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Day 14

Danielle rose to her feet and walked to the bedroom of the now-dead couple. She saw a pile of blankets strewn across the bed and floor and reached down to grab a bundle. Peering around the room, blankets piled into her arms, she saw a dark object wedged between the side of the bed and a bedside table. She’d come back to check on it after the immediate work was done.

Back in the living room, she layered two blankets over the remains. Blood began to soak into the fabric creating small spots of blotchy red, but for now, the horrid sight of the remains was gone. For good measure, she tucked the trophy under the blanket as well. She couldn’t handle the chunks of hair and brain matter coating the gold-colored plastic.

She didn’t know why, specifically, she had aimed for the head. Maybe she had heard something during one of those harried evening broadcasts of instructions, over shoutings of studio and radio crew. Maybe it was just that the skull was the source of all thought. All she knew was that so far that it had worked out for her, twice.

Aim for the head.

It was obvious now that she needed something more effective than a trophy if she wanted to get anywhere safely. She needed a gun and she knew exactly where her dad had kept it. But getting there would require something else to defend herself in the meantime. A kitchen knife would work in a pinch, but there had to be something else… She snagged a knife from a drawer in the kitchen. A knife would be light, but not a lasting solution. It had best be something she should get used to holding for a while but still fairly heavy.

She searched around the neighbors’ apartment. There was little of practical use, but she mulled over the possibilities of each and every bludgeon, poker, or blade she stumbled on. So many things that were part of everyday life that she never would have thought of as weapons were now game… each one would be ranked by their effectiveness as she moved from space to space in the cramped two-room apartment.

She returned to the bedroom of Julie and her unknown boyfriend and checked under the bed, seeing nothing but shoeboxes. Pickings had been slim thus far. She sat down and leaned against a cheap cabinet that sat against the wall, staring at her haul of coat hangers, kitchen knives, and sporting goods. Remembering earlier, she turned her gaze to the bedside table and saw something red tucked between the bed and the table. Danielle reached her hand between them and grabbed at something heavy. 

A crowbar.

The weight was reassuring. The crowbar became the first step in the plan. She needed a gun, but rather than search apartment after apartment for one, she needed a sure thing.

Her family’s storage building was exactly where she would need to go.

She stepped out of the apartment with one heaping backpack weighing her down and digging into her shoulders. It was a hiking backpack she rarely used and had always griped about the cost, much to the annoyance of her friends. It only took the fucking apocalypse to make the backpack worthwhile. 

The backpack had a pair of aluminum rods along the spine, connected by a plastic handle where she strapped her sleeping bag. Over her shoulder, she had a messenger bag that used to carry her school books, but now carried whatever food she could scrounge up. Across her other shoulder, she had two gallon bottles of water, strapped together with a belt drawn tight. The belt loop was wrapped with a dish towel for padding, but it did very little to ease the burden of the weight. She also has a small collection of luggage and bags at her feet, ready to be put into the trunk of her car, if it still ran.

She took some sheets and used them to lower her extra supplies to the floor below, as the stairs were demolished. Each deposit of cargo was done as silently as possible to not alert any Ghouls in the area. Supplies staged below, she lowered herself from the demolished stairwell and peered around, wary of any movement. Safe, for a moment, she took a look at her apartment that loomed above her, next to the makeshift tomb of her unlucky neighbors.

It was time to go.

Her car was not blocked in, thankfully, and she had not encountered a single ghoul on her two trips to get her supplies to the car. The back seat of the Focus was jammed with what she had brought and she slid her hiking pack into the passenger seat. She opened the driver’s side door, took a deep breath, and turned the ignition.

The car sputtered but didn’t turn over. She almost began to cry in frustration but she straightened in her seat and tried again. After a couple of tries, the engine rumbled to life. 

She laughed, nearly startling herself with how loud she had been. She’d been quiet for what felt like weeks. It felt strange to make a noise above a loud whisper.

Her tank was still relatively full, thankfully. It was more than enough to get her to where she needed to go, only a couple of blocks away. She would drive down, break into the office, grab the gun, and get back into the car and drive the fuck out of town. It was the best plan she had and it seemed effective enough for now.

She took the Focus into reverse, then to drive, through instinct. She rounded the corner of the cross-like lane that divided the apartments, dotted with parking spots, abandoned cars, and a few grim remains. Ahead she saw the gate that opened to Acacia street was a mess; a couple of cars were piled up against an ambulance. It would be too much to move them.

She noticed a pair of figures awkwardly wedge themselves between the detritus and start moving toward her. She kept calm and reversed, noticing a single ghoul in her rear-view mirror. Taking a breath, she reversed back into her lane where she had come from, and instead made a right, rolling past the decomposing creature. The clumsy shambler bounced off the corner of the Focus and fell to the ground in a heap. She made another right to the other exit that led to Howard street and was relieved to see no cars were blocking it. The gate, however, was partially torn down and leaning into the apartment complex. It would be dangerous to drive through. It had to be moved.

The ghouls behind her were still shambling awkwardly in her direction as she rounded the corner. She rolled the Focus forward enough to park. Danielle took in her surroundings again, and not immediately able to identify any of the undead around her, stepped out of the Focus, crowbar in hand.

The young survivor made her way to the gates and hooked onto one end with the crowbar and began to pull at it, trying to pull it out toward the grass outside, like opening a door. The metal creaked and buckled, but the gate was being stubborn. Frustrated, her temper got the better of her and she pulled hard enough to rattle the gate loudly. She stopped, panting, angry, and nervous.

She heard the moans of approaching ghouls from behind.

Next Installment

Thank you for reading the second installment of the Haunted MTL original series, The Dead Life. Please share your thoughts about the story with us.


David Davis is a writer, cartoonist, and educator in Southern California with an M.A. in literature and writing studies.

Original Creations

The Elves Reunion, a short story by Jennifer Weigel

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An Elven portal in the woods, emerging from stone and forest floor.
An Elven portal in the woods, emerging from stone and forest floor.

I had heard tale that The Elves dwell in these woods.  Many underestimate The Elves; they have a fondness of heart for Tolkienesque Middle Earth fantasy stories and tales where Elves are the most highly civilized, virtuous and intelligent.  They forget that those are just myths, save for The Elves being cunning.  Remember that the Pied Piper was an Elf, and the children he took were not destined for such a glorious fate.

My sister lost her firstborn to The Elves.  She hadn’t noticed the Changeling until it was too late.  Her baby had already long since been stolen away.  She was so distraught she refused to eat or speak.  She locked herself in her room.  Or my family locked her into it as she succumbed to the madness.  Such are the ways of the family, for all of our protection.  We never question but follow as expected, as a means of self-preservation.  It has kept us all alive.

But I couldn’t get the sinking feeling out of my stomach; the grief became too overwhelming. That is why I came here.  I know I will not be able to rescue the child, nor my sister.  But I seek to avenge their meaningless deaths.  To ensure that it doesn’t happen again.  My family will never act.  I am tired of the Village Elders just shrugging these things off in hushed whispers and badly shrouded secrets.  It happens time and again.  We are all expendable.  They never do anything.

So here I am, in the Elven wood.  Alone.  As soon as my family figures out that I’m here, they will disown me.  They probably already have.  Again, it is for our own protection.  I’ll be just another casualty of The Elves.  Everything is so structured, so regimented.  Anyone who dares act in opposition to the rules vanishes.  We are all so afraid.

I lay in wait.  It’s just a matter of time before the portal appears.  The Elves use the portals to travel across time and space.  They appear where and when they wish.  But this time, I will go through first.  I know not what is on the other side, just that the portals allow only one to traverse in each direction.  We will trade places, if only for a moment until another portal forms.  Hopefully that will be enough time.

The trees shift and morph.  Falling leaves drift slower and slower towards the ground.  There is a stillness that I cannot fully express.  My breath hangs heavy in the silent air.  There is no sound, no smell, no taste.  It is time.  The hairs on the back of my neck and arms rise. I can sense the opening forming.  There is an uncanny familiarity in this moment, as if I have been here before.

As soon as the portal opens, I dash through.  But something isn’t right.  No one came through from the other side.  Or did they?  I cannot tell.  I am alone, in limbo between states of existence.  The world spins around me.  I can feel the drift.  Is this what death feels like?  Cold unbroken silence?  I feel distant eyes upon me everywhere, all around me, in the trees, the clouds, pinpoints of light that shimmer through.

I can feel The Elves eyes upon me everywhere.  In the leaves, in the trees themselves.
I can feel The Elves eyes upon me everywhere. In the leaves, in the trees themselves.

I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Maybe this is all according to plan.  But who was orchestrating the exchange?  My idea was only half formed in those passing pensive moments I am able to think for myself, few and far between.  My family, the Village Elders… no one allows time for freeform thought.  I hadn’t considered what would happen after the portal exchange.  I never really got past step one.

A voice greets me from the trees.  It is hauntingly familiar but seems only a distant memory.

“I’ve been expecting you.”

The world slowly comes into focus.  Clarity restored, the leaves circle me in an embrace.  My sister emerges, her dark eyes smiling.  She cradles the baby in her arms.

“You made it.  You escaped,” she sings.

“I didn’t see anyone,” I retort, skeptical.  I hadn’t recalled having seen any Elves, dark nightmarish fiends that they are, wild, unkempt, uncouth.  Savage beasts like Pan or Krampus.  Is this an illusion?  My sister seems so lifelike, so much herself.  She is the joyful young mother I had known her to be.  Filled with love and laughter.  Light dances about her, and she shimmers.

“Not in passing,” my sister clarifies.  “You have been living among them your whole life.  I had done so as well until the baby was stolen.  My heart broke; I had to follow after.  That was when I learned the Truth.”

“Why do you think we are so sheltered?  Why are we forbidden to do anything?  They do so to protect us from the Truth about who and what we are,” she continued.  “We’ve spent our lives evading that which we truly know ourselves to be.  We were the stolen ones, not the other way around…”

I notice that the portal I came through is still open, reinforcing my idea that no one had passed through the other way.  It is as if the portal was opened specifically to call me through. My sister extends her hand, beckoning me to join her.  There is a gleam in her eye I cannot pinpoint.  She seems happy, but something still isn’t quite right.  I’m still uncertain why I am here, in this time and place, as if destined to be present in this moment, in this decision.

The Village has fallen away to the woods.  There are no breadcrumb trails to follow home.  The idea of home itself seems distant like yet another illusion.  Nothing makes sense anymore.  I am unsure whether I am coming or going.  Two paths lay open before me.  Which shall I take?

The Elves portal remains but the path is unclear.
The Elves portal remains but the path is unclear.

The trees are full of Elven magicks… 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

Eye Candy Jewelry by Jennifer Weigel

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I have been getting ready for a jewelry show in February and thought I’d share some of the fun eye candy necklaces I’ve been working on. Do they thwart or attract the Evil Eye? I think that depends largely on the wearer’s intentions… Each is hand-beaded and features a spooky printed eyeball pendant as its focus.

And the piece de resistance… A RAINBOW Evil Eye necklace with magnesite stone skulls! I love these happy little deadheads – they are just too spoopy… I have seen these beads ranging in size from very small to huge and I love all of them.

Eye Candy Necklace by Jennifer Weigel with rainbow Evil Eye and magnesite stone skulls
Eye Candy Necklace by Jennifer Weigel with rainbow Evil Eye and magnesite stone skulls

I love using eyes in art in weird and unusual contexts in my art. They have so much presence and symbolism. They also bring a sort of surreal atmosphere to any artwork, which bears just a hint of spookiness regardless of context.

Other artworks & graphics by myself that prominently feature eyes have appeared here on Haunted MTL in Insomnia, Indecision, Illuminati, Carriage Factory art installation, The Watchers, The Red Key, and Shaman Sticks.

You can check out some of my Hauntings jewelry on Haunted MTL here, and more jewelry is featured on my website here.

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

Wax Museum Living Dead Girls with Jennifer Weigel

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Revisiting my costume modeling work, like my previous witch and skeleton sitting, I participated in a Living Wax Museum as part of No Craft Left Behind at Monika House over Halloween this past year. The premise is that participating performers each choose a historical figure, living or dead, and portray them. Anyone attending the event then asks questions to deduce who the living wax figures are. It’s a lot of fun, and also educational.

Jennifer Weigel in black tragic Gothic dress with crescent moon pendant & crystals and dark, kohl outlined eyes holding sign, from wax museum performance
My identity for the Living Wax Museum

Here are some images of my outfit and props. Since I was a silent film actress, I decided to create intertitle signs to flash at audience members rather than talking, kind of like reading the snippets of conversation between scenes in actual silent films. See if you can guess who I am.

16 signs offering clues to my costumed identity for the wax museum, listed here below
Intertitles for my costumed identity as part of the Living Wax Museum

The intertitle signs from the Living Wax Museum read:

I was a silent film & stage actress.

I was 30 years old when I became famous.

I appeared in more than 40 films between 1917 & 1926.

I was known as the 1st “Vamp” for my femme fatale roles & am cited as the 1st sex symbol of the film era.

Magazines called me “The Arch-Torpedo of Domesticity”, “The Queen of Vampires”, “The Wickedest Woman in the World” & more.

My best known roles included Salome, The Vampire in A Fool There Was & Cleopatra.

I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio to Jewish parents Bernard Goodman, a Polish tailor, and his wife, Pauline Louise Francoise of Switzerland.

I moved to New York City in 1908 & debuted in The Devil on Broadway.

I was falsely hyped as born in the Sahara in Egypt “under the shadow of the Sphinx & the Pyramids” & I dabbled in the occult.

I was known for my kohl-outlined eyes & revealing costumes before the 1930s Hays Code for decency.

I was rumored to have trained with Sarah Bernhardt, received over 1,000 marriage proposals & had a sandwich in my honor.

Most of the films in which I appear were destroyed in the 1937 Fox vault fire.

I married director Charles Brabin in 1921 & retired from acting in 1926.

I died in April 1955 and am buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Ca.

I was named for the daughter of US Vice-President Aaron Burr, Theodosia.

My film name is an anagram of “Arab death”.


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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