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I’m pretty big into Ink (yeah, I said ‘Ink’–deal with it) and have more than a few custom pieces. Even back in the day I would never dream of starting with a full sleeve as Dean MacAllister reminds… – Jim

The Flesh Trade

The Melbourne Royal Exhibition Building was humming on a crisp autumn morning.

Day 2 of the annual Rites of Passage Festival had begun and moments after the doors opened the hall was full of people stalking the aisles between the booths. Nordic heavy metal boomed over the speakers, but before long it was drowned out by a large buzzing cacophony, as hundreds of tattoo guns were put to use simultaneously.

Ferret walked through the foyer doors, a large grin across his face. He had always wanted to attend this event, but his unreliable mates pulled out at the last minute every time. They bailed on him again that very morning, but he’d decided to go anyway. To Ferret, getting some ink was the ideal way to show everybody that he was changing, maturing. That he wasn’t same kid they all thought they knew, but a man.

He walked up to the booth and paid the admission. The girl there smiled at him, her face full of piercings, and attached his fluorescent green wrist band.

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“Have a great time today!” she said.

“Cheers. Will do,” he replied. Ferret showed the wrist band to a security guard, who nodded, letting him past into the main building.

His heart pounded with excitement. He chose an aisle and began browsing. Every booth he passed seemed busy. Half-naked customers sat on chairs or lay on massage tables, as the artists outlined their stencils. The variety amazed him, from tribal patterns to Yakuza koi-fish, classic sailor icons to photo-realistic images. Artists from around the globe displayed their flags and pictures of previous works. From Korea to Brazil, Mexico to South Africa, every corner of the world seemed to be represented. The one thing Ferret struggled to find, however, was an empty booth. After some time searching, he spotted a bored-looking woman at a table and nervously approached her.

“Are you free to do a sleeve?”

She looked up at him and sighed.

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“Did you make a booking?” she asked, her jaw working some gum.

“I didn’t realise you needed to,” he said, embarrassed.

“So let me get this straight; you just turned up here today expecting a world-class artist to have at least six hours spare to do a piece on you and you didn’t think you needed to book ahead?”

Ferret’s heart sank. He grimaced.

“I guess I didn’t really think this through.”

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“Ya think? Good luck with that kid.”

He moved on, shoulders slumped. Each aisle seemed the same, booths occupied by customers that had booked in advance. One or two artists were available for walk-ins, but they were only doing small tattoos; Asian symbols, butterflies and things of that kind. The more booths he passed, the more desperate he became. The more time that passed, the less likely that he would get his ink done.

Ferret walked down the last aisle and noticed that the booths began to evolve. He saw UV tattoos highlighted with black lights. Scarification. Subdermal Implants. The artists were no longer piercing tongues, but splitting them. No longer tattooing arms, but eyeballs.

Then he found it.

A red tent with a sign: Walk-ins Welcome!

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He entered and was greeted by a large, tattooed, bearded man.

“Do you do sleeves?” Ferret asked.

“Sleeving? Absolutely! Sit down,” the man said, motioning to a black barber’s chair.

Ferret obeyed. The tent was dimly lit and smelled like disinfectant. There weren’t any photos displayed for him to choose from.

“I just want to get my left arm done. I’m not really sure about style or anything.”

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“Leave it to me. Just take off your shirt. That’s it. Do you want it from the shoulder down to the wrist? Yeah? Not a problem. Now I’ve just got to jab you with this. Excellent.”

“Is that for the pain?”

The bearded man laughed.

“There’s no point doing this if it’s painless, is there? No, that’s to prevent infection. You have some cash?”

“Yeah, I brought around a grand.”

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“Hmm, that’s a little light, but we can work something out later. Okay. I just have to strap your legs in like this. Good. Now I have to strap your wrists too. And this goes around your chest. Don’t want you moving around during this, do we?”

“Uh, I guess not.”

“Alright, now I’m just going to pop in this ball-gag, like so. Can’t have you making too much noise. We’ll get complaints. I’ll just bring over my tools.”

The man wheeled over a small table. On top of the table was a tray, displaying a wide arrange of scalpels and tweezers. He put on some black nitrile gloves and picked each one up, spraying them with alcohol. Ferret started breathing hard, his eyes opened wide with terror.

A tall, pale, lanky man limped into the tent. He looked at Ferret with surprise. Ferret yelled at him for help, but the gag silenced him.

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“What’s this then?” he asked.

“Trevor! Just in time. This little guy is a champion! Not a single piercing or tattoo on him and he wants to jump straight into sleeving. Can you believe it?”

“Serious? Can I watch?”

“Sure, but sit over there. I’m about to start.”

The bearded artist picked up a scalpel and held it to the light. Ferret shook his head and let out a muffled scream.

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“Relax young man. I’m a professional.”

He slid a bucket under the armrest with his foot. Holding the scalpel like a pen, he carefully pressed it into Ferret’s shoulder, running it carefully along to the armpit.

Ferret tried to struggle, but was tied down tight. Tears and sweat ran down his face. Blood ran down his arm into the bucket.

“OK. I think we’re ready. I’ll try to do this as quickly as possible, like a band-aid. One. Two. Three!”

The man grabbed Ferret’s skin with two pairs of tweezers and began to peel.

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Dean MacAllister is a mammal that lives in Melbourne, Australia. He is a seasoned world traveller, scuba diver and avid lover of writing and reading fiction. He has been previously published in multiple magazines and writing competitions worldwide, including EWR, WWC, Weirdbook and his first novel ‘The Misadventures of a Reluctant Traveller’ is now available on Amazon. For more of his works make sure you check out Deanmacallister.com

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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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Original Creations

Dirty Clean Sweep, a Short Story by Jennifer Weigel

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Wendell was a germophobe. His obsessions with cleanliness extended far beyond the reach of OCD and even hypochondria, because for all that he was totally infatuated with his own mortality and utterly convinced that he was sick, it was his peculiar obsession with germs that eventually drove him to an insanity that doomed the world to an unexpected and dire destruction. For Wendell was the reason for the Clean Sweep.

When the COVID pandemic happened, it only increased Wendell’s fear, and his germophobia worsened significantly. He started meticulously waxing all of the hair off of his body, even his eyebrows, and would shower several times per day, using an abrasive pumice to slough off any dead skin that might otherwise accumulate and attract mites. As his manners and habits surrounding cleanliness became more and more rigid and involved, he left his house less and less for any reason whatsoever. He began to treat his home environment like a hospital or chemical facility and reworked everything to minimize debris, personally installing air filtration systems that rivaled some of the most sterile industry environments and cleaning everything constantly (he had once worked in HVAC and now no longer trusted anyone else to be involved in his efforts).

He took advantage of all of the delivery services, with packages coming to his back porch once weekly. He had everything on video camera and would scream at anyone who didn’t follow his explicit instructions through a small speaker in the ceiling. If a delivery-person didn’t first sanitize their hands with the supplied wipes and then put on latex gloves and booties before turning the door handle to drop their package on the specified table, they were yelled at and reported, and a bad review was left for whatever service had sent them.

Dirty Clean hand sanitizer out and about
Dirty Clean…

Wendell only order packaged foods, simple soups and cereals that would not come in contact with the world outside of their factory packaged settings. He meticulously researched processing plants to determine what he could and could not consume according to his own standards of cleanliness. When a parcel was delivered, he would leave it where it sat for two to three days time depending on the weather, all the while monitoring it. He would eventually suit up in a tyvek jumpsuit, goggled and gloved, and brave the porch himself in order to extract his needed food and hygiene supplies. Whilst there, he would spray and wipe down the porch, replenish the hand sanitizing wipes and latex gloves, and take everything that might have come into contact with the outside world out with his trash. The cycle would then repeat again a few days later. Every delivery included yet more gear to perpetuate his clean infatuation. More latex gloves, more wipes, more sprays, more tyvek suits… And every time his labors increased…

While Wendell continued to go about his business, ordering life necessities like soap and soup online, a slow and subtle change to his environment began to take over. It wasn’t obvious and, as he never put any distance between himself and his bubble world, he was unaware of the shift. It began because of a spore, well more of an anti-spore like blossoming of suddenly self-aware sterilization. No one really knows where it came from, or how it managed to get such a strong foothold, but perhaps it was because of Wendell’s meticulous cleaning habits. For this strange and unusual being, or beings as it were (for it was hard to tell whether there was a single individual or a number of them all acting under one consciousness), though unaffected by cleaning reagents and the like, had once been highly susceptible to bacteria and rarely survived at length when competing for resources with other species previous to its evolution in Wendell’s abode. But the bereft home was the perfect outpost for it to thrive, and it finally managed to gain a foothold. It grew rapidly and had soon infiltrated most every corner.

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As mentioned, Wendell didn’t notice, or perhaps he welcomed the change. For this strange surface skimmer actually looked even cleaner than its surroundings, appearing as an even brighter less dingy white that almost seemed to glow. It embodied cleanliness, at least insofar as we have come to perceive the concept. And the more that it acclimated to its habitat, the more resilient it became, learning to alter its own surroundings to its gain by killing off any and all other life forms that stood in its way. When a small quantity of some bacteria or mite or other single-celled threat was introduced, say on a box surface or embedded in the cardboard, the newly evolved clean critter would attack and annihilate them almost as if it were itself composed of harsh cleansers like bleach and ammonia. It seemed to develop a memory for different organisms and found a way to destroy most everything. It steadily increased in size and became stronger and stronger.

Clean Dirty hand sanitizer out and about
Clean Dirty…

Finally, one day, it had grown large enough to determine that Wendell himself was a threat, for no matter how clean his environment or person was, he still harbored a myriad of organisms required to keep a human healthy and fully functioning. He was inherently dirty and had to be eliminated. And so the creature he had fostered at length, by providing a nearly sterile environment for its incubation, rose up and destroyed him. It did so while he was sleeping and so he had no awareness of what had happened; had he realized a blanket of seemingly sudsy foam was suffocating him he would have panicked thinking it was some sort of bacterial infection or the like. But he blissfully slept through his untimely death, and the aggressive new organism worked to dispel all of the unclean bits and detritus of his being.

After finally taking over the whole of the house, this new creature began to spread, much like a fungus or a rot, dismantling all in its path in order to leave a wake of clean sterile nothingness. Although it has been said that nature abhors a vacuum, somehow this void had become powerful enough to negate that and continued on its path of complete and utter destruction, leaving nothing living in its path. Before too long it had absorbed the two neighboring houses, and then the houses just beyond those, in a sort of reverse infection that defied logical explanation. The local health department and center for disease control were perplexed; these spaces seemed too clean to harbor such a deadly silent killer and yet something was slowly annihilating everything in its path on a microscopic level. It almost acted like a slow progressing chemical spill but yet there was no evidence of such either.

Before long, word had gotten out and samples had been taken and distributed across the globe. One of those samples was eventually leaked intentionally, as a weapon of mass destruction, and was unable to later be contained. The Clean Sweep was upon all and the world began to be disinfected wholly as it spread. Life was literally in the balance, slated to be eradicated and left to a sort of shiny surface devoid of substance. All was being cleansed, slowly but surely. What started with Wendell, whom would never be known or acknowledged as the source of this new terror, had grown to be much larger.

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.

If you enjoyed this tale, here is another creepy story about cleanliness. 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 Creations

More Nail Polish Paintings by Jennifer Weigel

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Well, seems I’m at it again, with more nail polish paintings into found thrift store art. Why so many flowers this time…? Well a friend sent them and I just couldn’t help myself. They are so perfect for creepy fairy paintings. And for those of you who think fairies aren’t scary, you haven’t read much about the fey now have you?

More Revisitations nail polish paintings by Jennifer Weigel
More Revisitations nail polish paintings by Jennifer Weigel

Top left: Blue Fairy, originally painted by M Wadorf

Top right: Pegasus, originally painted by Edie Babb

Bottom left: Unicorn, originally painted by R Lovelace (After I painted this I realized I missed the opportunity to do a troll with a bridge and so I hope to do another along those lines in the future.)

Bottom middle: Fairy, originally painted by SD Janz

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Bottom right: Dragon, original signed FZ, very sparkly with black-light sensitive eyes

And the most horrific of the bunch this time is this mermaid, who started as a weird bucket painting by Helen Miller… So, what’s in the bucket, Helen? Body parts? Fish? Plants not yet in bloom? I envisioned a trapped mermaid waiting to ensnare some unsuspecting land-goer, because no one would expect to find a mermaid there…

Mermaid in bucket, original by Helen Miller
Is this mermaid trapped in need of help or just trying to lure you close?

So I broke down and redid the unicorn to a troll. Apparently the troll was hungry… Anyway, here is the result. I am happier with it now.

Troll with toll bridge, original by R Lovelace
Hungry troll wants bridge tolls after eating innocent unicorn.

You can find more of my Revisitations art on Haunted MTL here, including links to even more nail polish paintings…

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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