn’t leave because, bottom-line, I’m a pussy and even more so, I’m passive-aggressive. There would be a time when I’d be angry, sullen, and sulky — where I could jab little barbs into her until I felt better about myself and she felt worse about herself and we could break even. I didn’t need to be like that asshole, I didn’t need to feel better than someone else, didn’t have to step on them to get my jollies. I just have to feel at the same level.

“Who said that you could satisfy me?” She teased and walked over to kiss me quickly, whispering in the cover of my lips, “Just do this. One time. I need it now.”

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I kissed her back, not possessively, because I knew what was coming, what was mine, and what the next day was going to bring. The angrier I became, the cooler I felt, until it was a very thin line of hatred directed his way as he started sucking on her face.

She played along, but she wasn’t toying or charming like she was when we were in bed and half-naked, with my lips almost smiling and her mouth floating closer to mine. There was a different kind of sexual energy between them, but, at the core, hers wasn’t sexual at all. It was frightening. I knew I was seeing her at her worst as she pushed him hard against the wall, hard enough to jar him.

“Woah, baby, be–“, he tried to laugh off what could have been a concussion, but her mouth latched onto his and refused to let go.

My stomach rolled over and my nausea grew as I watched her lips pull back and mark a messy trail from his face to his neck. The ruby lipstick smeared wildly across his skin in bloody little footprints. The closer she came to his neck, the faster my heart trembled, keeping a step in front of her mouth. My legs threatened to give under and I reached out to brace myself against the wall. The moment was getting so hot and close, my mouth filled with excitement, tingling against my gums and stiff jaw.

And then it happened. 

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I felt out of myself, like watching from the screen of my computer. His eyes grew wide and threatened to pop, his face flushed and the veins rose to the surface, clawing their way up. His mouth opened wide, but only short puffs of breath passed through. His hands tried to push her away, but she clung on. I couldn’t see her face, just the whites of her hands as she held him tighter by the back of his skull. 

He moaned quietly and his legs slowly bent. She kneeled with him and they landed softly on the ground. He moaned again and his large eyes were glassy and wet.

I couldn’t watch any more, but could still hear him wriggle against her and gasp out. I pulled out a freshly rolled cigarette that I had hidden in my jacket and lit it. God, I needed something that night to ground me and tell me it was going to be fine. It was either the forgiving arms of vodka or the jittery push of nicotine and the cigarette was all I had.

I listened to an empty can of beer roll away, pushed by the momentum of his spastic jerking. His breathing jutted painfully into the alley, becoming uneven, and promised to collapse the whole thing — each lobe of the lungs just caving in under each breath. Her mouth sounded busy and when he quieted down, I could hear the long suction smack of her lips sucking up his blood. I puffed away and soon, I was pulling out the last cigarette I had hidden, and thrusting it in my mouth. I moved it side-to-side with my tongue to distract myself. 

“I’m done,” she wetly announced, snapping her head away from his neck, and darted away from him. 

He hit the ground in a damp thump and didn’t move. There was a moment of tension between us as I looked to her smeared face and she painfully ripped her eyes away from the contact. Each sound was amplified in the alley and each step I took sounded like the drum solo of a very distracted and inexperienced drummer. As I rolled him over, each tap of her heels made my heart flinch briefly. His face was lifeless and with hesitation I started to work, opening my bag as quickly as the zipper could open its enormous mouth.

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As I dug my fingers into the guy’s neck, finding the artery between the slick meat of his shoulder, I began to feel sorrier for him. He was an asshole, but he was essentially innocent. He was gullible and his lust was his downfall, as it’s been mine so many times before. The more I fought to save something left of him, the more I felt like I should have been the one in his place, We were so different from each other – I had gone to bars often to make an ass of myself and maybe get laid by someone even more pathetic than me. When you’re drunk, you have more freedom to be the person you’re not. You have an excuse to be whoever the hell you want to be – whether that’s a cocky son-of-a-bitch in that guy’s case, someone more interesting and fun in my case, or someone who can control the world in my brother’s case. 

The alcohol was working against him physically. If he hadn’t had so much to drink, I wouldn’t have been sweating into the poor guy’s ripped-opened skin, hoping that he would stop bleeding.

Morgana was good – keeping her distance from me. I hardly knew she was there. I could concentrate without interruption of being asked how long it was going to take or to hurry because someone was coming. She calmly watched from a rare shadow by a dumpster. Finding a cove away from light, I heard her lean against the wall and inhale deeply.

“We need to call someone,” I said, finally pulling back and setting him against the wall.

“They would track us,” she murmured behind me.

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“Not if I jam the call,” I answered and threw her a rag to clean up with. It wasn’t pretty, still smelled like grease, but she used it as soon as she caught it.

“Will he be ok?”

“No, not if someone more…professional doesn’t come soon.”

“Oh,” she sighed out and even the one syllable broke into two under the weight and gravity of the mention of death. I wanted to hug her and say stupid things I couldn’t ever mean, but I wouldn’t mean them, so I didn’t do it. I didn’t want to give her false hope.

“Where do we call?” She asked.

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“I’ll call,” I told her and lifted the bag to her, “Take this and go home. I’ll be there later.”

“I want to do something,” she said, her teeth not quite biting her lip, but holding it, and I felt somehow better just watching that sign of restraint. “I don’t like just waiting around.”

“You’ve already done enough,” I told her and–no, no, I didn’t mean it like that at all. But as soon as I said it, she yanked the bag and walked away. 

I stood gaping at my own stupidity — she didn’t look back. She walked with purpose and pain.

And I was all alone to deal with the dying dickhead.

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J.M. Brannyk lives in constant duality, like a tossed coin, but is steadily adjusting to the movements. They study geology and other nihilistic interests. Surprisingly, there’s a romantic side that’s hard to kill.

J.M. Brannyk, author.

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Original Creations

Dirty Clean Sweep, a Short Story by Jennifer Weigel

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Wendell was a germophobe. His obsessions with cleanliness extended far beyond the reach of OCD and even hypochondria, because for all that he was totally infatuated with his own mortality and utterly convinced that he was sick, it was his peculiar obsession with germs that eventually drove him to an insanity that doomed the world to an unexpected and dire destruction. For Wendell was the reason for the Clean Sweep.

When the COVID pandemic happened, it only increased Wendell’s fear, and his germophobia worsened significantly. He started meticulously waxing all of the hair off of his body, even his eyebrows, and would shower several times per day, using an abrasive pumice to slough off any dead skin that might otherwise accumulate and attract mites. As his manners and habits surrounding cleanliness became more and more rigid and involved, he left his house less and less for any reason whatsoever. He began to treat his home environment like a hospital or chemical facility and reworked everything to minimize debris, personally installing air filtration systems that rivaled some of the most sterile industry environments and cleaning everything constantly (he had once worked in HVAC and now no longer trusted anyone else to be involved in his efforts).

He took advantage of all of the delivery services, with packages coming to his back porch once weekly. He had everything on video camera and would scream at anyone who didn’t follow his explicit instructions through a small speaker in the ceiling. If a delivery-person didn’t first sanitize their hands with the supplied wipes and then put on latex gloves and booties before turning the door handle to drop their package on the specified table, they were yelled at and reported, and a bad review was left for whatever service had sent them.

Dirty Clean hand sanitizer out and about
Dirty Clean…

Wendell only order packaged foods, simple soups and cereals that would not come in contact with the world outside of their factory packaged settings. He meticulously researched processing plants to determine what he could and could not consume according to his own standards of cleanliness. When a parcel was delivered, he would leave it where it sat for two to three days time depending on the weather, all the while monitoring it. He would eventually suit up in a tyvek jumpsuit, goggled and gloved, and brave the porch himself in order to extract his needed food and hygiene supplies. Whilst there, he would spray and wipe down the porch, replenish the hand sanitizing wipes and latex gloves, and take everything that might have come into contact with the outside world out with his trash. The cycle would then repeat again a few days later. Every delivery included yet more gear to perpetuate his clean infatuation. More latex gloves, more wipes, more sprays, more tyvek suits… And every time his labors increased…

While Wendell continued to go about his business, ordering life necessities like soap and soup online, a slow and subtle change to his environment began to take over. It wasn’t obvious and, as he never put any distance between himself and his bubble world, he was unaware of the shift. It began because of a spore, well more of an anti-spore like blossoming of suddenly self-aware sterilization. No one really knows where it came from, or how it managed to get such a strong foothold, but perhaps it was because of Wendell’s meticulous cleaning habits. For this strange and unusual being, or beings as it were (for it was hard to tell whether there was a single individual or a number of them all acting under one consciousness), though unaffected by cleaning reagents and the like, had once been highly susceptible to bacteria and rarely survived at length when competing for resources with other species previous to its evolution in Wendell’s abode. But the bereft home was the perfect outpost for it to thrive, and it finally managed to gain a foothold. It grew rapidly and had soon infiltrated most every corner.

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As mentioned, Wendell didn’t notice, or perhaps he welcomed the change. For this strange surface skimmer actually looked even cleaner than its surroundings, appearing as an even brighter less dingy white that almost seemed to glow. It embodied cleanliness, at least insofar as we have come to perceive the concept. And the more that it acclimated to its habitat, the more resilient it became, learning to alter its own surroundings to its gain by killing off any and all other life forms that stood in its way. When a small quantity of some bacteria or mite or other single-celled threat was introduced, say on a box surface or embedded in the cardboard, the newly evolved clean critter would attack and annihilate them almost as if it were itself composed of harsh cleansers like bleach and ammonia. It seemed to develop a memory for different organisms and found a way to destroy most everything. It steadily increased in size and became stronger and stronger.

Clean Dirty hand sanitizer out and about
Clean Dirty…

Finally, one day, it had grown large enough to determine that Wendell himself was a threat, for no matter how clean his environment or person was, he still harbored a myriad of organisms required to keep a human healthy and fully functioning. He was inherently dirty and had to be eliminated. And so the creature he had fostered at length, by providing a nearly sterile environment for its incubation, rose up and destroyed him. It did so while he was sleeping and so he had no awareness of what had happened; had he realized a blanket of seemingly sudsy foam was suffocating him he would have panicked thinking it was some sort of bacterial infection or the like. But he blissfully slept through his untimely death, and the aggressive new organism worked to dispel all of the unclean bits and detritus of his being.

After finally taking over the whole of the house, this new creature began to spread, much like a fungus or a rot, dismantling all in its path in order to leave a wake of clean sterile nothingness. Although it has been said that nature abhors a vacuum, somehow this void had become powerful enough to negate that and continued on its path of complete and utter destruction, leaving nothing living in its path. Before too long it had absorbed the two neighboring houses, and then the houses just beyond those, in a sort of reverse infection that defied logical explanation. The local health department and center for disease control were perplexed; these spaces seemed too clean to harbor such a deadly silent killer and yet something was slowly annihilating everything in its path on a microscopic level. It almost acted like a slow progressing chemical spill but yet there was no evidence of such either.

Before long, word had gotten out and samples had been taken and distributed across the globe. One of those samples was eventually leaked intentionally, as a weapon of mass destruction, and was unable to later be contained. The Clean Sweep was upon all and the world began to be disinfected wholly as it spread. Life was literally in the balance, slated to be eradicated and left to a sort of shiny surface devoid of substance. All was being cleansed, slowly but surely. What started with Wendell, whom would never be known or acknowledged as the source of this new terror, had grown to be much larger.

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.

If you enjoyed this tale, here is another creepy story about cleanliness. 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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Original Creations

More Nail Polish Paintings by Jennifer Weigel

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Well, seems I’m at it again, with more nail polish paintings into found thrift store art. Why so many flowers this time…? Well a friend sent them and I just couldn’t help myself. They are so perfect for creepy fairy paintings. And for those of you who think fairies aren’t scary, you haven’t read much about the fey now have you?

More Revisitations nail polish paintings by Jennifer Weigel
More Revisitations nail polish paintings by Jennifer Weigel

Top left: Blue Fairy, originally painted by M Wadorf

Top right: Pegasus, originally painted by Edie Babb

Bottom left: Unicorn, originally painted by R Lovelace (After I painted this I realized I missed the opportunity to do a troll with a bridge and so I hope to do another along those lines in the future.)

Bottom middle: Fairy, originally painted by SD Janz

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Bottom right: Dragon, original signed FZ, very sparkly with black-light sensitive eyes

And the most horrific of the bunch this time is this mermaid, who started as a weird bucket painting by Helen Miller… So, what’s in the bucket, Helen? Body parts? Fish? Plants not yet in bloom? I envisioned a trapped mermaid waiting to ensnare some unsuspecting land-goer, because no one would expect to find a mermaid there…

Mermaid in bucket, original by Helen Miller
Is this mermaid trapped in need of help or just trying to lure you close?

So I broke down and redid the unicorn to a troll. Apparently the troll was hungry… Anyway, here is the result. I am happier with it now.

Troll with toll bridge, original by R Lovelace
Hungry troll wants bridge tolls after eating innocent unicorn.

You can find more of my Revisitations art on Haunted MTL here, including links to even more nail polish paintings…

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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Original Creations

Bloody Mary or More Doll Costuming by Jennifer Weigel

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So I came upon a Liv doll with no wig and decided to make her a mourning ensemble. The result was so reminiscent of this Bloody Mary music video based on the Lady Gaga song, by Ruben Samuel Cortez for his film school final (not the Wednesday TikTok remix, though that is also fun) that I simply had to share.

Costumed Liv doll to Bloody Mary by Jennifer Weigel
Costumed Liv doll to Bloody Mary by Jennifer Weigel

The outfit is made up of really fancy thick black lace leftover from a skirt I decorated for a party and an old translucent black handkerchief. It really reminds me of the table dancers in the music video but black instead of white (though it also alludes to some of the other outfits too, and Wednesday’s dress from the TikTok remake).

Close up of Bloody Mary doll's face
Close up of Bloody Mary doll’s face

I love the detail on the eyes on these Liv dolls, which are embedded and not painted on.

Closer still...
Closer still…

The Liv dolls’ eyes are just so lifelike. I think this is what attracts me to the Rainbow High dolls too, and why I had to turn the Makeover Failfix 2Dreami into Lady Amalthea of The Last Unicorn…

Failfix 2Dreami as Lady Amalthea from The Last Unicorn (not scary but one of my all time fave movies and I love how this doll turned out so I'm posting her here anyway)
Failfix 2Dreami as Lady Amalthea from The Last Unicorn (not scary but one of my all time fave movies and I love how this doll turned out so I’m posting her here anyway)

If you want to check out more of my altered dolls, I have posted several to Haunted MTL here:

Fashion Zombies

Heartbreak Hotel

Mummy Dearest

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Catharsis

Fairy Wands

She Wolf

Queen of Everything

More Altered Dolls

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Krampus

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.

Oh and here’s a bonus photo of the skirt that I got the lace for originally, titled Kiss My A$$.

Portrait of the artist, dressed for a Blue Jeans and Bling party
Portrait of the artist, dressed for a Blue Jeans and Bling party

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