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“Expiration Dates” by Erik C. Martin

“Mmm. I think this is the best coffee I’ve ever drank,” Heck said.

His wife of a month, Cassidy, smiled. “You said the same thing last Saturday.”

“And I’ll probably say it again next Saturday.”

Heck took another sip and waited for his cinnamon raisin English muffin to toast. The house smelled like morning.


Cassidy opened the fridge. She pulled out the guacamole, checked the label, and chucked it into the trash. She did the same with a yogurt.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Cleaning out the refrigerator before I shop. They were expired.”

She took out his milk.

“Not that!”


“It expires today.” She opened the jug and poured the milk into the sink. “Sorry. I don’t want you getting salmonella.”

His muffin popped up more burnt than he liked it. “I was going to have cereal.”

“Use my milk,” she said as she checked the Dijon mustard.

“Your milk is lactose free.”

“It’s good.” She tossed out half a bag of tortilla chips.


“The milk wasn’t even past the date. And you know those dates don’t mean anything. They’re just suggestions. Food is good long after it,” he made finger quotes, “expires.”.

She shook her head. “I’m not going to eat bad food. That’s how you get sick.”

A third of a bottle of ranch dressing went into the trash, now dangerously full.


Monday. Cassidy asked Heck to stop at the grocery on the way home from work and get a can of beets for a salad. He’d driven up to Alpine to see a new client and needed gas. The mountain roads were empty. He drove ten miles before he saw a gas station. He could tell the building was supposed to be white, but years had turned it mottled gray. The parking lot held not a single car. But a sign on the door proclaimed they were ‘OPEN’ in big red letters. Good enough! Heck pulled in, hopped out, and whipped out the plastic. Black electrical tape covered the credit card reader.


“Darn it. Making me go inside like a schmuck,” he said to himself.

A bell dinged above the door. A white-haired man wearing sunglasses sat behind the counter reading a newspaper, an actual newspaper! He never looked up when Heck entered. He was so still he might have been asleep. He might have been dead. The store smelled like week old hotdog water and burnt plastic. Heck spied an aisle with canned food and other gas station groceries. He shrugged. It couldn’t hurt to look.

Green beans, lima beans, mixed veggies, corn, aha…beets!

Heck grabbed the lone, dented can. Not the usual brand. No big deal. Canned beets were canned beets. Thinking of Cass, he glanced at the date.



Well, they weren’t that expired. Easily within the Heck margin of error. He had his markers in his work bag and a steady hand.

It would be simple to make that six look like an eight…

He took the can to the register. The old man looked up from his paper. Heck saw the headline–OBITUARIES. The man took the can in his bony fingers and glanced at the label. He looked at Heck over the top of his sunglasses and smiled, revealing teeth that looked like grains of brown rice.

“Anything else?”

“Twenty in gas.”


The man rang it up, smiling throughout like he had just remembered the most amusing joke.


Heck tried not to grin while Cassidy ate her salad. The doctored can had passed muster though she had remarked on the off-brand.

“These better not be from Wal-Mart.” She fingered the dent, frowning.

He assured her they weren’t. She thanked him for stopping at the store.


His own salad had no beets, no broccoli, no celery, or cucumbers. It was lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, and croutons, basically a cheeseburger minus the meat.

After dinner he helped Cassidy clear the table and clean the kitchen. He was drying when she caught him smirking at her.

“What is so funny?”

“Nothing,” he said.

“Come on, spill it!”


“Okay. I played a little joke. I’m not sure how funny you’ll think it is. Those beets you ate, they were totally past their expiration date.”

“What? No, I checked.”

“I changed the date with a marker. Pretty good job, huh? They were fine. You ate them and never noticed.”

She threw the sponge into the sink, splashing him with suds.

“You ass!” Cassidy stormed out of the kitchen.


Heck started to go after her, but stopped himself. He had learned that if he chased her now, they would end up in a fight. The trick was to wait fifteen minutes before starting the apology process.

He picked up a plate and started to scrub. After a few minutes, from the living room Cassidy yelled, “I feel dizzy! There was something wrong with those beets!”

“It’s in your head. You were fine until you knew they were old.”

She didn’t say anything. He ran hot water over the skillet and scraped off food with a plastic spatula. From the bathroom, the unmistakable sound of retching.

She’s making herself sick. The drama! This might take more than fifteen minutes.



What the hell?





Heck put down the sponge and went to the bathroom.

Cassidy was sprawled out on the floor: foamy crimson rivulets ran out of her mouth and formed a small puddle on the white tile. The toilet was filled with red liquid.

Is that from the beets?

“Cass! Are you okay?”


She was not okay. Cassidy wasn’t breathing.

“Oh my God. Cass, hold on!”

Phone, where was his phone? Living room.

“I’m going to get help!”

He ran to his phone. His hands shook but he managed to dial 911. He nearly forgot his address but stammered it out to the dispatcher.


“Hurry! She’s not breathing.”

The dispatcher said something, but Heck hung up, oblivious. He hurried back into the bathroom and rolled his wife onto her back.

What do I do? Rescue breathing…how does it go? Check her airway.

Cassidy’s eyes popped open. They were blood red.

“You’re alive! Thank God!” He leaned in to hug her. Her mouth opened and he caught a glimpse of jagged teeth.


She lunged for his throat. He jerked back and she missed the major artery. Sharp teeth sank into the meat above his clavicle.

“Ahh! Get off!” She clung to him like an animal, but he finally pushed her off and scrambled to his feet. She snarled at him from all fours. Hand pressed to his bleeding wound, he retreated into the living room.

Cassidy stood stiffly, like someone shaking off the rigor of sleep. Head down, she charged. Heck ran, right out the front door slamming it behind him. Cassidy screamed on the other side, a sustained, frustrated wail. She pounded  against the door so hard it rattled in the frame. Doorknobs had become a challenge.

He was half a block away. The bite throbbed. Suddenly dizzy, Heck staggered and held a tree to steady himself. Sirens in the distance, getting closer.

A wave of nausea ripped his core. He vomited onto the sidewalk, dark red and foamy.


The End

Erik C. Martin writes books for YA and middle-grade readers, but loves to write short stories of various genres for adult readers. Erik is a member of SCBWI and the San Diego Writers and Editors Guild. He lives and writes in San Diego, CA. Originally from Cleveland, OH, he still carries a snowbrush in his car.

Erik C. Martin, Author

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.

Broken Doll Head, secured in her own glass case with new moss accents
Broken Doll Head, secured in her own glass case with new moss accents

Again, if you want to learn more about the V-Day movement, please check out their website here.

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.

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Original Creations

The Way Things Were, story by Jennifer Weigel



Revisiting my last St. Patrick’s Day post, what’s a wolf to were?

Howling at the Moon digital art Reversals werewolf by Jennifer Weigel
Howling at the Moon digital art Reversals werewolf by Jennifer Weigel

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…

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.

Check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s writing here at Jennifer Weigel Words.

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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.

Shakira She Wolf
Madonna Express Yourself
Metropolis dance scene

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.

She Wolf digital art by Jennifer Weigel
She Wolf digital art by Jennifer Weigel

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.

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.

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