Jim here–not only is this a tight piece of short fiction with twists and stabs but I’d have published it just for the sake of that hat! Gotta love a writer with a good taste in hats! – Jim
The Seer of Midway Mall
I’m not a fortune teller. Not exactly. I mean, yeah, sometimes I see things, but I can’t control it. I can’t choose when it works, or decide whose future I’m going to get a look at. It just happens.
Like today. I was cutting through the mall on my way home from work. It was packed, as usual, and people were irritable about the crowds, also as usual. I don’t know why I always go through the mall. It shaves five minutes off my trip, but it more than makes up for it in aggravation. Everyone’s in a hurry, you’re constantly cut off or jostled, and the best you get by way of apology is a half-hearted mumble. I’m always promising myself I’ll stop going that route, but at the end of a long work day the extra five minutes seems like an eternity.
I managed to make it all the way to the far exit with my temper still in check, which was no small feat. I was reaching for the door when some Bluetooth-using, two thousand dollar suit type stepped right in front of me. He had to get pretty aggressive with his shoulder to get ahead, and I stumbled from the contact, falling forward into him. He didn’t even slow, just swung his elbow painfully into my chest, and said, “Out of my way, dickless.”
I didn’t have time to get upset, though, because somewhere between his elbow hitting me and him swearing at me, I had a vision. I got a look at Bluetooth’s future, and it was not pleasant. I saw him walking alone through a dark concrete structure. Or at least he thought he was alone, but I could see someone was following him. He was yammering belligerently into his phone, not at all aware of his surroundings. My viewpoint in these things varies, but in this particular vision I was looking from behind both of them, so I couldn’t get a good look at the person following him. All I could tell from my angle was that he appeared to be another “suit and tie guy.” He carried a brown leather briefcase and wore a long grey pea coat. As he approached his oblivious victim from behind, I saw a long handled claw hammer slide from inside his sleeve and down into his hand. It was then I noticed that he was wearing white latex gloves. I could see him look around the structure to confirm they were alone and quicken his pace to catch up to his victim.
“I don’t care, you’ll do it or you’ll find a new job.” The guy reached his car and the climax of his phone rant at about the same time. Hanging up, he unlocked and opened his car door just as his stalker crept quietly up behind him. The first hammer blow came down on the back of his neck. Bluetooth shrieked and fell face first onto the driver’s seat. His attacker shoved him through the car and into the passenger seat, then calmly stepped into the car himself and shut the door. More hammer blows followed. Many more. I won’t get into too much detail, but it was bloody and, unfortunately for Bluetooth, he lasted a long time.
“Hey man, you’re blocking the door.”
“Oh, please pardon me.”
And just like that I was back in the mall, standing in a stupor with my hand on the door, my heart trying to thump its way out of my chest. People were moving around me to the other exits, many shooting me unpleasant looks for delaying them.
I stepped through the exit and into the warm spring sun, fighting a losing battle to get control of my heart. I took a moment to consider what to do, but quickly came to the same decision I always do. I reached into my leather briefcase, feeling for the surgical gloves and claw hammer I kept there for just such occasions. Down the street, I could just see Bluetooth turning off into a gloomy parking structure. Reassured by the hammer’s weight, I started off after him. After all, I’d already seen his future. Who was I to deny it?
Rob Caleval grew up on the Canadian prairies with a hockey stick in one hand and a book in the other. He holds a degree in English from the University of Regina and has worked in the emergency services industry for well over a decade. Between coaching junior lacrosse and wood working projects, he does occasionally find time to write something. His latest work can be found in the upcoming issue of The Freshwater Review.
Nightmarish Nature: Vampires Among Us
This is the kickoff to a new series exploring nature that is kind of horrifying, at least in ways. Our first subject is Vampires Among Us. There are lots of animals named for vampires, sometimes due to folklore and sometimes for their appearance (like the Vampire Squid), but most of these animals don’t have blood sucking tendencies.
Bats & Birds
There are legit vampire leaf-nosed bats in Central and South America that drink blood. They feed on mammals and are often shown to feed on livestock. They’d be kinda cute if they weren’t so creepy. There are also vampiric birds: some finches in the Galapagos have developed the taste for blood of other birds, mainly seabirds that flock to the islands to raise their young.
Leeches & Lampreys & More
And then you get into leeches and lampreys and other denizens of the water that are known to attach themselves to larger creatures and drink their blood. Leeches were even believed to have medicinal value (and still are in certain circumstances). And there are also numerous plants that are known to be parasitic and feed on other plants, wrapping their roots or vines around others to steal nutrients.
Now I’m going to drift off into the realm where this becomes truly horrific. Spiders. Now, spiders aren’t vampires per se, seeing as how they actually kill their prey – they don’t just feed off of it while it remains living and wanders about its business. But because of their structure, they cannot eat solid foods, so they have to inject their prey with enzymes to liquefy it so they can slurp it out like a protein shake. That’s sort of vampirism on steroids if you ask me, just the kind that no one is coming back from.
But let’s get back on topic. Now let’s consider mites and ticks and fleas and mosquitoes and the like. Some drink blood for their survival; others do so as part of their reproductive cycle (like mosquitoes which otherwise eat fruit and nectar but need the extra protein from blood to grow their eggs).
Ticks need to feed on blood once at every stage of their life cycle and can pick up diseases along the way (like Lyme Disease) but don’t always do so. Different ticks are more likely to come in contact with different things and often humans are not their preferred meal but they are opportunistic and will feed on whatever is available when necessary. Symptoms of illness from tick bites may take years to develop and can have really weird side effects (like the allergy associated with Lone Star Ticks which makes a person unable to consume mammalian flesh).
Anyway, here are some brief glimpses of vampirism in nature. Thank you for joining us for Nightmarish Nature and may you avoid getting bitten by any true vampires among us… And I still think spiders take first place in the creepy eating category here, even if they aren’t technically vampiric.
Buried Treasure by “Dread Pirate” Jennifer Weigel
This story came to me in a sort of roundabout way from a rather unusual source. So I thought I’d share it with you, dear readership, and see if you can make heads or tails of it. – Jennifer Weigel
Dread Pirate Rum Tum Tugger could tell this was the right spot.
The site, beneath the sweeping limbs of the Live Oak, Spanish Moss swaying gently in the breeze, was a perfect match to the crude map he had bought off that soothsayer Deuteronomy.
The earth moved easily, as if it had been excavated previously. He dug in with greater fervor with each swipe. The sandy soil gave way to reveal something hard. He scooped and smoothed the remaining detritus from the surface as he uncovered a box.
The carton was simple.
No markings; no ornamentation; no writing. Just a plain cardboard crate, brittle from having been buried for so long but still sturdy. He hoisted it from its burrow.
“Ha HO!” he shouted to the passing breeze, rousing a small cloud of birds that erupted from a nearby thicket. They captured his attention for a moment, but he quickly refocused and returned to his task.
The box was locked but no difference.
Any self-respecting ruffian like himself could pick a lock in seconds. And he did so with panache, as was his way. He pried the lid open and licked his lips.
Inside was the legendary Kernel of Eternal Life, a small sparrow’s heart, still beating.
Artwork description: Myself as Dread Pirate Queen Miss Kitty wearing black bell sleeve shirt and black vinyl skirt with strapping leather belt over leopard print shirt and tights, with strapping leather boots, pirate head wrap and leopard cat ears.
Image text reads: Purr! Avast ye mateys, Dread Pirate Queen Miss Kitty invites ye to check out her booty stash and dig ye up a dungbie prize. Seek ye some buried treasure! Just grab ye a plastic litter scoop and dig… dig… dig… to ye heart’s content.
I created this image for a promotional poster for a performance piece in a charity art show in which I, as Dread Pirate Queen Miss Kitty, hawked a carnival sideshow style sidewalk installation. For a mere $5 donation to the animal shelter the show supported, gallery goers could dig around in a kiddie pool full of litter to find a prize: a cheap plastic trinket from the dollar store. I had some takers, including one kid who seemed to really enjoy the digging and whose parents were all in, saying “You know, you can totally do that at home too.”
For more cat antics, we invite you to read C-2747’s logbook here on Haunted MTL. 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.
Queen of Everything Mother’s Day Wishes
Happy Mother’s Day to the Queen of Everything… nothing gets by you.
Artwork description: A Happy Mother’s Day card featuring a picture of a Nefertiti doll with swooping hair, glitter makeup, and elaborate gold and blue headdress and evening gown.
Image text reads: Happy Mother’s Day! You are the Queen of Everything and you shimmer brighter than the twinkliest star in the sky. Stay sparkly and shine on in your magnificent glitter bombasticness. You ARE truly everything everywhere all at once and you’ve seen and heard it all. Eyes in the back of your head and superpowered hearing mean we can’t get away with much no matter how hard we try. So Queen on and rule over home in sparkly sentinel.
And may this be a testament to why us kids shalt never get you out of bed too early or run amok while you are getting ready to start your day… Because being the Queen of Everything takes planning and preparation…
Feel free to check out this Mummy Dearest Mother’s Day card from 2021 here on Haunted MTL.