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What happens when a man tries to save the world and gets some help from an attractive visitor? McCurry happens, of course! In this must read tale, we bring you some adult horror stomp romp that will make you sell your very soul… -Jim

McCurry Saves the World

An academic to his core, Doctor Richard Franklin McCurry was a man of concrete, straight forward facts and data and had little patience for anything not supported by its fair share of both. His devotion to this led him down a path of science, and science yielded results for his life. Though he started out in the classroom, Dr. McCurry’s patience for students was minimal, at best, and his passion for research steered him in other directions.

Doctor Richard Franklin McCurry was now in the business of saving the world.

He’d achieve this seemingly impossible dream the same way he’d achieved everything else in his life. Through careful assessment of quantitative data and results, McCurry would hypothesize in as logical and unbiased a way as was objectively possible (though, he admitted, he would never truly be able to account for his own personal biasness), and then he would test said hypothesis again and again, taking different factors and possibilities into account each time, to eventually reach a final conclusion.

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To eventually save the world.

Doctor Richard Franklin McCurry had no desire to be labeled a hero, had no desire to be labeled anything whatsoever. His determination to save the world was, in truth, a selfish one, a desire rooted in McCurry’s own hubris. So strong was McCurry’s faith in the power of science that he’d resolved to use it to scale the most insurmountable mountain he could find.

Dr. McCurry wanted to save the world for the same reason that some men want to climb tall mountains, simply to show that it can be done.

In truth, Dr. McCurry had little time for the people his work would be benefitting. He lived alone in a home he barely saw and regarded merely as a place to sleep and little else.

Outside of lab assistants that he spoke briefly to and made no effort to learn the names of, he worked alone. This did not bother Richard McCurry; this was, in fact, what he wanted, what he preferred. Richard regarded mankind’s desire to socialize, to seek out affection, and to fall in love as an inherent, almost irresistible flaw – a flaw that he, himself, had become almost entirely immune to. Dr. McCurry detested obstacles that got in the way of progress, that stopped a man from realizing his true potential.

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Doctor Richard Franklin McCurry wanted to save the world because saving the world suited his idea of living up to his true potential. He did not want to save the world out of any deep-rooted love, respect, or regard for his fellow man. Mankind’s continued survival on the planet Earth was an unwanted side effect of his work succeeding.

He sighed. It was late. The assistants had gone home hours ago. No one was making any overtime. There was no reason to still be there.

And yet, it was closer than ever. So close he could taste it. The work was nearing its end, he’d known that at the beginning of the month. But with just a little more effort, he could well see the results he’d been looking for……..

But not tonight, McCurry thought.

He rubbed his eyes and thought about reading over his notes briefly before deciding against it. He was tired. He was getting excited…which meant he was getting emotional and careless. Yes, the end was in sight. But no need to rush it. After all, the work would be there tomorrow. The world would be there tomorrow.

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McCurry shut down the computers in the lab one by one and hung his lab coat on his chair. It would be good to get home. To eat. To rest. He’d have some soup and ta-

Something caught his attention before he could finish the thought. Something strange. A smell.

Smoke.

But not a bitter aroma, a sweet one. Like what you’d get with an expensive cigar.

He turned, but the lab was empty. Of course the lab was empty. What’s more, there was no smoke at all.

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Still, though, he smelled it. He knew he did.

McCurry’s thoughts raced. Phantom smells could mean a lot of things. He could be getting ready to have a seizure or a stroke. It could be a brain tumor. He’d need to schedule an appointment with Dr. Cartwright tomorrow, get an MRI. It wouldn’t be convenient, but it was all that could explain it. Because he was absolutely damned if it didn’t smell like someone had been smoking a cigar in the lab. Not like one had just been lit up, either. Like they’d been in there smoking it for hours. And that was impossible. Because he was the only one in there.

“It’s certainly not a brain tumor, Mr. McCurry.” A voice. Female.

He looked up.

And there she was. Impossible in every way. Impossibly beautiful, and impossibly present. A woman, brunette, looking like she’d just stepped out of a magazine or even off a movie screen, not that Doctor Richard Franklin McCurry had time for movies or for magazines, mind you. But there she was, all the same. Wearing a red dress with heels to match. Smoking a cigar.

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The smoke circled above her head like a cloud. She smiled at him.

“Men like you. Oh what you must be thinking,” she said with a chuckle.

McCurry couldn’t help it. He chuckled back. This must be it, he figured. “I’m dying,” he said with a laugh.

She drew back, gave an exaggerated gasp. “Oh! Well I certainly hope not! Not for awhile, at least. Not when you’ve got such……such wondrous work to do.”

“I know it’s a shame,” he said monotonously, bringing his hands to his head, wondering desperately if he’d be able to feel the lump that was so obviously growing on his brain. “But this is what happens when you’re dying, one way or the other. I’d ask you to call me an ambulance, but I don’t expect illusions have the power.”

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“Oh if it’s an ambulance you want, Mr. McCurry, it’s an ambulance you’ll have,” she said in a slightly mocking but slightly seductive tone that McCurry wasn’t sure how to read.

“Though, somehow I doubt that’s what you really want. Particularly when I can assure you that you’re most certainly not dying.”

McCurry turned his back and bit his tongue, determined not to engage with a delusion, particularly a delusion that seemed to be mocking him.

“Now is that any way to treat someone who’s here to help you, Mr. McCurry?” she asked in the same maddening tone.

“The only thing that can help me now is medical science,” Richard McCurry curtly replied. “You, madam, are a symptom. A side effect of a larger issue,” unconsciously switching to lecture mode, Dr. McCurry turned around to face his visitor. “A larger issue that, sadly my attractive friend, lies squarely within me.” He sighed. “Given that I’m not frothing about on the floor, I suppose the safest bet is brain tumor; though, it surely must be an advanced one given this level of hallucination.”

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She blinked. “Attractive? Richard, really, I hardly thought you’d notice.”

He turned around again. No sense engaging with this. I’ve got to get to an emergency room, he thought. Yes. An emergency room. But it surely wasn’t safe to drive to one. Not in his present condition.

“Richard, if it’s an ambulance and doctors you want, you need only say the word. I’m more than happy to oblige.”

He turned around. “That settles it,” he stated plainly. “You can’t be real. You can’t have known what I was thinking about.”

“Unless I could read your mind, of course.”

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He laughed, more heartily than he meant to. Longer than he meant to. He forced himself to stop. He was coming unraveled, and that was no good. Disease, even terminal disease, could be combated. Plunging headfirst into madness was hardly the answer.

She sighed, took a long drag of her cigar, and dropped it on the laboratory floor.

“Hey what’re you doing!” McCurry exclaimed, in spite of himself. A lit cigar was a fire hazard.

She laughed as McCurry scrambled towards the cigar.

“You can pick it up,” she said plainly. “Hold it in your hands. Take a puff off it if you want, Richard. It’s real. Just as real as me, and just as real as our business tonight.”

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Doctor Richard Franklin McCurry verified his visitor’s words as she said them. The cigar was as real as anything else in the lab. He was holding it in his hand. He could feel the heat from lit end. She was right. If he were so inclined, he could have smoked it himself.

“Just what the hell is this?” He asked out loud, to himself more so than his guest.

But she answered anyway.

“It’s an opportunity, Richard. A chance to achieve that potential that you seem to possess so much of. That’s all.”

“What do you mean?”

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“What I said, of course. I’m here to discuss an opportunity.”

“You’re here? But where’d you come from? And who are you?”

She laughed, but this time, it was different. It was deeper, throatier than her earlier chuckles. Like there was something beneath the attractive brunette in the red dress and matching heels standing in front Doctor Richard Franklin McCurry on this late evening in the lab.

The laugh caused McCurry to shudder.

Then, it was over, and she was speaking in her same half mocking half flirty tone. “I’m sorry. It’s just that usually those are the first two questions I get asked, but I’ve been here for a good ten minutes now, and we’re just getting into the hows and whys. Why bother? Let’s get to business, Richard. Let’s get to your work.”

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Suddenly, McCurry felt offended. Who was this woman, and who did she think she was?

What could some floozy in a red dress possibly know about his work?

“You don’t know the first thing about my work,” he said plainly and confidently, more confidently than he’d expected. But it was, after all, his work being discussed. And no one knew more about the topic than Doctor Richard Franklin McCurry.

“I know you want it to work,” she said plainly and unblinkingly.

He stopped.

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This wasn’t right.

Hallucinations didn’t argue with you.

And why did this feel less like an argument and more like a negotiation?

“Well that’s obvious,” he said flatly. “Who does anything without the expectation of success?”

“That’s true,” She said as she stood up and walked towards him. “But who else is as focused on the results as you? Who else inspects every detail to ensure success at every level like you, Richard Franklin McCurry?”

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He blinked. She was right. There was no one else. There was no one else who poured over the details like he did, who paid as much attention to the data as he did. No one else seemed to realize that the data was sacred. The data was law. But Richard did. He always had, and it had always been his greatest strength.

That was how he was ever tasked with saving the world. Because he was the man most capable of making it happen.

“I can make it happen,” she said plain, matter of factly. As if making it happen was the easiest task to accomplish on Earth.

He laughed. He couldn’t help it.

“I’ll bet you can,” he managed between chuckles.

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She frowned and turned around. After a brief glance over her shoulder, she returned to her original seat and looked at him plainly, silently, and unblinking….unaffected by his offensive lack of faith.

He stopped laughing. Cleared his throat, straightened his collar, and did what he could to regain his composure. Something about the expression on her face made him stop, made him considered that, just for a moment, maybe what she was saying was genuine, that this woman in the red dress with heels to match could somehow, some way help him save the world.

“Supposing that’s true,” Richard McCurry observed, slipping comfortably back into lecture mode. “Supposing that you possess some way of deciphering the existing Mathematical data, data that would vex a Chemical Engineer working on her second PhD I’ll plainly add, supposing that you, some vixen with a cigar who has inexplicably managed to walk into this highly secured laboratory undetected, are remotely capable of understanding where I am right now, the progress I’ve made thus far….and that you may somehow be able to take that understanding and apply some untapped knowledge, a perspective I have not considered despite the fact that I’ve been working at this for nearly three solid years of my life….”

“Richard, Richard…my, my…” It was her turn to laugh. “What an exceedingly long sentence that was. Is it your ego driven appreciation for your own intelligence or your exceeding willingness to stamp all over your perception of mine that drives such a reaction? I do wonder.”

She turned her back on him, and Doctor Richard Franklin McCurry found himself appreciating the gesture. His visitor, whoever she was, was certainly a well built woman.

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“I wonder,” she continued, her voice taking on a sterner tone. “If it’s because I’ve chosen to come to you tonight as a woman,” she paused, and cast a brief, but alluring, glance over her shoulder that was purposely picturesque to the point of absurdity. “Perhaps that was a miscalculation on my behalf, an overreliance on tried and true tactics without the proper respect for the more modern place and time.” Her voice took on a deeper, throatier, quality with each syllable. It no longer seemed to belong to the brunette in the red dress and matching heels at all.

She briskly turned back around and walked towards Richard, her heels clapping rhythmically on the floor with each step.

She stopped, just inches away from him.

“Perhaps another form would have suited you better, one that you would have respected more instantly,” she continued in a sandpapery, guttural voice that didn’t seem to match the woman standing in front of McCurry. “Our business is most paramount, after all, as we are discussing matters of life and death, are we not Mr. McCurry?”

“D—D—Doctor McCurry…” he stammered without thinking.

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She laughed, a pleasant one that immediately seemed to belong to the beautiful woman standing in front of him, the shapely brunette in the red dress and matching heels who was inexplicably in his laboratory with a keen interest in the success of his work.

“Oh Richard,” she sighed as she brought her hands to his face and gently touched his cheeks. “As I was saying, I just want to help you make it work.”

“I know you do.” He felt like a man in a dream. And why not? Surely this was some sort of dream. For what other reason would a beautiful woman be standing in front of him with no other interest than the success of his work?

“And do you believe that I can?” She asked with a smile.

“I do,” he said flatly, hardly believing the words coming out of his mouth. Who was this woman? How was she supposed to be able to help him?

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“Well then,” She exclaimed as she made her way back to the lab chair she’d been sitting in when McCurry first saw her. With a wink, she produced another cigar, seemingly out of thin air, and, with a flame that appeared on the tip of her well manicured index finger, lit it.

Richard blinked.

Surely he hadn’t seen that. “Oh God,” he mumbled.

She laughed, genuinely amused. “Oh Dr. McCurry, you don’t mean to tell me you believe in him, do you? When you find it so impossible to believe in me, even when I’m standing right in front of you?”

“I…that is I mean to say that it…It…” Doctor Richard Franklin McCurry had rarely, in fact never, in his career found himself at such a loss for words. And yet, in the presence of present company, he could hardly string together a sentence.

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He cleared his throat in an effort to regain his composure.

“It’s just an expression,” he said with a renewed sense of confidence that, if pressed, McCurry wouldn’t have been quite able to explain. Though he did not fully believe the situation that he seemed to be finding himself in on this evening, a part of him reasoned that the best course of action would be to see the situation through until the end. To that end, he added: “If you mean to help me with my work, then let’s get on with it. I’d like to see my bed sometime this evening.”

She clapped her hands together, and McCurry briefly observed her perfectly manicured nails painted a deeper shade of red than her dress and matching heels.

He wondered, fleetingly, if her toenails were painted to match.

“Wonderful,” she declared. Something about the look in her eyes, something about the smile on her face, something about her entire demeanor seemed to suggest that she knew McCurry was taking moments to admire the shade of her nails or the cut of her figure. “With the offer already on the table, Dr. McCurry, the only remaining aspect of our deal to discuss would be the price.”

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“Our deal?” That word shook McCurry out of the fog of lust that was slowly but surely beginning to envelope him. “Is that what this is, a deal?”

“An understanding,” she assured him.

He chuckled. Such a strange choice of words. “Lady,” he declared in a voice that his colleagues over the years would’ve been hard pressed to recognize. Gone was the air of formality that seemed to drip off of every word. “There’s not a damned thing about any of this that I understand at all.”

With no immediate reply, his words hung in the air for moments that, to Richard Franklin McCurry, felt like a thousand eternities. The two regarded one another, sized one another up, each of them contemplating the next, crucial, step towards the evening’s inevitable conclusion.

After agonizing seconds, she sighed.

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“I’m wasting my time.” She declared plainly.

“No!” He exclaimed, hardly believing the word as it left his mouth. A part of him suddenly felt very certain that, should this opportunity walk out his lab door, it would not present itself again for a very long time, if ever.

Opportunity was nothing to scoff at. Not when the world is at stake.

She turned with a smile, the same smile that haunted so many of the waking dreams of Richard Franklin McCurry over the years, the same smile that, until tonight, was nothing more than a lost and distant fantasy to him.

She walked towards him purposefully, confidently, in a way that Richard couldn’t help but appreciate, her red dress flowing, a perfectly tanned leg peeking out of a slit that, until now, Richard hadn’t taken time to appreciate the length of.

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Her red high heeled shoes clacked rhythmically on the lab floor.

“Let’s get to it, then,” she said.

“Yes,” Dr. McCurry agreed, finally allowing a lecherous smile to appear on his face.

****

It was over.

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She was gone.

The deal was done. The price was paid.

Dr. McCurry had done it. After years of research, years of hard work, hours upon hours of tireless data analysis, tests and post tests, careful, painstaking, evaluation of data and results.

The world was saved. Humanity would thrive for centuries upon centuries. Its first significant conquest since nature was at hand.

His eyes watered. His nostrils screamed in agony. He had always been particularly sensitive to smoke.

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For a moment, he wondered if he had used enough gasoline. But only for a moment. Fire, particularly one that has been sufficiently fed, rarely allows for much more than moments.

His back burned. He wondered fleetingly if it was because of the scratches or the flames.

It has to be the flames, he told himself. She was never here. She couldn’t have been.

The brave new world that would have doubtlessly resulted from his work went up in flames as Richard Franklin McCurry, Dr. McCurry to his colleagues, closed his eyes and accepted, begrudgingly that the universe contained forces that he could never hope to explain nor understand.

Nelson Sims is a part-time author and full time English Instructor at a community college in Selma, Alabama, where he lives with his wife, two dogs, and two cats. When he’s not teaching classes, walking the dogs, and playing manservant to the cats, he tries his best to write compelling fiction in between reading comic books from the 80s and 90s.

Nelson Sims, author

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Original Creations

Goblins, a Short Story by Jennifer Weigel

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Revisiting the creepy faux fingernail art, I made a couple of goblins… They then ransacked my house. This is their story, as told by myself, Jennifer Weigel.

More faux fingernail art from Jennifer Weigel, featuring wide smiling mouth with red sparkly lipstick and faux fingernail teeth on textured green goblins background
More faux fingernail art from Jennifer Weigel

So it finally happened. My art came to life. And of course it couldn’t be one of the cute pretty pictures, like the sparkly unicorns or the cat drawings. No it had to be the faux fingernail goblins… Ugh. I first encountered them in the bathroom.

I see England.
I see France.
I see someone’s underpants!

Of course you do, it’s the bathroom. That’s totally the room for that. Remind me again why I decided to paint these little green monsters. Ugh. From there, they moved on to the kitchen.

We so tricksy.
We so sly.
We eats all the cherry pie!

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Did they have to eat ALL the cherry pie? Like seriously. But what can I expect, they’re goblins and they’re in the house. Ugh. And honestly they’re just plain gross.

I pick my friend.
I pick nose.
Just whose nose, do you suppose?

Get away from me you obnoxious, vile creatures! I can pick my own nose on my own time, thank you. Ugh. Oh, great, now they’re tearing up the living room.

We be goblins.
We be green.
We be making quite a scene!

No, not the sofa! Now there are little bits of fabric and stuffing flying everywhere. I can see you’re all too pleased with yourselves. Nasty critters. Ugh. Why can’t you just leave?

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I do mischief.
I do bad.
This best party ever had!

I did NOT agree to host your little shindig. Stop tearing up my house! All I know is, it’s about time you moved on to wreak havoc elsewhere. Ugh. Just get out – NOW!

We scare the cat.
We scare you.
We scare all, we care not who!

I may have brought these dreadful disgusting demons into being seeing as how I painted them, but I have no idea what brought them to life or why. What kind of cosmic miscalculation caused this? I need to know so I can avoid it in the future. Ugh. Goblins… need I say more?

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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Original Creations

Faux Fingernails Art by Jennifer Weigel

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So I had some faux fingernails leftover from a costume based modeling session, from posing as Cruella De Vil for the figure drawing group… Here’s a teaser from that modeling session, before the horrible creepy art generation in the aftermath. If you zoom in tight enough, you can see my tiger fingernails, which kept trying to fall off constantly, reminding me why I hate trying to wear the things and why they (d)evolved into art.

Cruella De Vil modeling for figure drawing
Cruella De Vil modeling for figure drawing

My version of Cruella De Vil channels Glenn Close or the original animated character more than the recent Emma Stone variant, but they’re all delightfully devilish.

Anyway, I made this series of “Tiger Sharks” prominently featuring the same tiger faux fingernails, including those used in the Cruella De Vil costume. These “Tiger Sharks” also incorporated some pirate fingernails, because sharks and pirates are tight.

Pirate skeleton hand with faux fingernails
Pirate skeleton hand with faux fingernails

I couldn’t think of a better use for the pirate fingernails than adding them to this skeletal hand. I never actually wore these, they were too hard to come up with something to go with. But I do love the Beetlejuice vibe with the stripes…

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.

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Original Series

Nightmarish Nature: Something Rotten, Flesh in Flowers

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This time on Nightmarish Nature we will again explore some of the more fetid fungi and plants, this time focusing on those that imitate rotten flesh in order to attract flies. Among the best known of these are the Stinkhorn and the Corpse Lily or Corpse Flower. The Language of Flowers be damned, literally…

Fungi

Many of the fungi in the Stinkhorn family erupt in mushrooms that reek of rotten flesh and sprout from a white sort of egg sac in various forms, the common type being a phallus like structure with a white body and olive head. The Beefsteak fungus resembles, well, a cut of beef oozing blood. And some mushroom bodies of the Clathrus genus bloom in elaborate lattice structures or devil’s tooth and devil’s fingers that resemble terrifying alien beings. These odoriferous fetid fungi grow in decaying wood material and use their stinky attributes to attract flies and other insects which will then spread the spores from their fruiting bodies. They truly look like something out of an outer space or aquatic nightmare.

Some various fungi that can reek of rotten flesh, drawing by Jennifer Weigel.
Some various fungi that can reek of rotten flesh.

Plants

Some plants also utilize pungent putrid odors to attract flies and other insects, in part to aid in the pollination and dissemination but also to attract insect matter for their own needs, to absorb the insects for valuable nutrients that they cannot otherwise obtain. The largest flowers in the world bear many of these characteristics, also being among the stinkiest. And some pitcher plants mimic rotten flesh to attract flies upon which they “feed”.

The Titan Arum of Sumatra and Indonesia is a plant that over time produces a huge flower somewhat resembling a calla lily but larger as the plant body stores enough energy to do so. While Calla Lilies are often used to symbolize rebirth and resurrection and can be associated with death, often in a funerary setting, the huge Titan Arum does more than that, strongly mimicking decaying flesh in order to attract flies. These flowers can grow to almost 8-feet tall and bloom for only about three days before wilting; they are a huge draw at botanic gardens when flowering because of the rare nature of the event and the remarkable presence that the flower has, in both size and smell. The US. Botanic Gardens has a page devoted to this plant here, where you can even track previous blooms.

Titan Arum flower as drawn by Jennifer Weigel.
Titan Arum flower as drawn by Jennifer Weigel.

Another noteworthy flowering plant is Rafflesia, a parasitic flower native to Indonesia and Malaysia that feeds on the liana vine and grows from a sprouting body bud into a huge flower over the course of five years. Its flowers, once finally formed, can grow to almost a meter across and resembles something out of a horror film. These too smell of death and decay to attract flies in order to cross-pollinate. You can learn more about these unusual plants on this video from Real Science here.

Rafflesia flower as drawn by Jennifer Weigel.
Rafflesia flower as drawn by Jennifer Weigel.

If you’ve enjoyed this segment of Nightmarish Nature, feel free to check out some previous here:

Vampires Among Us

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Perilous Parenting

Freaky Fungus

Worrisome Wasps

Cannibalism

Terrifying Tardigrades

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Reindeer Give Pause

Komodo Dragons

Zombie Snails

Horrifying Humans

Giants Among Spiders

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