Connect with us



Fever of the Wendigo by J. Motoki

Adam scratches his sternum where the thick branch pins him to the driver’s seat.

I am a tree now.

The windshield is cobweb-cracked in an abstract of greens and browns, the pine tree blown up in ugly proportions. The protruding branch, which seems to hold him at arms-length from the tree, had saved them all from plunging to the bottom of the ravine. It doesn’t hurt too much, although it itches around the edges—it’s the smell in the car that’s concerning. A violent smell. It rises above the stench of sap and burning metal, blood and shit.

Amazing how the windshield had stayed intact, with just the hole where the branch juts through and the ripples of glass around it. The car’s airbag, for whatever reason, had failed to detonate.


Adam opens his mouth to speak, but his bloated tongue sinks into his mouth. His mouth is completely devoid of spit. He tries again.

“Miguel’s been gone a long time.”

His girlfriend stirs, a tangle of hair masking her face. Once she complained of ragdoll limbs, the pinpricks of glass shards; now her head rests in the remnants of window. When she speaks, her voice is so flat and dead that it causes his heartrate to increase—a budding panic that he forces down like an acidic belch.  

“He’ll be lucky if he sees anyone,” Josie says. “We passed two cars the whole way here.”

Her voice stirs a memory. There’s something nagging him, something he’s forgotten. He tries to retrieve whatever it was, embedded in the tar-pit depths of his mind.


“There’s glass in your hair.” Adam reaches over slowly and brushes hair from her face. He touches something sticky. “I can’t get your other side.”

Josie’s cracked lips curve back, a side grimace, exposing teeth full of blood. Her head remains against the doorframe at a 90-degree angle, but one eye rolls wildly to survey him.

“Hey Joe,” Adam says. “Pass me a water? It’s hot in here.” When he doesn’t hear anything, he cranes his neck to the side as far as it can go. It isn’t far.

“Josie, what’s he doing?”

Joe, the inconvenient twin of his girlfriend, who for the first leg of the road trip lectured about staying vigilant in nature, had spent the hour through the mountains asleep. He had acted strange since the last rest-stop with the filthy toilets, at the base of the mountains, when he surprised them all with an uncomplaining silence. Adam was relieved to have a break from Joe’s juvenile wisdoms, the wisdoms of a churlish and oily twenty-something who never left his room. Somewhere in the narrows, Joe collapsed into sleep and Josie told them to shut up after they joked about nature vigilance (there was something he was forgetting, something important) and Miguel complained that he took up all the backseat, sprawled like starfish over him.


Josie, with excruciating slowness, lifts her head a millimeter from the window.

“Where’s Miguel? We’ve been here forever.”

“There’s a lot of hill between us and the road.”

“I knew I should’ve gone,” Josie says. Her head flops back to the side with a sickening sound, the mechanical rasp of bones. It sounded accusatory. “He’s always been like this—unreliable.”

“Joe, buddy, how’re you doing back there?” Adam twitches, pinioned to his seat by branch and seatbelt. Beads of sweat bleed from his forehead.


A breeze agitates the pine trees; an animal screams in the distance.

            Josie blows her lips, a horse snort that lifts her hair, a bored sound. Earlier, she had argued with Miguel about who would go get help. Cars stop for breasts, she said. That’s sexist, protested Adam and she shoved him. Miguel countered that he could get to the road quicker. But when Miguel started up the hill—they watched him through the rearview mirrors—he staggered. There was something wrong with his back. It looked off, disjointed, spine bending into an S.

They heard his grunts long after he disappeared from the mirrors.

            How long was that now?

A shadow rises from the base of the mountain and swallows the umber of light. The trees made cathedral shadows in the growing gloom. Didn’t Joe talk wilderness awareness (that’s not it, that’s not it, there’s something else), how the trees were full of eyes and rustling things, and how you were never alone?


Joe had never been camping before. Adam didn’t even want to bring him, but Josie insisted. Her brother holed up in his room all day, only coming out for food and shits. She told them it would be a good bonding experience.

            “Joe!” He can feel him moving around back there, feel the tremors through the seat.

            “Let him sleep,” Josie says. 


When he opens his eyes again, the trees around them are gone. A spew of fog obscures everything, and the gray mist and ensuing darkness makes him feel as if they were being erased. The smell from before hits him all at once, a furious assault that has the gorge rising in his throat.


“We need to get out of here,” Adam says, suddenly desperate. He claws at the tangle of seatbelt, at the branch inside him.

Josie’s head slumps off the door, and she startles awake. She rocks in jerky movements from side to side until she straightens again. Adam thinks of the time he killed a snake with a shovel and it spasmed in the dirt, flashing its white belly then dark brown scales in an endless death tumble.

            “Stay awake,” Adam tells her and nudges her arm. Josie moans.

            “You need to stay awake,” he says, suddenly furious. He shakes her harder. That smell is overwhelming, filling his head and turning his stomach. He feels, for the first time, a distant agony in his legs.

            “What the fuck is that? Josie do you smell it?” It was rancid, whatever it was. Josie says nothing. In the backseat, Joe says nothing. Adam (the tree!) is alone, in the growing dark, with stink settling in his flesh and fire growing up his legs.


            “Josie!”  His voice is unrecognizable, piercing and too loud. His nails dig into the slack skin of her arm and her arm is cold, too cold. Stiff. He tears into her skin and the flesh came apart, but refused to bleed. Josie cries out.

             “Adam, what the fuck—”

            “I hear something. I think Miguel’s coming.”

            “Thank God!” In her excitement, Josie’s head raises several inches. They listen to the sounds of approaching nightfall, the strange calls and insect hums. A single distorted scream in the distance—loons maybe. They listen a long time.

            Josie makes a sobbing sound deep in her throat, guttural and full of glass. 


            “You liar.”

            “I swear I heard something.”

            Josie’s head falls to the side with a meaty thunk. She doesn’t speak again.


A scream breaks the night, and it’s directionless, it comes from everywhere. It curls the hairs on his arm and he fights against his branch. Everything urges him to get out of there, to run into the night.  


 “Joe,” Adam pleads. “Wake up now.”

It’s too dark and the wood sounds that were unsettling earlier are horrifying and unwelcome now, in this new blindness. His limbs burn. And there’s pressure in his chest—he realizes dimly that the branch skewering him is moving up and down. He can feel it inside him below the sternum, widening the hole, reopening skin. Violating him.

Another scream, deafening and hideous, and now he knows it’s in the car.

            “Stop it,” he whispers. “Stop—”

Movement in the dark, loud breathing in his ear. And it reeks of death—how did he not notice it before?—rancid nubs of garbage pork, sweating corpses forgotten in humid autopsy rooms. Adam thrashes his head from side to side.


The branch jumps up and down.

“Joe?” It ceases to be a name, a recognizable sound, now it’s just a maniacal spurt of syllables crowding in his throat. “JoeJoeJoeJoe—”

Adam pictures Joe’s limp marionette body affixed to the other side of his branch and here they are, end to end, a human shish-kabob, his face blank and vapid the way it looked when he came back from the bathroom and they yelled at him for taking so long; the way it looked when he collapsed into sleep.

            But he woke up eventually, yes he did, he woke up and grabbed the wheel from him—

Screech of tires burning out. Screams. An eternity of a drop, through brush and close calls with trees, until—


Adam laughs, high-pitched and hysterical and climbing. An answering hyena shriek sounds behind him.

             The smells turn from rot to roast, from maggot-cheese to charred haunch and campfire smoke. It taunts the desiccation of his mouth; a wash of saliva flows down his chin. The branch in his chest bounces again, giddy giggles rising in the small space, and hunger explodes in his stomach, turns his clenched fists to claws, turns his howl inward until it breaks, until it shatters him. Distantly, he hears something howl along with him and he grins, lips wet and spittle dripping onto the branch. He’s no longer alone.

            “Joe. There you are,” Adam rasps over his shoulder. “Where’ve you been all this time?”

            He gropes blindly, tugs Josie’s arm toward him, raises her hand to his lips like a gentleman in those historical dramas she loves so much.

Her skin smells like tenderloin.  


Behind him, Joe laughs and laughs.

J. Motoki is the Short Story Editor of Coffin Bell Journal and the Strange Editor of Rune Bear. Her works have been published or are forthcoming in Blood Song Books,The Other Stories Podcast (Hawk & Cleaver), Black Hare Press, Coffin Bell Journal, and others. You can read more of her at

J. Motoki, Author

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Original Series

AI Journey: Little Red Riding Hood, Part 2



Continuing our AI journey from last time exploring Little Red Riding Hood herself as the Big Bad Wolf… All of these are based upon the AI generated art and prompts using NightCafe and then created as posters in Canva.

Little Red Riding Hood as a wolf, Sinister style, Aug. 1, 2023
Sinister style, Aug. 1, 2023

How very… Phantom of the Opera predatory… this is definitely not what I had in mind. Maybe something more cutesy?

Little Red Riding Hood woman with wolf head instead of her own, Anime V2 style, Aug. 1, 2023
Anime V2 style, Aug. 1, 2023

Ugh. Maybe not.

Wolf face peering out of red hooded cape, Sinister style, Aug. 1, 2023
Sinister style, Aug. 1, 2023

Wow, that seems like such a cop out, cropping off the head so you don’t have to depict it. And I don’t want to lose the Little Red Riding Hood reference completely.

Wolf in sheep's clothing as Little Red Riding Hood, Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023
Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023

So no surprise there, I knew that was too many references to work.

And we continued to devolve, join us again next week for the final installment to see how this ended… And again, if you want to catch the last AI art journey, you can find it on Haunted MTL here.  To see more such devolutions into AI generated art, check out the Will the Real Jennifer Weigel Please Stand Up? blog.

Continue Reading

Original Series

AI Journey: Little Red Riding Hood, Part 1



And as promised in Big Bad Poetry, we shall embark on our next AI journey, this time looking at Little Red Riding Hood. I had wanted to depict her as the Big Bad Wolf one and the same, although maybe not so big nor bad. But it just wasn’t happening quite as planned. All of these are based upon the AI generated art and prompts using NightCafe and then created as posters in Canva.

Little Red Riding Hood beautiful woman with red cape hiding her wolf face.  Sinister style, July 29, 2023
Sinister style, July 29, 2023

So I actually like this even better than my original vision, it is playful and even a bit serene (especially given the Sinister style). The wolf is just being a wolf. It’s quite lovely, really. But it wasn’t what I had in mind, so I revisited the idea later to see if I could get that result…

Little Red Riding Hood with wolf face, Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023
Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023

Well, that’s not quite right…

Wolf face Little Red Riding Hood, Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023
Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023

Yeah more of the same…

What part of wolf face don't you understand?, Hyperreal style, Aug. 1, 2023
Hyperreal style, Aug. 1, 2023

And as you can see this is starting to devolve quickly. Join us again next week to see how this continued to develop… And if you want to catch the last AI art journey, you can find it on Haunted MTL here. To see more such devolutions into AI generated art, check out the Will the Real Jennifer Weigel Please Stand Up? blog.

Continue Reading

Original Creations

Big Bad poetry by Jennifer Weigel



So considering my recent revival of a wolfwere and his Lucky Days and Nightmarish Nature’s hostile humanity, it seems we are due for a visit from Little Red Riding Hood, or perhaps even Big Bad himself… Here’s a poem on the subject by Jennifer Weigel.

Over the river and through the wood
flashed the fleet-footed Red Riding Hood
on her way to her “grandmother’s” house.

When running past, who should she see
but just one of the little pigs three
cowering like but a tiny mouse.

“But my dear piggy, what do you fear?”
Red Riding Hood asked as she slunk near,
teeth hidden under a sheepish smile.


The nervous small pig looked up in fright
and decided that Red was alright,
missing the subtle clues by a mile.

“The Big Bad Wolf, that horrible beast
upon the other wee pigs did feast!”
the last little pig said with a squeal.

Red Riding Hood laughed with a great growl
and threw back her heavy long-robed cowl,
in a vast terrifying reveal.

For she was really the wolf Big Bad
hidden beneath the cape that he had
stolen from Red Riding Hood at point.

“And now I’ve caught you too my pretty
and surely t’wouldn’t be a pity
if I gobbled you up in this joint.”


T’was then the wee pig leapt to his feet
And cried, “Big Bad Wolf, I shall defeat,
for I am no ordinary swine!”

The little pig also wore sheep’s clothes
spun in spells every woodland witch knows;
Old Granny herself was quite divine.

“Now give me back my granddaughter’s cape,
before I grab you by your ruffed nape
and send you pig-squealing down the road…”

The wolf dropped the cape and ran, that cur,
but Granny was swifter and hexed his fur
and the wolf she turned into a toad.

Thus the moral of this story goes,
when in the woods, no one really knows
what sheepish sheep’s clothing is a ruse
that big bad wolves and old witches use.


So this is actually an intro to my next AI art journey with NightCafe which developed from me not getting the results I wanted (Little Red Riding Hood herself as a wolf). Here’s a preview with Eric’s versions as he is much more literal in his prompting than I am, but where’s the fun in that? 😉

Prompts (from left to right) in Dark Fantasy style, executed Aug. 1, 2023:

Bipedal wolf in Red Riding Hood’s cloak

Bipedal wolf in Red Riding Hood’s cloak close up portrait

Bipedal wolf in red cloak close up portrait

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.

Continue Reading