Will was alone in the dissection lab the night the bodies sat up. There were two of them, one male and one female. Both were naked but only one, the man, had been cut into so far. The other anatomy students had named him Joe because his generic white dad bod, chestnut hair, and unremarkable face made him appear—to the fresh young anatomy students, anyway—as average as they come. The female, on the other hand, they had named Kim after the most famous Kardashian. Will assumed this was because of her almond eyes, elvish nose and chin, and voluptuous hips. Well, her hips would have been voluptuous in life. By the time the anatomy students at this university got their hands on the dead, the chemically preserved bodies were already deflated and dry, like an old shed snakeskin lying about in the hot sun of a late summer day.
Kim, who was Will’s project alone for the evening, so much resembled her namesake that the lad had been unable to stop himself from taking a series of photographs of her as she lay before him awaiting the first incisions. He briefly considered Instagramming the images but figured that the ensuing kerfuffle would probably get his account suspended. Instead, he planned to share them with only his fellow anatomy students, those who had yet to come face-to-face with the reality television star’s dead doppelgänger and wouldn’t believe him if he told them she exists.
The corpses rose from the cadaver tables in unison, bending at the waist until they sat upright, their arms at their sides, their legs straight forward, and their tagged toes still pointed skyward. Will happened to be standing between their respective tables when the duo roused, and the shock of it sent him reeling backward into a shelf that was full of disinfectants and other tools of the trade. His phone, the camera of which had been aimed at Kim’s head and torso, went flying out of his right hand and clattered against the door of a metal storage closet. Will’s ass hit the floor, his lab coat splayed wide beneath it. One of the bottles of disinfectant tumbled from the edge of the shelf and smacked him squarely on the noggin. He yelped in surprise.
“D’ja hurt yourself?” Joe croaked, his voice raspy with disuse. In spite of his deflated flesh, he managed to screw up his lips into something that resembled a bemused grin.
“Where are we?” Kim said. Her voice was higher pitched than Joe’s but no more melodic. “And what the hell were you doing just now?”
Will swallowed thickly, tasting bile. “I ju—I just—you look—I mean…”
“This ain’t history class, boy,” Joe said. “Stop repeating yourself! Tell the lady what you were doing. Don’t lie about it, either. My eyes were open the whole time.”
Will blinked at him. “You. You could see? How long have you been able to see?”
“Never you mind that,” Joe said. “Just tell her.”
“You look like Kim Kardashian,” Will mumbled. He was looking at his hands more than at the suddenly animated female cadaver. “That’s all. I was taking a picture. Didn’t think anybody would believe me.”
The corpse’s eyes narrowed. “You were taking a picture of me?” she said. “You were taking a picture of me like this?”
Will managed to look at her. “You’re dead,” he said. “At least I thought you were. I really didn’t think you’d mind.”
Kim threw up her hands in disgust and looked at Joe, whose crusty yellow and lifeless eyes somehow managed to positively gleam back at her. “Didn’t think I’d mind, he says. Didn’t think I’d mind. And why? Because I’m not among the living anymore? Because I no longer have a soul?” She glared back at Will. “Is that it? You’re really something, you know that? You really are, all you living people. You sit there with your money and your jobs and your cars and your computers and your phones and you think, ‘Well, I’m just top of the world, and I can do whatever I want to anybody I want.’ Right? Is that it?”
From his own cadaver table beside her, Joe whooped. “You go, girl!”
Will eyeballed his hands again.
“Well, let me tell you something, Mr. Breathing Guy,” Kim went on. “I didn’t spend my time alive smashing all the barriers that slobbering guys who refused to think of me as anything but a hot fuck built around me just so I could be ogled and felt up by the likes of you after I died. Do you have any idea who I was when I was alive? Do you? Does it even matter to you that I was the only girl in the engineering department at this so-called school? Do you care that I was top of my class and was well on my way to getting my hands around a small fortune in research grants that would help me permanently fix this country’s crumbling infrastructure?”
“Preach it!” Joe shouted. “Preeeach it! I don’t want to go falling off a bridge!”
“And do you know what killed me? Do you know what took all that away from me? I can tell you that. It was a slobbering guy who roofied me. I overdosed. He was in almost all my classes. I had dinner with him because I thought he wanted to talk about my infrastructure research. He didn’t. He wanted a hot fuck and didn’t think he’d be able to get it unless I was unconscious.”
“Uh,” Will said.
Joe managed to look stricken.
“No, you didn’t know any of that, did you?” Kim continued. “You didn’t know any of that because instead of doing your job down here with all these dead people who have donated their bodies to science, you wanted a little trophy to send to your buddies. Well, you know what, Mr. Breathing Guy? Fuck you. Fuck you and fuck your stupid little stuck-in-their-pants buddies. Now the dead are rising, you arrogant little shit. We’re rising tonight and we’re not going to take any more of your abuse.”
“Damn right!” Joe echoed. “You tell it!”
Kim turned on the table and hefted herself off its edge. She stood before Will, who remained splayed on the floor, in all her post-mortem nakedness. She seemed a little unsteady on her gray, Formaldehyde-clad feet. Gravity made her dead, deflated skin appear draped over her frame. Joe, who hadn’t budged since sitting up except for his two attempts at facial expressions and the occasional one-liner, leaned back on his elbows on the cadaver table and spoke as if he were commiserating with old friends.
“Well, they always say your past comes back to bite you in the ass,” he said. “Guess it doesn’t get more past than a woman scorned and dearly departed, does it? Nope, it doesn’t. But listen to me now, Bubba. My story ain’t nothing like the lady’s here. Nobody ever stopped me from doing what I was supposed to do to make it in life. As far as I know, the only fellow who ever slipped anything into my drinks was me. I’ll tell you, though. Folks sure do want to stop you from doing what you want to do with your own death. Lord, do they ever!
“I don’t even know how I ended up in this place. I never went to a university and I sure as hell didn’t donate myself to be no lab rat. I just went through my life, doing everything I was told to do, just like they wanted it done. Figured being a good boy would end up getting me something somewhere down the line.”
“Sometimes,” Will interrupted meekly, “there are mix-ups. It’s rare, but…”
“I don’t give a lab rat’s tortured asshole about mix-ups,” Joe replied. “I ain’t supposed to be here. I’m a veteran, you know? I was in the National Guard for damn near ten years. Honorably discharged. Like I was saying, I always did as they told me to do, what I was supposed to be doing. I’m supposed to be buried with a flag and military honors. I’m supposed to be respected and taken care of, you little asshole, not cut up like a slice of roast beef for your amusement. Look at my chest. Somebody’s gone and sliced a big old notch in it!”
Kim spoke up. “That’s right,” she said. “Dead right. We’re not pieces of meat. I donated my body to science, but that doesn’t mean you’re allowed to disrespect me. And you shouldn’t be cutting him at all!”
Joe straightened and slid himself off his own cadaver table, managing a wobbly few steps to finally stand beside Kim. Now both preserved relics from a not-too-distant past stood glaring down at the autopsy student who had intended to spend his evening making up for lost time because he’d slept through that morning’s class. Joe’s skin was even more drape-like than Kim’s. He stood with his knees together. The deflated flesh hanging off them caused him to look as if he’d grown an extra scrotum in an unfortunate place.
“So,” Joe said, his attempt at a shit-eating grin still smeared across his features. “It’s kind of funny, ain’t it? What you thought was dead and gone ain’t ever really dead and gone. It’s just waiting for the right time to come back and get you. Looks like now’s the time, hey? What’ve you got to say about all this, lab rat? What’ve you got to say about the dead folks who ain’t gonna take all the live folks’ shit anymore? What’ve you got to say about the past coming back to bite you in the ass?”
A beat, and it came to him: “I’m sorry?” Will said. He straightened himself, rising on his knees from where he’d landed when the bodies rose up and allowing his hands to clasp together at his lap. He nodded at the corpses and made sure that he looked them each in the eye. “I’m sorry. I apologize to both of you. On behalf of the living, I ask your forgiveness. I have no excuse for the way you were treated in life or the way you were treated in death. All I can say for myself and everyone else is that I’m sorry.”
He looked at Kim. “I’m especially sorry for my behavior here tonight,” he said. “Honestly, we thought you were just a couple of empty shells. Your soul or brain activity or whatever you believe in should have been long gone. Really, we had no idea that you were people.”
Kim’s eyebrows shot upward. She turned to Joe.
“Oh my God, did you hear that?” she said. “They didn’t know we were people! Honest mistake? Is that what you’re saying? We just didn’t know! Look at me. Dude, just look at me. How could you not know? We move, just like you. We talk, just like you. We feel, just like you. Hath not a dead woman eyes? Hath not a dead woman hands? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you prick us, do we not bleed?”
“Well, not anymore,” said Joe matter-of-factly. He closed his mouth when Kim shot him a look.
“If you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”
“I loved that play when I was alive!” Joe interjected.
“There!” Kim said, gesturing to the other dead person. “There’s more proof for you. Do dogs like Shakespeare? Do cats recite poetry? Asshole, I was once an embryo, just like you. I was once a child, just like you. I went to school and learned the same alphabet and number system that you did. I worked hard, just like you. No, you know what? I worked harder than you because I had to. Because of people like you who didn’t believe I was man enough to do a math problem or change a tire or conjure up a complicated formula in an Excel spreadsheet.
“God! Seriously? Do I really have to explain all this to you? What are you, 18? 19? Weren’t you born at least close to this century? Why can’t you see me as your equal?”
“It,” Will stammered. “It’s just what’s accepted. It’s just how things are.
“But I’m sorry,” he repeated. “We didn’t know any better. I’m so sorry.”
Kim leaned toward him, her milky dead eyes mere slits. “Not anymore,” she said. “It’s not how things are anymore, and all the ‘sorry’ in the world is not going to change that.”
She straightened and motioned to Joe without looking at him. “Come on,” she said to the other corpse. “Let’s get out of this dungeon of knives and nightmares and go change the world.”
She took two ambling steps toward the door, and then seemed to rediscover the strength in her legs. As she reached for the doorknob and stepped over the transition, into the brightly lit hallway beyond, Will thought she looked taller somehow, even regal. She looked like a woman with a purpose, an energetic and motivated leader who was striding out of ages of darkness to drag the world into new enlightenment. She was Liberty resurrected, lighting the way once again for a world that had too long suffered the night.
Kim turned left just outside the door and disappeared from his sight. Will sat on his heels, his palms on his thighs, and smiled after her. The secrets of his heart spread over his face like the rosy rays of dawn over the fields. She could change the world, he thought. She would. She was right. She had made him a believer. It was long past time.
Joe, who for some reason had yet to follow Kim out the door, noted Will’s face and leaned down toward him, close to his ear. The stench of the Joe’s dead breath wafted to Will’s nostrils when he spoke.
“Hey,” he said. “I know what you’re looking at. I was looking, too. Heh. And I agree with you, Bubba. Nice ass, hey?”
Isaac Thorne is a nice man who has, over the course of his life, developed a modest ability to spin a good yarn. Really. He promises. He also avoids public men’s restrooms at all costs. He considers himself a lover of books, music, movies, and other forms of pop culture. When he is not writing fiction, Isaac reviews movies and other content for The Dead Walk (www.thedeadwalk.org), TN Horror News and Promotions (tnhorror.com), and The Horrorcist (thehorrorcist.com). Isaac also hosts two audio programs on SCRMRadio.com: “Thorne’s Theater of Terror” and “Classic Cuts.” Isaac Thorne Short Tales of Dark Comic Horror www.isaacthorne.com
You can follow him on Twitter: @isaacrthorne and IG: isaacrthorne
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…
Cravings Part 2, story by Jennifer Weigel
If you missed the beginning of this pregnancy horror story by Jennifer Weigel, you can catch Part 1 here.
Jayden’s stomach turned. Who or what was this creature standing before him, and what had it done with his wife? Claire proceeded to eat more than half of the jar of eggs in a fury of consumption; Jayden finally retreated to the office alone unable to watch any more. He heard a sloshing sound as she finished the jar and proceeded to drink the brine before retreating to the bedroom and crashing into their bed, presumably to pass out. Again. Later that night, he crept in to find her sleeping, clammy and sweaty, nervously twitching. Her body made the most abnormal guttural sounds as her internal systems groaned and sputtered. It was definitely getting worse. Jayden resolved to call Dr. Randolph the following morning; this had gone on for far too long already.
The next day, Claire awoke with a start from another bad dream that she couldn’t remember. Crying uncontrollably, she clutched her swollen belly, still ripe with child, and hurriedly exclaimed, “Blood sausage! I must have blood sausage!”
Jayden woke from his curled-up safe haven beside her and muttered, “Wha… What is that? I’ve never even heard of such a thing.”
“Go!” she snapped. “I’m starving. Go now! Return with blood sausage.”
Jayden staggered over to the dresser, threw on some clothes, shuffled into his waiting shoes, and gathered himself to duck out the door in the well-practiced gesture he’d become so accustomed to. “I’ll stop on my way home from work, I guess,” he mused, making his own plans. Claire seemed to settle down a little as she woke further, but it was little consolation.
“Thank you Sweetcheeks,” she said. “You’re the best.” She blew him a kiss.
While at work, Jayden managed to secure an appointment with Dr. Beth Randolph, Claire’s primary physician since before he had known her, for later that day. He took off early and rushed home to gather his unwilling wife. She was going in, whether she liked it or not.
He opened the front door and peered inside. The house was dark and quiet, as he’d come to expect. He crept in and stole upstairs to the bedroom to rouse Claire from sleep. He’d tell her where they were going once he got her in the car, no sense in making this even more difficult than it already was. Unsurprisingly, there she was, a shadowy form hunched over in the bed, her back to him with the covers pulled up over her eyes. He peeled away the comforter and blanket to reveal a tangled mess of white knitted yarn; Claire was nowhere to be found. He looked around, trying to focus on the darkness of the bedroom that enveloped him. That unsettling feeling had returned, like he’d had at Maresh’s shop, sinking into his gut. Claire was here idling, watching, waiting; he could sense her presence sizing him up as if she could read his mind and was on to his plan. But why was her company so disconcerting? This was still their house, their home, their lives intertwined… Jayden felt his trust ebb, spine tingling sensing danger.
“Hey there Sweetcheeks,” Claire’s voice echoed from the darkness of the closet. “Do you have something for me?” She emerged into the room, her eyes wide, frothing slightly at the edges of her mouth. Tiny bubbles of drool burst forth from her quivering lips and trickled down onto her chin.
“I couldn’t find any… blood sausage… whatever that is,” Jayden lied through his teeth. He hadn’t even gone to the store. Claire should never have expected him back at this hour; apparently she didn’t even know what time it was. But that seemingly wasn’t a concern. She wasn’t herself. Something about her fragile frame, the way she rocked from side to side, reminded him of that crazy old witch doctor Maresh. He finally managed to connect the two; it was as though she were possessed. It was imperative that she saw Dr. Beth Randolph as soon as possible, if for no other reason than to sever ties to that crazy old hag and hopefully start to snap out of it. He simply had to get her to that appointment.
“No blood sausage!” Claire shouted, becoming more and more agitated. “No… blood… sausage!” Her breathing became less regular and her body shivered all over as she hulked towards him. “I am sooo hungry!”
She lunged towards him, stumbling into his arms and collapsing towards his feet laughing maniacally. Jayden reached for her instinctively, to lower her to the ground gently, and felt something sticky and warm envelop his hand. Feeling lightheaded, he glanced down as he fell to the floor beside her. Protruding from his gut was a long silver thread, no something pointedly metal and hard, oozing thick oil sludge all around. Not oil, blood. His blood. Claire continued laughing, her lightning-fast fingers quickly and methodically ripping their way into his tattered shirt and worming around within his wounded frame to pull forth bits of viscera, which she wrung in her hands and smeared up and down her arms and torso. As Jayden passed out, she mouthed each of her fingers in turn, sucking the precious liquid off of them one at a time, before she began to feast on his entrails.
Claire’s belly was finally full. The baby developing within squirmed and settled, as if finally satiated. She swiped a stray bit of flesh from her bosom, licked it off of her fingertips, and heaved a sigh of relief. Miracle Madame Maresh Meliasma was right; she just needed to get to the root of her cravings.