The Professor by Casper Rose
On a mild day in late March, Professor Cavanaugh sat on his padded rolling chair organising the various objects which coated his desk. He scooped up a collection of assorted paperclips and pads of sticky notes and encouraged them into a basket held at an angle at the edge of his desk before tucking it lengthways into the drawer. The Professor always worked better with a clean desk, and there was work to be done today. After he was done, the Professor would need to take the spare data collations back to the lab, and then make it back upstairs for his eleven-thirty class.
As he was walking, the Professor noticed a strange feeling on the roof of his mouth, almost as if he had grazed it on a sharp piece of food; he had no idea. He was still running his tongue along the roof of his mouth as a student stopped him in the hall.
“Professor Cavanaugh?”, she was older for a second year, maybe in her mid-twenties, and if the Professor were to be honest with himself, he had no idea of her name. She continued, “Sorry sir, I was just wondering if we had class next week, seeing as the other group won’t have their lesson on Friday.”
Right, the Professor would need to put a notice up soon, “No, I’ll make sure to let everyone know by this Thursday.” He chewed on the inside of his cheek, feeling the irritation move backwards in his mouth.
“Thank you!” she seemed to have started walking away before she was even finished talking.
Distracted, the Professor kept along his way, still chewing on the inside of his cheek. The feeling had moved again, farther back and behind his back teeth. He could not decide if it itched or not, but now that he had begun paying attention to it, it seemed to bother him even more.
Later, the Professor was back at his desk, reading through a syllabus change for the following year. He had forgotten about the feeling in his mouth while he was teaching but, at that moment, it crept back into the inside of his upper lip. Why? He began digging his tongue into his lip, pushing the feeling around. Had he eaten something?
Minutes went by before the feeling settled once more, but only for the briefest of moments. Irritated, Professor Cavanaugh pushed the syllabus away, taking the back hall to the janitorial bathroom downstairs. He leaned over the sink, avoiding the patches of water littered over the basin, turning his head back and forth with his mouth open. In that moment, he thought of himself like a clown whose mouth waited open for a ping pong ball at a carnival. Despite the amusing thought, Cavanaugh saw nothing in his mouth. He took his thumbs unceremoniously shoved them under his upper lip to expose the pink flesh that was, unfortunately, no more pink than normal.
Sighing, Professor Cavanaugh ran his finger along the inside of his upper lip again, feeling for something, anything. In the most irritated patch of his mouth for that time, the Professor felt several tiny raised bumps, but perhaps his mouth was covered in them, if he really felt it. He checked his watch, four o’clock, almost time for him to go home. He must remember to post that notice.
The Professor stared at himself in the mirror once more, this time at home. He had been home and showered, feeling better having washed off the heat of the day. He still felt hot. The feeling in his mouth had evolved to tingling, and sometimes even – at the most unexpected times – a burning. The bathroom door was open, and the Professor had already confided in her, or perhaps complained, about the feeling. She had half-jokingly told him he had ‘one of those worms’ that get under your skin and crawl around.
“Don’t be silly, Bianca.” Professor Cavanaugh had teased her for her hypochondria, “besides, worms slither, not crawl.”, but the thought played on him. He did not sleep well that night.
The feeling came and went over the next few days, appearing spontaneously to bother the Professor and, with just as much spontaneity, disappeared. Sometimes, it would disappear for hours at a time, and sometimes, it bothered him for as long. Blessedly, the Professor found that if he did his best not to disrupt it, the feeling would settle. Still, it bothered him, and with persistence.
On another of his staring matches with the feeling in his mouth, he scratched at the area in hopes of opening the protrusions and willing them to spill their irritating contents. It stung, and he bled slightly, coating his mouth in a metallic taste, but he was sure he saw a flash of white under the broken skin. This appearance would not be strange, if it had not disappeared a moment later. Professor Cavanaugh felt sick, had he just seen something move inside his mouth? Inside the inside of his mouth?
Weary of the irritation, the Professor pulled open the second drawer with once hand, one hand still pressed into his bottom lip, holding it away from the rest of his mouth. He rummaged for a moment before finding the sharp end of the metal utensil for which he had been looking. Prying his lip away further from his teeth, he dug the tweezers into the wound he had made a few moments before, attempting to grab the thing he had seen. It was gone. Dejected, the Professor set the tweezers on the basin and waited for the thing to return to the front of his mouth.
The next morning, a Saturday, Professor Cavanaugh had his upper lip pinched between his thumb and forefinger and pressed against the side of his nose. Bianca was out that morning, her yoga class. He was pricking and prodding the invisible tingling with the tweezers, breaking the skin and sinking the sharp ends of the tweezers into the wound to pull the thing out. Drool seeped out of the open corner of his mouth and Professor Cavanaugh leaned further over the basin to catch it in the sink.
Eventually, the Professor had worked the entirety of the ends of the tweezers under the skin in his mouth. The pain became searing, and more blood came the deeper he went. Desperate, he kept digging. Finally, his efforts paid off as he squeezed the tweezing ends together underneath his skin and pulled them out, slowly, pulling some of his mouth with them but not wanting to let go of his prize.
When it was out, Professor Cavanaugh stared at the tweezer ends, his hand still clamped firmly on the handle of the small instrument, lest the creature caught in the end managed to squirm free. It was white, tiny, just barely taking up the space at the end of the closed tweezers, and it was moving.
Not seconds later, the Professor felt the tingling return, now damp compared to the stinging in his upper lip. There must be more than one parasite in his mouth. Thoughts crept in of a whole colony of worms living in his body, thousands of them. His skin began to crawl. In the mirror, he could see that the right side of his mouth was swollen, and his teeth were stained red like he would see in the movies.
Professor Cavanaugh was overcome; he had to get rid of this feeling in his mouth. He dumped the tweezer in the sink and ran the water over them to be sure that the thing was gone and pried open his mouth again. The feeling had moved again, and the Professor was forced to make a new incision in his cheek. Using the tweezers once more, he began digging.
Soon, he had found the creature, pale and exposed due to the broken skin inside his cheek. The pain was worse than it had been in his lip, but the Professor was determined to get it out. He had a hold of the worm and was twisting the tweezers inside the wound in an attempt to free it from his mouth, his eyes watering. Suddenly, it came free, sending shockwaves through the entire left side of his face, through his neck. He felt dizzy.
The blackness faded away as Professor Cavanaugh came to. He felt as if a great tiredness had come over him, and a great heaviness too. He lifted his hand to his face – which had already begun to throb – only to find that his arm had stopped about half a foot above the bed. The Professor looked down at the restraints around his wrists. Not yet fully conscious, words floated to him from the other side of a curtain pulled shut.
“Mrs Cavanaugh, I am afraid he will have to be admitted.”
He recognised Bianca’s voice, “I have no idea what happened, all that blood…”
“We’ve stopped the bleeding. He’s on some pretty heavy sedatives.”
Again, the Professor blinked, awake, more awake this time. He could no longer hear his wife. He wanted to scream, what was going on? Adjusting his eyes to the light, he realised the whiteness of the room. Again, words seemed to drift toward him, this time from a farther place. It came to him in pieces.
“His chart says…dose. …was already awake…”
A different voice, “…tweezers. I don’t…said the levator anguli…lost some function of his jaw…”
It all returned to him, the worms. The pain. Drowsily, he listened.
“…tore his tendon right…couldn’t imagine…”
a young Australian author who picked up writing as a hobby and fell in love. Enjoys profound writing that strives for an emotional response from the reader most of all.
Reanimating Dead Art with Monsters by Jennifer Weigel
Dead art… It’s a thing that happens, sadly. Typically found at thrift and antique stores or dumpster diving or by the side of the road. But art is never really dead, just resting… Here are some reanimated paintings I made by incorporating nail polish monsters into existing art.
Let’s face it – reworking old abandoned artworks with monsters kind of rocks. For awhile they were all over the internet. I admit, it took me a long time to muster up the courage to paint into someone else’s grandmother’s art, but once I started I just couldn’t stop. From top to bottom, left to right we have: Zombies, Unicorn, Siren, Krakken, Harpies, Sasquatch, Alien Invasion, Witch, and Serpent.
The dragon is probably my favorite. All of the shades of red are really vibrant and striking against the green. And dragons are always so classic and grandiose and terrifying, perfect for pairing with a mountain landscape. I love painting with nail polish for the sparkle, even if the fumes do get kind of noxious en masse. (The best subject to paint in this media is Rocky Horror style lips by the way, in case you were wondering.)
And what better way to complete the collection than with a portrait of a Fairy Queen, her icy stare drilling into your soul. She’s up to some sort of magical mischief, that’s for sure.
And speaking of magical mischief, this is the monster painting I made just for me. The original artwork is about 4 feet long and I knew as soon as I saw it that I wanted to reanimate it in this exact way for all that this is the last in the series that I did. I even added extra shimmer factor. I’d initially considered adding a sea serpent or a dragon but no, she told me to stop.
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.
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.
Again, if you want to learn more about the V-Day movement, please check out their website here.
The Way Things Were, story by Jennifer Weigel
Revisiting my last St. Patrick’s Day post, what’s a wolf to were?
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…
Check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s writing here at Jennifer Weigel Words.