“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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
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.
LTD Tripped Out Motivational Posters
Tripped out… in case you just couldn’t get enough of Everything Everywhere All at Once and the return of the infinite bagel with EVERYTHING on it…
Artwork description: kaleidoscopic image of pink hairy horror (This is actually a fink fuzzy frond plant not unlike a Cockscomb but with longer thinner flowering feelers rather than the fuller protuberances you see on a full-bodied Cockscomb plant. I have no idea what it was, but it was very odd so I had to snap a photo.)
Image text reads: Mixing Magic Mushrooms & Peyote Just remember: once you open that Pandora’s box, you’re never going to get the pink hairy tarantulas back in it…
Artwork description: kaleidoscopic sunflower backlit by the sun with text and rainbow eye overlay
Image text reads: Eye See You Eye See All (in circle text so you can start and end reading wherever). In an ideal context this would be printed in the bottom of your tea mug or on a record that can slowly spin.
For more crazy tripped out fun, check out Weird Al’s post on Craig’s List…
The Elves Reunion, a short story by Jennifer Weigel
I had heard tale that The Elves dwell in these woods. Many underestimate The Elves; they have a fondness of heart for Tolkienesque Middle Earth fantasy stories and tales where Elves are the most highly civilized, virtuous and intelligent. They forget that those are just myths, save for The Elves being cunning. Remember that the Pied Piper was an Elf, and the children he took were not destined for such a glorious fate.
My sister lost her firstborn to The Elves. She hadn’t noticed the Changeling until it was too late. Her baby had already long since been stolen away. She was so distraught she refused to eat or speak. She locked herself in her room. Or my family locked her into it as she succumbed to the madness. Such are the ways of the family, for all of our protection. We never question but follow as expected, as a means of self-preservation. It has kept us all alive.
But I couldn’t get the sinking feeling out of my stomach; the grief became too overwhelming. That is why I came here. I know I will not be able to rescue the child, nor my sister. But I seek to avenge their meaningless deaths. To ensure that it doesn’t happen again. My family will never act. I am tired of the Village Elders just shrugging these things off in hushed whispers and badly shrouded secrets. It happens time and again. We are all expendable. They never do anything.
So here I am, in the Elven wood. Alone. As soon as my family figures out that I’m here, they will disown me. They probably already have. Again, it is for our own protection. I’ll be just another casualty of The Elves. Everything is so structured, so regimented. Anyone who dares act in opposition to the rules vanishes. We are all so afraid.
I lay in wait. It’s just a matter of time before the portal appears. The Elves use the portals to travel across time and space. They appear where and when they wish. But this time, I will go through first. I know not what is on the other side, just that the portals allow only one to traverse in each direction. We will trade places, if only for a moment until another portal forms. Hopefully that will be enough time.
The trees shift and morph. Falling leaves drift slower and slower towards the ground. There is a stillness that I cannot fully express. My breath hangs heavy in the silent air. There is no sound, no smell, no taste. It is time. The hairs on the back of my neck and arms rise. I can sense the opening forming. There is an uncanny familiarity in this moment, as if I have been here before.
As soon as the portal opens, I dash through. But something isn’t right. No one came through from the other side. Or did they? I cannot tell. I am alone, in limbo between states of existence. The world spins around me. I can feel the drift. Is this what death feels like? Cold unbroken silence? I feel distant eyes upon me everywhere, all around me, in the trees, the clouds, pinpoints of light that shimmer through.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. Maybe this is all according to plan. But who was orchestrating the exchange? My idea was only half formed in those passing pensive moments I am able to think for myself, few and far between. My family, the Village Elders… no one allows time for freeform thought. I hadn’t considered what would happen after the portal exchange. I never really got past step one.
A voice greets me from the trees. It is hauntingly familiar but seems only a distant memory.
“I’ve been expecting you.”
The world slowly comes into focus. Clarity restored, the leaves circle me in an embrace. My sister emerges, her dark eyes smiling. She cradles the baby in her arms.
“You made it. You escaped,” she sings.
“I didn’t see anyone,” I retort, skeptical. I hadn’t recalled having seen any Elves, dark nightmarish fiends that they are, wild, unkempt, uncouth. Savage beasts like Pan or Krampus. Is this an illusion? My sister seems so lifelike, so much herself. She is the joyful young mother I had known her to be. Filled with love and laughter. Light dances about her, and she shimmers.
“Not in passing,” my sister clarifies. “You have been living among them your whole life. I had done so as well until the baby was stolen. My heart broke; I had to follow after. That was when I learned the Truth.”
“Why do you think we are so sheltered? Why are we forbidden to do anything? They do so to protect us from the Truth about who and what we are,” she continued. “We’ve spent our lives evading that which we truly know ourselves to be. We were the stolen ones, not the other way around…”
I notice that the portal I came through is still open, reinforcing my idea that no one had passed through the other way. It is as if the portal was opened specifically to call me through. My sister extends her hand, beckoning me to join her. There is a gleam in her eye I cannot pinpoint. She seems happy, but something still isn’t quite right. I’m still uncertain why I am here, in this time and place, as if destined to be present in this moment, in this decision.
The Village has fallen away to the woods. There are no breadcrumb trails to follow home. The idea of home itself seems distant like yet another illusion. Nothing makes sense anymore. I am unsure whether I am coming or going. Two paths lay open before me. Which shall I take?
Eye Candy Jewelry by Jennifer Weigel
I have been getting ready for a jewelry show in February and thought I’d share some of the fun eye candy necklaces I’ve been working on. Do they thwart or attract the Evil Eye? I think that depends largely on the wearer’s intentions… Each is hand-beaded and features a spooky printed eyeball pendant as its focus.
And the piece de resistance… A RAINBOW Evil Eye necklace with magnesite stone skulls! I love these happy little deadheads – they are just too spoopy… I have seen these beads ranging in size from very small to huge and I love all of them.
I love using eyes in art in weird and unusual contexts in my art. They have so much presence and symbolism. They also bring a sort of surreal atmosphere to any artwork, which bears just a hint of spookiness regardless of context.
Other artworks & graphics by myself that prominently feature eyes have appeared here on Haunted MTL in Insomnia, Indecision, Illuminati, Carriage Factory art installation, The Watchers, The Red Key, and Shaman Sticks.