“When The Sun Sets In The East” by Kate Alsbury
Around this time of August, I always find myself wandering back to that strange event of so many summers ago. The carnival was late—just one week before the start of school, which seemed to cut further into our warm days of freedom every year.
It felt so small when vacant, but now it was filled with sensation. Fresh popcorn, french fries, music—mingled with a touch of exhaust, wafting through the field that stretched the back of town. But it wasn’t the same as every year. Something was different.
On the last night of the carnival I sauntered to the edge of the encampment, not sure where to go first. The sky played cloudy and mysterious, darkening quickly the way it does that time of summer when you’ve grown accustomed to warm blue light hanging above for hours, only to find inky blackness upon you in a few minutes. That evening it was especially so. No moon, no stars.
I lingered for a moment in the middle of the fairground, spellbound by humming engines and the colorful glow of brightly lit food stands. Then it stopped. All of it. The lights went out, rides halted. Someone at the top of the Ferris wheel shrieked. A brief streak of panic weaved through the crowd. Low voices grew louder, questioning. It came back on just as suddenly, and curiously, began to rain at exactly the same moment. A light, pleasant kind of rain.
As I walked through the maze of entertainments, something came to me. Strange as it seemed, all the people were different. Not one person manning the booths or carnival goer was anyone I knew—or anyone that had been there the previous evenings. I usually saw at least one or two people from town, but not that night.
I leaned back against the lemonade stand—the usual meet for Chase and me—to escape the rain. A short awning provided just enough cover. I waited. Drank a lemonade. Then watched what seemed like an unending number of five-year-olds win goldfish. Where was he? It wasn’t like him not to show, not the last night. He’d been looking forward to this even more than I had. Tired of pancaking myself against the wagon, I started back towards the Ferris wheel when a scraggly old woman leapt out of a maroon tent a few feet away—one that was definitely not there last night, and grabbed my arm. Her eyes, stormy grey with peculiar black lines stemming from the pupil locked onto mine with such dominating force I couldn’t look away. “Don’t you want to see your future? I thought all boys wanted to know what hides in the shadows,” she said with a smirk.
Before I had time to protest, I was in the tent. It was small and sparsely furnished. The only light came from a small table where sat the quintessential crystal ball between two simple wooden chairs. Worn, antiqued, the finish finely scrubbed away as if they had been through every sandstorm in Arabia and the Great Flood of China, surviving to end up under this small spread of fabric. She twisted her finger in the direction of one chair and took the other herself. Honing in on the sparkling globe I noticed it wasn’t just a crystal ball—something was moving inside, like a snow globe but more. Strings of glittering colors. Blues and greens, gold and silver swirled in mesmerizing shapes. Dragons and serpents burst into fireworks; scenes from my past shifted to things I’d never seen before—just as the old witch had promised, the future. Or a future anyway. Shining sports cars, dinner at the best restaurants, grand houses on golden shorelines. A hint of desire slithered within me. Once again, I found it hard to look away.
The longer I stared, the darker the room became. Creeping in peripherally until nothing was visible except for that shining glass ball, now almost blinding. Caught in a spin, I could feel myself being pulled further and further into those hypnotic scenes. It was cold, but a golden haze tingled my skin—the way the sun does in early afternoon.
An inferno leapt up around me. Hot blue-orange light towered, but like standing in the eye of a hurricane, I was untouched. Something stared from within the flames—it was hard to make out. They flickered, beat each other back, split apart in a wild frenzy, then merged again. A face, that much I could tell. Familiar, yet, I couldn’t quite place it. Like someone I knew but hadn’t seen since I was small. A half memory.
Wherever I was, it began to shake violently. Now truly alarmed, I struggled to force myself from the vision. As soon as I was convinced of the chair beneath me and feet in my shoes, I darted out of the tent and back home as fast as I could.
The next day I asked my friends, then neighbors, then just about everyone else I knew if they’d been to the carnival the night before. For one reason or the other none of them had. A sudden fever, the car blew a tire—you get the idea. Chase was the only one I found who had been there and he was beyond annoyed when I told him I’d been waiting for hours to meet. “I was there! I waited too. It was you who didn’t turn up!” shouted Chase. And after nearly accusing me of being a two-faced liar I told him what happened; the rain, the thunder, the old woman—he cooled. He hadn’t seen any of it, but my sincerity and the fantastic nature of the story seemed to win him over.
I haven’t come up with too many explanations for what happened. How Chase and I could have both been there but had completely different experiences. Just as perplexing was that much of what was revealed to me that night came true. I ended up with the big house and sports cars. But as I grow older, the face in the flames returns to me, and the mystery fades.
Kate Alsbury is a writer and marketing consultant. Find her on Twitter @KateAlsbury.
Lighter than Dark
LTD: Revisiting Broken Doll Head, Interview 2
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.
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?
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.
Again, if you want to learn more about the V-Day movement, please check out their website here.
The Way Things Were, story by Jennifer Weigel
Revisiting my last St. Patrick’s Day post, what’s a wolf to were?
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.
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.
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.
“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…
Check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s writing here at Jennifer Weigel Words.
Movies n TV
She Wolf, Art by Jennifer Weigel
So this isn’t a review but more just some thoughts…
I have to admit that I actually like the She Wolf music video by Shakira.
Maybe partly because my Zumba group back in the day used to dance to it with all of us cautioned to not to look up the music video for fear it would be too risque or something… (The Zumba dance to this was one of my favorites, and I loved our group of mostly 60+ year old retirees for all that some of them did act surprised at these things, whether or not they actually were.) Or maybe partly because it reminds me of Madonna’s Express Yourself, or by extension the famous dance scene in Metropolis directed by Fritz Lang.
It’s a guilty pleasure.
The ways these things evolve and stay the same over time fascinates me, especially how the messaging and movement change, and yet stay the same.
Anyway, I created this artwork based upon the She Wolf video and song, incorporating a Hazelle puppet head atop a modern Barbie doll body. I don’t recall what happened to Barbie’s actual head though I’m pretty sure I needed it for another project. (Technically I needed the body for another project too, and this was just a stopover.) Years ago this piece found itself part of the Women’s Caucus for Art website as one of the chosen artworks for the year. I was going to try to write something to go with it for Haunted MTL but instead I thought I’d share it as a lead up to my revisitation of my werewolf story from St. Patrick’s Day last year.
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.